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How Hijab-Wearing Ugbad Abdi Became Fashion’s New Breakthrough Model

Before Halima Aden made her runway debut at the Yeezy Season 5 Show at New York Fashion Week in 2016, a hijab-wearing model on the runway was virtually unheard of. Fortunately, since then, the industry has been making improved strides when it comes to representation and inclusivity. We’ve witnessed the likes of Ikram Abdi Omar, Kadija Diawara, and Feriel Moulaï all strut down international catwalks wearing their veils. Now, a new hijab-wearing model has emerged on the scene, capturing the attention of major brands, including Marc Jacobs — whom she opened the Fall 2019 show for — Fendi, and Lanvin, among others. Indeed, even among the scores of mega-models walking fashion month, Abdi stands out. With her brown almond-shaped eyes, sharp cheekbones, and dramatic catwalk presence, it’s hard not to notice the model.

The Somali-American beauty, like Aden, grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Iowa with her family when she was nine-years-old. Her big break came last month, when she stepped out on the Valentino Spring 2019 Couture runway just before the show-closer, Naomi Campbell—not bad for her first show. “I have never been more happier in my entire life until today,” wrote the 18-year-old on Instagram following the showcase. “I’ve always dreamt of walking for Valentino and to think that it is the first ever show I’ve walked for is so bizarre,” she continued before thanking Pierpaolo Piccioli and the entire team for “believing in me and letting me walk for your breathtaking show.”

Signed to Next and Evolve Models, Abdi would go on to open Marc Jacob’s Fall 2019 showcase, before taking London Fashion Week by storm, appearing on the runways of Victoria Beckham, Simone Rocha, and Burberry wearing modest, streamlined looks. The Muslim model also made headlines for being the first hijab-wearing model to walk for Fendi, an accomplishment that was not lost on her. Sharing her excitement on Instagram, she wrote: “Words could never describe how I felt being so fortunate enough to walk in Karl’s last creations alongside such strong and incredible women.”

Now, with Paris Fashion Week currently underway (she’s already appeared on Lanvin’s Fall 2019 runway), Abdi is poised to becoming a breakout star to watch. Click through the slides in the gallery above to see the Muslim model’s best runway moments so far.

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