"High school was a struggle for me because I didn’t think of myself as beautiful. I was born in Nigeria and I’m Nigerian, but I was raised in Toronto. I used to get made fun of for being dark and African, sometimes by other black folks, non-Africans, which was very frustrating. There were no black people in Edmonton—none. It was just my sister and me in the school. We were faced with that reality at a very young age. I wanted to fit in, so I always struggled with my physical appearance. When I started modeling in New York around the age of 19, 20, it was because I had a group of guy friends from Brooklyn. One of them always carried his camera around, and he would be like, ‘Let me just take a photo of you, and I’ll show it to you.’ He took one, showed it to me, and I was like, ‘That’s me?’ One day we just played dress-up—I wore this big, outrageous afro walking down Flatbush and he just captured that moment. This was like 10 years ago. At that time, there weren’t really young, black models on the internet yet. People on Tumblr came out with 'Black Beauties,' and similar pages, and I found out that photos of me were always getting reposted on those accounts. Young girls would find my email and send a message like, ‘I saw your picture on Tumblr, it means a lot to me when I see someone who has my skin complexion do what you do.'
I grew up in a very strict household with parents who really valued education. Coming here as immigrants, we’re very full of pride. That’s where the strictness comes from—we don’t want failures. You don’t come to this country to fail. My parents didn't realize how stressful that pressure was. I took a web design elective in high school—I’d always been good with computers. So I took it, and then I sort of figured out I was creative, right? Before, I didn’t realize I could be an artist in that sense. That started growing, and then I started coding and getting crazy, making layouts for websites, learning things on my own. That’s what really drove me to be like, ‘Something’s going on here. I can really do this.’ People started asking if I could build their websites, and I was like, ‘I can build a website!’ And I started building clientele. It just started from that high school class. My parents freaked out [when I didn’t graduate from college]. I did courses for a couple years, and then I came home and I told them, ‘I can’t do this.’ It was really tough, but one thing I learned in that period of time is that education comes in different forms. I’ve learned so much from free workshops, online classes, teaching myself. Like, going on the backend of someone’s website and being like, ‘OK, what does this code do? If I apply it to my website, what changes?’ Just trial and error.
I started wearing makeup in my 20s. Like, college. At the start I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was wearing the wrong foundation colors and then layering, layering, layering all these foundations, concealer, contour, eyebrows…My sister was like, ‘What are you doing?’ It wasn’t until this year that I scaled back a ton. I needed to—I was getting pimples, acne, acne scars, not washing my face. If I came back from a party, I’d go straight to bed because I was tired, and I’d wash my face in the morning. And I had really bad dark spots all over my face. I was like, let me see what will happen if I wear less makeup. Let me see what will happen if I go 30 days with no makeup. And then what would that look like when I start introducing makeup? That started this whole thing. I was like, ‘I’m not wearing makeup for all of January—it’s wintertime, nobody is going to see me.’ And when I started reintroducing makeup, I didn’t need to cover. My skin has healed so much. I’m OK with the spots, if they show, because I know they’re healing, I’m working on it. And it was also just a kind reminder that it’s OK.
Before I cut back on everything I was doing, my hair was super damaged from all the weaves I was wearing. I was taking care of all these weaves, buying all these expensive hair products, putting them on my weave. And then one day when I was 20 or 21 I took off one of the weaves I had—it was glued, and I did it myself, and my hair was in patches. I started crying—it was a hot mess. I was like, ‘What am I doing to myself?’ I cut my hair myself, just cut off all the dead ends, and the next day I went to this salon down on Fulton Street. This one lady touched my hair and was like, ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything.’ I was so devastated. So I kept walking down and I found this Jamaican hair stylist. She was like, ‘OK baby, just sit down and we’ll do something and figure it out.’ She put in a little texturizer to soften it, and little curls started to happen. She colored it jet black, and I loved it. So my hair was like a mini Grace Jones kind of thing. I actually didn’t know who Grace Jones was until I cut my hair, because people started being like, ‘You look like Grace Jones, look her up.’ I did not know! And I became obsessed. Now I cut my hair myself—I used to go to barbers to do a little shape up, but now I actually like it buzzed.
I don’t use moisturizers [on my face], I use oils. I use this rosehip oil called . It’s so good. Actually, before I even put makeup on I do the Glow and Hydrate, and then the rosehip oil. Then I follow with . I really like this product. I’m always like ehh…trying to get the last drop out. I mix this with the , because the color doesn’t change, which is amazing.
I’ve been drinking water like crazy. I started like, ‘OK, what would happen if I was consistently drinking water?’ And I started seeing results. I started using cleanser recently, and I really like it because in the morning I’m not trying to do a whole crazy routine. [At night] I use this —moringa is this West African plant that’s like a super plant. You can get it at any health store—I get it at Whole Foods, or even small, local stores because it’s a fair-trade African company. Proceeds go to their projects they have in Togo, and I like to buy it knowing that the proceeds go to something meaningful in this world. If I use a scrub, I use a mechanical one. Like a , but not that—I got a cheaper one, and it works just as well, from Marshall’s. I get a lot of my stuff at Marshall’s. I saw it there, and I always wanted one. So I use one of those, and I use that I got from Marshall’s as well, but it’s Korean. I only use that cleanser on the scrubber, because it foams up really well. I only use that if I’ve had a photoshoot day and I’ve been wearing a lot of makeup. If I’m wearing makeup, then my cleansing routine is a little longer. I have this that I use from Marshall’s as well, then I’ll do the Milky Jelly to make sure the oil washes off. For toner I just use , and I put most of it in this little thing when I’m traveling. When I read the 10-step Korean thing, I was like, ‘I’m already doing a lot of that.’ Origins GinZing Facial Mist is one of my favorites—I use it when I come out of the shower. It just feels amazing, I don’t know how to explain it.
I use this from Harlem—it’s from this exotic fragrance oil store. A little of this goes a long, long way. A friend had it on, and I was like, ‘What is this?!’ She was like, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you for your birthday, I’m not going to tell you what it’s called.’ And when she gave it to me I started cracking up. That’s actually what it’s called! I gifted it to my mom—she loves it! She puts it in her lotion, she puts it in everything. Sometimes when I’m drying my clothes I’ll spritz it in my clothes. And then I use , which is my favorite. It’s really soft.
For makeup I’ll do in Rich, and my Iman BB Cream shade is called Earth Deep. I was using , because I was wearing the wrong foundation and I was so oily after I put on my makeup. But now that I use the BB cream, I’m not oily. Then I’ll do the in 510 Suede C, just under my eyes. I put on tiny dots that I just blend in with my finger—I rarely use brushes anymore. I kind of just rub it in. I use the mascara. I have pretty decent lashes, so unless I’m going out, I use that. I like the natural feel of it—it’s almost just darkening [my lashes] and brightening up my eyes. If I’m going out, I use mascara, because it makes my lashes look really big. I’m not a mascara freak, so I’ll just do it quick. My lashes are really curly—it’s almost to the point where they spiral sometimes. Like, one is going this way, one is going that way. I started using , and I actually really like Herb a lot. It’s really close to my skin, so it doesn’t really look like I’m wearing [anything]. Eyeshadows are very scary to me—I don’t like looking like I have eyeshadow on, for some reason. I will highlight, but sometimes I go between a blush and a highlighter. I like —it’s a nice, soft pink, but dark enough to not look like I’m wearing…you know. It just softens my cheeks a little bit, and it almost looks like a nude on me. The highlighter is . I just take a little and I drop it on my skin, right on my cheekbones in a C-shape. Sometimes I even put it under my eye and on top of my eye, because it helps me look more awake. I only wear one lipstick, actually. It’s . That’s if I’m going out. If I’m just going about my day, then I’ll just use the . I was never a gloss fan—ever! Like, in high school, it used to be so sticky, just dripping, people looked so silly. I like this—it’s almost done, and I’m sad about it. It’s just so pretty! I have two-toned lips, but for some reason when I wear this lip gloss, it kind of makes it all look soft.
FITNESS & HEALTH
When it comes to fitness I do yoga and I box. I ride my bike, that’s how I commute. In the summertime I’m not so much of a workout person, because I’m always on my bike and that’s a workout. [Laughs] I started taking spirulina from Trader Joe’s, and bee pollen for energy. I put it in my oatmeal or just take a scoop of it. Start off small. A friend of mine is a holistic practitioner, and she had a little workshop and she brought up bee pollen. I didn’t know what it was. It’s so funny, I went to Whole Foods and there she was! She was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘I’m getting bee pollen because of your recommendation!’ It’s been amazing, actually. I take it around 3PM, because I feel like that’s when I’m tired. I don’t have to drink coffee—I try to just do one cup a day, or no coffee at all."
—as told to ITG
Folasade Adeoso photographed by Tom Newton on July 12, 2018.