Alex Wek says a calendar she appeared in was racist according to her autobiography.
The calendar was for a coffee chain and shows the supermodel pictured in a giant coffee cup.
"My skin was to be the espresso," says Alex but While she admits that the images are beautiful, she goes on to describe her feelings about the use of her skin colour.
"I can't help but compare them to all the images of black people that have been used in marketing over the decades. There was the big-lipped jungle-dweller on the blackamoor ceramic mugs sold in the Forties; the golliwog badges given away with jam; Little Black Sambo, who decorated the walls of an American restaurant chain in the 1960s; and Uncle Ben, whose apparently benign image still sells rice," she said.
The calendar was produced for Lavazza Italian coffee. The company's CEO Ennio Ranaboldo defends the image as art. "A great artist photographer, Albert Watson. A great model, Alek Wek. A great calendar. That's all there's to say," he told Vogue.
Alex, originally from Sudan, was founded by Ford Models in 1996. Amongst other things she has appeared in ads for Issey Miyake, Moschino, Victoria's Secret and Clinique as well as walked the runway for high-profile designers John Galliano, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ermanno Scervino.
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