The face of Aweng Mayel Chuol has taken the world by storm. Her unapologetic strength of being a woman of colour, a model, and a life warrior has managed to inspire the masses. The former Vetements exclusive model was discovered in a local Australian McDonalds. Aweng is a vibrant, positive and knowledgeable human, who loves motivating her audience through her social media platforms. She is one of the few models undertaking a double degree and modelling at the same time. Post PFW, she stepped up her career ever so quickly, walking MM6 Maison Margiela in London shortly after. She’s also graced the pages of DANSK. Her career is big, and so are her hopes: she dreams to become a politician in her country, Sudan, and build up orphanages for the less privileged. And the funny fact is that she’s only in her early 20’s.
What is the story behind your name?
Aweng means cow. It is the literal translation of a cow in Dinka, one of my native languages.
My dad decided to call me Aweng because his sister is called so. In our language, the abstract meaning refers to wealth and good luck. My mum wasn’t particularly keen on the name because…well – why would you want to call your daughter cow in the first place?
But I guess it has worked in her favour as I am a “great gurl” *laughs*.
What is your heritage and how old are you?
My tribal heritage is split between Dinka and Nuer. I am 20 years of age, from South Sudan.
Tell me about your facial scars, are they tribal?
A lot of my scars? I wish they were tribal! My mum would have never let me get tribal ones because she used to claim that with us living in a western world, there would be no need to push for that stuff. All of my scars come from a very young age, when I use to get ill a lot.
When I was younger, I used to fall ill because I had several allergies, that my parents were not aware of. I would just fall sick for barely any reason. The scars on my face occurred when I was very little. I was a child who loved trouble, I used to rule against my parents, climb trees, play with chickens, play with cats. I was just one of those children you know.
Some of the scars could have been avoided but again – you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do as a kid, right?
What about your eyes?
My eyes change colour on a daily base. It is a parental biogenetic mutation. I don’t know exactly what it is. My grandma has one blue eye and one brown eye. So does my uncle, who has one grey and one brown. My family has an allergy derived from the particles in the air, so our eyes change depending on its pollution. When it comes to countries with no pollution, my eyes are just a brown or a blue colour. When they turn grey or green, it’s when I am in a very polluted city such as New York or London.
What is your story?
Right so, I was born in Kenya. I am the oldest child of 12 children.
I am part of various LGBT communities, being bisexual. I don’t have a “coming out” story. When I chose to bring my girlfriend home, I literally said: “Mum, this is my girlfriend, wassup”. It was never a big deal.
What are your reflections of growing up as a black woman?
“If you’re a black human in this world, you have to work twice as hard. But as a black person that falls into the box of being a literal minority part of the world – as myself, a refugee, a woman and a LGBT person – it’s even harder. The odds are more than stacked against me. That’s why I put so much pressure on myself. But now I am not just black, I am a black female, a black entrepreneur. I have way more cons against me than just being black. With that said, it means a lot of pressure. It means never make a mistake. It means everything you do and say will be used against you no matter what, and it means that anything I do say could be used against me in the future to litter me. So, I am always watching my steps and always being careful of what I do and how I do it.
Any advice you could give to your younger generation?
I’d say, don’t grow up too fast. There is nothing in growing up. The problem with the society is that we all want to grow up so FAST. Guys come on, SLOW down.
What is your main goal?
Ideally, I want to leave a very big and impactful mark, a mark where people will say, she was someone who had a story and her story shall not only be heard yet remembered. I want to be someone who not only was a model or a business woman, I want to be someone who is known to change things, just not society, from a social point of view, but also politically.
What is your conception of beauty? Do you agree in the urge of editing a subject for it to appear perfect?
I have always had this war with everyone I work with, and I feel that everyone has adapted with my decisions and accepting it. Do not digitally photoshop me; if a make-up artist can’t do a look which appears to be as if one has photoshopped me then it’s just no good.
In terms of beauty? I could define it as RAW. Let’s keep it real.
Would you like to express one last thing?
LET’S BE HUMANS!
Words by Chidozie Obasi