The new rules of beauty are that there are none except for one: be awesome. Which is why in this month's issue of Glamour, we're profiling 39 gamechangers who are doing exactly that. Here, 20-year-old model with The Colored Girl agency and face of Make Up For Ever's #blendinstandout campaign Khoudia Diop, a.k.a. social media sensation @melaniin.goddess, shares why her skin color is her favorite feature—and how that wasn't always the case.
I was born in Senegal in 1996. My mom moved to New York when I was two years old, so I was raised by my aunt back home. And in Senegal more than 25 percent of dark-skinned girls bleach their skin.
I never tried it, but I’m not going to lie, I wanted to be lighter. There were times I wouldn’t leave my room for weeks and sometimes missed school because I hated how people would look at me. I really felt ashamed. But my older sister helped me find the positive: She used to show me pictures of Alek Wek to say, “See! You can be a model if you want!”
Then, when I was 15, my aunt had to go to Paris to have eye surgery. My mom wanted me to go to keep her company and attend school there. Right before we went, my sister took me on vacation to Milan. We were walking on the street one day when I saw a big mirror. There were a lot of light-skinned people around us, but when I saw myself and how my skin was popping, it hit me: This is why people look at me. To this day, the first thing that I do every morning is look in the mirror. I’ll tell myself, “Look at your skin. Look at your teeth and your smile. You are beautiful.”
While in Paris, I got into modeling—photographers would literally stop me on the street. Then I joined Instagram about three years ago. My very first account was @BlackBarbie, which was something my friends called me growing up. But then I thought, You can either call yourself that, or you can find something that will matter to dark-skinned girls. So I came up with @melaniin.goddess. I wanted to show girls that it’s not something bad to be dark, that different is beautiful. It makes me proud to help girls realize that they don’t have to change who they are.
A year ago I moved to Brooklyn to live with my mom, my little brother, and my little sister. She’s eight and has Down syndrome, and we’re only just meeting each other. After more than 15 years apart, my family is finally living together. Today, at 20, I’d say my self-confidence is still a process, but my mom helps. She tells us every day how beautiful we are. My little brother, who is as dark as I am, used to get bullied at school. Yesterday we were talking, and he said, “I don’t care anymore if other kids talk about my skin color.” And he’s only 11. How cool is that?
—As told to Justine Harman