There is a fantastic probability Fatou Samba is just like you. The 27-calendar year-old Aries, who describes herself as a Myers-Briggs ENTP to a T, enjoys looking at anime, Korean dramas, and Dylan O’Brien videos — and higher than all, listening to K-pop. Like fans around the entire world, she initially encountered the genre by means of a mate, swiftly slipping in really like with common South Korean acts like Shinee, SNSD, KARA, and 2NE1. She beloved how the music introduced “a large amount of joy and confidence back” into her life when she was sensation down. So she did something most K-pop admirers only aspiration of carrying out: She became a K-pop idol herself.
Now, Samba, who performs underneath her to start with name, is the major rapper and guide dancer of the K-pop team Blackswan. Signed to the label DR New music, Blackswan is a new rendition of second-era K-pop group Rania. The existing line-up, consisting of 6 customers (Fatou, Youngheun, Judy, Leia, and the newly extra Gabi and Sriya), is section of a new crop of K-pop idols who came up throughout the pandemic. Their slide 2020 debut music, “Tonight,” brought the seems and principles of 2000s K-pop up to date — think the lady-crush aura of the Pussycat Dolls if they ended up G-rated and a minimal additional pop-rock.
Fatou’s journey to turning into K-pop’s first African idol commences in her region of start, Senegal, exactly where she lived right until age 12. She has not been back again because then, but she remembers her childhood there as staying “so carefree, so fun” and stuffed with “a ton of scrumptious food items.”
She put in her teen several years in Belgium, where she figured out to talk Dutch and English (she’s due to the fact mostly forgotten her native tongue of Wolof). It was also the place she was released to Korean audio. At the time, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Michael Jackson had been her favorite artists. Then, close to age 14 or 15, a pal at college showed her Shinee’s “Replay” audio video clip on their phone, transforming her class solely.
“I was like ‘Oh, that is some thing I have hardly ever seen in advance of.’ Soon after university, I went property on my laptop or computer, searched it up and there was a entire other environment of new music,” she recalls. “K-pop is so shiny, enjoyable, and light-weight-hearted, you know — all about currently being one and every little thing. That’s what really caught me [and] built me fall for it.”
She was interested in pursuing a lifestyle in music by this issue, but she heeded her parents’ information and went to school to review tourism. “Back when I was a teenager, I basically questioned my dad and mom if I could go to a music faculty, but music is not a very steady [career],” she says. “They were like, ‘I never feel which is a good plan.’ So because I like traveling, I love languages and studying about other countries’ cultures, I selected tourism.” Immediately after paying out two a long time in faculty, she left college around 2017 and determined to go on a thirty day period-extensive family vacation to South Korea.
All through her first visit there, she remembers experience out of area. “I could not see any folks like me,” she suggests. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m sticking out so significantly,’ Men and women would appear [at] you [and] stare.” She hardly remaining her resort at to start with, but by the conclusion of the vacation she’d created some new friends by walking about, visiting parks, and hoping out the minor Korean she understood.
Subsequent that thirty day period-prolonged journey, she returned house to Belgium and began working at an airport. Following 6 months or so, she understood that she experienced to go again. “It was entertaining function,” she says. “But this is not something I could do for the relaxation of my everyday living.” So she took a risk and still left her career to return to South Korea, this time on a doing work visa.
Leveraging her enthusiasm for audio and dance, she arrived at out to a crew that did K-pop dance addresses. Coincidentally, the dance group she fulfilled up with also experienced a romantic relationship with a modeling agency. A person of the dancers suggested that Fatou, who stands at 5’7″, attempt out: “Why don’t you occur back again with me to the organization so I can introduce you to the supervisors and everything?” After a prosperous meeting with those people professionals, she discovered herself signed to the agency just three months following arriving in South Korea for the second time.
In get to start off functioning as a design, Fatou experienced to transform her visa, which is not an quick approach. “I had to go to Hong Kong to alter my functioning visa to an E-6 visa,” she suggests, referencing an entertainment visa issued to overseas styles, actors, musicians, and influencers performing in South Korea. “All of that took place in the span of two months: having the files with each other, and going to Hong Kong. I think I stayed there for like two or three times, then I went back to Korea on my E-6 visa… It was really frantic, but it was enjoyable.”
Fatou went on to land modeling do the job such as an in-retail store movie business for Samsung’s A51 phone. Her time as a design gave her a flavor of what it’s like to be in front of the digital camera. It was a limited-lived vocation, however: About a thirty day period following signing with the modeling agency, she satisfied with the CEO of DR New music. Founded in 1989, the label is greatest recognized these days for its girl group Rania, which was later renamed and relaunched as Blackswan in the Nineties, it housed Toddler V.O.X, 1 of the most notable to start with-technology K-pop woman teams of that period.
Leaving her modeling company behind, Fatou signed with DR New music to turn into a trainee, a title supplied to pre-debut K-pop idols. Just after almost two a long time of coaching, she was unveiled to be the fourth member of Blackswan and she officially had a debut day. Fatou walked into her encounter as a new idol wondering it would be effortless, but that was not how it went. “Let me inform you the cold challenging truth of the matter: It is so goddamn tricky,” she states honestly. “But it’s all well worth it at the close of the working day.”
Aside from the stress, the force, and being away from family members, she acquired that the toughest component about being an idol for her is not getting in a position to select how people understand her. Shortly immediately after Blackswan debuted in late 2020 with their album Goodbye Rania, she identified vicious opinions and scrutiny as K-pop’s only distinguished Black idol. “Sometimes [people] don’t feel of idols as human beings,” she states. “They see me as… just about just a detail powering a screen. But I’m human and I have inner thoughts.”
At just one level, Fatou was all set to toss in the towel. “I just about gave up,” she states. “But another person else” — her fellow Blackswan users — “believed in me so tough that they [said], ‘You know what, no, we’re below for you. If you have a challenging time, come to us, we’ll always be below. We are listed here, Fatou, communicate to us.’” That overpowering support from her team, in addition to mates and family members, is why Fatou is still a portion of Blackswan. She claims she feels incredibly blessed and blessed to have “these astounding men and women in [her] everyday living.”
Fatou does not want to discourage other Black people from turning out to be K-pop idols. “If it is your aspiration, if you are unable to do everything else, and you love it that a lot? Go following it, virtually go following it,” she suggests — but she warns it’s not for the faint of heart. Getting an idol is a job that involves operate, commitment, and time away from your liked types, and limitations on travel due to the pandemic only produced that more challenging.
“I really don’t seriously assume of it like, ‘Oh, I’m the only Black K-pop idol,’” Fatou provides. “I just do what just about every other colleague in this market is undertaking. I test to stay as much away from that considered as I can, due to the fact I really feel like if I would feel about it, I would drive myself ridiculous.”
As Blackswan prepares for their following comeback, she is hoping to grow to be additional concerned in the course of action of creating her group’s tracks. She has two additional solo music with beats produced by K-pop artist Leanon (리논), who she’s worked with in the previous, that are recorded and are ready to be combined. Aside from tunes, she desires of a starring part in a K-drama, and appearances on Korean assortment shows like Managing Guy and Being aware of Brothers. “I’m manifesting it,” she says. “It is going to occur.”
Over-all, Fatou speaks highly of the welcome she’s gotten from the K-pop industry’s supporters and artists. The response from worldwide enthusiasts, significantly all those outside the house of Asia, is what’s been extra blended. “I imagine the worldwide admirers, a lot of them, have the identical dream as me,” she suggests. “Seeing me accomplish that desire though they thought for so extensive that it’s not possible…. I believe they hold some grudge, or some type of it’s possible jealousy?”
She provides: “I’m just residing my desire, man. You can say whatever you want.”