When Devyn Abdullah first signed up for Naomi Campbell’s modeling competition The Face, there was no way she was going home without the crown. “I knew that once I came home, there was no excuse for me to go back to working three jobs and not having any help. There was absolutely no way I was going back to that life.”

Abdullah is much more than just a fashion model, she is an inspiration. After being the first winner on The Face and being given a seal of approval from top supermodel Karolina Kurkova, Devyn continues to prove she has what it takes to be a huge success in the fashion industry. Since winning, Abdullah became the face and ambassador for international beauty brand Ulta Beauty. She’s also a spokesperson for the National Urban League. And most recently, she took New York Fashion Week by storm, hosting events, attending shows and ripping runways. And if that doesn’t sound busy enough, the 21-year-old Bronx native is also mother to a beautiful 2 year-old girl, Bryse.

Even with her increasingly busy schedule, Abdullah still finds time to give back to her community. Next month, she’ll join the Smile Train charity as the host of World Smile Day in New York City. But according to Devyn, balancing career and motherhood is the least of her worries. Abdullah now works successfully in the fashion and entertainment industry, and has had to opportunity to share her story with the nation.

EBONY: Fashion week is one of the craziest times in fashion. How was your first experience since winning The Face?

Devyn Abdullah: It was insane for me, in a positive way! It was definitely a whirlwind. I hosted an event for Ulta Beauty because I’m now the brand ambassador. On top of that, I was attending shows and walking in shows. Somehow, someway you saw me during fashion week. It was awesome for my career because people got to see me work in so many different categories. I loved fashion week this season. I can’t wait for next season!

EBONY: We know you were discovered and modeling before competing on The Face, but how has winning such a big competition really transformed your career?

DA: It has opened so many different doors for me, besides just modeling. That’s one thing that I definitely love about The Face above any other modeling competition or reality show out there right now. If you watched the show, the challenges were more than just posing, more than just being a pretty face and learning how to walk down a runway. You had to be personable; you had to know how to talk and deal with people. It prepared you not just for the fashion industry, but for the entertainment industry as well. And because of that experience, I’ve been exposed to acting opportunities and spoken for the National Urban League. I’ve done so many things in my career already and it’s only the first year.

EBONY: How do you balance the heavy demands of being a mother and being a full-time working model?

DA: That’s the easiest part! Being a mother is something I hold very dear to my heart. Before the show, I was working three jobs while trying to keep my modeling career going. What I love about my career now is that everyone knows I am a mother. I can bring my daughter with me on trips, on castings and to photo shoots. People understand and respect the fact that I’m a mother. A lot of people actually love that I’m a mother. Sometimes a photo shoot will start off with just me and end up being me and my daughter; they embrace my daughter. So being a mother has never been a conflict or a problem in my new career. 

EBONY: You have such radiant, clear skin! What products do you use that keep your face so clear and glowing?

DA: For cleaning my skin I use Noxema. Noxema really does it for me! I’ve been using it for years. My mom uses it as well and I picked it up from her. When it comes to my skin, I’m a very old school chick. I don’t really use new products because there are so many chemicals in it and it’s hard for me to find things that aren’t too oily or don’t dry my face out. To moisture my skin, I use Pond’s Cold Cream. It smells amazing and it moisturizes your skin enough so that it’s not greasy. I’ve really been blessed with good skin genes.

EBONY: What are some of your favorite fashion brands right now?

DA: I do have my typical favorite brands, but right now my favorite brand is Amerikan Outkast. I like to wear new stuff. And I like to wear brands that you’re not going to see a bunch of other people wearing. Amerikan OutKast is my absolute favorite brand right now; I’m actually wearing right now as we speak.

EBONY: We know you have so much farther to go, but what has been your best career moment so far?

DA: Definitely New York Fashion Week. I met so many people and have had so many people showing me love. I walked shows; I made huge connections and just did so much. And now I’m actually getting ready to travel to Singapore in a few weeks for their fashion week. So I would definitely say that fashion week was amazing for me. I don’t just want to be known as the girl that won The Face. I wanted people to say, “That girl is a real model.”

EBONY: What advice would you give to young women who want to emerge into the fashion industry as a model?

DA: A big lesson that I had to learn is to just be myself. It’s not about fitting into a certain category, it’s not about trying to resemble someone else. It’s really about being you and having people respect that. I feel like in the modeling industry, people are always saying, “she’s edgy so she’s in this category” or “she’s a Black girl so she’s going to be referred to as a Black model.” That’s something that I don’t believe in whatsoever. I don’t believe in categories and I don’t believe in limits. I am Devyn, and that’s what I’m going to exude out to people, and people are going to have to respect that. That’s the best thing that you can do for your career in general.

I admire Naomi Campbell because she has done her own thing for all these years and look where she is now. Girls always ask me what they can do to be accepted into the industry, and I always tell them you have to have the industry love you for you. There’s no haircut or makeover you can get to make people love you. It’s something on the inside of you. It is not about accepting the fashion industry, it’s about having the fashion industry accept you. 

EBONY: What is your ultimate goal for yourself and your career?

DA: I don’t really have any ultimate goals. I’ve always known that I wanted to be successful. I’ve always known that I have a voice that needs to be heard. And I’ve always known that I wanted to provide a stable life for me and my daughter. I studied art and I’ve always been an artistic person, so I love to do anything in the arts. I really love my career right now, because there are so many things for me to do with it. So my goal right now is not to be a supermodel or an Oscar-winning actress, even though both of those things can happen. It’s really about me trying to brand myself and letting God do what he does best. But I know one thing: this is not the last time you will see me. 

Follow Devyn on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on her new life as a model! 

—Imani Kai