Everybody Loves Ceval: The Somalian-Norwegian, Curvy, Trans Model

Who am I? is a question Ceval Omar asks herself more than you. For the Somalian-Norwegian, curvy, transgender model, defining herself isn't easy. She's in a state of constant evolution; she ticks all of the boxes and none of them. Her open-ended identity makes her a recipe for stardom in the fashion industry, but in the real world, it's a different story.
It's not often someone like Ceval comes along, partly because the modelling business doesn't reserve spaces for people like her, but also because she's an anomaly in multiple ways. She's dark-skinned, she self-identifies as plus-size, and she's transgender — three categories that are underrepresented in the fashion industry. In this sense, she's a triple threat, but her personality, easily discernible from her poses, her street style, and her Instagram captions, gives her even more of an advantage. At age 24, Ceval has overcome a fair share of hardship and then some, tales of which will eventually come out when she's ready.
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But, for now, after signing to three international agencies within a week's span, we sat down with Ceval to talk the usual: her modelling hopes, her inspirations, her notions on the fashion industry, and why she'll never stop saying yes when others say no. We'd tell you to watch this space, but we have a feeling you're about to see Ceval everywhere.
Tell us about yourself. Who is Ceval?
Ceval Omar: "Who am I? I've asked myself this question so many times growing up, and I still haven't found a full answer. I'm made up by so many different things and experiences, people in my life who've taught me, and my family who has raised me in their own way. I'm a girl, a son, a brother, a friend, a dancer, a performer, a model, a cook...
"How I really am and how people perceive me are quite different things. With my close friends, I'm someone who has gone through a lot but is still always goofy and funny; I'm a shady bitch, but also a very loving and supportive friend. To the rest of the world, they see a beautiful young girl who seems very confident, outspoken, has her shit together, and is somewhat detached from her emotions, which I’ve used as a defence mechanism to keep people away — to not let them see my pain or my weakness, to not be hurt or disappointed by anyone."
At what point did you realise that modelling was what you wanted to do? Or is it just a part of a bigger picture or your evolution?
"As a young child, I would look at Naomi Campbell, Iman, or Christy Turlington, and so many others. Their lives seemed completely out of this world to me, so at night, I would look at their videos or magazine covers and go to sleep and dream myself into their worlds. Beautiful, strong, smart, and kind — to me — is the epitome of a goddess, and these women are goddesses. Now, that little child inside of me is crying happy tears that, in a world like ours, someone like me is considered beautiful, strong, smart, and kind.
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"Modelling is something I’ve dreamt about but understood to not be a place for plus-size, Black, trans women. I kind of check off everything that isn't 'normal' in the fashion world, and I hardly see anyone like me to identify or feel at home with. My dream is as much a part of the fashion world's evolution as it is my own."
In terms of joining a modelling board — development, women, image, plus, curve, influencer — where do you see yourself fitting in? And what are your opinions on labels, inside and out of the industry?
"In the past week and a half, I've signed with three international agencies — Heartbreak, MiLK, and MUSE — so I'm still wrapping my head around that. But because I'm so different and there's not a place for models like me, I'm going to have to carve my own path within the structure of where models belong in regards to labels. I want to be the rare case to do it all.
"I think people use labels to make it easier for them, so they don’t have to think outside of the box or broaden their minds. God forbid we challenge our own thoughts and opinions regarding people who are different! At the end of the day, no one is a label, and no one is just one single thing. We are all made up of so many different things; as different as our fingerprints. Instead of nurturing our individuality, the system feels it's easier to categorise us and give us labels. And we buy into it."
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Talk to me about your heritage and where you're from. How does it inform who you are, your personal style, and your worldview?
"I'm a mix of many things, but mostly Somalian and Norwegian. I’ve been lucky with having so many cultures to identify with. I’ve had the privilege of being constantly surrounded by people from many different places around the world, and that has taught me so much. And they all saw me; humans take for granted the gift of seeing someone and being seen.
"Apart from my own family, who has given me the strength and defence mechanisms to be able to go out into the world, I've also been nurtured by families I’ve chosen. They are made up by people from different walks of life, colours, and nationalities, and yet they've loved me and I've loved them."
What are some current issues in fashion that you have feelings about? Politics, the clothes themselves, Instagram, race, culture, etc. — whatever you're most moved by, good and bad.
"I'm so proud of where fashion is headed in regards to diversity. I’ve seen so many different types of beautiful Black models, from the darkest shade to the lightest shade, and that's beyond exciting for a girl like me who grew up in Norway and almost never saw anyone I could identify with. Because of that, I'd look to fashion, TV, and music to find myself; it was so important to have those representations. Now, the fact that I have a place here and someone out there can see themselves in me is just beautiful.
"What I don’t like about the industry is the disconnect in sizing. 67% of American women wear a size 14 or above. The industry needs to be better at representing all women around the world because they are consumers, too."
What do you want most out of your career(s)?
"I plan to give this my all. If my modelling inspires even just one person, then I'm doing this for all the right reasons. Hopefully, I'll embody anyone who came before me who made it that much easier for me to exist in a world where Euro-centric beauty reigns supreme. I also love working with charities and helping broaden people’s minds regarding trans people and our safety. We just want to exist, be treated normally, and left alone to live our lives like anyone else wishes to."
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