Model Akon Changkou has brought her enchanting allure to Harper’s Bazaar US’s May 2023 issue. Captured by the discerning lens of photographer Lucie Rox, Changkou cuts an impressive figure in an exquisite Louis Vuitton dress, tastefully complemented by a Bvlgari necklace that adds an irresistible touch of glamour.
For the cover story, stylist Stella Greenspan curated an array of stellar outfits, showcasing Changkou’s adaptability to different styles and her flair for embodying the spirit of each brand. The selection highlighted eminent fashion houses such as Dior, Balmain, Loewe, Prada, Givenchy, Valentino and Bottega Veneta, presenting a captivating narrative of contemporary fashion through Changkou’s mesmerizing poses and expressions.
The look was flawlessly pulled together by Yann Turchi’s expert hair styling, Aurore Gibrien’s nuanced make-up, and Lora De Sousa’s meticulous manicure, which further underscored Changkou’s enchanting beauty. The successful production was coordinated by Farago Projects.
Born as one of eight siblings, Changkou initially struggled with self-perception, considering herself the “ugly one” in her family. Her siblings, she felt, possessed a Miss Universe-type beauty, while she saw herself as more unconventional. Despite her petite stature, which she once viewed as a hindrance to her modeling career, Changkou has since learned to embrace her unique attributes.
Changkou’s journey into modeling was not a straightforward one. She initially pursued psychology at Adelaide University in Australia but left after two years, feeling her success lay elsewhere. She worked in restaurants, where she was often asked if she had considered modeling. Despite her initial reservations about her height, she seized the opportunity when someone believed in her potential, and her career took off rapidly.
Interestingly, Changkou’s decision to cut her hair short, a move that was initially a response to hair damage, became a defining aspect of her modeling persona. She recalls, “Everyone told me that I looked good with short hair, but I thought I looked like a 12-year-old boy. I kept it because it was low-maintenance. That’s how I got scouted“.
Changkou’s experience in the industry has helped her break down her preconceptions about beauty. She says, “Before I was in this industry, I assumed you had to be conventionally pretty and super tall to do well. I feel like I’ve broken those barriers now“. She has grown to appreciate her natural beauty and feels most beautiful in comfortable clothes and a make-up-free face.
However, her journey to self-acceptance was not without challenges. Growing up in Australia after moving from South Sudan at the age of nine, Changkou often felt like an outsider, being the only Black girl in her class. She struggled with her self-image, often comparing herself unfavorably to her siblings and grappling with the effects of colorism.
Despite these struggles, Changkou learned valuable lessons about beauty from her family, particularly the importance of not succumbing to societal pressures such as skin bleaching. She admits there were times she was close to doing it, but she’s grateful she didn’t. She says, “I think about it sometimes. If I went that route, I wouldn’t have this career or level of love for myself“.
Today, Changkou embraces her unique features, including her lips, nose and round face, which she once disliked. She reflects on the changing beauty trends, saying, “Now, everyone wants to look this way, like a Bratz doll. Sometimes it feels like being Black is a trend because everyone’s appreciating our features now. But it’s frustrating because we’ve always been beautiful“.