When Adut Akech began modelling professionally at the tender age of 16, she had an unfortunate introduction to the industry. “My hair got burned,” the now 21-year-old South Sudan-born runway star recalls of a time not long ago when having a like-minded hairstylist or make-up artist of colour on set or backstage was rare. “Our hair doesn’t need heat and everyone started straightening my hair. So I shaved my head — I went bald,” Akech continues of a formative beauty decision that both empowered her and helped cement her status on the catwalk. “Now, I know to say, ‘No, this is not the right shade for my skin tone,’ or ‘No, this does not work with my hair.’ I want new faces to be vocal about this stuff, too. That’s one thing I want to see change.” Her platform to help exact this kind of advancement just got a whole lot bigger: today, Akech becomes the newest global brand ambassador of Estee Lauder.