Halima Aden: “Why Adut Akech is the most inspiring person I’ve ever met”

How a conversation about camels led to a lifelong friendship
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Halima Aden: “Why Adut Akech is the most inspiring person I’ve ever met”

As runway newcomer Adut Akech scored her first nomination for Model of the Year at the Fashion Awards 2018 alongside the likes of Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, Winnie Harlow and last year’s winner Adwoa Aboah, it was Halima Aden who was cheering the loudest. “I may be biased because she’s a good friend of mine but I love Adut so much,” Halima told Grazia of Somalian-Australian catwalk star. “She’s just got such an aura about her.“

Yet sharing the Max Mara runway and a magazine cover isn’t all the pair have in common. “She and I were actually born in Kakuma,” Halima reveals of the refugee camp where she grew up, “and we met for the first time at the shoot for the cover of British Vogue.

But it wasn’t until Halima started a conversation about camel milk that they discovered their unbreakable bond. “So I’m already there excited, about being the first hijabi model in history on the cover. It came up in the most random. I said I used to love camel milk. Then one of the other girls was like ‘Camel milk? So I told her I was born in Kakuma, and that was our treat as children. And then Adut, said, ‘Wait! Where were you born? “Kenya?’” which continued with, ‘Wait how old are you?’, ‘What’s your mum like?’, ‘I've never met my dad’, ‘We’re twins!’”

Halima reflects, “That was when we realised born in the same refugee camp but that was the first time we were meeting. The world is very small but that experience still gives me goose bumps. To me, she’s so inspiring, all that she was able to do with her career. She's killing it. As far as just like on the runway, just killing it. I love the fact that she didn't forget where she came from. She will sit and talk for hours about the joy of how she grew up. She sees it the same way I saw my childhood so it makes me feel like I wasn't crazy, we did have a good childhood.”

Having returned to Kenya for the first time this year, it’s important to both Halima and Adut to inspire the next generation of overachievers coming from Kakuma and centres like them. “We need those stories of the kids going from the camp growing up, doing something good and coming back. It should come full circle, always.” 

Photos: Getty Images and courtesy of Max Mara