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Take five: Adesuwa Aighewi

We take five minutes with model and filmmaker Adesuwa Aighewi to ask about everything from growing up in Nigeria to the importance of self-love.


Adesuwa wears top and shorts by COS.



Adesuwa wears dress by COS.

For Adesuwa Aighewi the road to becoming a world-famous model and filmmaker has been anything but ordinary. Before she was a familiar face on the catwalks of London, Milan, Paris and New York, her life was spent between the US and her father’s homeland Nigeria. Fast forward to 2021, and she’s still rewriting the rulebook – using her voice to promote cultural diversity in the industry and make a positive impact on society.

While her most recent projects include a film to empower ethnic communities and an online fair-trade marketplace, it was science that first ignited her desire to make a difference. Having secured an internship at NASA and a place at Maryland University at a young age, Adesuwa seemed destined to follow in her parents’ footsteps, until she got spotted. ‘Everyone tells awkward tall teenage girls to model’ she laughs. ‘And eventually you try it, whatever the reason.’ It wasn’t long before curiosity got the better of her and she swapped chemistry for the catwalk. ‘I saw new possibilities for living and spaces to exist,’ she says. ‘So, I thought, why not?’

We caught up with Adesuwa after shooting the COS Spring 2021 campaign to find out more about her journey so far…

‘Spring in Harlem’ 2018, a film directed by Adesuwa Aighewi (Image: Nigel Hosang).

What was it like growing up in Nigeria? How has it shaped you?
‘It’s the most beautiful place. Nigeria itself has an energy of its own.’

What choices do you make on a daily basis that contribute to a more sustainable world?
‘Mindfulness of the self and others.’

What is the most important step, in your opinion, for those who want to act more responsibly?
‘Taking the time to really be still and quiet, get to know – and love – yourself. When you do, you’ll realise the world isn’t just for you and that everyone deserves to be here. We are not all the same, but we don’t have to be.’

How has your relationship with yourself changed, over your years working in the industry?
‘No, I stand strongly despite a million voices moving through me. I trust her.’

You made your filming debut with ‘Spring in Harlem’. Can you tell us about the film?
‘I developed a keen interest in clothes after moving to America, going from uniforms to dressing for high school ‘trends’. I went to three different schools and in each one I was a different Adesuwa, based on my clothes. It’s quite fascinating, the dance of it all.

I also saw how other parts were demonised. I remember thinking how silly it was for people to be so scared of the hijab but then wear scarves. I made ‘Spring in Harlem’ so the world could see who’s underneath the hijab.’

Tell us about Legacy Project — the online fair-trade marketplace you’ve set up. What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
‘To open borders and open communication. To see boys in Ohio wearing clothes from Ebute Metta or Yaba in Lagos. Bringing an infrastructure where lots of money can be made locally and globally. It’s about art and all the possibilities life can offer.’

What do you hope for from the future?
‘Total freedom, liberated female form at its finest.’

Adesuwa Aighewi (@adesuwa) wears the SS21 collection for COS. Photography by Karim Sadli. Styling by Aleksandra Woroniecka.

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