In Ghanaian, ‘Adwoa’ means ‘Monday’s Child’, and in English, Monday’s Child is fair of face! Meet Adwoa Aboah, the 21-year-old model and it-girl dating one of i-D's favourite photographers, Tyrone Lebon.
For the performance component of her Theatre Studies finals at Brunel University last year, London face, model, child of fashion royalty and actual, real life Buffalo gal Adwoa Aboah presented a piece based on complicated ideas around coming of age. She says she found her own ascension to maturity hard. To distance herself from the work she named it 27th March. She took charge of the art direction and devised what she calls “a balloon structure that hung down and sat just above the audience’s head.” The script was of a style of theatre she is drawn to, an abstraction from conventional narratives. “It was this weird play without a storyline.” Her own birthday is 18th May. “A birthday is a nice day, a happy day,” she says, “but a lot of people hate it. I was exploring growing older and other people growing older around you. Why would you hate that?” For the finished piece, in which she and two other actors brought the concept to life, her professors awarded her an eminently swottish Double First, earmarking her burgeoning theatrical talent for special consideration and pinpointing where her stage future may lie.
“At school you really start appreciating the little things that have shaped your life, like being taken to a fashion show or meeting this or that amazing person. You meet people who have never encountered that type of thing and you realise you’re growing up a little differently.”
27th March may yet turn out to be a turning point for Adwoa. Putting together the piece, she freed herself from some self-consciousness. “I love going to see a play with someone really putting their shit on the table, really exposing themselves. Obviously as I’ve got older and started learning more about acting, and acting more, there is a part of you that can be embarrassed. As soon as you’ve shed the fear then it really starts.” Adwoa has a freckled complexion, delightfully unreadable ethnicity and absorbingly attractive colouring. Her father is Ghanaian, her mother from the Lake District, well known across the capital for rocking one of its fiercest redheads. She is Camilla Lowther, owner of one of the most esteemed fashion agencies in the world. Her parental gene pool conjured a mystical beauty out of Adwoa, yet she wears a face you cannot help be drawn into with the confident humility of being looked at daily. Eventually, you get used to it. The camera loves her. Her voice has the formidable bass-note of her mother’s. “My sister is the same. If you can’t see the face we can all pretend to be each other. If my mum needs a day off.”
We meet at midday on a busy work-day at The Groucho. First her acting agent, who didn’t know she was in the country, and then two friends swing by to say hello, she lends the member’s club the feeling of a grand school common room, though looks horrified at the suggestion. “It’s so funny because I rarely come here,” she says after the second interruption. “We come here for a drink sometimes, but it’s so expensive.” Adowa was born and bred in West London, just off the All Saints Road (“I’ve lived in exactly the same house for 21 years”) and remains loyal to her neighbourhood, repping for the West while the opposite end of London continues to scale up its night-time pre- eminence. “Let me tell you, it was like tumbleweed on Saturday night,” she says of her most recent night-out in Notting Hill. “If you have nothing planned for a Saturday night there is nothing to do. I do love going out in East London but I am West.”
“My first shoot with Tyrone was called Kiss Me, I’m Organic. It was a portrait for i-D and I was wearing really uncomfortable jeans and heels. We started hanging out and now we’ve been together for three years. He’s a brilliant person.”
Adwoa led a rarefied life growing up, partially because of her mother’s exceptional fashion eye. “At school you really start appreciating the little things that have shaped your early life, like being taken to a fashion show or meeting this or that amazing person. Your mum’s friend will give you a bottle of fancy champagne she was given in a party bag. Those little things do add up. Then you meet people who have never encountered that kind of thing and steadily you realise you’re growing up a little differently.”
It sounds like her early adventures to Ghana with her father and sister were of equal importance. “My granddad died last year so that was the last time I was there. He was amazing, died at 94, so he had a long life. My grandma has a little corner shop in front of her house where she works with her sister. I have two other aunties who live there. I used to go as a child - me, my father and my sister as a three. I think more so now, you appreciate the opportunity. It can be quite scary when you’re young. It’s amazingly strange and being younger I was a bit scared. I have cousins who will take me out clubbing in Accra now though, which is kind of amazing. Quite neon lights, quite chi-chi, you have to look quite smart, no trainers. I love it.”
She developed her taste for theatre early, with trips to the Royal Court. She mentions the work of Polly Stenham, poster girl for carousing young London theatre into the modern age, and an epochal moment watching Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs for the first time. “Insanely good,” she notes. Next year she will attend Goldsmiths to complete a Masters in Performance. Currently she is enjoying a year off, modelling in order to pay for it. “I woke up one day and thought being independent would be lovely. And it is.” Obviously Adwoa had been scouted at an early age but she was determined to finish school and reap what she could from it to its maximum advantage. She says she often feels different from the younger girls she works with. “I like to, wherever I can, implant into the heads of the one’s who have given up school... fashion is so competitive, modelling is. When it’s fashion week, girls come from all over the world for this one week and I think it’s so wonderful if you can have something else. Not everyone is Cara or Edie. And even Edie has school. Cara’s got acting. They’ve got other things that they want to do. Luckily they’ve been so successful they don’t even have to, but that doesn’t happen to all the other girls so I do try to encourage people. Do a course!”
Her independence is paying off, handsomely. Adwoa says as much as she enjoys the work, what modelling has afforded her most is more opportunities to meet riveting people, a new generation coming through. After starring in Frank Ocean’s Thinking About You video, she became friends with the “insanely talented” artist. It was on an i-D job that she met her boyfriend of three years, another child of Buffalo that looks like owning fashion for the foreseeable future, the photographer Tyrone Lebon, son of convivial magazine royalty, Mark. “Mark is so fantastic. He’s such a warm person, you can talk to him about anything. My first shoot with T was called Kiss Me, I’m Organic. It was a portrait and one full length and I was wearing really uncomfortable heels and a pair of jeans and my hair was scraped back. We started hanging out and because he was a bit older than me he was a bit cool about it and I was just happy to be hanging out with someone like him. Now we’ve been together for nearly three years. He’s just a brilliant person."
“I had a heart attack when I bought my first piece of Alaïa. I had to have a little lie down. If I had the money, I’d like to wear Alaïa all day, all night, all everything.”
For her own 21st birthday last year, Adwoa treated herself to her first Azzedine Alaïa dress and shoes, paid for out of her own pocket. Her transcendent fashion moment came at a price, both literal and metaphorical. It hurt. “I did have a bit of a heart attack when I paid for them. I had to have a little lie-down. If I had the money I’d like to wear Alaïa all day, all night, all everything.” Because it was such a special occasion, her mother organised with the super-stylist Joe McKenna for an individual fitting at the Alaïa shop in Paris. “I went to have a steak before and the woman who Joe had organised to look after me said “steak before Alaïa, no good.” I was standing there and thinking, oh my god, she’s going to see my pants, she’s like “don’t wear pants with Alaïa”. I was like fucking hell, I can’t do anything in this dress! I was so scared, sweating in the changing room which is just this one big place and you’re standing there naked and this woman is dressing you in this small Alaïa dress. Oh my god. She’d been called by Joe, so she was pulling in all the dresses. It was really special.”
Her 21st birthday party was held at her auntie’s house back in her motherland, Penrith. She says she cried as the last of the fireworks ignited the bright night sky to the sound of Born Slippy. The theme of the party was ‘Too Chic’. “You really could see the love,” she says, of her attendant 250 guests, across the age spectrums of the fashion world, the people that have shaped her so far and will continue her journey. “Everyone put so much effort in, everyone made the journey for me, everyone looked so beautiful. I wore my Alaïa. The sun shone. For some reason it had been raining, hailing, and it was suddenly boiling hot. We all went for a long walk the next day to a river I spent a lot of my childhood at. Everyone was hungover, some hadn’t slept, and everyone was swimming and chatting. It was mad, amazing.” She says the theme of the party was not just about fashion, it was a little tribute to disco too. “Chic ‘til I die,” she says laughing. “In both senses.”
Adwoa doesn’t know yet whether she wants to be a star, in the conventional sense of the word. The choice may not be hers to make. “It’s hard for me to say now,” she says, thinking long and hard about it. “I’m concentrating on my modelling for now and I really see my Masters as this year for me to hone in on the skills and work on my craft. But there is a certain amount of pressure I put on myself. I am ambitious. It definitely comes from looking at my mum, seeing what she gave up and how successful she is. She’s still there, still going to the parties and finding the young talent. I do want to be a star in the sense that I want to be successful and keep on making my own money. But there is a part of me that would love nothing more than to be writing my own plays and directing them. That’s still successful, isn’t it?”
See the full shoot here.