Alek Wek and H&M Make a Big Announcement at Global Citizen Festival
It was only Thursday when H&M released its ad campaign featuring Joan Smalls clad in an all-black Alexander Wang x H&M sporty-chic collaboration. Now, the Swedish retailer has something else that it wants to share. This collaboration, however, won't adorn the racks of its stores and be seen in its windows, but is rather a behind-the-scenes effort that will hopefully make a major impact on ending poverty. Yesterday, at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, the retailer announced that it has teamed up with famed Sudanese model Alek Wek to donate $9.3 million to Water Aid in an effort to promote sanitation and hygiene in schools.
Unlike other retailer-model collaborations, this is not one intended to go out of style. Wek has joined H&M's Conscious Foundation as an official ambassador, in which she will initially work with the organization for three years to help toward their goal of ending world poverty by 2030. In addition to last night's Water Aid announcement at the festival, Yahoo! Style reports that Wek and H&M will also donate $1.3 million to a Harlem-based school program. All of these causes, from water sanitation to education, have always been a part of Wek's life's work as a model and catalyst for change.
However, she is not the only one. According to a 2009 New York Times article, supermodels often return to their origins to make a difference. Here is a list of models, beautiful both inside and out, who aren't afraid to stand up for the rights of others.
1. The Environmentalist - Gisele Bundchen
In August, Gisele Bundchen was once again named the highest paid supermodel (a ranking she's held since 2002). But don't let her superstardom fool you. Bundchen gets her hands dirty in the grunt of her work. She's visited Nairobi to get hands-on with transforming human waste into energy, is appointed to the Rainforest Alliance's Board of Directors and in 2009 became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme. Oh, and let's not forgot that sweet rendition of The Kinks' All Day and All of the Night she sang for H&M's 2013 autumn/winter campaign; the retailer made a donation to UNICEF every time the single was downloaded.
2. The Mentor - Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks not only works to put aspiring models on top via her 21-cycle model competition, America's Next Top Model, but she also works tirelessly to put young girls on top. In 2013 she helped open a new building for the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which houses the Tyra Banks TZONE, a leadership development center. Banks started TZONE in 1999 via a slew of summer camps that boosted girls' self-esteem, helping them to love and appreciate their bodies and minds.
3. The Humanitarian - Liya Kebede
Home has always been at the forefront of Liya Kebede's career. The Ethiopian supermodel commits herself to a very specific task: saving the lives of African mother's during childbirth. Kebede launched the Liya Kebede Foundation in 2005 alongside her appointment as a World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador in 2005. In addition to increasing awareness of maternal and newborn deaths, Kebede also launched her clothing line Lemlem in 2007 to promote employment and business opportunities for weavers in her country; the clothing line recently gained her an induction into the CFDA.
4. The Philanthropist - Heidi Klum
When Superstorm Sandy plummeted through New York, Heidi Klum zipped up her coat, put on her boots and got to work. She worked alongside the American Red Cross to hand deliver goods to families in need (she also served on the Red Cross' Celebrity Cabinet for 10 years). Her famous Halloween parties have also helped raise funds for UNICEF. In May, Klum was awarded the Crystal Cross Award by the organization for her commitment and efforts during the Sandy storm.
5. The Altruist - Natalia Vadianova
Dedicated to her upbringing in poverty and her sister with cerebral palsy, Natalia Vadianova, former Calvin Klein model, launched Naked Heart Foundation in 2004, building safe playgrounds for poor children. The organization has since built 100 playgrounds promoting alternative forms of recreation and healing for children in Russia. Furthering her mission, Vadianova launched Every Child Deserves a Family in 2011, working with families to keep their children instead of putting them in orphanages.