Since her successful run on the 22nd cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2015, Mamé Adjei has embodied so much more than just the title of model. The Ghanaian-American top model with Lipps LA has graced ad campaigns for heavy-hitter brands including Samsung, Intel, and Pandora Jewelry, and now has founded not one, but two activist initiatives.
Adjei is one of the co-founders of Nuit Noire, an LA-based collective of proud women of the diaspora, showcasing art, music, and activism through their many LA events and on their Instagram. Along with the platform Victory Over Circumstance, created for women to share stories of success despite their obstacles, Adjei clued us in on all that the groups stand for, and how she has also used her influence to launch her own non-profit, The Mamé Adjei Foundation, aimed at empowering young women.
Read the full interview from The Untitled Magazine‘s latest print edition, The “INNOVATE” Issue, out now.
Your career just keeps getting stronger ever since your run on America’s Next Top Model, with not only modeling, but also acting, activism, and DJing. What can you tell us about what you are working on at the moment?
I am so grateful to have been able to have the trajectory in the industry that I’ve had. I feel extremely free to express myself however I see fit at the moment; whether it’s through music and DJ’ing, or acting, or participating in several initiatives at a time, that benefit women’s advancement, and especially Black advancement.
Next up, I want to focus on beauty & business, and finally launch my own line of fuss-free skin care with Ghanaian sourced ingredients, perfect for models, and of course all women who want to look and feel beautiful, effortlessly. So look out for Mamé Beauty coming soon!
What role does your Ghanaian background play in how you approach your work?
I used to not appreciate my heritage enough as a point of differentiation — which actually makes me special. Many people find it super interesting and always want to know more about it. And so I feel like an unofficial representative of Ghana, (or an ambassador like my father was) in the ways that I am always talking it up, and educating people on my culture, Africa, its people, etc. The media has done its fair share of damaging the perception of Africa to the rest of the world for so long, and it’s time to break those foolish barriers, one conversation at a time.
You are one of the co-founders of the LA-based collective Nuit Noire. What inspired you to start the group, and what can you tell us about what they do? Where did the name “Nuit Noire” come from?
Nuit Noire was born out of the desire to showcase my culture via music, art, and fashion to the LA scene (because four years ago there was not one place that would even play Afrobeats — now I cant stop hearing “Essence” by Wizkid!). My partner at the time and I agreed to use “Nuit Noire,” which translates to “Black Night,” to commemorate the African culture that we were sharing. We featured female artists of all mediums to also showcase their art at our events. It was quite amazing.
What kinds of experiences do you try to highlight with Nuit Noire? What challenges have you faced in highlighting them?
We always made it a point to highlight and showcase female artists from the diaspora (like ourselves), because we felt that there weren’t enough spaces or platforms where we could find ourselves. So the main challenges we faced were finding women like us to even feature.
Since relocating to LA from your hometown of Silver Spring, Maryland, what influence has your new home had on you?
LA has taught me to be so free. I don’t know if it’s the city but definitely the growth that has happened here has propelled me to reinvent myself as many times as I need to/want to in order to feel like I’m operating as my truest authentic self at all times – constantly evolving.
You’ve also become a top model with Lipps LA, which must be very exciting! How did that opportunity come about?
I was introduced to Scot Lipps, and the entire Lipps team via a great friend of mine and fellow Lipps model. After having met with the team about twice, I knew I wanted to work with them because they understood my ambition and goals, and wanted to help me get there.
You’ve shared that your travels inspired your passion for service and social justice. Where did you travel to that caused that spark? What causes are you passionate about?
I was raised partly in the US, Ghana, Brazil, and Switzerland. At a young age I felt so connected and a part of every place that I lived or traveled to. I was in love with going somewhere new and figuring things out. Learning a new language, the culture, the cities, and becoming a part of its communities has always enticed and excited me to this day!
And because I have seen the poorest of people to the richest, and lived in such a wide variety of situations (from having a maid, driver, cleaners, chefs, to literally not knowing what I would eat for dinner when I lived away from my parents), I was inspired to find a way to bridge the gap somehow and show people that we are more alike than not. And that’s what’s driving my work with my initiative Victory Over Circumstance. A platform /community I created for women to be able to share their stories of triumph over all obstacles – owning their truths.
That passion inspired you to launch your own non-profit, The Mamé Adjei Foundation. What is your foundation all about? What are your goals?
Much like with Victory Over Circumstance, the goal is to provide a space for women to ultimately be great! Specifically though, my goal is to provide ways to increase access to education and mentorship, for young women — starting with Ghana.
What do you think is the most important thing that got you to where you are today in the industry?
GOD. I am in awe of all that I have been through, and seen, and to still maintain a level head, giving back as I climb. I am driven by God and my purpose.
This is our “INNOVATE” issue. What does that word mean to you and how do you feel you have been innovative with your work?
To me, “innovate” means to never take “no” for answer, to continually evolve, and always finding ways to create a new way forward no matter the circumstances.
Are there any personal words of wisdom you live by?
BE YOU! So simple, yet sometimes not easy when you feel pressured by this industry to change, or become someone you’re not in order to secure opportunities.
What other projects can we look forward to from you in the future?
I am super focused on launching Mamé Beauty and continuing to grow Victory Over Circumstance to be an amazing community and podcast for women. And I can’t wait for you all to see me in a movie or TV show soon!
Mamé Adjei @mameadjei
Photography by Indira Cesarine @indiracesarine for @theuntitledmagazine
Fashion Editor Indira Cesarine @indiracesarine
Stylist Assistant Daniela Correia @daniela__correia
Make-up by Archangela Chelsea @archangelachelsea using Chanel Beauty @chanel.beauty
Photographed at Sofitel Los Angeles @sofitellosangeles