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Ndeye Peinda Is Breaking the Stereotypical Mold of Beauty

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“Breaking the stereotypical mold of beauty with style, grace & a beat face,” are the words that make up beauty influencer Ndeye Peinda’s catchy yet powerful Instagram bio. It’s a sentence that encompasses the work she’s doing simply by existing and thriving in her own skin—though the idea of her beauty being revolutionary isn’t one that she asked for.

Ndeye has compellingly smooth, dark skin and brag-worthy curves that she dresses to a T, and yet her mere presence has compelled her into a sort of unsolicited activism. Before learning of Ndeye’s trials or trauma, it’s important to know that she’s also a girl who loves makeup and has spent much of her life longing to see her own reflection in the media. Prior to working in beauty full time, she obtained a master’s degree and was a teacher who taught her students English curriculum in the South Bronx while they taught her video editing skills. She prefers lipstick over lip gloss, moisturizing masks over clay masks, and if she absolutely had to choose, she’d rock lashes over the perfect brow. Her story and her #BlackGirlJoy deserve as much acknowledgement as her struggles.

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When I was introduced to Ndeye for the first time, I immediately recognized her as a beautiful creator with an inviting demeanor, and her more than 32,000 (and counting!) Instagram and YouTube followers would agree. It’s hard to imagine that a woman so confident and talented could have ever felt less than desirable, but at one point she did. Today, the Senegalese American influencer wears her dark complexion and her curves like a badge of honor, but she had to learn to praise these attributes long before society came onboard. Let’s take a dive into beauty through Ndeye’s lens.

Breaking the Mold

We can’t tell Ndeye’s story without beginning with her rich heritage. She grew up in Harlem, not far from her mother’s hair braiding salon on 116th and St. Nicholas, but outside the salon, beauty images for her to look up to were few and far between. “Thin, white women have always been the standard of beauty,” says Ndeye. “And when we think of Black women, we think of thin, fair, light skinned Black women with soft, curly, 3A hair. If we get away from thinness, then the curves always have to be in just the right places.” This monolith of beauty didn’t include Ndeye, and so she went on her own quest to discover products and brands that catered to her needs.

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I spoke with Ndeye while she was in the middle of applying her makeup, preparing to document a purple eyeshadow palette for the holidays. Her Instagram inspires makeup lovers everywhere to try new looks and get bold with their style, but she created this space after noticing a gap in the industry. She describes the wow moments of coming across Jackie Aina’s YouTube videos for the first time, or seeing Lupita Nyong’o’s Lancôme campaign, but both of these beauty moments happened later in life, leaving her to define beauty for herself in adolescence.

Defining Confidence

“I never felt consciously ugly, but I never felt consciously beautiful either, so I was just existing,” says Ndeye. She continues, “We’ve been taught what it means to be an acceptable Black girl, and society has repeatedly told me that it’s not me. A lot of the affirmation for my beauty growing up came from my friends and their parents who would tell me that my skin was beautiful, and that I should never bleach it. They [affirmed me] when I needed it. Confidence is a journey for everyone because we are all constantly fed beauty standards, but to me, confidence is showing up authentically.”

Ndeye was bullied throughout her school years for her deep complexion and her Senegelese background, but she now has the maturity to understand that even those children were influenced by society’s status quo. Though they admittedly caused harm, they were projecting the same unrealistic beauty standards that they’d absorbed. Today, she expresses, “I love my color out loud, and I find myself looking in the mirror and just loving my deep complexion. I recently decluttered my makeup, but I couldn’t get rid of any foundation because it’s my favorite part of my makeup routine. I love finding new foundations because my skin is so rich, and I love finding products that complement it.”

“That’s why my influence is always about helping other people to feel better about themselves,” she adds. “My message is always for people to give themselves grace and to show up authentically. I don’t just talk about makeup. I also talk about love and life in general. I see that there’s not a lot of transparency on social media because everyone is trying to look perfect. But nothing is perfect.”

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Influencing or Activism? Inspiring Through Beauty

At a glance, Ndeye’s feed might seem like it’s all about products and routines, but her influence is so much larger than that. She recalls the makeup fails that occurred early in her journey as a result of following the recommendation of brands and influencers that didn’t have her in mind, and her buzzing online presence is an assured response to the gap in the industry.

Though representation in the beauty industry has improved over the years, Ndeye is able to reach people who have long felt overlooked. “I feel the most beautiful when I get messages from my followers on social media,” says Ndeye. “I have gotten messages that brought tears to my eyes. My confidence comes from knowing that others get inspired by what I do. It feels great to know that there are people out there thinking, ‘If I think she’s beautiful, but I look like her, then I must be beautiful, too.’ Seeing others finally decide to embrace themselves is the most beautiful part of what I do. A lot of dark skinned and plus size women reach out to me.”

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Finding confidence was a process for Ndeye, and it’s her goal to make that journey a bit easier for those that look up to her. “For other people coming behind me, understand that confidence is not a one stop shop. It’s something that you have to work towards; just like love. You don’t just fall in love and stay in love. If you want it, you have to work for it. So why would loving ourselves be any different?”

Ndeye also has a message for those who might not fit the mold. “I want people to know that they can do whatever it is that they set their mind to, even if they don’t believe that they are the standard,” she says. “I never thought that I could have a following looking the way that I look because I never saw anyone who looked like me do it before. Sometimes, you have to remember that you are not the only one internalizing what beautiful is, and we’re all striving for self acceptance.”

A Call to the Beauty Industry

While Ndeye’s influence is inspiring, it doesn’t come without its challenges. As a Black woman from Harlem, her accent is a proud hailing to her melting pot of a hometown, but it poses a conflicting reality for her. When it comes to embracing her blackness, she says, “It’s a constant struggle to please brands and to also show up in my true voice for my Black audience. Many brands don’t understand the constant turmoil that Black creators experience. What does it mean to me as a Black woman when brands choose to work with people who blackfish with darker makeup or with people who act like urban caricatures of Black women? Why is it okay for them to use slang and be extra while Black women are diluting who we are out of fear of rejection? People want a Black girl, but many brands don’t honestly want a girl that's too Black. Sometimes, it feels that brands want to check off their diversity box. They want to look inclusive, but they don’t want everything that your blackness is.” So how do we start? Ndeye’s request is a simple challenge to do better.

“I want brands to do the real work. Not just as companies, but we all have to check our biases as individuals. I hope to see more brands challenge beauty standards and more specifically, challenge who the acceptable Black girl is. There should be no such thing as too urban or too ethnic, and we should allow creators to show up as their full selves without asking if they are marketable, because the market is out there. The true question is, do you want to market to people that are diverse in age, shade, size, and body ability? It’s not just the CEOs, it comes down to everyone involved.”

To the Black owned brands, she thanks them for treating her like the blueprint instead of the afterthought. There’s been an age-old accessibility gap, and she hopes to see popular retailers continue to carry Black owned brands on their shelves because, in her words, “we’ve been here.” Ndeye is breaking the beauty mold one post at a time, and she will continue to do so with style, grace, and a beat face.

Want more Beauty Through the Black Lens? Hear from Aja White about her experience as a Black influencer post #BlackoutTuesday, and learn about dermatologist Adeline Kikam's (a.k.a. @brownskinderm) strive for wellness in skin of color.

Feeling inspired by Ndeye’s love of beauty, and want to get in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

About the author
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Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated October 28, 2020 12:00 AM