On the Map: Model Khoudia Diop

A.K.A. Melanin Goddess

Introducing “On the Map,” a new monthly series of enlightening profiles dedicated to sharing stories of inspiring women from around the globe. Our editors talk to women of all walks of life to divulge their trusted beauty products, and rituals practiced in their culture.


Senegalese model Khoudia Diop is stunning. With a curvy figure, beautiful brown eyes, and an infectious smile, Diop was born to be in front of the camera. Yet, one distinct attribute has recently garnered the 19-year-old model particular attention—Diop’s flawless complexion is nearly the color of onyx.  

When new photos of Diop surfaced just last month, the Internet went wild for her ebony skin tone and not before long, her name and face were trending on social media.

Today, Diop has adopted the nickname “Melanin Goddess,” and racked up nearly 350K followers on Instagram. But her most notable feature wasn’t always well received. “I never saw what other people were seeing,” says Diop of often negative reactions to her deep skin tone after moving from Senegal to Paris. “I saw myself in the mirror and just thought: ‘Your skin is so beautiful—I love it!” Here, she shares her road to embracing her skin tone, plus a few beauty tips she’s learned along the way.


BEAUTY ATLAS: Tell us a bit about yourself: You were born in Senegal and later moved to Paris. What was the transition like?

KHOUDIA DIOP: I relocated to France when I was around 15. I moved with my aunt, my mom’s sister. She has never been married and doesn’t have any children, so my mom wanted me to live with her to keep her company. I had never been out of my country before so the transition was a little weird but I managed it. My mom lives in New York City, so I later moved here with her.


BA: What do you find most beautiful about Senegalese women?

KD: [The population] in my country [is mainly] Muslim and women there have a lot of values. They stick to their culture and I find that to be really beautiful.


BA: Are there any Senegalese beauty tips that you’ve learned from the women in your family?  

KD: My mom is going to be 50 in April and her skin is amazing! That's why I [take] her advice. She told me that washing my face with ice water [helps keep your skin] from aging. Since I started [cleansing with ice water] I've seen very good results. My face feels fresh all day.


BA: You mentioned in a recent interview that you were teased about your dark skin tone as a child, but that your complexion is quite normal in Senegal. What was your reaction when you moved to Paris and were among people with lighter skin tones?

KD: The first time I saw white people, I was amazed. It actually boosted my confidence! I started noticing that different people catch a lot of attention. I learned to embrace my own beauty by staring at myself in the mirror and saying: ‘You’re different. And that’s really beautiful.’


BA: How has your family helped inform the way you respond to the bullying that you’ve experienced and negative comments about your skin tone?

KD: When I used to walk around with my aunt in Paris, I would get angry whenever I’d notice people looking at me weirdly. They’d even stop me on the street and ask questions about my skin color. She had to explain that people weren’t looking at me because I’m ugly, but because my skin color is rare in France and that they were just amazed. That helped me a lot. My sister also told me to never listen to bullies. She would show me pictures of darker models and say: ‘See, you can be a model too. You can be whatever you want.’

BA: How did you get your start as a model?

KD: People always said that I should try modeling but it was kind of scary because I didn’t have any experience. I decided to get an education and finish school before really getting into it, and started in France when I was 17. I wasn’t seeing models that were really, really dark and didn’t want kids who are dark-skinned like me—or anyone—to have the same insecurities that I had when I was younger.


BA: How often do you travel back to Senegal? To France?

KD: I was in Senegal a year ago for two weeks and plan on going back around January. I haven’t been to France since I moved to NYC but my mom and I plan to go back to see my aunt. My aunt raised me so we’re really close.


BA: Are there any upcoming projects that you’re working on that you can talk about?

KD: I’m thinking about doing some anti-bullying campaigns as well as campaigns in my country to educate women about their skin color. We have a lot of dark-skinned people who still feel insecure about their skin tones and use bleaching products. They need some education about what works for their skin tones.


Diop, who is represented by The "C" Girl, Inc., has some big projects in the work that she’s excited to share later this month. In the meantime, we encourage you to send positive vibes her way in the comments, below!