South Sudanese-born Australian model Ajak Deng has praised Victoria's Secret's efforts at making its annual runway show more diverse this year, but says "it can be better".
The 27-year-old fashion sensation, who is the ambassador of The Body Shop's Play For Peace campaign, says increasing the number of culturally diverse models is only one way of increasing diversity, and that considering different body types for the runway is also important.
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"I think it can be better," she tells Be.
"It would’ve been nice to see Ashley Graham in there, that’s my kind of diversity," she continues, referring to plus-size model Ashley Graham.
Ajak also suggests Somali-American Halima Aden, who was the first model to wear a hijab for several catwalks and high-end fashion campaigns.
"The first Muslim model, I think it would have been nice to see more of that," Ajak says. "But I think we’re on the right track and it was wonderful to see Victoria’s Secret has diversified 50% of it".
This year almost half of the models on the Victoria's Secret catwalk had an ethnically diverse background, showing an increase from last year's 30% of models being people of colour.
The likes of Maria Borges from Luanda, Angola and Australia's own Kelly Gale (who is half Indian), strutted the catwalk in Shanghai this week.
Ajak says it's her dream and she has her "fingers crossed" to add to that diversity in next year's Victoria's Secret show.
"Oh honey, who doesn’t," she laughs. "I couldn’t do it in the past because of my back problem but now I’m confident, my back is straight and I’m like, 'bring it on'."
The US-based model has been back in Australia this week to promote The Body Shop's Play For Peace campaign which supports Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
Opening up about her own experience of coming to Australia as a teenage refugee, Ajak says there's a few things she wish she could tell her younger self.
"It’s ok, it’s all going to work out," she says would have been her main message.
"You can do it, you’re braver than you think, you’re smarter than you think... just enjoy playing around with your friends."
And as for the young refugees from Syria, Ajak urges them to believe in themselves and have faith that help is on its way.
"It’s ok, I know it’s not your fault," she says she'd tell them,
"You’re more loved than you think. We’re here and the world is waking up and finally paying attention to things that matter and that’s a beautiful thing so just give us time, but we’ve got you."
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