Catwalk star Ugbad Abdi storms NYFW

Ugbad Abdi at Anna Sui fall 2020 ready-to-wear. AFP
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Updated 11 February 2020

Catwalk star Ugbad Abdi storms NYFW

DUBAI: Before US-Somali Halima Aden made her runway debut at the Yeezy Season 5 Show at New York Fashion Week in 2016, a model wearing a hijab on an international runway was virtually unheard of. Fortunately, since then, the industry has been making strides when it comes to representation and inclusivity.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed the rise of a diverse set of models strutting down the catwalk wearing their headscarves. Chief among them is Ugbad Abdi, the Somali beauty who has captured the attention of major brands and designers, including Marc Jacobs, whom she opened the Fall 2019 show for.

She would go on to grace the catwalks of Lanvin, Dries Van Noten, Burberry, Max Mara and Michael Kors, for whom she recently fronted a campaign, among others.

And it appears that the model, who made headlines as the first hijab-wearing model to walk for Fendi in 2019, is showing no signs of slowing down.

The 19-year-old is currently taking New York Fashion Week by storm, appearing on the runway of R13 before shutting down the Anna Sui and Oscar de la Renta catwalks on Monday.

Ugbad Abdi at Anna Sui fall 2020 ready-to-wear. AFP

At New York-based label Anna Sui, the rising star had two runway turns, first appearing in a long, fur-lined coat and wide-brimmed hat before changing into a graphic hoodie and shearling coat worn with a sheer, purple skirt over vibrant red tights.

Abdi walked among a star-studded cast that included Nora Attal, Imaan Hammam and Bella Hadid, among others.

Meanwhile, at Oscar de la Renta, which showcased its Fall 2020 collection at the New York Public Library in the presence of a star-studded front row that included Nicky Hilton Rothschild and Logan Browning, the model stepped onto the runway just after show-opener Bella Hadid, wearing a navy pull-over tucked into hot pink, loose-fitting trousers.

Ugbad Abdi at Oscar de la Renta fall 2020 ready-to-wear. AFP

Like Aden, Abdi grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Iowa with her family when she was nine-years-old. Her big break came in 2018, when she stepped out on the Valentino Spring 2019 couture runway just before the show-closer, Naomi Campbell.

Now, with London, Milan and Paris Fashion Week still to come, one thing is for certain: We can expect a lot more striking runway moments from Abdi. 

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.