SouKeyna Diouf is using her influence to help eradicate the disease that is still prevalent back in her home in Africa.
SouKeyna Diouf was a biochemistry student at Howard University when she interned at hospitals during her break. While pursuing her education, she found out that people were relating to her posts more to beauty and fashion. Also, Diouf tried to understand what beauty meant outside of the Western perspective. As her following grew, she reflected on how she could further spread awareness about a cause that would become her life's work, reported Huff Post.
“When we think of models, we think of body types that we aspire to have or certain physical features that we aspire to have,” said Diouf, a Senegalese American model and public health advocate. “People pay so much attention to those they look up to. What if everyone who had all this attention used it to channel attention to something much more important?” Diouf already feels good about the ever-increasing role of models and influencers. She also wondered if we can really go from just selling products and perpetuating Westernized beauty standards to becoming agents of real change.
Early on in the pandemic, the U.N. Global Health advocate began to partner with brands more consciously, in particular ones that supported her in the fight to eradicate malaria, a life-threatening disease, which can be both treated and prevented but still exists, especially in developing countries. Malaria advocacy has been Diouf's mission since she suffered from it as a teenager after failing to use a bed mosquito net at night. “That net can literally be the difference between life and death for some people,” Diouf said.
Diouf recalled the crippling fear that consumed her when she had malaria. Her health declined with such a speed that she said her final goodbye to her family. “I’m relatively small already, but I lost so much more weight within the span of a week. I could see my ribs,” she said. Ultimately, she could not only recover because she received good healthcare. This testing experience made her think of those who did not have access to healthcare.
The disease, transmitted through bites from infected mosquitos, has been eradicated in the U.S. and other areas due to advances in medicine and sanitation. In 2021, the World Health Organization noted 247 million cases of the disease globally. Of those cases, 95% came from regions in Africa. There were also 620,000 deaths reported from malaria during that year. “That infuriates me. We’ve effectively been able to eradicate malaria in places like the United States. Why is it still endemic in places like where I come from?” Diouf said.
So, Diouf has taken to challenging Western beauty standards and questioning global health disparities. “I have had malaria, and you can relate to me. I think eliminating all the ways that we are different ... naturally increases empathy,” Diouf said. “And if we increase empathy, all the changes that we wish to see in the world will definitely come.”
Empathy does solve many problems and Diouf is doing great work in trying to raise and solve these issues!