Model to Watch in V119: Ugbad Abdi
As she poses for her first V photo for V119, see why Next Models’ Ugbad Abdi is one of the industry’s rising stars.
Below, read why Ugbad Abdi, seen above in V119 in Louis Vuitton, is our model to watch.
A lot has changed for Ugbad Abdi in the last ten years. This May, she’s seen in V119 with Louis Vuitton earbuds, featured in What V Want. But in 2009, the model, then nine years old and being raised in a refugee camp in Kenya, was able to move to Des Moines, Iowa with her family. After being born in Somalia and raised in Kenya, the settlement halfway around the world didn’t feel completely natural: “As a child, I loved moving around and meeting new kids,” the model says. “It was really exciting but also sad leaving my first best friends from the camp. But seeing how happy my family and relatives were to come to the U.S. made me excited!”
Fast-forward another decade, and the model landed into another hemisphere: this time in Paris, where she was set to walk in her first runway show. In Valentino Haute Couture, alongside industry veterans and legends like Naomi Campbell, Ugbad went from the modeling industry newcomer to its darling. Another slew of runway work ensued for the Fall-Winter 2019 season, first at Marc Jacobs in New York and eventually making the global rounds at Simone Rocha in London and Fendi in Milan to name a few, donning either her hijab or headwear in its place at each. “It’s been 10 months of an exciting journey so far and I’m looking forward to each new day,” she says.
Before she signed to an agency, she didn’t just fall into Next’s lap. They found her on Instagram after her high school graduation, two months into her self-imposed gap year. “I’m a first generation graduate in my family so I really wanted to pursue something that would help my family. I was passionate about the idea of nursing and helping others,” she says. “I told myself that I’ll take a gap year to really figure out what it is that I wanted.”
After a whirlwind week starting with a Direct Message and ending with a flight to New York, Abdi remembers her first-ever test shoot. “It was the most exciting day of my life,” she says. “I really felt respected and welcomed with open arms.” Citing the likes of Iman as a personal hero, the two share more than Somali heritage, each recognizable for their swanlike posture and ease before the lens. “I’ve always looked up to Iman because I felt like she represented me and many other girls in the public eye,” as Iman’s fame transcended fashion realms into celebrity. “But my mom has always taught my siblings and I to never compromise who you truly are for anyone, and to try to be the change you needed growing up for kids growing up now.”