Listening to Adwoa Aboah talk about feeling lost in the world reminds you that not even supermodels who've appeared on the cover of Vogue are immune to insecurity. The only real difference is that some of them are in a unique position to help other people overcome theirs. As the founder of the nonprofit Gurls Talk, an online community that encourages discussion of tough topics like sexuality, mental health, and body acceptance, Aboah hasn't shied away from taking on new responsibilities as a powerful voice representing young women everywhere.
When we sat down to chat with the model and activist about her brand-new beauty gig as the face of Giorgio Armani's Sì Passione fragrance campaign, Aboah emphasized how important it is to be honest, and to surround yourself with a tribe of women who share those values. Yes, the British Fashion Council might have crowned her Model of the Year, but she's also here to help other women show up for each other when it's most important — and battle the occasional breakout. She's only human, after all.
The fashion industry still has a long way to go, but it's more inclusive and progressive than ever. Is that something you noticed backstage during Fashion Week?
"There was actually an amazing energy backstage this year. I was really happy to see that there were some amazing women of color doing hair backstage who really understood how to style natural hair. It's always been something I thought the industry lacks. When I had hair, there were none."
Did you see a more accurate representation of women on the runway, too?
"The diversity on the runway was actually amazing. It was actually really good. There are some great models coming up who were doing lots of different shows. The industry is really listening to everyone who is speaking out and everything happening regarding inclusivity. That also includes sexual assault in the industry, and really wanting to pave the way for models' voices. I think people in the industry understand the power they have and that they have to use it for some good."
I fall into moments of insecurity when I feel completely unsure of the path I've taken. That's just what being a human is.
Speaking of women in the industry, do you feel like there's a good sense of mentorship within it?
"I'm definitely like the model mom to a few girls in the industry. Chanel [Iman], she's amazing, and Slick [Woods], who has called me her fairy godmother since we first met. But all of them are my sisters. There is definitely a bond I have with other models of color because we're in this together. We know how hard we've had to work to get to this place, so we support each other. I've been mentored, too. Not necessarily by other models, but definitely by photographers, designers, and stylists."
A lot of your campaigns give you a powerful platform to use your voice. Does that attract you to certain partnerships in your career?
"Completely! It's something my team and I take into account when we choose what work to do or what kind of job fits best with everything else I do, like Gurls Talk. I advocate for those things. All the work I do within the industry shouldn't contradict what I do outside of it. I'm very lucky to be at a point in my career that everything I speak about is being celebrated and I'm being celebrated as a person who stays true to themselves. With most of the campaigns I do, like this one with Armani or [as a face of] Revlon, I've kept true to myself. And that's something the client and the photographers also want."
Speaking of Gurls Talk, what's one conversation that consistently comes up within the community?
"The recurring question we talk about is, 'Am I good enough?' I think that filters into everything you do in your life, like your career, love, friendships... It's just part of being young and lost. We have amazing people at Gurls Talk who advocate confidence and pave the way in the community to make sure that everyone is getting to a place where they have more self-love. And we're really honest. I'm not always there, in that place. There's more work I can do on myself. I fall into moments of insecurity when I feel completely unsure of the path I've taken. That's just what being a human is. It's a valid feeling."
Aisde from Gurls Talk, where is the one place in the world you feel most beautiful?
"I go to Kenya a lot with my family. That's a place where I feel really at peace and healthy. It's also where I eat well and sleep a lot!"
I can imagine you travel a lot...
"Yes, which kills your skin. I'm militant with my skin-care routine and that's why it's so annoying when my skin is bad. I was talking to one of my girlfriends last night and we were saying how well we take care of our skin. I'm quite an anxious and sensitive human being, and I think that when I'm feeling those emotions it comes out in my skin. It's something I'm just having to deal with."