Mariama Gaye: From Adversity to a Model

Mariama Gaye: From Adversity to a Model

My name is Mariama Gaye, and I was born on December 3, 1993, in Gambia. My parents divorced when I was young, and I mainly lived with my mother and her family in Latrikunda. My mother remarried and moved to Sweden when I was three years old, and I was left to be raised by my grandma, aunts, and uncles. At age six, I was able to move to Sweden and be reunited with my mother.

Growing up, I was always bullied at school for my looks and the fact that I dreamed of being a model, even in high school. It was so bad that I had to switch classes at one point, one year before graduation. Despite the bullying, I managed to graduate in social studies and media.

I faced a lot of challenges at home as well during those years, with my mother, stepdad, and stepsiblings. At age 19, my mother kicked me out of the house. Shortly afterward, I found out I was pregnant with twins. I married their dad, but it was an abusive relationship, and he used to beat me and cheat on me all the time. He left me after he got his papers from me and married someone else. I have been taking care of the twins by myself since then.

A few years passed, and I was still struggling on my own when, by chance, one of my cousins told me to apply as a model. I told her it was too late for me, as I was 25 by then. But I got an offer to be an extra actress in a Netflix series called “Snabba Cash,” and I invited that same cousin to come with me to the shoot. I then started reconsidering her advice regarding modeling, so I contacted an agency and got a meeting. They took pictures of me, but then told me I’m not what they are looking for. I was so sad and wanted to give up, but I applied to two more agencies. The second one told me no as well, but the third wanted me. They were a smaller agency, and it was kind of slow at first, but after a year, I ended up on Elle, Vogue, Forbes, and other publications.