Ajak Deng Is So Fed Up With The Fashion Industry, She's Quitting Modeling

Photo: Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images.
Model Ajak Deng is completely over "the fakes and the lies" that populate the fashion industry. The Sudanese Australian model is so done with BS, in fact, that she's retiring from the catwalk entirely. Deng shared the news via an Instagram post yesterday with a poignant farewell to fashion.

"I am happy to announce that I am officially done with the fashion industry, I will be moving back to Australia in order to live the life that I fully deserved. Which is real life," Deng wrote. "My life is too short for this dramatic life."

Shortly before Deng's sign-off announcement, her manager, Stephen Bucknall of Aussie agency FRM Model Management, spoke to the Melbourne-based Herald Sun about the booking challenges in Australia for non-white models. "They'll book the big Caucasian girls, spend the big dollars, and fly them in from L.A., but I'm yet to see them book a dark-skinned girl in that way," Bucknell told the publication on Monday.

Deng has appeared in campaigns for the likes of Barneys New York, Gap, Marc Jacobs, Kenzo, and Kate Spade. She's walked in shows for tony names including Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton, and Lanvin. Born in Sudan, the model and her family fled the country in 2005 for Australia, and Deng was raised in Melbourne (her mother passed away from malaria in a refugee camp in Kenya, before the family made it to Australia).

This isn't the first time Deng has taken to social media to call out the fashion industry's flaws. In 2014, she tweeted angrily about being booked and then cut from a Paris Fashion Week show: "This is how it feels when you get kicked out of Balmain for being Black and that their [sic] didn't invited you. Fuck you and fuck you. Balamin," Deng wrote. After a few additional irate tweets, the model deleted her Twitter account (purportedly at the behest of her agency at the time, IMG).

Finding success — and, perhaps more importantly, respect — in the fashion orbit and combatting racism along the way has been frustratingly difficult for Deng. In 2011, she told Vogue Australia about the advice that one of her role models, Alek Wek (a fellow Sudanese model, coincidentally from the same town as Deng) had passed along: "'This industry can be really hard, but all you’ve got to do is just think of it as something you’ve already started and you really want to finish. You don’t want to quit in the middle of it, so just don’t quit.' I’m definitely not going to give up until I see where this is going to end"

Deng's departure from the catwalk should serve as yet another wake-up call about fashion's ongoing diversity problem. Despite minor, gradual improvements, there clearly aren't enough minority models being booked. Racism was likely a key catalyst for Deng's departure from modeling, given how vocal she has been about being discriminated against throughout her career because of her skin tone. (Although Deng doesn't directly address anything about race in her Instagram announcement.) So, what does it mean when models of color who are scoring gigs, like Deng, are so pissed off by the industry they're compelled to call it quits?

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