"When I started my career, it was a different time within the industry. I don't think there was any space for someone like myself," she told us on the red carpet at the Revlon Live Boldly campaign launch earlier this week. "Now, there is room and there is time. People are more open to something that's different."
Revlon's newest brand ambassadors represent the more inclusive world we're moving toward: Aboah, along with Ashley Graham, Imaan Hammam, and Raquel Zimmerman all appear in the cosmetic giant's new television, digital, and social advertisements. They join Gal Gadot in an effort to "support and encourage women to pursue their own dreams with confidence, strength, optimism, passion, and style," as Global Brand President Anne Talley describes the mission.
"Revlon put such a strong, powerful group of girls together," Zimmerman says. "The beautiful thing about it is that we're all so diverse. We're from different countries and have different views, but we've come together in this way that feels great. We're like a sisterhood now."An international sisterhood at that: Zimmerman is Brazilian, Hammam is African-Arabic, Aboah is Ghanian and British, Achok Majak (who appears alongside the ambassadors in ads) is from South Sudan... and Graham is the first plus-sized model to sign a major beauty contract.
Naturally, these powerhouses are stoked to be working with a global brand — what model doesn't dream of landing a major beauty campaign? — but it's more than just looking pretty and posing with lipstick. "I used to look through magazines and I wanted what I was never able to have," Aboah tells us. "I wanted long, blonde hair. I didn't want freckles. I didn't see someone who looked like me. Now, I hope that through this campaign — whether it's Ashley, whether it's Achok, whether it's Gal, Raquel, or Imaan — that you'll be able to relate to one of us. That you'll see your beauty in one of us."
The models are beginning to see that same shift backstage during fashion shows and on set at photoshoots, too. It's not perfect by a long shot, but the fashion and beauty industries are slowly but surely responding to the consumers demanding greater representation. "I hear from colleagues of mine when [casting agencies] try to put them in a box. 'Oh, you're black. Oh no, you're Asian,'" Hamaam, who is half Moroccan and half Egyptian, says. "They are learning, though. People are starting to accept natural beauty. I remember when I just started, they were straightening my hair all the time. They just didn't know what to do with it. Now, in shows, you see curly hair and freckles."
Aboah agrees. "People are putting some effort and time into making sure that we never have to walk backstage at a fashion show as women of color and feel ashamed about our hair and the color of our skin," she says. "It's definitely improving. Still we have our favorites. When we're backstage, we wait in line to get that one person who knows color foundation. I'm lucky enough that I don't have hair anymore. I probably won't grow hair until I can really see a change within the industry. I'm not going to walk in and have 10 hairdressers scream at how thick my hair is."
Even though there's work to be done, this campaign is a huge step in the right direction. Plus, the overall message is one that's worth way more than money. "It might sound cheesy, but [my beauty] had to come from within," Aboah says. "That is what's empowering me right now. I don't think that any of these opportunities would have come to me had I not done that work inside. All of this other stuff comes afterwards."