Newsstand browsers have always been able to open a magazine and see women who look like Alek Wek. Unfortunately, that magazine was National Geographic. It made African-American women who happened to be darker than Beverly Johnson feel that they belonged herding goats on the Serengeti. Fashion magazines never featured ethnic looking models. Women who didn’t look like the standard Western ideal were disenfranchised. Until 1995. That was when Alek Wek was discovered hanging out in a London park with her friends. Designers and photographers fell in love with her strong profile, her amazing long legs and her signature short hairstyle. Overnight, Wek shattered decades of discrimation and narrow minded notions of beauty. Wek showed that not only were African women beautiful, that they weren’t exotic creatures somewhere far, far away, but they belong in fashion, in business, in modern life, and they have a voice in our culture. Wek has been a role model not just because she’s one of the faces of global beauty, but also through her actions. Wek, herself a onetime refugee of Sudan’s civil war, has used her place in the public eye raise awareness of the ongoing struggles in her country, working to help other refugees and supporting the rights of women in developing countries.