Fanta Ndao is a licensed, holistic esthetician who grew up in the melting pot of New York City, but when she started modeling, she soon realized that New York’s modeling industry was not as forgiving of people’s differences.
“I’ve always struggled with acne. My first break out was in 8th grade, and when I graduated high school, it got worse. I first started getting into modeling when I was 15, and I didn’t wear my hijab at the time. I was trying to get signed to an agency, but my acne would flare up really bad, and that was a really bad struggle because the modeling industry is really unforgiving. I started getting the acne really bad when I got older, and when I went to castings I just kept hearing-You’re not right for this agency and you need to lose weight on your hips.”Fanta expressed how confounding this was. “I was actually really skinny, but I’m West African so I’m going to have some type of hips. What could I do? I just thought that was crazy. That type of criticism led me on this endless cycle of trying to please other human beings.” Fanta describes feeling empty and wanting to feel alive again. “I didn’t grow up in a religious household. Islam was there, but I didn’t really know so much about my religion. I had to take a pause because I was beginning to feel like the world was centered around one’s outer beauty. That industry was making me feel so invaluable. Being mistreated as a human being actually made me seek Islam more. So, I just researched. I just felt like a body and little else. That’s how I got into wearing hijab. I used to always wear makeup, but I felt like I was a slave to makeup because I was compelled to wear it. I tried 30 days without wearing makeup, and I tried to see if it would help my confidence. It helped. Then, I just stopped modeling.”
Fanta emphasizes the risks models take, and how sometimes, they are left feeling pointless. Although she had invested so much of her life into being a model, she simply left and chose to go down a different path. “In the modeling industry, you can take the risk and dare to do something you’re not comfortable with and still not get signed. You have to submit to these agencies. You’ll work so hard on your portfolio, and they’ll just apathetically flip through it, hand it back to you, and say - “you’re not right for our agency”without even looking you in the eye. And then, you’ll just go home and think - what can I change about myself to be better.” For me, this was so normal, but then one day I paused, and I was like - this doesn’t make any sense.I was skipping school for auditions because when you have an interest in modeling, you have to pour yourself into it. You just feel like it’s the only option for you.” She says, “During that time, I didn’t discover other things about myself because I was dead set on modeling. I wasn’t really exercising my mind. I was focused on enhancing the physical part of myself, but the people that were critiquing me weren’t even the best-looking people, haha” she laughs and continues on. “And although models are supposed to be the most beautiful type of people, in reality, those agencies make us feel like nothing. It’s so bad. As a model, you just always have a voice in your head that says - you’re not good enough.” You always feel like you have to prove something to someone. It’s like having a bad experience at a job interview. A bad casting is so scathing because it feels like - why am I not good enough?”
After her experiences with modeling, Fanta decided to go to esthetician school. “My skin had always been something that influenced my career in modeling. However, becoming an esthetician allowed me to use my experiences with acne for positive, constructive things rather than the negative. I’m a holistic esthetician now. Now I focus on mind, body, and soul not only in my job but also in my personal life. I’m just figuring out my truth.”