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This Polyglot Model Transcends Just About Every Stereotype

People

Fatima Morken knows something about the pain of scars. A resilient songwriter and model, she has endured a divorce, and seen the effects of addiction in the home up close. The Houston, TX native sat down to talk about how her strong Christian faith helped her persevere, and share her ambition to help women improve their lives.


At age 23, Morken thought she was living her version of the American Dream. She was married to a man she loved. They already owned their dream home, and could afford to take overseas trips annually. Although blessed financially, Morken’s marriage abruptly ended in a divorce.

In the wake of the divorce, Morken set out to find her voice again. She spent time in therapy, prayer, and leaned on Scripture daily.

Fatima Morken

The divorce was shocking and excruciatingly painful," says Morken. "I am now free and healed — the happiest and most fulfilled I have ever been. I bask in the fact that God will never break his promises to me. His immeasurable love and forgiveness rebuilt me, and empowers me every day.”

Fatima Morken

Morken also understands the helplessness associated with watching a family member struggle with alcoholism, and gambling. It nearly destroyed her home. It’s common for a family dealing with addiction to experience codependency, and even low self-esteem. The Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization refers to this family dysfunction as “sick thinking” which needs to be repaired daily. Morken turned to her faith again. In time, she learned it wasn’t her fault. In difficult times, her love of music has been a refuge. Her own painful experiences have helped the songwriter connect with deeper human emotions in her lyrics. She draws artistic inspiration from stories of strength, triumph, love and pain — much like her own story. Her musical influences include Celine Dion and French pop artist Lara Fabian. In her late 20s, after a dissatisfying career in education, she received an opportunity to train with Actors Models and Talent for Christ, a faith-based talent development ministry. AMTC has launched the careers of artists such as Megan Fox, Miley Cyrus and country music star Chris Young. The SHINE Conference — an invitation-only event in Orlando, Fla. — gave Morken the chance to perform in front of industry executives, and a platform to launch her career.

I make sure everyone I meet feels important, valued, unique, special, but above all LOVED. I want to make a huge difference with my music by telling it like it is — writing lyrics totally based in personal experiences and beauty.”

The artist is also modeling as a way to tell her story, and help women find their own strength.

As the USA model for two French clothing lines, La Cotonniére and Dakidaya, Morken’s job depends greatly on her appearance. In the age of makeup, professional editing and social media, it can be easy to view models as flawless. It’s her goal to help change this perception of beauty by showing authenticity. She chooses projects with minimal makeup, and is open with fans on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The model is proud of her imperfections, including a scar on her left leg.

“It is sometimes assumed models have no physical defects," says Morken. "We are not perfect! The scar is my trademark and I am very proud of it! I don’t let my imperfections keep me from achieving my goals.”

On top of everything else, Morken is also a polyglot, fluent in English, Spanish and Italian; intermediate in French and Portuguese and learning German. In spite of her natural language skills, she still faces ignorance when it comes to her intelligence. “I let people discover their own stereotypes [about models] are incorrect,” she says of the negative comments she sometimes receives on set.

When asked about her opportunity to make a difference as an artist, Morken’s eyes lit up with excitement. In addition to volunteering through her church, she gives her time and talents to aspiring models with style advice. It’s an opportunity to help women feel beautiful. She hopes her story will encourage women in all walks of life to overcome, even if life seems bleak at the moment.

“I just want people to see that one doesn’t have to be perfect for things to work out," Morken remarks.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.