Having set up her women’s empowerment platform Gurls Talk in 2005, activist and top model Adwoa Aboah raises her voice and helps others to do so on important issues such as mental health. In the same way the platform engenders open dialogue in an intimate way—much like speaking to an older, wiser sister—Glamcult chatted to the bright and stunning star about self-love and speaking out.
You’re one of the BOLD ambassador for Bread & Butter. What does being bold and outspoken mean to you?
Being outspoken to me means not shying away from the truth. I think sometimes we can all feel maybe it’s not appropriate to say certain things because of the industry we’re in. But I find what’s more endearing and attractive about people is if they are passionate about things and they feel the need to say things out loud. There is so much power in speaking out about something important and shining the light on those certain subjects that people may not think are as important and subjects that are stigmatized. Often, it’s easier to just flow through life and not say anything. But I find that sad.
How do you muster up the courage to be outspoken? Is there a particular artist you listen to, author you admire or advice you follow?
All the people that I’ve ever loved—whether that’s Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar or poets like Tupac—they are all 100 percent outspoken. They speak the truth and share their feelings and thoughts. And I think being outspoken can even be just saying what’s going on inside. It’s so easy to just say: “This is the way life is, everything is fine.” But that’s not always the case, is it? These are the kind of people I draw from, because they’re speaking out. That’s why they’re the ones I look up to.
I listened to an interview with Kendrick Lamar and Zane Lowe on Beats1 the other day, and he spoke about the bigger picture behind his music, mentioning it isn’t about the awards, but rather the idea that his music could mean something much more for someone. Someone might realize that they can also get to that point where Kendrick is. That’s something I really like. It shows it’s not about being on the front cover of a magazine, although that might be lovely, but it’s about being an inspiration to others. That’s also what’s been so important about Gurls Talk.
Self-love seems to be an important part of your message. How do you get to such a stage? And what is the one thing you would tell your 13-year old self today?
I work very hard on my self-love and living my life to the fullest, because I haven’t always been happy with whom I was. I’ve really had to work on myself to get to this stage. It’s something I find quite difficult, because I’m highly critical of myself and very competitive. I’m lucky I have such a great support system. I have amazing friends who are big opponents of getting me to a place where I’m self-assured and happy with the body I’m in and have been given. I think it’s just something you have to work on daily. It doesn’t come easy. You need to live and breathe it. The way you are or the relationships you have with people shouldn’t shine away from who you are. From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you can’t regret anything you’ve done. Everyday I want to be able to say I’ve been myself and I haven’t shied away or been distracted from being who I am.
If I had to tell my 13 year old self something… Well, that would be a lot of things. I would tell her that everything would start to fall into place. I used to be so shy, quiet and scared. So, I would tell her that fear will help push you in such an amazing direction. I would tell her to sit in all those feelings, the happiness, sadness and the fear—and walk with it.
Who are the boldest women you know that are killing it right now?
I would say… Janelle Monáe; I heard her speak the other day and fucking hell, she’s cool. Gloria Steinem, 100 percent, always. Lena Dunham. I just read this amazing book titled Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which is just so beautiful. I’m also obsessed with Cecile Richards who runs Planned Parenthood. Hari Nef, Hanne Gaby and Holly Gore, who works with me for Gurls Talk.
You launched Gurls Talk in 2015. What are some of the most important trials and tribulations of the 21st century that you hope to combat through this platform?
So much of my journey has revolved around mental health. I have to acknowledge that’s been a large part of my life and has helped shape the way I live my life today. I think Gurls Talk will always address mental health. I want to provide more knowledge and educate others on the subject. I hope Gurls Talk can do that within the school system and hopefully help defy the stigmas surrounding it. I want it to be part of the everyday conversation. I don’t want it to be something that is feared by the person going through it or the person that’s on the other side.
With such a busy and hectic life, how important is it to have a place to return to and be able to reflect? What’s your best way to sit back and relax?
As my life has gotten busier, I’ve had to really learn to create a balance. I need to feel grounded, so I feel I can conquer anything. I need to have a personal routine—exercise, eat healthy, spend time with friends. I also feel sometimes I need to take some time away from everything. There is so much I want to do but the only way I can do that is to take some time to really reflect: to process it all and acknowledge how well everything is going and how grateful I am. What’s important to me is my house, creating a nice comfortable space or taking some time off with family, turning the phone off and spending time with friends.