The place to Explore Benin and its Culture


Leila Top Model Afrique

My name is Leila Abdoulaye. Born and raised in Benin,West Africa, I moved to New York City in 1999 after winning a competition named Top Model Afrique. I had a successful career in the fashion industry but wanted more so, I’ve decided to start a career in Integrated Marketing with a specialization on Digital. I am currently earning my Masters Degree at NYU and I love every second of it.

I am proud of where I come from and my goal is to share through Unseen Benin, the true virtue of my country and the beauty and richness of it culture and people. I believe that are many beautiful and undiscussed parts as well as very important lost history that aren’t discussed in the Media. In addition, I hope through this blog, readers are able to see Africa as it is nowadays from a standpoint of a citizen. This won’t only be for Benin but also for all Africans that are proud of their heritage.

Last but not least, I encourage everyone reading to comment, share their thoughts and give me their feedbacks. I welcome and appreciate any love and support from all my readers and followers.



24 comments on “ABOUT

  1. Will Roper
    June 23, 2015

    Hi Leila, this is a great blog! I am trying to find out more about the music from Benin. I’m researching the music of Orchestre PolyRhythmo de Cotonou for my Masters – do you have any suggestions of other websites or people to interview? any help would be amazing – thanks again!

    • Leila Abdoulaye
      July 3, 2015

      Hello Will. I hope I’m replying with enough time for your research. I am familiar with the band but unfortunately, I currently don’t know where to get you more info about them. I know my family was a huge fan and I can reach out to few key individuals than can help with some leads. Can you send me an email so I reach back to you in the event I am able to help at affinitygirls@gmail.com?

  2. Sirseal Johnson
    October 11, 2015

    Hello Leila,

    You are very beautiful. I have been trying to research the Benin culture and clothing prints (what do they mean or represent?), since my DNA traced back to Benin and Togo (50%). Where can I find information about these things on a deeper level? Thank you for your feedback and I love this blog 🙂

    • Leila Abdoulaye
      November 17, 2015

      Hello Sirseal. Thank you for your lovely comment my sister. You are also very beautiful. There are not many places especially written in English where you can understand the meaning of Beninese culture and clothing prints. I have written a blog about the meaning of the royal cloths and their symbolisms. Perhaps that may help you more. If you have specific questions, feel free to comment and hopefully I can further assist you.


  3. Marcy O'Neil
    January 15, 2016

    Hello Leila,

    I’m happy to have found your blog. I lived in Cotonou in 2010 and have been visiting regularly since 2005. I have enjoyed the posts that I’ve read, and I was looking for something to post online to demonstrate the various fashions and pagnes that are popular right now. Grande merci!


    • Leila Abdoulaye
      January 15, 2016

      Dear Marcy,
      Thank you so much for you lovely comment. I am happy to hear that you’ve enjoyed the blog and thank you for visiting Cotonou regularly. Although I reside in NYC, I make it a point to go once a year as I love my homeland. If there is anything else I can assist you or a blog topic suggestion, please feel free to let me know. Enjoy!


  4. Elias Mahoro
    March 15, 2016

    Dear Leila,
    I am so thankful for such information on Traditional dances of Benin. I am Elias from Burundi and I am so interested in traditional Dances as a way to be proud of my cultural heritage as well as that of the Great Afro-Caribbean region. I found the meaning or symbol of the dances so significant to the culture of the Beninese people. Is it possible to get this blog in French so that I can enjoy it more and more.

    • Leila Abdoulaye
      September 9, 2016

      Hello Elias,

      Thank you for your interest in the blog. It is my way as a Beninese like you to contribute back to our country while sharing the many beautiful cultural and historical beauties and aspects we offer. I would make an effort to create a French version of the blog. However, I am more comfortable expressing myself in English after years of living in the United States. Thank you again and come visit the blog soon as I am curating new and exciting articles. Merci beaucoup et à très bientôt!

      • Mahoro Elias
        September 9, 2016

        Hello Leila , I would like to thank you for everything . I really prevailed from using your article in my French written Task and at the same time learning more about your country . Thank you once again . Cheers Elias

      • Leila Abdoulaye
        September 9, 2016

        Hey Elias! I am thrilled to hear that the article has helped. It is the whole purpose of creating this blog. Your comments are words of encouragements that I need to hear in order to continue creating good and purposeful articles. Thank you for checking out Unseen Benin and stop by whenever you can to check upcoming exciting articles. Best!!! Léïla

      • Mahoro Elias
        September 10, 2016

        Oh Dear Leila, I am so excited reading your upcoming articles . Cheers Elias

  5. Cedric
    May 25, 2016

    Hi Leila
    How can locate ur brand when am in Cotonou. Also would love to have ur contact if possible for business.

  6. Amarachi
    October 21, 2016

    Hi Leila,

    Happy to have found your blog. I am currently planning a trip to Benin and I am overwhelmed by the places to see and things to do. I originally intended to pass by as part of a road trip to Ivory Coast from Nigeria (where I’m from) but now, I think I’ll be dedicating 4-5 days in Benin alone.

    I know this is a long shot but is there any agency you know of that caters to budget travellers? Or maybe you know a local that would be more than happy to show me around? I will be grateful for your help as I cannot wait to document about my trip on my travel blog (www.chapterone.com.ng)

    Thank you & keep the good work going!

  7. Charline Dalmeida
    March 1, 2017

    This is great! It is so rare to find content on Benin that is in English, so this is an absolute breath of fresh air. From another Beninese-American thank you.

  8. Mauliya Malik
    May 17, 2017

    Hi Leila… really happy to full of excited to read your blog… I am Mauliya from Indonesia. there have many questions that I want to ask you relating to the Voodo and Benin since I am interested to explore your information by using some theories of tourism and heritage. dont you mind if I take some pictures from your blog to support my writing?

  9. serra
    May 17, 2017

    Hi Leila, please is it possible to use photos of your blog, in a promotional movie for government and to put you in credits ?

  10. serra
    May 17, 2017

    i need them very quickly 🙂 thank you very much

  11. BJC
    September 13, 2017

    I found your blog when I was searching for information on Ganvie. I was in Cotonou in 2000 with a team from USA, teaching different arts & crafts and medical knowledge to women in the north who needed a trade to obtain a job. I have good pictures of Ganvie when we took a side trip there before coming home. You are a beautiful lady! I am doing a photograph album of all of my medical mission trips to many parts of the world. I was never able to return to Benin but the school started is still going on in Paracou. Thank you for what you do to contribute to your beautiful country! I am elderly now but surely would enjoy returning to Benin – not possible now.

  12. anders Thyge
    December 18, 2017

    Hello Leila,

    We are working in Benin with the Dutch Embassy on the modelling of the lagoon. Could we buy one of the pictures from Ganvié as a picture in our project description?

    Regards Anders Thyge in COWI in Denamark +45 4176 1021 or ATE@cowi.com

    • Leila Abdoulaye
      December 19, 2017

      Hello Anders,

      Thank you for visiting the site and reaching to me. Unfortunately the pictures on the Ganvié blog post are not for sale but you are welcome to use any of them for your upcoming project.

      I would love to hear about it and hopefully feature it on the blog once it is done. Thank you for helping with the development of my dear country.

      Happy Holidays.



  13. Benin Lemus
    February 13, 2018

    Greetings, Leila. I am interested in taking my family to Benin for about 15 days next year (Summer/Winter 2019). Do you have any tips on where we should go and when? This will be a sort of pilgrimage for me- my parents gave me the middle name of Benin (more so after the Lost Wax art than the country itself) but as an African American and child of the 1970s, this is an important trip for me. 🙂

    My daughter will be 7 next year so I hope the flight will be okay, I found one flight that has a 22 hour layover in Istanbul so that seems fun and a great way to break the trip up. Anyway, if you have time, I’d love your advice on when to go and a few things to do, best way to get around, etc. I have been on other websites, Lonely Planet, etc., but would love your insider’s take. Great places to stay, especially if they are Beninese (sp?) owned is also important to me.

    Thank you and Peace,


    • Leila Abdoulaye
      February 23, 2018

      Hello Cynthia. Thank you for visiting the blog and getting in touch. I am excited to hear that you are planning a trip to Benin. Congratulations. You will be in for a wonderful experience filled with memorable adventures. Email me at affinitygirls@gmail.com. I would love to share more details via email. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  14. Christopher Bradford
    May 15, 2018

    Hi Leila,
    I found this after doing some research into family roots, as my great-great grandfather was from the Banté region on Benin (Oluale Kossola, who went by Cudjoe Lewis after being enslaved and transported to America. Fellow in this book: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/zora-neale-hurston-barracoon-last-survivor-slave-trade-180968944/). Through him I discovered Benin and it’s many peoples, and find them fascinating. I was trying to learn more about our extended family in Benin region among the Isha people, perhaps visit. I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your culture, and hope you continue to do so!

    • Leila Abdoulaye
      May 16, 2018


      Thank you first and foremost for stopping by my blog. It was started after being frustrated with not finding anything, especially in English about Benin in addition to many folks not knowing much about such a beautiful country filled with lots of untapped culture and history.

      I have heard the story of your great great grandfather from an article written by Face 2 Face Africa just last week. I shed a tear reading it. It was bittersweet. that Zora Neale Hurston is part of his lineage. It’s incredible!!!! I’ve read her books during my undergrad years while taking an African History and African American Women in literature courses. Even as an African, we still find it so important to continue to learn and understand the effect slavery has caused and transformed our history.

      The people of Bantè are strong folks. They are known to assimilate and adapt to any situation. It takes a certain level of strength and expertise (considering the number of tribes living in Benin) to do that. My mother town is Bassila and Bantè is very near it. I have family that lives there actually. Therefore, I’ve been to Bantè when I was younger several times. It’s a beautiful village with the most astonishing looking Beninese. I strikingly remember the greeneries around and the super red clay roads. The combination of both colors made it a very unforgettable sight, ​especially at sunset. They have beautiful huts mixed with modern homes and it’s a festive, happy and calm town. The folks are really about chilling and being great to the community.

      Visit my facebook account https://www.facebook.com/unseenbenin/. A whole bunch of folks has commented and some say they are related to him as well. You may wanna take a look. It was my lost post on the page.

      Thank you again for visiting the blog. I am working on new articles that I’ll be posting in the next few weeks. Come back when you can to check them out.

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