It used to be a common occurrence for twenty-six-year-old Somali-Norwegian model Ceval Omar to walk into a room and not see anyone like her. Omar is a Black, trans curve model, an intersection not often represented by the fashion and media industries. But in 2018, she put a decent-sized dent in those barriers when she was signed to three global modeling agencies—Heartbreak in Oslo, Muse in New York, and Present in London — all within ten hours of each other.
Growing up, Omar always felt othered looking at the pages of glossy magazines. She loved fashion but never thought she would be a face of it, preferring instead to work behind the scenes as a model scout for Heartbreak. All that changed when a client contacted her on Facebook and she realized that a career in front of the camera was in her cards. In the two years since, she has graced the pages of British Vogue, Elle Norway, and V Magazine to name a few.
Her debut as a model, however, felt less than welcoming. Omar recalls arriving Fashion’s on set and it quickly becoming apparent that she had been hired as the label’s token face for inclusivity points. Even worse, she was paraded around in a dress that had to be cut open to fit her body. It wasn’t just humiliating, it was minimizing. “It very much takes away your energy,” she says. “But also disenfranchises you and your being.”
It would be an understatement to say that the world has shifted since then. Last summer’s global calls for racial justice awakened the fashion industry, Omar believes. “I think there’s more people aware of their positions, more aware of their responsibility to acknowledge and validate these aspects of people that have been othered for so long,” she says.
Today, Omar prioritizes working with Black photographers, stylists, and designers. “Fashion in itself was never meant to stay still,” she adds. “Fashion is living, moving, constantly redesigning itself. So, how hard was it to imagine other people being in fashion? I don’t understand that.”
As her star has risen, Omar is conscious to lift others up with her. She’s outspoken on social media, celebrating and advocating for people of color and calling for an end to white supremacy. She sits on the board of the Norwegian Fashion Hub’s diversity task force, ensuring her Black trans brothers and sisters are properly heard, and last year she was nominated for Norway’s Today’s Business Guiding Star Award for empowering trans youth. The recognition comes years after her own confidence battles growing up, and she’s aware that earning a seat at the table isn’t a trend—it’s real life. “You can post three things and you’re called an activist,” she says with a laugh. “I’d rather use my space for critical, important things.”
Little Ceval would be proud, she muses. What words of encouragement would she give her younger self? “Understand that pain is today, and maybe even tomorrow, and maybe even the third day, but it’s not forever,” she says. “Let yourself live and let yourself love, and don’t be fearful of it.”
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PHOTOGRAPHY FABIEN MONTIQUE
STYLIST MARIE CHEIAKH
CREATIVE CONSULTANT EDOUARD RISSELET
HAIR PIERRE SAINT SEVER
MU AURORE GIBRIEN
MANICURE CAM TRAN
MOVEMENT DIRECT PIERRE PODEVYN
STYLE ASSISTANT ELISA THERRIAUD
PHOTO ASSISTANTS MARIANNE DEROUDILHE & JEREMY KONKO
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER SASHA BAR TUR
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