Model-approved drugstore beauty buys: here they are!


Maybe you recognize Afiya Bennett from her stint on The Face, where the fledgling model was coached by none other than Naomi Campbell. She’s gorgeous, obviously, but she’s also driven to succeed — we’re talking about a woman who, as a teen, stopped an editor on the street to express her interest in modeling. (Her gamble worked.)

All of this self-confidence, and on top of that, she’s nice. Like, genuinely sweet. Not bad for a girl outta Brooklyn.

Here, Afiya talks about overcoming her awkward years, staying positive, and the drugstore beauty buys she swears by.

I heard you introduced yourself to Mikki Taylor [former editor-in-chief of Essence].
It’s true. I was walking down the street with some friends, and one said, “Hey, that’s the editor-in-chief of Essence.” All I had on me was a Polaroid, but I went up to her and said, “I’m only 16 years old, but I promise, if you give me a chance, I will not disappoint you.” She actually emailed me and asked me to come in and meet with one of the representatives.

My mother always told me, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”

Not many people would have that courage.
It’s youth. I think when you’re young, you have that ambition. My mother always told me, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.” If I’d never gone up to her, I never would have known if she’d say yes. The worst she could have said was no. I think that’s the way I approach everything. I can knock on a door, and if they say no, they say no. If they say yes, well, better for me. That keeps me motivated and pushing forward.

As far as your experience in modeling, what has this process taught you about yourself?
Honestly, it’s taught me a lot. Being mentored by Naomi Campbell, there’s a high expectation of you. You want to impress her, you never want to let her down, and you want to take in everything she has to say — to get better and grow. In the midst of that, you have to learn to listen and be yourself. You have to incorporate everything she’s saying, but in your own way. Because being yourself is what gets you here. Staying true to yourself and listening to my mentor are the things I’ve learned.

What’s the best advice Naomi gave you?
Never intertwine business with the personal. If something is affecting you emotionally, do not let it affect your business.

Life is beautiful. You have to appreciate being in this moment, taking this breath — and being yourself.

You’re a beautiful woman. Did you feel beautiful when you were growing up?
There was an awkward stage. I used to hate being tall. I used to come home and cry to my mom. I’d say, “Mom, I just want to fit in. I want to be normal.” But when you have a dad who’s 6’7″, that’s kind of hard. When you’re growing up tall, you get called names like doofy, and you just want to fit in. Once I accepted my height and realized that I’d never be 5’6″ again, I had to ask myself, “What are you going to do? Who are you going to be?” It took becoming a model to appreciate being tall.

What advice would you give to a woman who isn’t feeling her most beautiful self?
To be honest with you, [realize that] life is beautiful. You have to appreciate being in this moment, taking this breath — and being yourself. Once you can do that, everything else will come into play.

I know you’ve been using Fekkai products on your hair, but what do you use for your skin?
My mom always used to tell me to drink carrot juice. I grew up using shea butter on my skin. In the summertime, I use Pond’s cold cream. Argan oil is really amazing as well. I do gentle exfoliation. Aveeno has a really good version, and St. Ives has a good one, but I use it only once in a while because that one can be a little harsh. No candy, either. Carrot juice, no candy, lots of water.

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