Speaking from her stylish home in Encino, California, she reveals, “When that happened to me, I was five years old. And I still feel the pain. Oh yeah,” she nods, “the pain never will go away. Never, ever, ever.”
Naturally, it’s a life-defining event. “When they do that to you, you lose your pride. In Africa, they see it as a way of controlling a woman because they think you won’t cheat on your husband. But I don’t think it really matters because if you want to cheat you will cheat anyway.
“Both sides of my family performed this ritual. But I’m not upset at my parents because they grew up like that, and their parents and their parents did that.”
This 5 foot 10 beauty was born and raised with 12 siblings in poverty-stricken M’Bour, 50 miles south of Dakar. Against impossible odds and armed with determination and a can-do attitude, in 1996 Khadija made the giant leap from Africa to Europe to pursue her dream of becoming a model.
After fleeing her hometown, she settled in Geneva initially, then headed for Paris, where a chance meeting in an elevator with the CEO of Metropolitan Models changed the course of her career. She has now worked with couture legends galore including Christian Dior, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Isaac Mizrahi, and Eli Saab.
A self-made woman in every sense, Khadija’s gaze has long been on giving back. Having thoroughly explored the wellness industry, she is now the co-creator of a unique formula called Lovera, developed to help women who have undergone genital mutilation. Studies show that after taking it, women started to feel desire. Lovera has also been shown to help women through the various stages of menopause, particularly those struggling with a waning sexual desire.
Now living in Los Angeles with her husband, photographer Andreas Neumann and 12-year-old daughter, Khadija has become one of the latest disruptors in the health and beauty industry. Despite her success, she hasn’t forgotten her roots, in fact quite the converse. “I’m always proud to go back [to Senegal], and I go when I can. I am a proud African woman and I love my country so much.” She smiles. “Of course, it’s complicated.”
“It’s not just in Africa where women are abused. Things happen as well in Brazil, Cuba and the Philippines. Women are forced to go into prostitution without any payment at all. Anybody that wants to join my cause in helping women in Africa, I welcome it. It’s time.”
Though she can’t eradicate this long-standing cultural tradition, she says, “My sisters and I, we all say no, we would never do that to our child. We made it really clear to our parents that that would not happen to their grandchildren.” She smiles. “I am really proud of my sisters. I am American and I am here [in Los Angeles] with my child and it can never happen to her, but my sisters have [bravely] gone against this old custom for their daughters,” she says. “Enough is enough.”