Senegalese fashionista Badara Ndiaye is nearly seven feet tall with a heart and outlook to match. Photos: Oscar Munar.
Badara, you were born in Senegal? What was early life like for you?
Yes, I was born in Kaolack, Senegal. I was just the shy, quiet kid who wanted to stay away from the spotlight due to my popular parents, especially my father who is an actor and a women`s rights activist. In my early teenage years, I became taller than most people around me; my friends, my teachers, my parents . . . like most teens who happen to be tall, I felt a bit out of place because I found myself mixing more with adults than with other teens, something I learned to appreciate later on in life.
You stand at two meters 11cm … all we can say is, wow! But being so tall must have had its downs and well as ups?
Anything and everything has its ups and downs. I won’t even mention the ups because we can imagine what they are, but one of the main disadvantages is that nothing is made for people of my size. This may sound unfair to some people, but sometimes you enter a place that is not ‘tall proof’ . . . which automatically puts me or anyone else in my circumstances at a handicap. Growing up, I was considered different and at the same time I was just like the other kids. I played most sports, even gymnastics . . . I had many friends, but also was made fun of due to my height. In many cultures and societies, people make fun of anything which is different. I was called names like ‘stretch’ and more, but luckily for me I had a supportive family. For other parents out there, be kind to your children because the rest of the world may not be.
When did you leave Senegal, and how did that happen?
I started basketball very late, at the age of 17. The main reason was that all my friends started playing basketball, and I found myself without a single friend to go play other sports with. I was left with no choice other than to start the game. On my first day on the court, the head coach of the Senegalese basketball team happened to be around, and boy was I in trouble. He wouldn’t leave me alone. The fact that he was friends with my parents didn’t help. Somehow he convinced me that I should be practicing twice a day: early morning and evening. Thanks to that, I attended a few international basketball camps with some NBA players and coaches, and some division one college coaches as well. It quickly turned into me being recruited to go play basketball in the USA at the age of 21.
What was it first like arriving in America, and how did you spend your time there?
My first experience was certainly challenging because there I was in a new land with new customs and new social codes that I had to process and incorporate into my new life. I couldn’t even speak English at all in 2005, so go figure how my interaction was with the people around me. I quickly started taking ESL classes . . . English as a Second Language. My time was mostly spent between my studies, basketball and travels.
Your life took a turn after you were injured … were you ‘discovered’ by the fashion world, or was it something that you always had in mind to do?
I had micro fracture knee surgery during my senior year, after which I had to forget this “on court” dream. Then I met the late fashion photographer Prescott McDonald at a party and he invited me to do a test shoot at his studio. That was my first glimpse into the fashion world. Later on in the year 2012, I met a friend who introduced me to the world of social media through his online magazine where I was helping out as a contributor for men’s fashion. That’s how BADARAOFFICIAL was born.
You’re very active on Instagram, with a strong profile. Do you consider yourself a model or a social media influencer?
Thank you! I actually consider myself a Creative/Artistic Director. Almost 90 percent of content on my platform is conceptualized and directed by myself. I also do creative consulting for some of the brands that I work with. I found myself enjoying that more and more over the past two years, and I can’t wait to expand and do more all over the world.
What’s important to you in life, and what code do you live by?
Integrity and respect are two codes I live by. They are simply fundamental because self-respect and self-love dictate everything else around one’s life.
How did you come to see Bali, and what has struck you about the island?
I came to Bali for the first time in February 2018, and I have been back every few weeks since. I am about to complete my fourth trip to Bali in a couple of weeks. I first came to Bali to visit a hotel that is being built on Nusa Penida and fell in love with the bubbly energy and landscape that exists here. I found Bali to be a land of opportunities, based on what I have seen and the experiences I have had. The place is a creative paradise, and those who appreciate creativity in all senses will find themselves in heaven in Bali. I think almost anyone who has visited the island would agree with me. I’d love to do more work in Bali or in Indonesia in general as the “Tall Model” , and as a creative director. People say the USA is the land of opportunity, but I think that Bali is another land of opportunity with its never ending growth in hospitality, art, fashion … the list goes on.
If you’re not here, where do you spend your time?
Mostly between Miami, Paris, and Ligueux.
How do you find clothes to fit you?
I find clothes anywhere even though I am tall. My issue is that often I can’t find the right length. That has pushed me to make some of my own clothes, and I was able to develop that aspect with a sartorial design company as a design consultant.
Ok here’s one for you … you’re out in the desert in a canyon late at night. It’s four hours back to the nearest town. There’s a large injured animal blocking the road …. what do you do?
I know this answer is expected, but I want to believe that most people are good and would do the following: If I can transport the animal without hurting him or her, then I would. In the case that I can’t, I would call for help.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My idea of perfect happiness is that life starts with yourself. Start it within yourself and then spread it around.
Which living person do you most admire?
I admire anyone who strives in life. People who you look at and see that they are hard working people. That’s who I admire.
On what occasion do you lie?
Only if I know the truth will cause a cardiac arrest. If not, I’d say: say it like it is.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Hmmm. There are definitely things we, as people, constantly need to work on. Mine would be wanting to do everything. You just can’t do everything, and this is something I am working on.
Badara, stay perfect and many thanks for your time!
Thank you to The Yak team.