‘Vogue’ should be about giving a voice to all different cultures.
2014 was a terrible year for me. I got a lot of help from psychiatrists, doctors, and my family, but also from group therapy. I met people from so many different backgrounds, and we were all able to relate to each other. It felt like a real community, and I stole that concept for Gurls Talk.
A sexy selfie can be incredibly empowering – but remember that, while a Snapchat message might expire, nothing on the Internet truly disappears.
Because I would be around so many people in the fashion industry, there’s this kind of dialogue. People would always say, ‘Oh your daughter is so beautiful. Is she a model?’ And it was so strange for me to hear because I felt so not beautiful inside.
Boarding school was a really pivotal moment. Before I went there, I was so happy. I’m not sure I was ready for it. I was only 13. My parents didn’t send me away; it was my choice as well. But I definitely shouldn’t have stayed for five years.
Diversity can’t be a fashionable thing: it should be here to stay.
Emotions were never the most important thing when I was at school; it was all about academics and this constant performance of pretending that you’re okay and getting on with life.
Even when I first started modeling, 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.
Fear has run rampant amongst our community of models. Far too many young models, both women and men, are mistreated and put at risk.
Gurls Talk is my baby. It’s just about opening up a space within schools where we as women and girls can talk about whatever we want.
How can our industry better represent the reality of our larger community and provide our next generation a proper example of what they see around them every single day? This representation should also look beyond race and include those of all body types, religion, sexuality, and gender identification.
I always believed that I had to pretend to be happy. But what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what race or class or demographic you come from. I truly believe that sadness is relative.
I always think, what I would have thought of something like Gurls Talk would have come into my school? Or how would I have felt if I’d heard there was this one-day festival happening in London? I think I’d have definitely gone, I started Gurls Talk because it was everything that I needed at school.
I came from a privileged background, which I am entirely grateful for, but it played a part in my feeling that I couldn’t complain about my own emotions.
I can’t deal with waking up and being sad.
I did a school fashion show, and I got scouted there, but I wasn’t very interested in modeling at that point.
I did not know how to share with someone the fact that I was really, really depressed.
I don’t feel guilty about any of my pleasures.
I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I just wear what I like and don’t try to focus too much on trends.
I don’t think the people in power realize how detrimental it can be to a way a girl looks at herself if she flips through a magazine and only sees one type of woman.
I forget about myself and tend to concentrate too much on others.
I had a hard time in high school.
I have a very bad memory. So I would like a chat bot to just remind me of everything I forget. I spend my entire life on Google trying to remember stuff.
I just wanted to jump out of my body sometimes and be someone else.
I knew that modeling could open doors, and I would be able to travel and forge my own path. Being able to support yourself is amazing, and I think that was one of the things that appealed to me, but I didn’t want to be in front of the camera at first.
I know what my causes are. And I care about them, so I’d rather get out there and talk about them than just play it safe.
I love being a mixed-race woman in 2017. I feel part of something big. There’s this understanding that we’re all in it together.
I never would have dreamt in a million years that I would have young girls coming up to me at Glastonbury or on the streets of L.A., New York, London, and telling me how much GurlsTalk or seeing my picture in a magazine means to them, as a woman of colour.
I really, really need community.
I remember thinking I couldn’t be bothered to feel any emotions any more.
I spent so long trying to be other people, and it made me really deeply unhappy.
I think if you don’t like being in your skin, it doesn’t matter how many times people say you’re beautiful, how many jobs you get, or whatever it is – I just didn’t want to be Adwoa.
I think losing out on jobs and, you know, being judged on your appearance… I definitely grew a second skin and got used to it, but more so now, I’ve realised it definitely contributed to a lot of things I feel about myself.
I used to get scouted outside of Topshop and stuff, and I was brought up in the fashion industry and did a few shoots when I was young, which was always fun to get dressed up.
I was privileged in terms of where I grew up, and I come from a very loving, supportive household. But when I began to go off the rails at boarding school, my behaviour wasn’t a result of an upbringing but more something that was going on within me.
I wear trainers everywhere. Weddings, parties, definitely red carpets and fashion events. It’s bad. And listen, I love shoes. I love high heels. But I buy trainers all the time.
I went to a school where the girls that were found attractive were the complete opposite to me. I judged my worth on how many boyfriends everyone had, and I wanted to jump out of my skin every second of every day.
I wish I could be good at gymnastics.
I would like to give acting a go. I studied it for a long time; I just want to make sure when I do it I am able to put in as much effort as I do to modeling.
I’m a Taurus; I need a home.
I’m a bit of an attention seeker, so I’m always looking for a table or some height to get up on and dance.
I’m not the tallest or the thinnest – and I think being in shows is a major part of when I stopped second-guessing myself.
I’ve always been obsessed with fashion.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been given a platform through modeling, so now I can use it as an activist.
I’ve been really lucky with the shows that I’ve done and the diverse line-ups I’ve been included in.
I’ve got a lot of jewellery that I love – whether it costs a pound or whatever, it’s all precious to me.
I’ve learned to appreciate looking unique and not having long, blond locks… at last.
In 2017, there is more than one way to be beautiful and more than one way to be cool. And when you put an image on the cover of ‘Vogue,’ that means something that goes beyond fashion.
In private school, I definitely judged myself against the lighter-skinned girls. I wanted to have different hair. I wanted to fit in. I thought that was more beautiful.
In the digital age, there are a million and one ways to find out what someone you fancy is doing – but remember, they can see when you’re watching their Instagram stories. If you fall deep into a hole of snooping, resist flicking through the digital diaries of their exes, or at least learn to cover your tracks.
In the digital age, there is a new rule book for romance.
It has to be something people prioritize – it should be the number-one priority: representing all types of beauty, all types of shapes and sizes.
It’s about cultural forums and movements and collectives of people taking a stand. That’s all activism is.
It’s not a secret – I’m literally one of the best dancers in the world! I mean, not everyone would necessarily agree with that.
It’s really difficult seeing your role model or your parent cry.
Like anyone else, I can fall into these massive Instagram holes and start comparing myself to other people.
Marc Jacobs Beauty is really exciting for me; when I was at school, I would always struggle to find make-up that suited my skin tone, and I certainly wouldn’t find anything from a luxury brand. I’m glad that girls don’t have that problem anymore.
Mental health isn’t all of me, but it’s a massive part of my journey and a massive part of my whole being.
My dream actress to work with would be Amy Adams.
My go-to protective thing is isolation. It’s turn off the phone, don’t speak to anyone, lie in bed all day, and then maybe go out at night and do the same thing over again.
My mum never put those fashion ideals into the house. I didn’t wear make-up, and I had my hair all frizzy.
No one had ever educated me on mental health. I really didn’t understand why I would be feeling high on life, and everything was brilliant, and then suddenly I would be crashing into a deep hole.
One day at a time. I live by that.
One of my aunties inspires me beause of how easily she shows her emotions, and she isn’t ever afraid to cry. My mum, for her work ethic – she might not show her emotions in public very much, but she’s a total power woman. My grandma, who watched four of her children die before her, she’s a powerhouse.
School was unbelievably painful. It was five years of being pretty sad.
The best part of going out is always getting ready with your friends.
The bit that I’ve always loved about modeling is show season: the hype, the chaos, the calm just before you walk out. It’s your moment – especially when there’s no one before you.
The most amazing thing for me is when I open up a magazine and I see someone I could be friends with and looks, maybe, slightly like me. And I think that’s the same with young girls. Because there needs to be diversity.
The worst thing to do when I’m feeling insecure or a bit vulnerable is to scroll through Instagram. You only show when life is good on social media. Everyone looks happy all the time.
There are times when you’re being judged on your appearance and you’re not feeling your best self. It hurts, but as I always say, I try and be 100 percent myself all the time. So if I’m rejected, it just hurts that little bit less because at least I was myself.
Until I was about 14, I was so shy.
What I would say to anyone who wants to be a model is, have something else. This shouldn’t be your be-all and end-all in life: there are so many other amazing things to be done in the world. I also think that the industry really celebrates a woman who does something else. So keep at it, but always have something else.
What drew me to modeling was this idea of being independent.
When you talk, you realize that the pains and worries you feel are universal; you no longer feel alone in your sadness. You relate and find comfort in the fact that there are other women going through the same things as you are.
When you want someone to notice you, there’s one fail-safe way of making sure that they do: by plastering pictures of yourself across social media. Your motive might seem obvious, but so what?
With modeling, social media is such a humungous part of it now. You get jobs because of the amount of followers you have.
Without social media, I wouldn’t have young girls messaging me from Australia or Mexico City or the Midlands, but I do wonder if I’d be on it if it wasn’t part of my job.
Women and girls inspire me. They drive me.
Quotes by Adwoa Aboah
Quotes by Adwoa Aboah
‘Vogue’ should be about giving a voice to all different cultures.