With a curly but at the same time somewhat straight hair, one would doubt she’s Gambian by first look with her mixed race complexion.
Glamorous model pictures of her litter the web on surfacing the net and googl-ing her name.
Models pull off quite a following from domestic audience in the nations they represent. It is for such affection coupled with admiration from beyond that shoot stars to global recognition.
Interestingly, Fatou Saho’s prominence and exploits isn’t well documented by the local Gambian press –that’s if at all they know of her existence.
This inadvertent snub is perhaps telling of Gambians negative perception of modeling fuelled by religious beliefs which, with the advent of technology, exposure and a new culture of embracing dissent, is beginning to take an impressive shift for the better.
There are, however, others with a mindset linking the art to nudity.
“Modeling is not about being naked,” he tells Gambia News in a detailed interview.
“It’s about building self-confidence. And, to be a model is different from naked –that’s porn and I don’t like it. Modeling is about being good and showing yourself to the world as a beautiful person,” he says.
Born in Sweden some 38 years ago to a migrant Gambian father Bamba Saho, who, spoke good Spanish having done time in the Canary Island a sailor before opting to settle in Sweden where he married Fatou’s mum Maria.
The bureaucracy involving in getting a visa today was not a requirement in those periods. Saho Snr easily settled in Gothenburg and was of great aid to Gambians who would travel in Sweden in later years prior to his demise in 2012 of a heart ailment.
Tough Teenage Years Laced with Racism
Scandinavia is today one of the world’s most coloured people receptive region. Back then with racism at its peak, it was a far cry to realities that exist now. Blacks are picked on in the Swedish society and Fatou, despite being born there, recounts facing discrimination in all forms.
Aside from this malice that still rare its ugly face in some part of Europe and the Americas, Saho had a tough childhood. Growing up in a community she finds herself struggling to fit in owing to her complexion despite many of her kind being ubiquitous, there was peer influence and the aura of bad friends she needed to put up with.
At some point and like majority teenagers, Fatou would fall out with her father but her case aroused the attention of the social services who had to take her in and in whose watch she was for seven years.
Soon, the wayward life she led ceased and morphing her into a responsible teenage mother.
She continued: “It was where hard to grow up in Sweden because that time in the 90s, it was hard for kids to get help if you were stubborn, like me.
“My dad wanted to send me to The Gambia but the Swedish social services said no to him. So as young as I was, I started to walk the wrong way and there was also bad friends around me.
“I had to move to a foster home and boarding school. My dad was having it really hard with me. It was during the time my aunty Yadicone came to Sweden.”
Modelling and Following Her Father’s Generous Footsteps
Having done community services, the then 20-year-old came out focused. Realising she needed a career to get on with life, a prolong moment of self-searching had her settling for modeling. Hailing from a Muslim family, her career preference was met with pockets of criticisms from her father. Observing her daughter’s mind is made up, Saho Snr felt it best to let her have her way.
The decision is perhaps the best she has ever made as Fatou is today one of the most sought-after models in Sweden and has graced the covers of prominent fashion magazines
“I started modeling because I liked watching my face. I could just stand 100 times in a day in front of the mirror just looking at myself. So I thought “Fatou stop looking at yourself. You cannot get more beautiful than you already are”.
Finland, Norway and the USA’s Angel are one of a legion of twenty magazine covers she has featured in on lucrative deals.
Away from the glamour of fashion and modeling, the Gambian queen is a mother-of-five. Her tough childhood is an influence in her move to stay close to her children whom she’s determine guiding not to slipping into her early age missteps. Fatou, also dubbed Marie Ndoye, is working on completing a book chronicling her trip in life hoping it goes on to impact lives.
On her to-do list this minute is giving Gambian beauties platform to rise to the core of modeling which she is convinced will help drag a lot out of the doldrums of poverty.
“I wish to help Gambian girls to one day be models in my company. I was born in Sweden but I see myself as Gambian and Gambian blood runs in me.
“My dad Bamba Saho helped a lot of Gambians in Sweden so I just want to follow in his footsteps. I am writing a book to tell people my story –that believe in yourself, never give up,” she said.
Throwing in a word of advice to kids growing up, she said: “What I have to tell young people is that they need to listen to their parents and start a good life and go to school and also find good work so that they can help the family. Never rush in life, life has its own pace of things. I also want to tell them to stay in Africa, Sweden is not better. In Gambia, you have everything. In Sweden, you are fighting every day to live. And have your family close.”