Mari Malek went from terrifying violence in Sudan, to the hostile life of a refugee in Egypt, to freedom in America. But moving to New Jersey was far from the end of her problems — racism was just as bad there as it had been in Egypt. She was teased and harassed for being black and for being dark.
By the time she turned 16, though, modeling agencies had decided she had what it takes to become a fashion model. That’s when she went from thinking about bleaching her skin to thinking of her body as a temple.
But even the agencies tried to pigeonhole her, thinking she could fit into the successful look they created with Alek Wek, another Sudanese model. Instead, she started her own agency. After a life like Mari’s, it’s no surprise that she wasn’t content merely strutting around in clothes or squeezing into somebody else’s ideas about her.
“We are conditioned to be fearful.” But to that, she says, “Fuck fear.”