Babacar N’doye, a young black and humble model from East London, literally just finished up modelling back-to-back for shows at London Fashion Week. Not forgetting the endless rehearsals, castings and fittings, from Craig Green to A-Cold Wall, Babacar has brought the ends to the runway. But that’s not it for him, as soon as I finish editing this, he heads over to Milan and Paris to feature in the Versace show! And he still makes time to be interviewed and tell us how to boss fashion week, fashions shows and fashion shoots.
“I’m from Hackney, East London, you see a lot where I’m from. Both good and bad like anywhere on this earth. But I will be forever grateful because it made me the person I am today.”
Before I even found out about Babacar’s story, I was impressed just from what he portrayed in pictures I saw. It was mad seeing a tall, dark-skinned brother with an afro in the Dior show, (check it out here). He has a clean, steely suave pose, a stance; like someone who is definitely from our culture, and has unapologetically made his mark in the fashion world. His look fits today’s vibe, but could easily fit in with the classic swagger of 70’s Harlem. It’s a versatility you can only understand when you see it. You can’t teach that, and definitely can’t replicate it. They say a picture speaks a thousand words. There’s no telling what a picture like that can do for a young black boy in let’s say… Hackney.
How Babacar was scouted rings similar to Naomi Campbell being spotted shopping in Covent Garden and Jordan Dunn, who was scouted in Hammersmith Primark. Or Leomie Anderson being approached on her way home from school. A bit of chance, luck or destiny…
“I literally fell into modelling, no word of a lie I was checking prices outside a chicken shop, and this lady came up to me; I thought she was lost but we ended up exchanging details. I was 15 so I was gassed when I told my Mum.” I guess it’s facts that what is for you will be for you. But like every cautious and skeptical African parent (mine too), his Mum didn’t give the answer he was looking for. “She told me it was probably a scam”.
When I was speaking with Babacar, I wanted to see if he really got the impact images like his could make, and what representing us means to him. So he told me his thoughts about fashion before modelling. “This creative community is something I never considered, because I used to just think the world was all about studying or making money. I never thought about joining this industry… but I was thrown into it, and I’ve subconciously embraced it I guess…whether or not they’ve embraced me yet.“
What is sick about this kid is he doesn’t overthink it, and he shouldn’t have to. Yes, his presence is breaking barriers. Yes, he’s a visual representation of a positive black guy in exclusive garms. But this is what he’s always been… so is it his problem to focus on when and how everyone else responds?
Babacar has confidence things are changing in the industry and refuses to carry a chip on his shoulder. “A lot of people assume that there’s a lot of pressure for black models at the moment. Because we’re the face of cultural representation in the industry. But I feel like that pressure can have negative connotations. All the black models I’ve met enjoy the job and carry themselves with pride. They’re making a dent in the disproportionate representation of our people…it helps us rest easy. The love you get from that is truly amazing. We’re just ourselves, we have fun with it.”
As he should. He’s taking it as it comes…but he still gets how fortunate he is. Fashion shoots and shows have taken Babacar to places he had only hoped to go. Now his passport’s well-stamped and he’s a frequent flyer. “I rarely used to fly out before modelling. I can’t lie this job has taken me to some crazy places early in life, I just got to tick off Japan on my bucket list, and those guys showed love. I went to Miami for my first campaign, that one was up there with the best locations I’ve been to… it was my first big shoot with some humble brothers and I was walking around a private hotel beach shirtless… in the middle of January! [My favourite?]… definitely got to be Miami.”
What about those on the come up? What’s the blueprint? He has two pieces of advice:
1. “Don’t think about it too much. It’s so easy to get caught up in social media, what he/she/they are doing, and you can easily fall into the trap of putting yourself down. Realise that everyone’s path is unique to them.”
2.”Don’t get lost in the sauce. I’m not tryna be corny or funny, there’s no other way of putting it; in this job you get a lot of 15 minutes of fame, you got to be able to readjust to your normal life when you come back, otherwise you end up losing yourself.”
Babacar is really doing it for us, the gang, the whole team, when he’s out there modelling. And every black kid in London who is yet to see themselves represented. It’s exciting to hear a black boy living his best life, in an industry that sometimes feels like its shut us out. I hope stories like these continue to outweigh the discrimination, bad press and attention-seeking of certain brands (no names! We see you!). Well done Babacar, Keep shining young King!