In the age of social media, landing a coveted runway exclusive is no longer the sole way for a new face to distinguish herself during fashion month. While a prime spot at Prada or Givenchy will always turn heads, modeling can’t be reduced to a numbers game. In other words: It isn’t enough to walk the walk—you have to stand out from the pack.
The Fall 2019 shows were dominated by young people who did just that. Among this bright new crop, you’ll find entrepreneurs, content creators, and beauties for whom an impressive list of shows only tells one part of the story. Here, the models of the season share what fashion month was like for them.
Giselle Norman (New York: Women Management / London: Storm Models)
No one can match Giselle Norman when it comes to runway mileage this season. Though she first made her mark opening JW Anderson’s Fall 2018 show a year earlier, Norman celebrated her 18th year with a truly terrific run on the Fall 2019 schedule. “[It’s] much more than I could have hoped for,” said Norman speaking from her home in Petworth, West Sussex. “I have felt such a huge amount of support from everybody—my agents, the designers, stylists, casting directors, other models, makeup artists, and hairdressers, all the behind-the-scenes teams that never get acknowledged but are exceptionally hardworking.”
Make no mistake, walking 38 shows in four cities takes tenacity. “I have never worked so hard in my life and enjoyed it so much,” said Norman. “It sounds silly but after feeling ready to come home to relax, there is a part of me that is really missing everybody and the crazy magic of it all. I have so many brilliant memories that it is honestly impossible to pick one.”
Ugbad Abdi (Next Management)
Like many students, rising Somali star Ugbad Abdi took a gap year after high school to fulfill her personal goals. But rather than backpacking across Europe, Abdi decided to give modeling a try and quickly became one of the season’s standouts walking Miu Miu, Valentino, Off-White, and opening Marc Jacobs. “I started my Fashion Week by feeling really fearful because I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It has been a roller coaster of surprises.”
As a Muslim woman who chooses to wear a hijab, Abdi was initially apprehensive about the many requirements of her newfound career and the potential conflict with her dress code. “I already knew that [it] would be much easier for me to walk for shows in comparison to the Spring collections when it comes to my modesty,” said Abdi who was happy to find her place in fashion while staying true to herself. “I’ve met so many amazing people backstage at shows—I can’t wait to do it all again next season!”
Aliet Sarah (Storm Models)
For Aliet Sarah, fashion month was about more than clothes. “This season has been a manifestation of hope, ambition, dreams coming true,” shared the 18-year-old South Sudanese star via email. “Above all [it has been a] revelation that Africa is the future and models of color are being appreciated more, which is giving all my African sisters out there hope that one day their dreams will come true.”
Based in Uganda, Sarah had long dreamed of her moment in the spotlight, so when the opportunity arose to model in Europe she seized it. “I took every casting call as if I was already booked for their runway jobs,” she said. “Every time my bookers sent the casting call for these designers, I got goosebumps and my mind would automatically tell me: ‘Aliet, we got this!’ ” Her confidence paid off on the runway for Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, Dries Van Noten, and Versace, and she hopes her work can inspire others. “[This is] an honor and at the same time a new responsibility for me,” she said. “I’ll be forever grateful to everyone who believed in me—I strongly believe the journey has just begun.”