Tribal marks are an element of the Yoruba culture usually used for identification of a person’s tribe, or as symbols of beauty. These scarifications are gradually fading away but a Nigerian model, Adetutu Alabi, identified on Twitter as @adetutuoj8811, had a hard time adjusting to the times with the permanent feature on both sides of her cheeks, especially in an age when the perfection of women in media is glorified to an excess.
On 29 September, Alabi responded to a post by Rihanna sharing her dream of working for the artist. Then last week, the professional model launched an online campaign to let the Fenty Beauty boss, Rihanna know she won’t be giving up on her intention to model for her Fenty brand.
With over 18 thousand retweets and encouraging comments pouring in, the model who hails from Eruwa, Ondo State, South West Nigeria, apparently has Rihanna’s attention as the Barbadian singer has now followed her on Instagram.
“It was very difficult growing up with Tribal marks,” she says to TheNerve Africa. “These days, I don’t pay the bullying any mind even though I still get insulted whenever I go out.”
Alabi, who is also an embroidery artist, now aims to make a difference with what was and is still used as reason for scorn. The model reveals that she did not attend the university because of her fear of being bullied, deciding to learn a skill instead.
“My father didn’t know before he passed on, she says. “But I couldn’t go to the university because I was afraid of being bullied.”
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line has been touted for being inclusive; her makeup brand catering to women of different nationalities while her lingerie line including even pregnant women.
“I love Rihanna and I admire the fact that she’s not just a singer,” Alabi continues while sharing the inspiration for her dream. “But I’m heartbroken that her products aren’t available here. I saw her take a similar pose I took in one of my pictures. And I was motivated to start the campaign to model for her.”
She has since taken to Instagram after Rihanna’s follow to express high hopes that her management would soon get in touch with her.
“I was very surprised and excited with the reaction to my campaign to model for her. I posted the picture and my friends reposted and retweeted it. There were so many encouraging comments and I almost doubted I was still in Nigeria. There were no mean comments or trolls. There was support even from other Africans. I was very excited when she followed me back.”
Alabi says to others like her, “put yourself out there. Take risks and believe in yourself.” The model herself had been inspired by the birth of her daughter nine years ago, to work towards her dreams with tenacity.
Alabi has also started a TribalMarksChallenge on Instagram, inspiring even those without to mimic the lines with make-up in order to combat negative stereotypes.
“Rihanna hasn’t gotten in touch yet,” Alabi says, adding hopefully; “I’m still waiting for her to call.”