Photography by Caroline Holland
It’s hard stepping out of your comfort zone. But, imagine doing so more than 5,000 miles away from home. Unexpected and abrupt changes can be blessings in disguise if you let them. Hold your head up high and believe in yourself is Katy Mbengue’s motto. And she is living that motto.
You are one mother of a…? How did you become that way?
I am one mother of a BOSS. I’ve done everything to keep myself ahead in life. I’ve worked in clubs in France, at restaurants, as a cashier, doing real estate, and had my own women’s shop. I traveled the world looking for special pieces to make my clients happy.
But, I also come from a big family. My mother raised 10 children, so I can’t be the opposite of strong. I am a woman who likes to fight to keep her head on her shoulders.
You experienced a life changing scare while traveling at 6 months pregnant. How did that change your career, and you as a woman?
I came to the US for a vacation 10 years ago, and had to stay. My unborn son was diagnosed with CHARGE Syndrome, a complex genetic disorder. I didn’t have a choice but to stay to give him the best chance. I had to be mature and strong, in a country without my husband and my other son. I gave up all of the things that I had worked hard to get ahead on. I had to learn how to deal with this new life and understand this new world - the language, culture, society, people, etc.
I have always believed in my confidence, and I think this is why people I meet think of me as a warrior.
What advice do you give other women in similar positions, and how have you turned your experience into a positive one?
I always tell my friends to get up and fight. Whatever happens in your life - know that some people have more struggles than you. If you don’t have a solution to your problem - it doesn’t have to negatively affect your life. Go have a glass of water, or wine - whatever you like, and continue your life. Don’t let any problem be your boss!
People have to know that we can dominate anything that happens in this life. You just have to take control. Look at yourself in the mirror and say “I AM THE BOSS.”
Tell us about how women in Senegal dress their bodies - describe their style.
Senegalese women are very sensual. We have traditional clothes that highlight our body and bring it to the forefront. We do like to dress up to make our husbands happy.
What is your favorite way to wear your Mother Oxford - how do you style it?
My favorite way to wear Mother Oxford is to add the 10%. The 10% is the extra thing that really makes the outfit. For example, The Royal Scarf on my neck or my bag - whatever I feel is going to be stylish. Or, The Expansion Pack - The MO Cuff in the angle of my arms plus The Belt. Simple or fancy jewelry depending on where I’m going.
After getting dressed, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what will you miss if you take it off? That is the 10%.
What are the 4 biggest style tips you've learned from Senegalese and French women?
Senegalese and French women are glamorous and classic. It starts with wearing clothes that will make you feel comfortable, and that helps you have confidence in yourself. Style isn’t just clothing and accessories - it’s you.
- Never forget that you are a beautiful woman.
- Always walk with your head held high.
- Wear clothes that will make you feel comfortable and confident.
- Add the 10% - whether it’s a specific lipstick or an accessory. Something that will give your look that special je ne sai quoi.