As a modelling agency, you can assume we’ve got some pretty amazing people on our books, but did you know we’ve got a beauty queen? Ghanaian-America, Mame Adjei, found her way to M1 via LA after a successful run on America’s Next Top Model and Miss USA. No stranger to the spotlight. Adjei has her beams focused on dominating the industry one project at a time and with the eloquence of a bonafide star, it’s not easy to see that she’ll be going very far.
M1: You’re fairly new to M1, having only joined us last summer and we’re curious to know more about you of course!
MA: I’m a first generation Ghanaian-American born and raised partly in Maryland, U.S., Geneva, Switzerland, and Accra, Ghana. I grew up mostly without my parents because my father was a Ghanaian diplomat and so they traveled a lot. Left in the care of various guardians I began modelling independently at age 16 on and off until I graduated college (a few years ago), deciding to skip on continuing to Law School, to pursue my dreams of ruling the runway and fronting campaigns. I then got signed to my first agencies in LA after starring in cycle 22 of America’s Next Top Model and finishing top 5 in the Miss USA 2015 pageant.
M1: How did pageants prepare you for your modelling career?
MA: My previous pageant and TV experience helped me to embrace myself as a brand and taught me how to master the art of interviewing. These days a model is not JUST “the face of” anymore, you’re a brand representing the client, and knowing how to present myself in an articulate, cohesive, and confident manner has allowed me to be more desirable and more business savvy overall in handling my career.
M1: Were you hesitant at all to join America’s Next Top Model?
MA: I was definitely a bit hesitant to join ANTM at first. I considered all possible outcomes of competing on a reality TV show and possibly not being taken seriously by the modelling industry (as I had heard from past contestants); as well as the better outcome of it allowing me to gain exposure or more visibility. In the end, I decided to do it because I looked at it as a learning tool and a fun experience. I finished as the female winner (co-ed season) coming in only second to the show’s first Deaf male contestant. In my case, I feel like it definitely helped more than it hurt, so iI’m grateful.
M1: What did your television experience teach you about the industry? Could you see yourself doing any other TV projects in the future?
MA: My TV experience showed me how superficial, in many ways, the industry was. Literally, one minute you’re in, the next minute you’re out. It taught me to develop thick skin for that reason, and also reminded me that nothing is ever what it seems. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors covering up the funk.
I definitely see myself in future TV projects in the commercial and theatrical realms as I expand my acting portfolio, and continue to be offered roles.
M1: What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you became a full-time model?
MA: That my personal schedule would be almost non-existent. It is so hard to focus on one thing and see it through to the finish line in a short time.
M1: Tell us a bit about your best moments in your career so far?
MA: A few favorite moments: the launch of my first global campaign with Pandora Jewelry. I met the founders of the company and flew to Thailand to tour the new production facility and held a press conference about my foundation’s work with young girls outside of modelling. More recently, being hand-picked by my fave bad gal Rihanna to work with SavageXFenty, And of course Traveling and living around the world!
M1: What are some values/lessons you’ve learned growing up that you think help you as a model?
MA: I was always taught to appreciate what I have in the present moment “because things could always be better, but thank God they’re not worse”. With that in mind, I learned to approach everything I do with tenacity and give no excuses to accomplish them. In modelling that’s especially helpful – not to compare myself to another person’s career and continue pushing to achieve whatever goals I have set for myself.
M1: Do you ever find yourself needing a boost in motivation? If so, what gets you recharged and focused on your goals?
MA: Always. I’m very spiritual so when I feel stagnant I will listen to sermons from my favorite pastors to refill on faith and get motivated to continue working on myself and my goals. I also love to do Yoga to re-center and give me an energy boost.
M1: A model’s life often means spending a great deal of time way from family, how do stay connected with yours?
MA: I have various family chats on WhatsApp! I know I don’t call enough Haha.
M1: You’ve made great friends with fellow M1 ladies Paula and Sharam – can you tell us about how you guys came together?
MA: Paula and I met at the Virgin Music Festival last year in London and literally fell in love with one another’s spirit and energy! We spent so many days & nights together thereafter until I returned to the states and continue to link up wherever we are! I met Sharam in NY with Paula actually and because of our communication on Instagram, felt like we already knew each other! All good vibes.
That’s one thing I love about this profession/industry, are the opportunities to meet such amazing people in the process :)
M1: As a Black model, how do you keep your head up in face of bias/discrimination in the industry?
MA: I have been in several situations where my blackness was thrown in my face (as if it were a bad thing). I have been told by agencies in the past that they already had “my look” – which makes no sense because my mom and dad only made me and being Black is NOT A LOOK. Furthermore, filling your boards with one or two Black girls to fulfil your “we’re not racist” quota is not enough. I need to feel represented in media and denying me a chance to be the representative for fellow Black girls only fires me up to keep going! Not giving a f#*k about so-called industry rules or culture and pushing the status quo, always. I keep my head up high by walking away with dignity & grace, and determination to change the game!!
M1: Do you ever find it hard to speak up for yourself on set? How do you overcome that fear?
MA: I used to be afraid of speaking up when I felt uncomfortable on set because I didn’t want to be labeled a bitch or difficult to work with – ESPECIALLY as a Black model (there’s so much we have to think about!).
Nowadays, I have the confidence to speak up for myself because no one else will. I learned to be my own advocate. I have to speak up for myself in order to create any sort of change (especially when it comes to the treatment of Black models ie not having proper hair care, makeup, racial bias etc).
M1: What are some ways that the industry could change to create a safer and more environment for models?
MA: LISTEN! The powers that be and the industry as a whole need to simply listen to models’ needs and wants. We want to feel like we all individually matter, like we are appreciated and loved – not disposable pawns. We are not human hangers for your garments and amusement. We all have a story that deserve to be heard and personalities worth getting to know.
M1: You’ve amassed a pretty strong social media following, how do you feel apps like Instagram have impacted your career and the industry as a whole?
MA: Instagram has impacted the industry greatly. Companies are able to tap into the market via models’ personal audiences and are able to penetrate even more that way as compared to conventional campaigns it seems. IG is providing a direct link to their buyers and I think that’s why models with stronger followings and even influencers who aren’t models, are starting to dominate the market. Models are becoming influencers and influencers are becoming “models”. It is also definitely making content with substance as a determining factor for who is getting attention from the industry. Instant fame is possible now. You used to have to work your ass off for years, from casting to casting, booking to booking working your way up the ladder before you got noticed. Now everything is instant as long as you know the right people and post the right stuff. It’s a love-hate relationship I think the fashion industry has with Instagram.
Personally, it has allowed me to reach out to people. It has opened up “access” and I even booked a campaign from my Instagram relationship with a makeup artist.
M1: You’ve recently started a YouTube channel, what made you want to expand your social presence there?
MA: Because of my time on ANTM and previous pageant experience and just from hearing my story. I am always flooded with questions from girls asking me how to break into those industries and how to do certain things. At first I would take my time to try to answer as many as I could but there had to be a better/more effective way of reaching back out to girls wanting information. That’s when I decided getting on Youtube and starting a modelling series to share tips and tools would be necessary to reach more people.
M1: You’re traveling all around the world now, which city is your favourite and why?
MA: My favorite city so far has been Capetown, South Africa, it was like LA (where I’m based primarily) on crack! It was so beautiful and a truly magical city to live in for 2 months. So much nature untouched by man, great food, amazing mountains that you can hike, and crazy beautiful beaches. It’s Amazing!
M1: We’re going to do a little bonus round of questions, just two, nothing serious. First, what’s one thing you wish you had five years ago?
MA: I wish I had more money? Haha. That would have certainly made things much easier to get done. But then again, the struggle to make do with what I had, made me strong and unfuckwitable now so it’s all good ;)
M1: If you could have written any book, movie, or song – what would it have been?
MA: Sense 8 or Black Mirror! They’re both incredibly intelligent shows on Netflix that explore the current human condition and how it could evolve with different technological advancements. Deals with human interconnectedness, compassion, science, spirituality, love etc. all subjects I’m very fond of exploring.
M1: What’s one thing you hope to have five years from now?
MA: I hope to have several businesses, have my charity going, DJ’ing around the world with my female collective ‘Nuit Noire’ (which spotlights women in the arts from the diaspora), while modelling and acting! I hope that my passions and purpose mesh into a beautiful masterpiece of a life <3