British Vogue

A luxury hotel room, a closet full of Chanel and a party full of England’s fashion elite sounds like the makings of a pretty good evening by any measure, but as Vogue spends an afternoon getting ready with model-of-the-moment Adwoa Aboah, it’s a study in contemporary cool.

The 2017 British Fashion Awards Model of the Year famously covered Edward Enninful’s inaugural issue as editor-in-chief of British Vogue, where she is now also a contributing editor. Aboah is also an activist, having founded the platform Gurls Talk as a safe space for girls to communicate their experiences, as well as being open about her own struggles overcoming drug abuse and severe depression (including a suicide attempt). At 26, she is both seemingly wise beyond her years and a very real and relatable role model.

Her time in front of the Vogue cameras is no less refreshing as the gravel-voiced beauty first empties her handbag for the camera—revealing that she’s an analog girl in a digital world—then plays dress-up, choosing between several Chanel dresses to wear to the Serpentine Galleries summer party in London (co-hosted by the French fashion house).

But if watching the freckle-faced Aboah make her day-to-night transformation from androgynous daywear to gamine chic is delightful, more exciting is what her rise represents in an industry that continues to struggle with diversity.

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While her light skin (she is biracial) may not challenge historic beauty standards, Aboah—who rocks a fade, bleached brows, tattoos and a gold gem in one of her front teeth—isn’t the prototypical beauty or personality historically embraced by the fashion industry. But in an era increasingly marked by political division and pushback on inclusivity, Aboah’s presence signals a much-needed paradigm shift on what—and who—is considered beautiful and feminine; showing us that there’s no one right way to be a model, a role model or a woman.