Mari Malek, Entrepreneur & Activist

Doer lets you get advice from contemporary leaders across industries via paid video chat. Mari Malek is an education activist, creative, and supermodel. She takes Doer sessions at Learn more about Doer here.

If you live in New York, there's a good chance you've seen Mari Malek's face leading Kenneth Cole's "Courageous Class" campaign, which is focused on innovators changing the world. Mari's unfolding story--one of courage at every turn--has brought her from refugee, to supermodel, to creative entrepreneur and philanthropist. 

She was born in Wau, South Sudan, and fled as a girl with her mother to a refugee camp in Egypt. She eventually emigrated to Newark, New Jersey, living in a low-income housing complex, and went to school in California, when she began modeling. After moving to New York, she became a supermodel as the face of Lanvin, appeared in Vogue and starred in Kanye West and Lady Gaga videos. Around this time, Mari built a business booking lucrative DJ engagements, e.g. for Mercedes-Benz fashion week, and hosting events. These industry triumphs allowed her to follow her desire to heal South Sudan.

Raising money through her expanding creative platform, Mari was able to build the only primary school in a rural area of South Sudan. Malek Academy serves over 600 students and is staffed by well-educated teachers seeking to address the country's severe gender equality and literacy issues. Through years of work on Stand4Education, her foundation, Mari has developed a wealth of knowledge about non-profits, fundraising, and educational management. And her work is not done: right now, she's raising funds for four more classrooms at the school and plans to continue expansion.

Mari's ability to using creativity as a form of activism even attracted the Obama Administration, and she was invited to meet the President and the First Lady of the United States in 2016. She encourages others to "use your platform, and don't let your platform use you." In other words, chart your own vision, and don't let the expectations of others or society define your journey. Mari's own has been undoubtedly courageous. You can tap into Mari's innovative thinking to guide your own projects at

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Film via Kenneth Cole's "The Courageous Class" campaign.