South Sudanese Dinka-born supermodel Atong Arjok wearing her traditional Dinka corset
Atong Arjok was born South Sudan in 5 October 1985. But as a result of the Sudan civil war Arjok`s parents moved to Ethiopia when she was just a year old. The family moved back to South Sudan when the war seemed to have subsided but the rekindling of the war saw the Arjok family resettling in Kenya.
Supermodel Atong Arjok
Atong Arjok in her traditional ethnic Dinka corset
Arjok and her family settled in California and upon reaching the age of 15 she was discovered in Los Angeles by a modeling agent of LA Models when she attended a modeling convention in California.
It was her inimitable look piqued the interest of scouts after adhering to the open call for aspiring models in 2002 after she and her cousin heard an advertisement for the event on the radio. "I was really hesitant to become a model, but my mom really encouraged me to try it," said Atong.
Atong Arjok, the Dinka icon of beauty
She had her first modelling job in the middle of the California desert. "I was still in high school, and they gave me big hair and red lipstick. At first, I thought it was so fun to dress up, like, "No way, this counts as work?" But then as the shoot went on, it got very hot, and very tiring. It was not glamorous. And it made me hate red lipstick. I hardly wear any makeup now because of that!"
Beautiful Atong Arjok, the Dinka girl
Arjok later moved to New York so that she can be more involved in the industry. She is known for her long legs and her beauty has often been compared to Alek Wek’s. She has walked the runway for renowned Designers such as Luca Luca, Phillip Lim, Catherine Malandrino, Diane von Furstenberg, Sass Bide, Custo Barcelona, Alexandre Herchcovitch, Lacoste, Heatherette.
She appeared in Vogue Italia and was photographed by Steven Klein, Michael Thompson for Allure, Glamour, Trace, Teen Vogue, and Russian Vogue.
Arjon has appeared in national ad campaigns for Patricia Fields for Destination Style New York, Kenneth Cole Reaction, John Varvatos for Converse, Diesel, Catherine Malandrino, Behnaz Sarafpour for Target, I.N.C.
Ubah Hassan"That was a shocker," she says of the speed at which here career started to develop. "I was 17 and had never been on my own. My family was very supportive, but they were terrified." Arjok got work quickly, walking in shows for Diane von Furstenberg and 3.1 Phillip Lim and appearing in spreads for Allure and Italian Vogue. With so few models of color on the scene, she was soon in high demand and often being compared to another Sudanese beauty.
"There weren't that many people who looked like me," she says. "It was just me and Alek Wek." But while Wek emerged as an industry "it" girl and Arjok consistently booked print and runway jobs, it was clear that their experiences were the exception and not the rule; they rarely shared the limelight with other models of color.
Two Dinka supermodels: Atong Arjok and Ajak Dend