Monday, October 15, 2007

Excerpt from Alek Wek's Autobiography

Once, I landed at JFK after several modelling jobs in Europe. At immigration the homeland security officer looked me up and down and studied my passport with extra care. Not again, I thought. I’ve been detained so many times. I’ve come to realise that as a successful black woman – and a tall one at that – I represent something that triggers hostility and suspicion in a lot of people.

He sent me off to the little room they have for suspected terrorists, border jumpers and the like. I’d been there before. It’s like a jail in there. You can’t use your phone to call for assistance. They won’t tell you why you’re being detained.

They took my picture. They checked my green card again. They double-checked my fingerprints. They acted really tough, cold and suspicious. They kept me for 2½ hours.

I’d just flown business class from Frankfurt. I was wearing nice clothes, carrying a bag I’d designed, which even had a little brass tag with my name on it. I had all my papers. Yet still they had to detain me for all that time. Was it because I’m a black woman? I can’t prove it, but experience tells me that my skin figured in there somewhere.

A few weeks later the same guy detained me again. This time he grilled me about my travels. Why was I in Africa? Why had I been to Egypt? Why this? Why that?

“I’m a model. I travel for work.” He looked me up and down like he didn’t believe me. I wondered if Cindy Crawford had these kinds of issues. Another hour passed. I went up to him and told him I knew my rights.

“Your rights?” he said with a smirk. Finally, after 2½ hours, he stamped my passport.

“I thought you were Naomi Campbell,” one of the other officials said.

While I was waiting for my luggage a woman came up to me and said: “You know, you look just like this model. She’s from Africa. She’s got really short hair and she looks just like you.”

“Really?” I said.

“Really,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

I got in the car and put all the bad exchanges behind me. It’s the Dinka way.

Full excerpt from The Times Online


Candid Cool said...

that's crazy.

aulelia said...

one word for this woman: inspiration. actually two: inspirational beauty

LaJane Galt said...

"you look just like this model"

tsa & customs people are troglodytes. I'm suprised the official got that far.

Alek is doin' the damn thing!

AnyaPosh said...

and I ask myself why I live in a world wear beauty is always in the eye of a white beholder. Alek is doing her thing & because she is not pale like Kate Moss, she gets treated suspiciously?! sheesh...