Model-activist Adwoa Aboah wants “Gurls Talk” to hold an event in Ghana.
“I just got back from Ghana,” she says,” and it was the first time. It sounds weird to say but I felt that they had claimed me… It meant more to me than anything.”
The daughter of a Ghanaian father and British mother, Aboah grew up in London. She set up “Gurls Talk” after a failed suicide attempt in 2015, openly sharing her struggle with mental health, bipolar disorder and addiction.
“‘Gurls Talk’ is everything I needed when I was growing up. It is a community and a safe space where one is able to share about anything without the fear of stigma or shame” she says.
“What I’ve created is a space, a safe space, in which everything is – you can talk about anything you want. Whether it be the divorce of your parents, your period, hormones, boyfriends, sex, mental health, everything. Nothing is too taboo.”
Her community now spans some 160,00 people online and she’s held events in London, LA, Mexico and on Sunday, she will hold one in New York. But she insists her community is not just for girls, she’s adamant boys need to be part of the conversation.
Sunday’s event will be the first time there are mental health workshops specifically for men. “Health from a male perspective by Professor Green” touches upon sexual abuse and sexual assault from the male perspective.
“It’s open to everyone. We have created a space like if you were sitting in your best friend’s bedroom. There are girls and boys, and mums and dads, and everyone sits together and you can do chanting on Sunday.”
Alongside workshops addressing sexual health and self-expression through poetry jams and art, there will also be workshops on race.
“I definitely think if we overlooked race when we’re talking about mental health and certain things that girls are going through, I don’t know if that would be fair… have all different types of girls that are part of ‘Gurls Talk.’ So I want to make sure that everyone has something that they can relate to.”
While she acknowledges that the modeling industry can be part of the problem in creating an unattainable image for young girls to aspire too, she says it’s never specifically been the cause of her own issues.
“When I first kind of started feeling like I did, I was like ‘Oh, but I go on amazing holidays, and I have two amazing parents, and a sister. My parents sent me to an amazing school.’ But, what I learned from going to as many treatment centers as I had to in the end, that it was all relative. And in that moment, I was sitting with people of all different ages who’d been through all different sorts of circumstances. But in that moment, in that space, in that room, we all felt sad. We all felt that we needed help and we were all able to relate to that feeling and that emotion.”
“There are times when you’re being judged on your appearance and you’re not feeling your best self. It hurts, but as I always say, I try and be 100 percent myself all the time. So if I’m rejected it just hurts that little bit less because at least I was myself. I spent so long trying to be other people and it made me really deeply unhappy.”
Asked what advice she would give her 16-year old self, she says: “I would tell myself there’s light at the end of the tunnel, Adwoa. Things look scary but there will be a day where you wake up and you feel less scared, more confident, and you will love yourself. So just keep at it.”