Adwoa Aboah has just finished a stellar catwalk season. No doubt her biggest yet. In New York she walked for Marc Jacobs and Coach; London: Topshop and Erdem; Milan: Versace and Fendi; and in Paris she made her debuts at Dior and Chanel – amongst many, many others.
Currently, her face is also found on the cover of American Vogue, nestled between a diverse crop of women, nine years after she made her debut in British Vogue, shot by David Mushegain. To top it all off, today she has been announced as the face of the latest Versus campaign starring alongside Zayn and photographed by Gigi Hadid.
While her striking looks and cool-girl credentials are capturing the attention of the world’s biggest brands, it’s the 24-year-old’s project Gurls Talk that’s speaking to real women. Set up in 2015, Gurls Talk aims – through sharing experiences in trusting environments – to foster a space that will encourage and empower young women facing the trials and tribulations of 21st-century pressures. Head to the Instagram to see snaps from schools Adwoa has spoken in and empowering messages from a whole array of field-leading women.
Adwoa’s influence is heavily felt off the catwalk. During London Fashion Week, she sat down with Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi to discuss all manner of things affecting young women today, coinciding with their joint cover of ASOS magazine, which she interviewed the actress for.
“Yara was always doing the cover of the issue and then I came into the picture. We’d never met each other before but we stand for a lot of the same things and it was just having this lovely middle ground. Instead of just having a simple interview, it was a really lovely moment where we sat on her bed in LA and just got to know each other. It just felt a bit more personal.”
The event that was also broadcast on Facebook Live with anyone able to ask questions and has now been watched by over 100,000 people. “Not that you’d even know it because Yara is so grounded and mature, but she’s a lot younger than me,” she told us. “I think that’s what comes to mind when I think about sharing knowledge with her is that it’s thinking about the next generation. How it really starts in schools and it starts with changing how one’s brain works. How we think we should all go about things, because actually I think it’s more so about putting that knowledge onto the next generation.”
Since founding Gurls Talk, Adwoa has shifted roles often becoming the one asking the questions. How does she feel about the change in equilibrium? “I love it. The first time I did it was when I did a documentary last year. It’s a journey for me as well, about understanding and looking at how I think about things and learning from other people instead of it just being my point of view and me. I really enjoy it, I kind of like prefer it actually.”
Watching her documentaries and even engaging with Adwoa, it’s clear that she has a vested interest in other people and a desire to help those that have been through similar struggles as she did as a young woman. In a courageous video interview in April 2016, she opened up for the first time about her own battle with depression, addiction and suicide attempt the previous October.
Returning to the topic of Fashion Week, our conversation turns quickly to the number of young female designers emerging out of London, which Adwoa has long worked with and has championed their designs at high-profile events. “Even when I first started modelling my loyalty to those girls like Molly Goddard, Ashley Williams and Dilara Findikoglu was important. I like to support them as much as I can. For me, it’s as important to walk in their show or wearing their clothes as it is doing a Marc Jacobs show.”
On the note of the Marc Jacobs’s New York Fashion Week show (a stripped-back set with no soundtrack that made way for a collection highly influenced by music and some of the most diverse and inclusive casting of the season), Adwoa muses: “The kind of applause he got was amazing and there was just full concentration on the girls. Slick opened the show – she’s one of my close friends – and that just shows how things are changing so much. The fact that someone that unique, cool and with personality can open the Marc Jacobs show – I mean that in itself is sick.”
The daughter of an English mother and Ghanaian father, does she feel that the fashion world is moving in the right direction when it comes to diversity? “It’s really important. I’ve been really lucky with the shows that I’ve done and the diverse line-ups I’ve been included in. The girls have been, like, on another level so that’s been so cool. But, it is I think that all of these things go hand in hand and wherever we can work some sort of change, whether it be in fashion or in whatever kind of career path you choose to take, I think it’s important that we do it now.”
“It’s celebrating personalities, celebrating diversity, celebrating shapes and sizes and looking at a bigger picture in all senses”, she elaborated. Yes, it’s the clothes that you’re wearing, but how can you take that further with the girls that you have and the shapes that you have in the clothes? What message are you putting out there to all those people that are looking at your show and looking at those photos or listening to your music or watching your films or reading your books? It’s just – I think – really looking at the bigger picture and taking responsibility for everything.”