Adwoa Aboah

Adwoa Aboah

In conversation with Celia Burton
Photographer Amanda Charachian
Stylist Tati Cotliar

I met Adwoa as a teenager in Ladbroke Grove. Adwoa, or Woodge as we call her, was always dancing, always laughing. She was rarely seen without a silk scarf tied around her golden hued hair, no make-up needed on that perfectly freckled face, and a slightly mad and eclectic but effortless cool mix of an outfit. She held the room, still does.

Earring Maques Almedia; Small Earrings Adwoa’s Own

Dress and Earrings Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello

I met Adwoa as a teenager in Ladbroke Grove. Adwoa, or Woodge as we call her, was always dancing, always laughing. She was rarely seen without a silk scarf tied around her golden hued hair, no make-up needed on that perfectly freckled face, and a slightly mad and eclectic but effortless cool mix of an outfit. She held the room, still does.

Adwoa was doing a bit of modeling while we were growing up, but it wasn’t until spring 2016, after battling with depression and addiction, a move to LA, and a new-found clarity about who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do, that the doors began to open to a whole new set of opportunities. Now she’s walked for Dior, Fendi, Marc Jacobs (to name a few), starred in Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang and Topshop campaigns, been on the cover of Italian and American Vogue, and launched her ‘baby’, Gurls Talk.

I spoke to my dear old friend about her responsibility on social media, plans for Gurls Talk, and her own hopes for the future.

How would you describe Gurls Talk?

Gurls Talk is a platform, a confidential space, where women and girls talk about whatever they want, share their experiences, their sadness and their happiness. It’s all about relating to one another.

Had you had the experience of needing someone to chat to and there was no one there?

Well, when I needed a place to talk I was at boarding school, which is where the idea stems from. But it was actually a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that really spurred me on. It was a meeting that I really needed at the time. It was a women’s only group, and I had a sudden realization that I had to open up and start doing it my own way.

It was something you needed at school, and now that’s what you’re doing: going into schools, talking to girls.

And that is only the beginning, going into schools and meeting everyone, but I’m building a team, some of who are experienced in mental health. I
want it to have a fixed position in schools and be part of the curriculum.

I didn’t really know you when you were at boarding school. And our schools were our own worlds, all so different from one another. Did you have a bad time a school?

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t take it back necessarily. I made great friends. I had space, and I was away from London. It was good, but being in a bubble, I couldn’t handle it. And then it just went downhill from there. It was the hierarchy system.

I didn’t like how there was no space for anyone to have any individuality, and I think that was detrimental to how I felt about myself at that time. I had no idea who I was, and wasn’t allowed to work it out.

I was thinking yesterday, that even if Gurls Talk had opened at my school, girls would have been so self conscious to open up and be honest. I’m not sure we would even have used it to the best of our ability. How do you overcome that?

I don’t know. I think it works better nowadays for sure. Girls are so much more open with their sexuality, for example. But I definitely needed it when I was at school. Although it is more relevant now because of social media and celebrity culture.

I didn’t want to be anyone at school. I didn’t want to be a celebrity. I was fascinated by the Spice Girls and Britney Spears, but I didn’t necessarily want to be them, I didn’t put all my concentration into their life because we didn’t get to see it. Now you get to see where someone is every second of every day.

Jumpsuit Courreges; Bra Fleet Ilya; Necklace Ambush Design; Shoes Versace

Hat and Shirt Jacquemus; Earring Ambush Design; Necklace & Small Earrings Adwoa’s Own

And you’re constantly comparing it but your life never lives up to it.

I compare myself to it sometimes. So when you’re fifteen, it’s a mind fuck.

So, how does it feel now for you to see that there is a ripple effect with Gurls Talk?

I really want Gurls Talk to be an ongoing thing, I want everyone to hold their own panel discussions, host a dinner party, invite friends round to have a chat. Its a really simple concept, and it can stay intimate. No one is looking over your shoulder.

It’s about being present and leaving feeling fucking great. The event we did in LA was just after Trump got elected and a lot of the girls were American, and they all came feeling pretty shit, but the night was pretty magic, and we all left feeling so much better and positive.

Because there’s someone sitting opposite you saying I know exactly how you feel?

Yes, and also meeting different ladies who are doing sick things. I know I feel so great when I meet amazing and empowered and successful women.

And we had music and lovely food. Holly [Gurls Talk partner] put it really well that it was a breaking of bread; we all shared food and conversation. Everyone sat next to someone they didn’t know, and it was really lovely. And it’s a thing that anyone could do. I can’t do this by myself. Gurls Talk does not exist without the girls that I work with… and I want it to not be about me.

If you’re draining your emotional resources talking to the girls who are writing to you and the girls who need you, as well as your own busy life, and your depression and addiction, how do you balance that?

I really want Gurls Talk to be an ongoing thing, I want everyone to hold their own panel discussions, host a dinner party, invite friends round to have a chat. Its a really simple concept, and it can stay intimate. No one is looking over your shoulder.I don’t really have boundaries because I don’t think it works that way. With Gurls Talk, I have to give as much back as they give to me, but I’ve got Dr Laura now, who is our online psychologist, and she takes a lot of that pressure away. When it first  started I used to feel sick worrying. I just worried and worried about these girls.

And talking about my own sitation, with the girls I don’t mind that so much, but publicly I don’t really want to talk about my personal life any
longer. I feel like I’ve done that. I’m so much more than my bipolar, and my suicide attempt, and my drug addictions. It’s part of me, and I’m happy to share. But at schools I don’t tend to talk about my addictions, as I think there’s a lot more that I have to say. It’s also about protecting myself. It’s still kind of shocking when someone says, ‘I saw that
StyleLikeU video,’ because that’s my life. Someone is commenting on my life. It’s lovely, but I went into that room not thinking that I would ever speak about that stuff. I wouldn’t take it back.

How do you keep your personal life separate to your work life when your work life is so successful?

In terms of modeling and stuff, it’s more about being highly picky, not saying yes to everything, and making sure that I have a personal life.

My Instagram has no relevance to my personal life. If I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have an Instagram. It feels so narcissistic, but that’s what it’s for, for work. Gurls Talk is different, and I love that account, and I love my website.

Not in a cocky way but I need to be Adwoa. I need to be the founder of Gurls Talk.

I guess it’s about how you use that platform. When everyone is fascinated with your life, you have to make sure what you’re putting out there is authentic.

Yeah, when I decided to do Gurls Talk, I had to really think about it. This is forever. I’m not going to start saying I’m here and then disappear. It is hard at the moment just because I travel so much, but my head is in Gurls Talk mode all the time. I’m so lucky to have an amazing team that help me with this.

Dress Louis Vuitton; Gloves Adowa’s Own

Make-up Ammy Drammeh using Laura Mercier.
Styling Assistants Elvija Vitola and Emily Gallagher.
Set Design Thomas Bird.
Photography Assistant Andrew Moores.
Retouching Unit 7

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