Ajak Deng is so beautiful, I die, and her story is very touching! Ajak is definitely joining my model muses, obsession!
"From the gunfire and violence of war-torn Sudan to the bright lights of New York, emerging Australian model Ajak Deng is taking her modelling career to the world catwalks, writes CHARMAINE CAMILLERI.
The bright lights of New York are a world away from the dusty, violent villages of war-torn Sudan.
Sudanese refugee turned international model Melbourne’s Ajak Deng remembers not daring to dream, as children escaped violence and were forced to build huts to sleep in at night.
"There were some days that were rough. You would just have to run and hide, you couldn't stay in your village,'' the 19-year-old Melton schoolgirl recalled, of the military invasions."
"I remember running. We had to carry food, blankets to sleep on ... I used to sit down and cry."
"If you had access to school, you could dream if you really wanted to be someone but there was not much room for dreams. ''
At age 12, Ajak fled her troubled African homeland with her mother, four brothers and three sisters to a refugee camp in Kenya, where her mother died of malaria.
"We had to make our own brick hut to live in,'' Ajak said. "I had to take care of my sister; she was only six months old when my mum died. I would wake up at night to feed her. I thought, "This is just not fair"… [and] it was so hard in the community to trust a young girl."
"When I found out I was coming her to Australia, I thought, ‘I'm finally escaping this country!’''
Ajak and her family, with her father and stepmother, moved to Australia in 2005.
Young, brave Ajak was determined to follow her dreams and make the most of her better life.
She made her catwalk debut at New Zealand Fashion Week in March last year, modelling for the likes of fashion designer Kirrily Johnston, and has been hot property ever since. All while juggling with VCE studies - her second aspiration is to study law.
"This is freedom for me. I've got to do what I've always wanted to do and I thank God for that,'' Ajak said.
Ajak's folio has included work at world-renowned L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.
With the support of her agent, the Kurunjang Secondary College student has been placed with IMG modelling agency, which backs some of the world's hottest international models such as Heidi Klum, Kate Moss and Alek Wek.
"I'm so excited because it's what I've been looking for. It's always been my dream to go to New York. I'm ready for it.''
Ajak – who ironically admires fellow Sudanese refugee turned international supermodel Wek – aims to one day grace the catwalks of fashion capital's Paris and London.
FRM Model Management director Stephen Bucknall, who spotted Ajak at the Miss South Sudan Australia competition a year ago, said the young star has what it takes to go a long way in the fashion world.
"Her look is very unique,'' he said. ''There are a lot of Sudanese girls that are tall and striking, but she has the uniqueness and an ability in front of camera which is above and beyond many of the Sudanese girls now entering the modelling arena.''
Inspired by her own journey of self-sacrifice and bravery, Ajak said her beloved mother would be amazed.
"Wherever she is, she is looking down on me proud.''