the girls who inspired gurls talk
From the woman who gave her life, to the woman who saved her life, we meet the women Adwoa admires the most.
Kesewa wears sweatshirt Champion. Jewelry vintage from Pebble.
Kesewa Aboah, sister
Kesewa is Adwoa's younger sister. With less than two years between them, growing up it was Adwoa and Kesewa against the world. They did everything together: from weekday dinner feasts, featuring champagne flutes and ball gowns, to sharing baths, a tradition that's still alive today. "She will always have my back," Adwoa says. "I love Adwoa dearly, she's my absolute best friend," says Kesewa. Since Adwoa's recovery, during which she barely left her side, Kesewa has seen a great deal of change in her sister: "She's grown a lot more confident. She's finally going after what she wants and she's happier. When you're happy, and you love yourself, life is a lot better."
Camilla Lowther, mother
When it comes to inspirational women, there is no one more important than Adwoa's mother, Camilla Lowther. "I am half of this woman," Adwoa says. "Her power and work ethic is what makes me, me." Camilla has worked in fashion for 30 years, founding the hugely respected CLM agency, launching the careers of some of the industry's most respected photographers and stylists. Camilla understands first hand the pressures of the industry, which made it all the more heartbreaking when she saw her daughter buckle under them. Now that Adwoa is forging her own path and inspiring others to follow suit, Camilla couldn't be happier. "As a mother you want your children to be successful, whatever that means, but you also want them to be happy. I'm really proud of her."
Denise Gough, actress
Actress Denise Gough's big break came when she was cast in the lead role of Emma, in Duncan Macmillan's critically acclaimed play People, Places, Things. The Irish actress' blistering performance as a woman in the vicelike grip of alcohol and drug addiction earned her an Olivier award and the respect of the industry. Denise's brutally honest portrayal of recovery struck a chord with Adwoa. "I felt like her performance spoke to me and everything I felt about trying to get sober and finally succeeding," she says. Having lost a close friend to addiction and spent time with addicts to research for the role, addiction is something very close to Denise's heart too."It's so touching that Adwoa picked me for this story," she says. "It's so incredible how she's using her position to talk about addiction and mental health. We need to keep these conversations going."
Trisha Barrett, addictions counsellor
Adwoa and Trisha Barrett have a bond that occur once in a lifetime. Trisha saved Adwoa's life, not just by helping her quit alcohol and drugs, but by stopping Adwoa from wanting to take her own life, encouraging her to live it instead. "I wouldn't be here without Trisha," Adwoa says. "This project would not be complete without her." Having been an addict for 20 years herself, and having had her own life saved by Start 2 Stop, Trisha understood what Adwoa was going through. "She is one of our miracles. The thought of her not being in this world isn't right."
Florence Dixon, family friend
As teenagers, Florence and Adwoa each thought the other was impossibly cool and confident. In reality, Adwoa was struggling with depression, while Florence had an eating disorder. "I thought everyone else was perfect, but you never know what's going on behind closed doors," Florence says. Adwoa set up Gurls Talk to stop girls from feeling isolated and to provide a platform for them to connect with others experiencing similar things. "Florence has no idea how beautiful she is inside and out," says Adwoa.
Jazzy de Lisser, actress and best friend
"I remember the first time I saw Adwoa," says best friend Jazzy, "we were six and we'd just started school. I looked through the doors and saw this girl running around in circles because she was desperate to pee but couldn't find the bathroom. The teacher said, 'That little girl is so strange!' When you're young you're instantly drawn to people. It was like that with Adwoa." "It was love at first sight," Adwoa agrees. "And it has been ever since." 15 years later and the pair are still thick as thieves. They've been through everything together. They recently lived together in LA where Jazzy was filming and Adwoa was setting up Gurls Talk. "I'm so proud of everything Adwoa's doing," Jazzy beams. "Everything she's been through has given her the strength to speak and do what she's always wanted to do."
Michaela Coel, actress, poet and playwright
Award-winning actress Michaela Coel first caught Adwoa's attention at a gig in Notting Hill. Adwoa was there to watch her cousin sing, when Michaela got up on stage for an impromptu poetry reading. Years later, Adwoa went to see her in a performance of Chewing Gum Dreams, the one-woman play Michaela both wrote and starred in shortly after leaving drama school. "Michaela's voice is a voice of our generation," Adwoa says. From musings about tampons to bullying on the back of the school bus, Chewing Gum Dreams touches on themes of girlhood and growing up in Tower Hamlets. "I've spent most of my life surrounded by women," reflects 28-year-old Michaela, "but most of what I knew when I was younger about how to be a woman, was how to be a woman for a man. But as I've grown older, I've realised that we should be free to do whatever we want, be what we want, wear what we want, and do what we want."
Lola de Valera, set builder and mother to Artemis, 6
Lola grew up in the middle of nowhere, and had a baby when she was 17. Six years later, and she's raised a beautiful girl. Adwoa wishes she'd known Lola growing up. She's testament to the fact that you can survive whatever life throws at you and come out the other side without sacrificing too much of yourself. "It's made me aware of how everyone views women in the world and what our role is," Lola says, "which is important as I'm raising one."
Monique Etienne, stripper
Monique has been stripping since she was 19. "The biggest misconception is why girls do it," she says. "Not all of us have issues." Now 23, her no-nonsense approach to the female body demonstrates amazing confidence. "I envy and respect her self awareness," Adwoa says. Monique explains. "I wanted to defy expectations of sexuality and the female body, not to others but myself."
Aisha Hawkins, Tanya Lancaster, Amal Abdi, schoolgirls
Aisha, Tanya, and Amal are best friends from Winchmore School in north London. They're only 14, but more sure of themselves than women twice their age. "All three are going somewhere," Adwoa says. The girls are facing the perils of growing up in our social media age. "At school there's an Instagram page that rates girls by their looks," Aisha explains. "It doesn't really concern me. I may not be the prettiest, but I'm ok with that." For Tanya, who wants to be a fashion designer, the hardest part of being a girl is having to constantly overcome stereotypes, which is exactly what Gurls Talk is all about: nurturing and inspiring young girls to be themselves, and live up to their full potential.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Clare Shilland
Styling Danielle Emerson curated by Adwoa Aboah
Hair Tracey Cahoon for Cahoonas LSOH using Kiehl's. Make-up Rebecca Wordingham at Saint Luke Artists using Estée Lauder and Gazelli Skincare. Casting director Madeleine Østlie at AAMO Casting. Models Camilla Lowther. Kesewa Aboah. Jazzy de Lisser. Denise Gough. Trisha Barrett. Florence Dixon. Michaela Coel. Monique Etienne. Aisha Hawkins. Tanya Lancaster. Lola de Valera. Artemis de Valera.