FaceTiming with Chanel and Valentino Muse Akiima

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The 23-year-old model tells AnOther about meeting Karl Lagerfeld (and why she would much rather stay in than go out)

Akiima signed to IMG Models a year and a half ago, after being scouted in her hometown of Adelaide, Australia. “My friend – he’s a model – had to go into his agency for something. And I was like, ‘ah! I’m not doing anything today, I’ll come with you,’” she explains over FaceTime. “Then as soon as I got there, the agents asked me if I was a model too. I flat out said no. And I didn’t want to model either! But then they convinced me. ‘If you just try it out, you might end up in Paris,’ they said. And I thought, well, Paris sounds nice...”

Fast forward to 2018, the South Sudanese 23-year-old – who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and moved to Canberra with her family as a child – now lives in New York. Having drastically changed her mind about pursuing a job on the runway, Akiima, as she phrases it, “put all her effort” into making it work, and her ambition paid off. She has now walked for Valentino – in both ready-to-wear and haute couture shows – Chanel, Marc JacobsLoewe and Miu Miu, and starred in campaigns for Issey Miyake. Here, as part of AnOther’s series of virtual go-sees, she shares some facts about her life and career so far.

What’s your name?
I’m known as Akiima, but I actually have another name which is Achol. When I was born, my mother decided to give me two names. When we came to Australia from Sudan, she put down only one name, but would always call me by both.

What’s your star sign?
I’m an Aquarius, but I don’t follow astrology at all. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen to me – I like to be surprised! 

What makes you laugh?
A lot of things! I’m really a happy person and I feel like this year has been like the most amazing year of my life because I’ve been travelling and discovering myself. 

What makes you cry?
My family makes me cry, just because of the fact that I don’t see them as often as I would like to. 

Who’s your favourite person?
My mum. When I was a teenager we didn’t get along that much. And then, you grow a little older and you realise: ‘my mother is amazing!’

What’s your favourite word? 
At the moment I like ‘visionary’.

What’s the last thing you bought? 
I bought a bed!

How would you describe your style?
Some days – like today – all I want to wear is a hoodie and comfy clothes and not bother at all. Then other days I’m just like: ‘I’m gonna dress up!’ If I dress up, everyone is always telling me how nice I look. And all I can think of then is, ‘oh my god Akiima I must make an effort more often!’

Is there one piece of clothing that you couldn’t live without?

And what’s one habit that you wish you could quit?
Staying at home a lot... 

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Signing a modelling contract.

One show you have walked that you wish you could walk again?
I always enjoy walking for Valentino, that’s my favourite show. I’ve been doing their shows since 2017. Pierpaolo [Piccioli] is such a lovely man. I love being part of the Valentino family – the way they work together is so inspiring. Also, the clothes are absolutely beautiful. 

What’s your proudest achievement so far?
I think walking Chanel. It’s something that I never thought I would do in my whole entire life. I met Karl [Lagerfeld] too. I remember he was very quiet, observing everything, and didn’t talk very much at all. But it was amazing.

With thanks to IMG Models