In Her Own Words: Feature I <3 Equality Campaign Star: Ms. Alima Fofana
As the Metropolitan New York Chapter, U.S. National Committee for UN Women launches its I♥Equality initiative, we’d like to introduce our campaign star, model and writer Alima Fofana. A native of the Ivory Coast who had already lived in several countries before arriving in the U.S. at 23, Fofana is thankful for the opportunities her career has afforded her and eager to give back. We’re thrilled to have her on board but before we give too much away, we’ll let you hear Fofana’s story in her own words:
I often say that if I were to give a title to my life story thus far it would be “A Series of Fortunate Accidents.” I had a lovely childhood on the Ivory Coast, where I was born and surrounded by a large family. I remember going to school in my little uniform and the importance of education was stressed to me from an early age. In fact, my grandfather was one of the first in our village to attend school and also send all of his children to school. When not surrounded by my books, we would organize beauty contests in our neighborhood for a bit of weekend fun. Looking back, perhaps I was destined to fall into a career in modeling though I never could have predicted it at the time.
I moved to Paris when I was seven to join my parents and moving to France was a big culture shock for me. I went from living with a large extended family and many cousins my age to just me and my parents in an apartment. I missed the strong sense of community and adapting to my new school was difficult, despite my solid knowledge of the French language but I continued to dedicate myself to my studies. As far back as I can remember it was my dream to be a midwife. I’ve long been in admiration of birth and of the capacity of women to create and give life. Wanting to be a part of the process, I worked hard to earn good grades so that I could make it into a premed program. And I did so at only 17.
About a year into my studies, unbeknownst to me, a friend I’d played basketball with for a few years signed me up for the Miss Cote d’Ivoire Europe contest. I made it to the final round but alas, no crown. I did however befriend a hairdresser who became a mentor to me, introducing me to the modeling world. Months later I signed with my first agency in Paris, Next. At the time, the fashion world could not have seemed farther from my background.
Years later I’m working in New York and finally feeling a sense of belonging. The hardest part of my journey was leaving behind my parents and siblings as I am the oldest child and feel a great deal of responsibility toward them. But it’s also given me an invaluable perspective.
I’m so thrilled to be a part of this campaign and I look forward to continuing my support for UN Women, particularly given the organization’s stance on education. I truly believe education is the most important tool in a woman’s road to freedom and self sufficiency. It opens the doors to the entire world and so much potential is being lost by the lack of access to education in so many countries. I was fortunate to have strong female role models as a child and looked up to my aunt and cousins who studied law and economics. I knew what was possible because I witnessed it first hand and every young girl should be afforded that same opportunity. I too intend to one day reconvene my studies but for the moment I am grateful for the opportunity to use my platform as a voice for good and lend my support to UN Women through the Metro NY Chapter.