Fighting off bullies in schools remains one of the challenges in recent times, especially as the phenomenon has found new life online, where people can mock anyone under the cover of anonymity.
However, social media has also shown itself to be a powerful weapon in the battle against prejudice, as the story of a young woman from Senegal who calls herself “the Melanin Goddess” shows.
As a child, Khoudia Diop had to endure the taunts of classmates for her skin tone. She was called a “Midnight” or “The Blackest Girl.”
However, growing up, her poise and rich skin tone opened the doors to the modeling world.
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Diop has been featured in photoshoots for The Colored Girl‘s “Rebirth” campaign, which promoted diversity in the modeling world, as well as profiles by major media outlets around the world; however, accepting herself the way she was hasn’t always been so easy.
Despite the fact that in her home country of Senegal, many people share her dark skin tone, she was the object of persecution for others who aspired to whiteness. The effects of constantly being teased at school ended up in her “losing my self value,” as she told CNN.
The teasing that she faced was part of a broader culture that looked down on blackness and was willing to use just about anything in the hopes of shedding that skin. Diop opened up about the rampant practice of skin whitening that was going on all around her in a video on “Real Women, Real Stories.” These popular products were “very, very cheap creams, some of them cost less than a dollar,” making them within reach of young teenage girls.
Diop notes that when young teenage girls, between the ages of 12 and 14, couldn’t buy the products, they would put them together at home out of dangerous concoctions, such as eczema medication. By using the product and staying out in the sun, they “made their skin peel off.”
So, how did Diop survive the intense pressure to not go down this route? She had the presence of her aunt and older sister, plus a move to Paris at the age of 15, to keep her on the right path. Once she “tuned out” the bullies, she began to learn to love herself, as Diop told People.
When she realized that her difference was something to be celebrated, that helped give her the courage to try modeling. “I wanted to express myself using visuals and also celebrate the beauty of black women, travel and have amazing opportunities,” she told People. She now resides and works in New York, where she has been reunited with her mother, whom she was separated from at the age of 3.
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As for her nickname, “Melanin Goddess,” which is also her handle on social media, Diop chose it to champion the cause of girls and women with dark skin like her. She told People that she chose it “because of my dark, melanin-rich complexion, and because I want to inspire young girls and let them know that we are all goddesses inside and out.”
With over half a million followers on her Instagram profile and lots of positive feedback from followers who see her as a role model, Diop has become an online sensation. “Self-love is an ongoing process and practice,” she said to People. “I’ve had to sit with myself, learn myself, find the things I like about myself, and celebrate them.”