K-pop’s first African idol, Fatou of girl group Blackswan, pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a star in the historically exclusive genre.
Fatou, whose full name is Fatou Samba, was born in Yoff, Senegal, but was living in Belgium prior to moving to South Korea. She is a polyglot, speaking five languages total, from English and Korean, to French, German and Dutch.
The African native is the main rapper and lead dancer of Blackswan. Her and fellow members, Youngheun, Judy, Leia and the newly added Gabi and Sriya, are all signed under the label DR Music.
Fatou shared some of her interests in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, including that she is a Myers-Briggs ENTP personality type. The 27-year-old also likes anime, Korean dramas and listening to K-pop, above all.
Fatou credits K-pop groups Shinee, Kara and 2NE1 as the reason she fell in love with the genre and shares that she loved how the sounds brought “a lot of happiness and confidence back” into her life in the moments she felt down.
After a fateful moment in which a friend from high school showed her Shinee’s “Replay” music video, she claims it opened her up to a whole new world and changed the course of her life forever.
“After school, I went home on my computer, searched it up and there was a whole other world of music,” she said. “K-pop is so bright, fun, and light-hearted, you know – all about being one and everything. That’s what really caught me [and] made me fall for it.”
While the star was always interested in music, it was no easy journey traveling to South Korea and navigating her way into the industry there.
It was only after a dancer she met connected her to one of her current company’s managers that she had an entryway. Having impressed the managers with her talents and slender 5’7 frame, Fatou went on to become a trainee.
She trained for two years before it was announced that she would be Blackswan’s fourth member.
“Let me tell you the cold hard truth: It’s so goddamn difficult,” she confessed. “But it’s all worth it at the end of the day.”
Blackswan’s most recent release, “Close to Me,” features a prison cell theme, with members dressed in the familiar black and white stripes. Other props for the video included handcuffs, chains and multiple outfit changes.
In the new song, Fatou also got a much bigger part, with more than one rap feature. She uses a mix of English and Korean lyrics.
The singer shared that the hardest part has been the scrutiny she has gotten as K-pop’s first African idol.
“Sometimes [people] don’t think of idols as human beings,” she was quoted as saying. “They see me… almost just as a thing behind a screen. But I’m human and I have feelings.”
When she was ready to give up, she refers to the overwhelming support she got from her bandmates and family, and now, Fatou says she does not really think about it.
“I don’t really think of it like, ‘Oh, I’m the only Black K-pop idol,” the singer said. “I just do what every other colleague in this industry is doing. I try to stay as far away from that thought as I can, because I feel like if I would think about it, I would drive myself crazy.”
Blackswan made their debut in October of 2021 with their music video for the song “Tonight,” which went on to garner 4.4 million views.