COVER STORY

The Art of Being Kesewa Aboah

With her unique style, model and artist Kesewa Aboah straddles two creative worlds.
portrait of model kesewa aboah with blue and pink watercolor eye makeup and brushed out curly hair

London-born artist and model Kesewa Aboah's career would be completely different if she had followed her childhood dream. "I wanted to be a lawyer because I watched Legally Blonde every weekend. I thought Elle Woods was the coolest girl in the world," Aboah says. "That was the one [goal] I stuck with for a long time. I quite like arguing with people, so I thought I'd be really good at it." There is no argument that today the 26-year-old is generating buzz in the modeling world. She has walked the runway for Michael Kors and Coach and was a muse for recent Miu Miu and Alexander McQueen campaigns. 

It's not surprising that Aboah ended up in this line of work. Her older sister, Adwoa, is already a supermodel, and her parents are no strangers to the fashion world either. Aboah's British mother, Camilla Lowther, OBE, founded an artist management company, and Aboah's Ghanaian father, Charles Aboah, is a former location scout. Aboah was first signed to an agency when she was 16, but she didn't start taking modeling seriously until a few years ago. The experience she's having now feels much different than it did in her earlier days. "It's so nice going on sets and not feeling like you're the token Black girl," she says. "There's lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Not just in front of the camera, but behind it too." At the Allure shoot, Aboah worked with photographer Ruth Ossai, a Brit with Nigerian roots. "It was the first time I had ever met Ruth, but I'd been a big fan. I've actually bought a piece of her work before."

Paula Knorr dress.

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Aboah is also pursuing her own artistic ambitions. In 2017, she earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. "My parents pushed me to have confidence and to run with it," she says. Her art mixes quick body impressions with "long, taxing, and slow" embroidery. "I like the duality," Aboah explains. A few of her works were recently on display at a group exhibition in Paris. "At the beginning, I was more secretive about my art, but now I feel more confident." 

When she's not making prints or sewing, Aboah loves reading (currently A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara), watching movies, and eating, although she's not great in the kitchen. "Apparently I'm the only person that didn't learn how to cook in lockdown. I was not making any banana bread," Aboah says. She's looking forward to traveling again, especially to Accra, where she has "loads of family." Aboah has traveled to Ghana regularly since she was a child. “I've always felt [connected to] it," she says.

Loewe dress.

In the meantime, Aboah, who moved back to London from NYC last year, is living a low-key life and maintaining an equally low-maintenance beauty routine. "I don't really wear makeup. I just exfoliate [with Wildsmith Skin products] a couple of times a week, put on REN face cream, and then I go. I also use Palmer's Cocoa Butter on my body every day," she says. Her minimalist approach is surprising for someone who says her beauty icons are "anyone ageless with amazing skin," like supermodel Iman, or her Auntie Mary. "She's in her 90s, and she still looks like she's in her 70s."

Aboah says her natural hair regimen is a lot more time-consuming than her skin habits: "My hair is a lot of work and I struggle with that sometimes. I had braids until I was 17, so I learned how to look after my hair a bit later. It was definitely trial and error. My friend was a big help. She was like, ‘You’re a mess. Let me sort you out.'" Aboah conditions her hair every day and detangles it with a Mielle Organics deep conditioner once or twice a week. Sometimes she’ll incorporate a clay face-masking moment while she's combing through her 'fro. "I love a face mask," she says. And who could argue with that?

Photographer: Ruth Ossai. Stylist: Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. Hair: Issac Poleon. Makeup: Bea Sweet. Set Design: Luke Ossai. Production: Rosie Cartwright.

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Baze Mpinja is a Brooklyn-based beauty writer and editor. You can follow her on Instagram at @bazempinja.