mari malek
How a Sudanese Refugee Became an Indomitable Model
"In the modeling world, every Sudanese girl has to look like Alek Wek and every black girl has to look like Chanel Iman. I had to stand up: 'Mari Malek will be seen!'"

There isn't any stopping Mari Malek. Though she has experienced environments that few of us ever will, she is not a victim but a storm of resilience and empowerment. At five, Mari, with her mom and two sisters, escaped to Egypt from her home country, Sudan, which was in the midst of their second civil war. There, while her mother tirelessly worked, Mari raised her two sisters and battled the grown Egyptians who spit and threw things at them due to their dark skin.

Having survived so much loss and so much hatred once she made to America, Mari wasn't about to stand idle while the fashion industry ripped off her truth. “Every Sudanese girl has to look like Alek Wek and every black girl has to look like Chanel Iman," Mari says. “Fuck everybody who thinks I should suppress my identity. No! I’m gonna go off. It’s time for the world to look at one another not as a black race or a white race but as a human race." To see the universal positivity fly, in the face of severe odds, watch Mari's What's Underneath episode that’s a part of our Black History Month celebration of Black Lives Matter.

Follow Mari on Instagram: @djstiletto
Follow her on Twitter: @djstiletto
Mari's video was shot and edited by Andrea Cruz
What's Underneath is produced by Elisa, Lily, & Mona

Thank you, Chantelle Lingerie, for sponsoring this episode and for providing Mari with a personal bra fitting and the lingerie shown in this video. For more info about Chantelle, please visit their website.

All editorial decisions were made by us (StyleLikeU) and are in keeping with the mission of the What’s Underneath Project.

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  • Dear Mari, although we have very different stories, I feel recognition in your ability to digest your traumas and shift it into wisdom. You seem like a very sincere person and to see your strength supports me as a confirmation in continuing to follow my intuition. I send you love dear Mari, you are amazing!

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