Leaving war-torn South Sudan and entering America as a refugee turned Mari Malek into a powerful voice of every woman who suffered discrimination. As a victim of many rejections, Mari received nasty comments from several agencies when she was starting out as a model in New York City. From being told “No black girls” and turned down because she didn’t possess a “sellable look,” she proved to the world that she has something big to offer.
“Being the dark skin that I am, I went through so many uncomfortable moments. I had to break a lot of doors open. Long story short, representation matters, and just because someone says that something doesn’t sell, doesn’t mean it’s the truth,” Malek said.
Now, the supermodel/actress uses her impressive profile to raise funds to build schools and campaign for children in her native country and across the globe. As the founder of Stand 4 Education, a non-profit organization that offers educational resources, the tall model with expressive features is willed in her mission to be a humanitarian.
To Mari, slaying on the runway has given her life a new meaning and reason to advocate change to women and children that needed support. “Modeling was a blessing, a chance for me to put my country on the map, and to tell the stories of the women and children that need help. And the main thing that we need is education,” she said.
In the final year of Obama’s administration, she was featured and celebrated for her humanitarian work during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and had the chance to talk to Michelle Obama about empowering women.
Her tragic past- his father was abducted on the height of the war in South Sudan and escaped her country at age eight with her mother and younger sisters- was a great reminder that she is a fighter and a survivor. True enough, Mari Malek is a living legacy of strength, wit, talent and a woman with a beautiful heart.