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Awa Ceesay thinks she’s having a bad hair day. “It’s pretty wet out,” the 22-year-old Parisian model says, shaking out her umbrella. “When the rain hits my scalp, my hair gets this big.” Regardless of what Ceesay may see, her hair isn’t frizzy, but rather slicked back into the clean, sleek ’do, an overall look that’s become her signature. Since being scouted and signing with IMG Paris last March, the 5-foot 10 1/2-inch model has been slowly building her résumé. She booked her first show, Hermès’ fall 2011 collection, having never walked in heels before. “I was always so tall that I didn’t need to wear them,” she says. “When I first put them on, I was like, These hurt so much. Why would anyone ever want them?” She’s gotten used to footwear pains since then, racking up some impressive editorials: German Elle, Elle Italia and L’Officiel. She also just shot a Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance ad. We sat down with Ceesay to discuss what’s next.
WWD: Did you have an interest in fashion before you started modeling?
AC: I’d look at the Vogue Web site and the fashion blogs. Growing up in Paris, everyone either works in the fashion industry or knows someone who does. So I was interested in fashion but never did I ever think I could model. I’m a very shy person and I just didn’t know anything about it. I remember when IMG first gave me my book, I was like, What is this for? Do I have to carry this around with me? They were like, “Uh, yes.”
WWD: How do you think Paris fashion differs from New York fashion?
AC: They’re completely different. In Paris, the fashion sensibility is less relaxed. People are much more put together. There’s more effort in their fashion. Here, people don’t care as much. They can wear whatever they want, pajamas even, and nobody will look at you like you’re crazy. In Paris, they judge a little too much.
WWD: How do you like to dress? Are you more on the relaxed side or more put together?
AC: I’d say I dress more like a Parisian. I like to dress simple but clean. I like the basics but with an edge. But when I go out, I add a little more oomph. I like to dress up. Before I was modeling, I use to wear extensions in my hair so I could pull it off more. You don’t have as many options when your hair is this short. I still feel a little naked without my extensions!
WWD: You’ve only done Paris fashion weeks before. Are you excited to do New York and Milan this time around?
AC: I am, but I know it will be a lot. You have fittings, castings, shows. It never ends, so I like to get my body prepared before it all starts by doing a little pampering. I start eating a little better in the weeks before, more vegetables. I take care of my skin. I like doing masks. I’ll only use cold water on my face, too. It’s better for your skin.
WWD: I feel like I would just be sleeping all the time the two weeks before the castings started just so I got my body well rested.
AC: I’m a lazy girl year-round, so I’ll be relaxing. I love watching American TV. Here you have a lot of télé réalité, which I love. My favorite is “Wife Swap!”