Adwoa Aboah on Frida Kahlo, feminism and the female gaze

As the V&A opens its new show on the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the model and Gurls Talk founder talks about the importance of having real life role models, and why the representation of women in the media still has a long way to go

We’re fortunate enough to be living during a time where there is no shortage of female role models to look to. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women first being given the right to vote, hundreds of thousands of us have made our voices heard in women’s marches all over the world, and the fempowerment movement continues to grow everyday. This collective stride towards gender equality is also being reflected in popular culture; Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls was among the first to show a more honest representation of the 20-something female experience, and the V&A’s latest exhibition is focusing one of history’s most enduring female role models, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

And yet, girls growing up today have arguably never been so anxious. For every Lena Dunham in the world, there is also the fashion designer Kate Spade and former Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon, both of whom are thought to have committed suicide in the past few weeks. The dichotomy between the perceived and real female experience is one of the main reasons why Adwoa Aboah founded online platform Gurls Talk in 2015. The 26-year-old model and activist wanted to create a community and a safe space for young girls and women where nothing is off topic, after struggling with drug addiction herself as a teenager while at boarding school and attempting to commit suicide earlier in 2015. “I needed a tribe and a place where I was able share everything that I didn’t feel I was able to talk about,” says Aboah. “Gurls Talk started with my mental health story and it’s beautifully moved on to become this place where I hand over the platform to other women in the community who have little to no voice within industries and the world to share their untold stories.”