Step Aside, This 18-Year-Old Model Is Taking Over Runways at Fashion Week


Ugbad Abdi in Fendi show

Born in Somalia, lived in a refugee camp for nine years in Kenya, currently residing in Iowa, and now modeling for some of the biggest name in the fashion industry including Valentino, Lanvin, and Burberry, Ugbad Abdi has had an eventful life and is still just 18 years of age. Known as the first hijabi model to walk for Fendi, where she shared the runway with the Hadid sisters in the late Karl Lagerfeld's last show in Milan, Abdi is one of a growing number of hijabi models to make it to the limelight in the past few years.

This rising star was discovered on Instagram by Next Models just two months after graduating. She was then flown to Paris to walk alongside Naomi Campbell in the Valentino Spring 2019 couture show. Today, she is dominating the runways at Paris Fashion Week, and has been part of shows for Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs, Matty Bovan, Victoria Beckham, Simone Rocha, Burberry, Max Mara, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Off-White, and Lanvin, with no signs of her popularity slowing down.


Shahira Yusuf

Abdi is part of a new generation of Muslim models who choose to don the hijab and who are using the runway to shift the conversation, models such as Halima Aden, Kadija Diawara, Ikram Abdi Omar, Shahira Yusuf, and Feriel Moulaï. Speaking to Vogue recently, she explained how excited she was to be there, walking in the same show as one of fashion’s biggest icons, and how being catapulted into the limelight has been “the biggest shock” because she never thought it would happen so fast.

“I almost fainted because I didn’t know Naomi [Campbell] was even in the show, let alone right behind me! […] It was the biggest surprise because I wasn’t even thinking about who would be in the show, because I didn’t even think I’d be a part of it,” she recalled.

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