The Senegalese-born, Paris-based Khoudia Diop is a model and an activist - her gorgeous, distinctive skin color has earned her compliments and criticism; in this regressive world, the latter most often. Discovered by Victory Jones and Tori Elizabeth of The Colored Girl Inc. in 2016, Khoudia has become an internet sensation best known for her fight against bullying. She's steadily making an impact and carving a valuable niche for herself.
Khoudia's just released a series of images from her campaign titled 'Nyenyo,' in which she celebrates Senegal's independence and her Wolof heritage ('Nyenyo' is the name of the caste her family originates from in Senegal). She channels regality in folkloric ensembles - known to be worn by muslim queens in Senegal - as she fuses an element of her identity into these shots.
In a press release, Victory Jones of The Colored Girl sheds light on the thought behind the campaign. "Nyenyo," also called ‘teug’ or ‘ngengo,’ are the blacksmiths and metalworkers of the Senegalese caste system. In her family’s case, they are jewelry makers and gold workers. And while caste systems are used as a stringent class system - and hierarchy-maintaining cultural identifier across many cultures, Khoudia embraces her Nyenyo heritage and doesn’t see the label as a hindrance. Rather, she sees it as part of the fabric of her identity, her family’s history and the overall story of her people.
Khoudia expands on the significance of the 'Nyenyo' campaign in an interview with The Colored Girl :
On her West African roots:
"My Senegalese roots mean so much to me - it’s very personal. I love my country, my culture, my heritage. It is home and also a major part of who I am. I discovered so much about myself, and my culture has had a huge impact and importance, on my journey to self-love—from loving my upbringing, to the bullying then seeing the world outside of Senegal. Are there things I would change? Sure, but there are also certain things that I cherish about being Senegalese (Wolof woman)."
Memories from Senegal before her move to Paris:
"What I remember most, is the diversity within the Senegalese culture (cultures, traditions, beliefs). I also remember the great pride we have for our traditional clothing; while still loving to wearing modern fashion. Very inspiring! Oh, and also the food. I love Senegalese food! My mom makes some of the best. My favorite dish is “thiebou djeun” (fried fish and rice). So yummy - everyone should try it!"
Life in Senegal:
"Life is very relaxed in Senegal. Basically, we don’t worry about many things, and it’s called the country of “teranga” (welcome) where everybody cares about their neighbors."
How her Senegalese roots influences her thoughts on beauty standards:
I was taught to carry myself as a Senegalese woman—with respect for her elders and heritage; honor, and really about the woman you are, and how you carry yourself and treat others. This is why I think beauty is much more than appearance—it’s the way you care about yourself and others.