Khoudia Diop is the latest star in a line of positive self-love icons for women and girls of color, joining the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Michelle Obama. Only 19, she’s already using her modeling career to help others: “I wanted to express myself using visuals and also celebrate the beauty of black women, travel and have amazing opportunities,” she says. “I also wanted to be a living example of inspiration for other women and girls.”

Khoudia’s Story: From Victim to Model

Originally from Senegal, Diop never thought her skin was unique. But when she left Africa, she found that darker-skinned people’s under-representation in fashion, TV, and Hollywood made her seem like an oddity to many people.

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“I knew I was a little darker than my friends and family. But I realized that I was really unique when I was in Italy. I was walking on the street and I saw a big mirror. I saw myself among a lot of light-skinned people and I thought, ‘Wow, my skin is amazing.'”

Dealing with Bullying

She didn’t always feel so great about her skin. Khoudia has faced bullying as a child and even now on the web, dealing with mean and hateful nicknames and comments. At first, she confronted bullies. Now, she ignores them. “Learn yourself and love yourself. Celebrate yourself… and stay positive!”

Khoudia’s a powerful voice for thousands of boys and girls who experience bullying in school. In the 2012-13 school year, just over 21% of students in the US reported bullying. 1 The real number is probably higher since the data is self-reported by students. Many students don’t report bullying, not only because of fears of retaliation, denial, and other psychological reasons but often simply because they don’t realize that what they experienced was in fact bullying. 2

Many victims of bullying are different from their peers. Being part of a different race than your peers or even having a different skin tone than other members of your race can cause students to feel rejected, outcast, and worthless. Above all, Khoudia Diop shows that the traits that made her feel rejected and worthless are what led to her success and happiness today.

While Khoudia strives to empower and inspire women and girls of color to love themselves, her story encourages all of us to respect and cherish the things that make us unique.

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