Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | October 18th, 2021

The Graduates

Ajok Madel

Since 2013,’s The Graduates series has been a visual celebration of the model muses who’ve cemented themselves as faces of noteworthy praise in editorial, advertisements, lookbooks, and runways. Through insurmountable rejection and just as many wins, these muses have locked down luxury clients while rising through the ranks from the Hot List to the top working models in the World, during the pandemic no less. Shot in New York through the lens of photographer Jon Ervin, this year’s list stands as a testament to the fashion industry’s tenacity.

Visit her page and click or tap the Lists button to favorite Ajok and keep track of her work.

Photography by Jon Ervin for

Styling – Rebecca Dennett
Hair – Ro Morgan | Makeup – Jaleesa Jaikaran | Nails – Kuniko Inoue
Model – Ajok Madel
Photographer Assistant – Vita Burn | Stylist Assistants – Alia West and John Dunham | Makeup Assistant – Eunice Kristen

Editor-in-Chief – Stephan Moskovic
Text & interview by Irene Ojo-Felix
Production – Sasha Grinblat

Above: Jacket and Pants – Alberta Ferretti | Earring – Lady Grey

Dress – Nanushka | Earrings – Joanna Laura Constantine

It is a rare occurrence that a model has the trajectory that Ajok Madel had her very first season on the Big Four runway circuit (the biannual, viral pilgrimage through New York, London, Milan, and Paris for fashion week). From the JFK tarmac, bleary-eyed from her first brutal, day-long flight, she jumped straight into castings for a season that would set the career trajectory of the newly minted Top 50 muse. “I was praying I booked just one show,” Madel recalls. “I had never traveled to all the other four cities, and next minute I did quite a number of shows, about 28.” Born in Kenya, raised in Australia, her hard to ignore season towards the end of 2019 landed her on Top Newcomers S/S 2020 list before her resume really started piling up.

“I was praying I booked just one show…I had never traveled to all the other four cities, and next minute I did quite a number of shows, about 28.”

The South Sudanese Australian stunner counts many of those early runway clients like Jason Wu, Tom Ford, and Salvatore Ferragamo as mainstays within her portfolio, brimming with editorial features in Dazed, V Magazine, and Numero. Ask Madel, and she’ll mention that her “Big Four” ambition also applies to rounding out her appearances in fashion tome, Vogue, this year of which she has shot for its American, British and Italian editions. With tunnel vision on Vogue Paris, her cerebral nature with her work shows a sharp drive, attributing her well-rounded success with research and early dedication to the industry when she was just a scouted teenager, aided by the digital age. She watched reality TV and fashion runway videos online to get a glimpse of the world she’s now dominating in. “Before I even came to New York, when I was still young I did my studying,” she recollects. “I was watching shows even though I was at home. I knew all the designers, all the casting directors.”

Jacket and Pants – Alberta Ferretti | Earring – Lady Grey

Having already worked with photographers like Sølve Sundsbø, Nick Knight, and Mert and Marcus, Madel understands her added studious edge is still heavily aided by the countless model figureheads that allow for her to take up space presently. “Seeing how diverse the industry is becoming has made me feel like there’s space for me in the industry,” Madel believes. The brilliant glow you see reflected in these images from Jon Ervin’s lens shows a muse that has trusted the arduous process of becoming a model, now preparing herself for an industry itching to return to normalcy when the COVID-19 pandemic, severe climate change, and racial turmoil has made us question its very role in society. “Honestly I’m super proud of how hard I have worked and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been receiving. Even though the pandemic has affected a lot of people, they still work and we’re managing to push through it.”

“Seeing how diverse the industry is becoming has made me feel like there’s space for me in the industry.”

Madel has also set another goal of shooting with visual luminary Steven Meisel and during this interview points to past work, he’s done that she’s inspired by. Her advice to others that preparation is key makes sense as she ticks off favorite shots of his. “Confidence and having a thick skin [is important] because we get a lot of rejection,” she says. “I’m scared of flying but I was in planes at least five times a week going from New York to Europe my first season. I know there’s so much potential in me because of how hard I’ve worked.”

Dress – Nanushka | Earrings – Joanna Laura Constantine