Supermodel Alek Wek has come far, her journey from her native Sudan to the realm of high fashion rendering her a star. “I think the most important thing especially is that fashion should celebrate women,” the world-renowned beauty said of her profession walking runways and gracing magazine covers., the fairy tale ending to Wek’s arduous trek from Africa to London has not dulled her memories of the war that uprooted her family. Wek spoke to theGrio after journeying back to her region of birth to help those still suffering from that conflict’s aftermath.

Wek fled Sudan as a teen in 1991, one of the estimated four million southern Sudanese who were displaced when a civil war erupted in 1983. A 2005 peace accord ended the hostilities, and has since spurred hundreds of thousands to return, lovingly reclaiming lands decades of war had made uninhabitable.

“I couldn’t be there when the independence took place, but I remember people were kissing the ground. It gave me goose bumps,” Wek told theGrio of this momentous event. “I never thought that day would come. The independence was quite emotional for the people of the south. They’ve been through so much bloodshed.”

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