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Model Adowa Aboah is no stranger to difficult conversations. In fact, she’s often the first to initiate them. Since gaining a platform for her work with fashion brands – work that saw her named Model of the Year in 2017 – Aboah has been making waves for her willingness to bare all in the name of encouraging women and girls to be upfront about their struggles.
This includes getting frank about her own experiences, including bouts of depression that led to an attempted suicide and unpacking the complex feelings that surrounded an abortion last year. It was Aboah’s own grapples with mental health that led her to found Gurls Talk, an online platform intended to provide a judgement-free space for young women to speak openly about issues they face.
The success of the site has seen the organisation branch out into workshops, talks and a real-life festival all lasering in on of-the-moment topics like social media, representation and modern feminism activism.
Now Aboah’s taken the next logical step and brought those conversations to the air with new podcast The Gurls Talk, made in collaboration with Nike. And only two episodes in, it’s fast establishing itself as a must-listen, thanks to the empowering and forthcoming chats Aboah has with her guests.
The first episode, released on 23 November, features singer Jorja Smith, a long-time friend of Aboah, getting real about embracing their mixed-race identities through their hair (“I looked like Lionel Riche” says Smith while confessing to a misguided perm in her youth) and the pressured reality of being a popstar who everyone wants a piece of.
At one point the duo talk about a party they attended and Smith says she could only relax when she realised no one was going to ask her anything about her album.
“I was in Toronto one time,” remembers Smith of another occasion. “It was [grime artist] Dave’s party. I was there for 45 minutes and I was not left alone by anybody. I realised it’s 10 seconds for those people but for me, that’s my whole night. And can you imagine being constantly told you’re great? That’s why I’m happy I’ve got people around me like my dad who does not care about telling me ‘I don’t like that song.’ You need those people.”
There’s also a strong focus on the benefits exercise can bring women. The second episode of The Gurls Talk, released today, features British-Somali champion boxer Ramla Ali who discusses how her teenage drive to lose weight transformed into a career that made her feel stronger and more powerful than anything previously.
“My mum got me a gym membership and I started doing classes,” she tells Aboah.
“I found a boxercise class and I thought ‘Oh, this is lovely’. After a [while] it wasn’t about changing myself; it became about loving myself. I was bullied. Sport helped me love myself and build my self-confidence.”
In the first episode, Smith and Aboah also discuss the role exercise has had in downplaying their anxiety; Aboah credits boxing with helping her post-sobriety journey and quietening the fretful voices in her head.
But the most striking thing is how raw the chats are; Aboah’s warm demeanour means candid conversations.
What follows are discussions that touch on both her guests’ individual experiences. Ali (who is hoping to represent Somalia at the 2020 Olympic Games and would be the first boxer to do so) recounts the difficulty of her early life as a refugee travelling to Britain and why she doesn’t want to be defined simply by her faith
But there’s also a focus on how they feel in a broader sense about being women in an often confusing and challenging world, with the last five minutes of each show focusing on what both Aboah and her guest are going to take away from their talk. It’s a show for the modern woman and we’re hooked.
Listen to The Gurls Talk here