Adwoa Aboah is a beauty girl through and through. But she also knows it's more than skin deep (a poignant statement for one of the world's most in-demand models). An advocate for mental health (Aboah hosts the Gurls Talk podcast), she's honest, endearing and thoughtful when it comes to speaking about self-care. But for every word of wisdom, she's got an equally covetable recommendation, from a cheek tint that mimics sunburn, to the Jo Malone London fragrance she wears daily.
Read on for the exclusive interview.
What does beauty mean to you?
So many things. It’s obviously inclusive, and I believe it comes from within. I think it’s also very dependent on the day. I don't think beauty should be so pressurised. I feel we're fed this idea that you have to feel beautiful 100% of the time. But actually, I think that it happens at the weirdest moments. Feeling beautiful doesn't necessarily have to mean being covered in makeup. Sometimes I feel beautiful when I’m fresh before getting into bed.
Beauty is also very much related to the work that I do on myself. There's something to say about beauty not being attached to an outside validation as well – this is something I’ve learned. It doesn't matter how many people tell you you’re beautiful; there’s self work involved in order to feel it and truly believe it.
What does your typical morning look like?
I am the worst morning person! I’m trying to be better… Am I trying? Ha! I don’t know. But it changes. Sometimes I spring out of bed and am seizing the day. Other times, not so much. Mornings can be difficult for people who struggle with their mental health. I’m very aware that often my day is related to the immediate emotions that I’m feeling as I wake up. I do try and give myself time in the morning so that I don’t have to jump straight into emails and work. I like to exercise, and do something for myself before I start doing things for other people.
What do you do when your body needs to recover?
I’ve recently gotten really into massage, I found this incredible woman who I trust. I love lymphatic drainage massages, which is so helpful for someone who travels a lot.
Exercise always resets me, too. I lean into movement when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed. I’ve also really gotten into the habit of trying to switch off properly when I have the time. I used to have the tendency to only take a break when I was close to burnout. Now I try to make sure time off is always set aside, it’s really important.
What book or resource has changed your philosophy on self care?
A book that really changed the way I viewed mental health was Darkness Visible by William Styron. It shaped my knowledge of what I was going through at the time.
Best piece of beauty or wellness advice you can share?
I love a face full of makeup! But personally I think less is more. I think it’s brave to try things that don’t necessarily fit a mold or trend, as well.
That, and always take your makeup off before bed!
What’s your social media philosophy? How do you balance work and your personal boundaries?
I don't know. I’m still working that one out. I think too much about it, because it’s really not that deep. I do find it quite hard to share my personal life. Sharing work achievements is different, because I love supporting those that took part in an image or campaign. It’s not just about me.
But when it comes to sharing more personal things, I think there’s a time and a place for it. I’m definitely not someone who shares the entirety of their life… I think that’s just me.
What role does fragrance play in your life?
I always travel with hand luggage and the greatest challenge is not being able to take a full sized fragrance!
I personally don’t leave the house without fragrance. I actually have a very strong sense of smell. I grew up in a home that smelt beautiful. My parents – my dad especially, and I think it’s a part of being a black man – always felt that smelling good is something to be proud of. I take that from him.
It’s how we introduce ourselves to people. It’s so nice when someone compliments you and exclaims they love your scent.
We know you love Jo Malone London English Pear & Freesia. How do you feel when you wear it?
I feel I’m able to tap into my feminine side, which I love. It’s playful and light and really beautiful.
What about the new iteration, English Pear & Sweet Pea?
There's a youthfulness to it. It doesn't feel too serious. It’s special.
How would you articulate what your partnership with Jo Malone London means?
I feel like I'm part of a family. It doesn’t feel like work, and I so enjoy what we’re accomplishing together. Something I’ve learned as I’m getting older is that at the end of the day, I want to enjoy myself professionally, and I want the same for those around me. This certainly stands as one of those partnerships that I’ll look back on and be really proud of.
This is also just the beginning, and there’s so much we stand for and that we’re working towards. There’s lots to be excited about.
Do you have a beauty icon?
Of course my mum, too. As she’s getting older she’s trying out all these mad looks. I really respect it. And my sister! She knows how to do the most amazing flick, which I’ll never ever be able to do. But she’s incredible at it.
Final question: 5 beauty products you cannot live without?
Palmer's Cocoa Butter… I’d honestly rather not shower if I don’t have it on me.
Any sort of lip gloss, because I love it on my eyelids. My current favourite is MAC.
I have this newfound obsession with looking as if I’ve just gone for a run or like I’m slightly sunburned. So I’m loving Benefit’s Benetint. Charlotte Tilbury has a cheek colour called Passion which I also love.
And any eyebrow gel or pomade. Glossier do a great one.
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