Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

This Instagram Model Is Changing Perspectives of Tribal Scars in Africa


Why Global Citizens Should Care 
The UN’s Global Goals call for reduced inequalities all over the world, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality, or any other status. Equal representation in all areas of our lives is a key part of that — and people like Adetutu Alabi are driving that effort. Join us by taking action here to help ensure equal rights for everyone. 

Nigerian face model Adetutu Alabi is using social media to create awareness around African tribal markings around the world.

Alabi has started the #TribalMarksChallenge on Instagram, calling on people to embrace their tribal markings. 

The campaign initially started to gain the attention of Rihanna, helping Alabi become a model for the latest Fenty Beauty campaign. 

Take Action: End Policies That Ban Pregnant Girls From School

But little did she know that she would create a movement that has inspired other young African women around the world to post their own images and feel confident in their own skin. (And she’s also now been followed on Instagram by Rihanna — so, win-win.)

Alabi believes that, as much as she must embrace her markings and be comfortable in her own skin, it is also just as important to ban facial scarring without permission — so women can make their own choices. 

Related Stories Sept. 21, 2018 4 Powerful African Women You Need to Know

“It was very difficult growing up with tribal marks,” she told the Nerve Africa. “These days, I don’t pay the bullying any mind even though I still get insulted whenever I go out.” 

Alabi has also opened up about how having tribal markings has affected her romantic relationships, further lowering her self-esteem. 

“One of the reasons the father of my child absconded was because of my tribal marks,” she told the Guardian Nigeria. “He could not be with me in public and he only made us meet at night. I felt I was the ugliest girl in the world.”

“I got fed up with relationships because men didn’t always want to go out with me during the day; they would prefer to be with me at night,” she added.

Now, Alabi has said she can’t believe the outpouring of responses she’s received after posting her pictures online. 

“There were so many encouraging comments and I almost doubted I was still in Nigeria,” she continued. “There were no mean comments or trolls. There was support even from other Africans.”

In Yoruba culture, tribal markings are symbol of beauty, and yet Alabi has been teased throughout her life for having the markings. 

It’s largely because of the perception of women in the media, which is rarely an accurate depiction of women in their day-to-day lives. 

Women come in different shades, shapes, and sizes. But that’s not often the impression you get from reading magazines and newspapers, and watching TV and movies. 

Alabi’s hashtag has helped in the communal efforts to raise awareness of something much bigger than tribal markings — she has helped people to realise that what others consider a flaw does not define beauty or character. 

"I lavished in my wounds, what was meant to pull me down made me stronger" - ADETUTUOJ ......................................................................... MUA: LUCH MUSE: @adetutuo.j 📷: @d_cberg @ohisview STUDIO CREDIT: @ultim8official ........................................................................... @ndanitv @pulsenigeriatv @tvcnews_ng @ebonylifetv @punchnewspapers @guardianlifeng @thenationnewspaper @officialhiptv @tracenaija @badgalriri @donjazzy @instablog9ja @ogbetablog @bellanaijaonline @asoebibella @lindaikejiblog @fentybeauty @aduretvlive @tundeednut @nedu_wazobiafm @wazobiamax @54artistry @olorisupergal @genevievemagazine @vogue @voguemagazine @afrimag @thatgidigirl @gossipmillnaija @joroolumofin @naijabestmua @facemeetsart @tybello @malekfotofilms @canoncnafrica #makeupartist #makeupillustration #tribalmarkschallenge #adetutuojtribalmarkschallenge #fenty #badgirlriri #editorials #editorialillustration #editorialphotography #editorialmakeup #glow #melanin #modelcitizenmag #featureme #tribalmarks #selfacceptance

A post shared by Luch (@ladylucylynda) on

To see more of Adetutu Alabi’s images, find her on Instagram here and on Twitter here


The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.