Connect with us

Woman

Fashion Bloggers Signing Off In Style

mm

Published

on

Being Her fashion blog

It’s a grey and drizzly afternoon on London’s Brick Lane, but in the colorful Cereal Killer Café, the Berhane twins snap, crackle and pop with a fizzy brand of good-natured irritation.

They’re telling stories in British Sign Language about the challenges that led them to create Being Her, their vibrant, globally-popular fashion blog, an internet and Instagram sensation that has propelled them to celebrity status in their native Eritrea.

“In the fashion world, we still feel a bit invisible and side-lined,” says Hermi (whose sign name is Curly Hair, a gesture like a flowing river).

“But it’s funny, because slowly their attitude has changed… They look at our story and the work that we’re doing, and it’s starting to inspire them.”

The twins fell suddenly and profoundly deaf at seven years old, on the same day, because of an undiagnosed illness, and their mother rushed them to the USA and UK in search of an answer.

It was in Brighton, on the English south coast, that their worlds eventually opened up through sign language.

“We found our identity at boarding school,” says Heroda (sign name: Long Eyelashes, the panache of an elegantly scooped finger).

“Sign language was so beautiful, and the deaf community just became our family. Within the hearing world, it can be very lonely. As soon as we were in that deaf world, we fitted in – it was where we belonged.”

READ MORE: Fashion in The Operation Theater?

Both studied fashion design at the University of the Arts in London, but often felt isolated and misunderstood.

“We were determined to get through the course, we really wanted to stick at it, so we focused on the work,” says Heroda. “But it really affected our confidence. We were viewed as ‘less than’; they doubted we could achieve the same as them.”

After a series of knock-backs after graduation, when the twins experienced rejection at the job interview stage or being passed up for promotion, they had had enough. Their blog was born, the success of which still fazes some members of the hearing community.

“They email us telling us they can help us to hear and be more successful,” Hermi says. “And we’re like, ‘Hello? We’re successful bloggers! Can you not read?’ Just because we are deaf, they think we’re dumb.”

Hermi Berhane Being Her fashion blog

Hermi Berhane (Photo by Aneesa Dawoojee)

The blog (and its Instagram account) is a giddy celebration of joyful vibrancy and individuality; while they insist their photographs and style selections are not meticulously planned, their fashion shoots pulse with a focused understanding of contrast and color. There’s even a hilariously spooky Halloween photo story, with the undead twins accessorized with matching zombie-babies.

With representation by The Presley Group in Los Angeles recently secured, the future for the twins looks as bright as their outfits (they’re as effortlessly stunning in jeans and sparkly motorcycle jackets as in heels and flowing geometric tribal prints).

“Our aim is to have a brand, we want to have collaborations and sponsorship,” says Heroda. “And we want to do some motivational speaking for people with disabilities, just to show them that they don’t need to have low self-esteem, they can be confident in themselves.”

It is touching that almost by way of illustration, the twins turn and address each other with their signing when they respond to these questions – a sisterly feedback loop of affirmation and reinforcement.

“Within the deaf community there are so few role models that other deaf people can look up to,” Heroda says. “So we really want to be there, to be able to support people, so that they can look up to somebody and think, ‘oh yeah, in the future, I can do that, I can achieve my dreams’.”

READ MORE: Karlie Kloss – Coding’s Supermodel

In tandem, they also hope for more understanding of deaf awareness in the hearing world.

“Signing is physical, it’s visual, it relies quite a lot on facial expressions and a positive vibe,” says Hermi. “So that’s one of the aims of our blog – we want to educate people on what sign language means, and give them a sense of deaf awareness. People need to be more open-minded. That’s been a problem for so long and it just still seems to be there. Not just in the fashion industry but within the work culture in offices, and all sorts of places.”

“A while ago, we met someone who told us they had seen us on Instagram, and started to learn sign language because of us,” Heroda says. “And that’s really so important. I used to be so shy. I would always hide and put my hair over my ears. Now I feel so optimistic.”

Heroda Berhane Being Her fashion blog

Heroda Berhane (Photo by Aneesa Dawoojee)

Their escalating popularity in Eritrea, and its neighbor Ethiopia, is also having a constructive impact.

“They are very supportive of us,” says Hermi. “Because in Eritrea, there isn’t much awareness about disabilities, and sometimes they think deafness is associated with evil. We’ve been able to show them deafness in a new light, and now they’re like, ‘oh wow! Those two twin girls!”

They are terrific company; there is an infectious air of mischief about them, and it flourishes in their blog as an essential ingredient in their charismatic energy.

“If you’re feeling a bit down, and you see somebody whose lives look happy, it draws you to them,” says Hermi. “And we hope that’s what our followers see in us every day.”

It’s time for the shoot (in which they will giggle and tease each other throughout), but they say they want to wrap up with a resolute message, a provocative takeaway for a new audience.

“Being deaf isn’t a barrier,” they say, shifting in their chairs, outwards towards the world. “And neither is being scared.”

Interview

Why We Need ‘Hard Cash In The Economy’

Published

on

Busi Mabuza, the Chairperson of the Board of the Industrial Development Corporation, on the BRICS summit and why we need to start talking as an African bloc.

(more…)

Continue Reading

Focus

The Heroes Among Us

mm

Published

on

Heroes exist in history, on celluloid, in pop culture or in these digital times, at the forefront of technology. These are the mighty who shine on the front pages of newspapers, as the paradigms of victory and virtue. But every day in public life, surrounding us are some of the real stars, the nameless, the faceless we don’t recognize or celebrate. In the pages that follow, we look at some of them, exploring the exemplary work they do, from the war zones to your neighborhood streets. They are not flawless, they are not infallible, but they are heroes.

(more…)

Continue Reading

Entrepreneurs

The Ghanaian Who Brought HR Corporate America To Ghana

mm

Published

on

Ghana is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies this year, according to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the IMF. Its projected growth in 2018 is between 8.3-8.9%.

The Ghanaian workforce is young, with 57% of the population under the age of 25. This means millions of new graduates enter the workforce each year. One woman who understands the struggle that awaits this unsuspecting group in corporate Ghana is Human Resources (HR) entrepreneur, Rita Kusi.

Kusi is the founder and CEO of Keeping “U” Simply Intact (KUSI) Consulting, a marketing, training and recruiting company based in the United States (US) and in Ghana. She is also the Managing Director of threesixtyGh, a social enterprise company with an online presence showcasing innovative ventures in Ghana and the people behind them.

Born in Bolga, Northern Ghana, Kusi’s family gained access to the US through the US Visa Lottery in the early 80s. The family relocated to the US in 1991 where Kusi remained until 2013. And that is also where she amassed a wealth of experience working in several sectors.

READ MORE: Cracking the Code and Bridging The Gender Gap

After college, Kusi worked a number of temporary jobs, from telemarketing in Atlanta to door-to-door sales in Maryland. She even tried her hands at customer services and working in cafes.

“I think for me having held all these jobs opened my eyes and I realized especially what I wanted to do in corporate America,” says Kusi.

All these experiences came together when she applied for a new role as HR assistant. When she did not hear back from the company regarding her application, Kusi took the initiative and called the hiring manager.

“So my dad told me to call and get feedback and as I called my CV happened to be in front of the hiring manager and he invited me in for the interview. I knew nothing about HR but I was just really looking for a job and I ended up getting that job and it was the longest I ever stayed at any job so that was a sign,” says Kusi.

She had finally found her calling in HR but it was not until a nostalgic visit back home that she would merge all her US experience together, ushering in a new life as an entrepreneur.

There were no real training programs at the time focused on improving the quality of customer service in Ghana. Kusi seized the opportunity to provide quality HR training programs, which she hoped organizations would pay for. And they did. This was the birth of Kusi Consulting.

From training services, the company has morphed its offerings into recruitment services and Kusi is now diversifying into skills-training as well as business process outsourcing, where the company handles the pay roll function for other corporate clients. Her timing couldn’t be more perfect. Hiring the right people is critical for companies to reduce employee attrition and enhance returns from HR. Companies face challenges in accurately perceiving and assessing an employee’s quality attributes prior to hiring that employee. This problem is more pronounced in African economies, which involves novices who do not have prior work records attesting to their raw skills, learning abilities and motivation. And this is where Kusi comes in.

READ MORE: Remembering A Corporate Legend

She believes a specialist HR function is imperative in every organization to ensure maximum output by each employee. However, she has had some difficulty convincing corporate Ghana.

“It has been challenging operating here especially being a female because it is literally a man’s world and in this country, it’s all about who you know… There is that challenge of how do I make myself look older and more respected?” she says.

But ever resilient, Kusi refuses to back down. She hopes to create her own temp agency where she has skilled staff inhouse which she can outsource on demand to other companies. Her newly-formed team is just as passionate about the business and with that focus, she is rebranding her company to be a leader in HR not only in Ghana but across Africa.

Continue Reading

Trending