It's no industry secret that models are constantly scrutinized for their looks — notably, their waistlines, skin, and hair. And while historically, the pressure to fit in has been vital for a successful career, there's an amazing shift happening right now that's leading to more inclusivity in the industry, in gender, size, and skin color. The latest face of this shift is Khoudia Diop. You may recognize Diop from The Colored Girl campaign, which launched in June to celebrate all shades of beauty — and if you follow the 19-year-old (that's right, she's only 19) on Instagram, you'll know she often refers to herself as "Melanin Goddess." In many of her posts, you'll notice she makes note of her deep skin tone, and often adds the hashtags #melaninpoppin and #blackgirlmagic. Diop will be the first to tell you she wasn't always this self-assured. When the Senegalese model first moved to Paris, and then the U.S. a few years ago, she was met with constant taunts over her skin color, she tells us. "People have made comments, calling me names like 'midnight' or 'mother of stars,'" she says. "At first I confronted the bullies, but eventually I learned to tune out the negativity and just love myself more."
It's not only bullying; Diop has also had to overcome challenges within the beauty industry. One of these was the struggle to find the right match of face makeup for shoots — a common frustration among women of color — though she admits she's sometimes happy to skip the cover-up. "I just highlight my natural features using, eye, lip, and cheek makeup instead. I would like to see more colors of makeup for darker-skinned women to play with, though."
At first I confronted the bullies, but eventually I learned to tune out the negativity and just love myself more.
Luckily, the world of fashion has been slowly shifting away from a one-size-fits-all, homogenous POV, and Diop says she'd like to see that continue. "The modeling industry has made some progress, but there's definitely room for improvement. I want them to openly accept more women of color into its rank, and give them as much shine as other women. Celebrate their beauty." With acceptance and celebration of what makes each individual unique as her mission, there's no stopping Diop — who is working on a handful of products with her team, The "C" Girl, Inc. — from success. “I just want to continue to grow, learn, love, and help empower other women through my work — and hopefully inspire some women along the way," she says.