One Shoot That Changed Everything

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As more Liberian women begin to discover their creativity and gradually make significant impact on society, their success stories have inspired LIB Life to provide special coverage where those stories can be shared with the world — their struggles and how they broke into the business.

From renowned fashion practitioners to actresses, models, hairstylists and more, their work and stories will be highlighted each week.

This week’s guest is Mapillar Dahn, a Liberian model based in the United States, with a very inspiring story. While in high school, she got her first opportunity to become a model. But since her father did not approve of the new career path she had chosen, she decided to quit.

“As Africans, if your parents say no, well, that’s pretty final. So all I did was to live in line with their demands,” Dahn told LIB Life, of what began in 1997, when her family had just migrated to the United States from Ivory Coast.

Dahn relinquished her dream of becoming model and went on to college, majoring in accounting after graduating from high school.

“I did not really give modeling a [second] thought when my parents refused to give their support,” she recalls.

But then something strange happened in 2013 that led her to rediscover her modeling talents. One very cool day, while she sat thinking about her childhood, an Atlanta based photographer, Will Taylor, III passing by asking if she could be his source of inspiration or muse (meaning he asked if he could do a model photo shoot of her).

“Amazed by his request,” Dahn recalls, “I told him that I was not a model. But he was still fine with that, so I decided to give it a try and the shoot was taken. From that moment it literally awakened a dormant dream. After tossing over the idea, considering my already busy life as a mom and businesswoman, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it.”

Like most people who have long forgotten their childhood dreams, her biggest struggle was to navigate the modeling and acting talent industry. Her experiences were teachable moments. First she signed up with an agency that only wanted to charge an insane amount of money for acting and modeling classes, but with no gigs to show in the end.

Then came photographers who preyed on her with flattery, only to find out they had other intentions.

“When I found myself in these situations, I decided to take my career into my own hands and do for myself what an agency would. I did my research on casting agencies in my area, signed up and in no time I was being booked for TV and movies,” Dahn told LIB Life.

With in the space of a few months, that same year, she got the first biggest moment of her career, featuring on comedian Tyler Perry’s TV show “The Haves and the Have Nots,” playing the role of a sick woman waiting in the emergency room.

Through hard work, Dahn grabbed the attention of EncoreHD Hair Magazine in 2014, a hair fashion and lifestyle magazine that circulates in over 2,000 stores in the USA as well as Canada.

“My spread is the very first thing you see when you open the magazine, so that’s pretty huge as a commercial and print model.”

Dahn has been featured in the last four editions of the magazine.

In 2015, Dahn landed her second opportunity to work with Tyler Perry on another TV show “For Better or Worse,” as a background actress. She has also modeled for Freddie J, Basic Hair, Jade the Blade, Van Miller International, (where she inspired the Lady Mapillar Collection), and many more.

“At first I could not believe that all these things were happening in the space of a short period of time,” Dahn says of her successes. “But I think it happened because of self-motivation and [being] willing to work with others. Even though my appearances for Tyler Perry were background roles, in the acting community those are what lead to better opportunities,” the young actress and model says optimistically.

In the film Hidden Agenda, directed by Oscar winner Patrick Walker, she landed one of the film’s leading roles as a very jealous girl who stabs her boyfriend on suspicion of infidelity.

Throughout her chat with LIB Life, Dahn often referred nostalgically to Siaffa Town in Banjor, Lower Virginia, in Liberia where she grew up.

“I’m very proud to be a Liberian, and I had a great childhood up until the war. I was a sickly child and a very picky eater, a terrible combination during a time when food was scarce and only the fittest and strongest seemed to be surviving,” she recalled.

Like most children that experienced some part of the war, the daily struggle of staying alive was real. But with help of God, she, her parents and her siblings fled to the Ivory Coast in 1992. They later returned to Liberia in 1995 amid rising tensions between Ivoirians and Liberians.

“I remember it got so bad they were going around vandalizing our property and beating people just because they were Liberians. One time they came around searching for us, but we hid in our Ivorian neighbor’s house. We could hear them asking if they had seen any Liberians. As a scared child,
I did not understand any of it. To be honest, I’m an adult now and I still don’t,” Dahn said of the senseless war that killed hundreds of thousands.

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