South Sudanese model, 22, kisses wife on magazine cover: 'Timeless masterpiece'

Elise Solé
·4 min read

South Sudanese model Aweng Ade-Chuol faced scorn for marrying a woman, but she’s celebrating their love on the cover of Elle U.K., which she calls a “timeless masterpiece.”

On Tuesday, the British publication debuted its January 2021 issue (currently on newsstands) by featuring Aweng, 22, locked in a kiss with wife Alexus wearing matching black-and-white polka dot outfits. Inside the magazine, the couple twins in leather and then topless in only jeans.

“Congratulations to everyone involved for this timeless masterpiece,” Aweng shared on Instagram. “And to women who love women, who never realized that soul ties have been called by the ocean tides, love is as calm as the ocean gets.”

Editor in chief Farrah Storr tells Yahoo Life, “Glossy magazines have traditionally put heterosexual couples on covers, but rarely have I seen same-sex couples embraced and celebrated in the same way. At Elle, we wanted simply to show a young couple in love at the end of a very tough year and Aweng and Lexy seemed like the most natural fit in the world.”

Aweng, who lived in a Kenyan refugee camp with her 11 younger siblings before moving to Australia, revealed to the British publication the backlash from Sudenese tabloids for her same-sex marriage, her recent suicide attempt and achieving harmony in her new London home with “Lexy” and their two poodles.

After the South Sudanese Civil War began in 2013, Aweng and her family lived in a refugee camp in Kenya, then moved to Sydney, Australia, where Aweng studied law while working at McDonald’s. One day, as Elle reports, a female customer slipped Aweng her business card remarking, “You’re going to be a superstar. You’ll thank me one day.”

Two weeks later, Aweng was walking the Paris runway for luxury fashion brand Vetements, while doing her law homework at night, and signed with international modeling agencies. But her professional highlight is gracing Beyonce’s visual album Black Is King, which was inspired by Disney's The Lion King. “Dreams do come true,” Awek told Elle of the role.

In January 2019, Awek met Lexy, who owns the nail company Palmpered, calling it a love-at-first-sight moment. “I’m the kind of person who has met many beautiful people, and it’s like, ‘OK, cool, bye…’ But after I saw her...I annoyed the sugar out of her until she gave me her personal number,” Aweng told the magazine.

But Lexy felt more reserved. “I’m not a collector of people, so when I meet people, I have a good time with them, but there’s no need to push myself into their life,” she explained. “But, with Aweng, I allowed it to be more. I truly appreciated her as a person; I knew I could get along with her forever.”

After a courthouse wedding in New York City, the couple got matching tattoos. Aweng said her family loves their daughter-in-law and Sudanese fans showered her with love when she came out on Twitter, but the broader Sudanese community wasn’t approving — Aweng received death threats from some in the country where same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right.

“That is really baffling to me, and I’m still processing it,” Aweng admitted. “We got married and the whole world, literally the whole of my community, were wishing that I passed, in a way. … A few months later, I attempt [suicide]. It was really absurd because subconsciously I felt I was maybe drained by the fact we’d got married. It’s still a discussion now, like, ‘How dare she marry a woman?’ You can’t control what people say, and there were tabloids and newspapers back in Sudan. … It was a whole thing.”

Stress mounted when Aweng quarantined in New York during the coronavirus pandemic. “The whole set up was tough,” she revealed. “I had a crisis of ‘What do you mean, I have to stay [here] for eight months?’”

In June, Aweng wrote on on Instagram, “I attempted suicide [two] months ago today” adding “it’s good to get it out of my chest” and “I am thankful for life.” She was hospitalized at the time and now attends therapy twice a week.

“I’ve always been outspoken, and mental health has always been something that I’ve spoken on,’ Aweng told Elle. “But I guess I didn’t experience the other side of it until this year, when lockdown impacted my life directly, actually [put my] life at risk. When that happened, it was a reality check. Before, it was like, mental health is important, but now, it is the most important thing. Where you’re at mentally is the most important foundation.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

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