Culture / People

Ugbad Abdi in Paris

Let’s teleport to Paris in June. The city is hot – but not quite hot enough that you’re thinking of escaping just yet. The streets full, and the energy – whether that of overzealous tourists or unimpressed Parisians – is infectious. (It is up to you each morning who you wish to wake up and be). Elsewhere, stadiums and Paris’ Seine are receiving their finishing touches ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games. It’s this dynamic dance of push and pull that can’t quite be found anywhere else in the world; a place that gives just as much as it takes. For Somali model and RUSSH’s June digital cover star, Ugbad Abdi, it’s this feeling that keeps her coming back to Paris for more.

Left: VALENTINO jeans and VALENTINO GARAVANI VLogo Locker mary janes; model's own stockings. Right: VALENTINO jacket and vest and VALENTINO GARAVANI Locò bag and bag chain (worn as necklace); model's own hijab (worn throughout).


“I love how Paris is not only a fashion capital but also a city of beauty. It’s romantic, chaotic, and the pastries are the best. There’s always a side of Paris you’ve never seen. It’s an exciting city full of wonder,” she shared.

While the city has always brought the model endless personal joy, it’s also home to some of her most unforgettable career milestones. At just 18-years-old, Abdi was plucked from her home in Iowa to make her runway debut for one of the most revered fashion House’s during Haute Couture Fashion Week. Gliding through the Place Vendôme in a gown that so perfectly encapsulated ‘Valentino Couture’ she navigated the runway like a seasoned pro. And well, the rest – as they say – is history.


Left: VALENTINO shirt and jeans and VALENTINO GARAVANI VLogo Locker mary janes; model's own top. Right: VALENTINO GARAVANI VLogo Locker mary janes; model's own stockings.


“I remember the nerves, the excitement, and the tears,” she tells me when I ask her what has stayed with her from the experience. “It was surreal and still makes me emotional. Debuting in Paris for the first time, it felt like everything was meant to be.”

Born in Somalia during its civil war and spending many of her formative years in a Kenyan refugee camp, Abdi, understandably, hadn’t been exposed to the prospect of modelling as a career. “I never really knew what being a model entailed until strangers suggested it when I was in my early teens. That’s when I discovered that there’s a whole career in showcasing designers' creations and traveling the world.”



“In my last two years of high school, I started taking it seriously. I walked in a fashion show wearing things my friends created in their design classes, and it was so much fun.”

Now, five years later and just a few days shy of her birthday, that same quiet confidence that caught the eyes of so many during that fateful summer of 2019 has come full bloom.

Left: VALENTINO shirt and jeans and VALENTINO GARAVANI VLogo Locker mary janes and Locò bag; model's own top. Right: VALENTINO GARAVANI Locò bag.


On set in a studio tucked away in the streets of Paris’ 14th arrondissement, the synergy was instant – Abdi perfectly donning the Maison’s new Valentino Garavani VLogo Locker mary janes and Locò bag. Rooted in Valentino’s design principle of elevating through quintessential silhouettes, the craftsmanship and attention to detail pair seamlessly with the stylistic language of today – a spirit Abdi embodies both in front of the camera and in her personal style.

VALENTINO jacket, vest and pants and VALENTINO GARAVANI VLogo Locker mary janes, Locò bag and bag chain (worn as necklace); model's own top and stockings.


“A non-negotiable in my closet will always be pieces that are both cute and comfortable. I love practicality but also some character in the items I wear, whether it’s a cool colourway or some personality in the design, like unique hardware or contrast stitching.”

As anyone who lives in a big city knows, an elevated ease to dressing is essential – the ability to slip on a trendy, but reliable piece of footwear that can see you through the day, paired with a handbag that can carry it all without ever compromising on style. Having lived in New York City the past five years, Abdi learnt this the hard way.





“...It’s where I’ve learned so much about myself and where I feel most comfortable. I love New York; it’s a crazy but fulfilling city.”

Whether she’s shooting in Paris or spending time in her new home of New York city, all the world’s a stage for Ugbad Abdi. But despite being an internationally recognised face, gracing the covers of magazines worldwide and attending her first Met Gala this year, as she tells me “there’s always something to learn”.


Left: VALENTINO dress and VALENTINO GARAVANI bag chain (worn as necklace); model's own top and stockings. Right: VALENTINO GARAVANI VLogo Locker mary janes.


“My biggest learning has always been to trust the moment. Trust yourself and the people around you, and be present.”

PHOTOGRAPHER Anna Prokulevicz
FASHION Charlotte Agnew
MODEL Ugbad @ Next Models
MAKEUP Yulya Zalesskaya

SET DESIGN Emma Sandral​​
VIDEO Felipe Omme and Anna Prokulevicz


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