In Senegal, where it’s common for the ebony-skinned to use bleaching products, fashion model and actress Khoudia Diop had the self-confidence to name herself Melanin-Goddess. She didn’t get to that point without enduring bullying and pressure to lighten her skin, even though her skin tone is not uncommon in her homeland. It would be during a trip to Paris that she realized, amidst the contrast of a group of lighter-skinned people, that standing out was what made her beautiful. “...When I saw myself and how my skin was popping, it hit me: This is why people look at me,” she writes in an essay for Glamour Magazine. Diop is now an anti-bullying activist, and signed to The Colored Girl, a creative agency dedicated to confronting and pushing the boundaries of industry standards of beauty. “We share a joint goal: to inspire, empower, and uplift women of color worldwide, and I was excited when they asked me to be a part of something so positive,” she tells CNN. Last year she was cast in Makeup For Ever’s #BlendInStandOut foundation campaign. "For me, it's more than just a product, it’s the idea behind the product!" she told ESSENCE. "There are so many types of beauty that all deserve to be celebrated."
If she had any doubts before, it’s now undeniable—Diop’s skin is one of her best assets. The response to her Instagram feed is overwhelmingly positive. “You’re so beautiful!” “This reminds me of the iconic Grace Jones.” “Girl, you’re so perfect!” some of her close to 560,000 followers comment. All evidence that there is a high demand for diversity in beauty and fashion. But aside from ushering in diversity, Diop’s story gives other young women a blueprint for maintaining self love, especially when it’s being threatened by outside influences. “Being teased and losing my self value eventually ended up inspiring me to be a better version of myself,” she said to Jamshed. “I learned to find things to love about myself, and to celebrate them.”