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Fashion Bloggers Signing Off In Style

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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.”

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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’.”

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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.”

Current Affairs

South Africa’s Tamaryn Green is first runner-up at Miss Universe pageant

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 Catriona Gray from the Philippines was crowned Miss Universe on Monday, the fourth time the Southeast Asian country has won the international beauty pageant.

Gray, a 24-year-old Filipino-Australian model, won the title in the Thai capital Bangkok where the pageant included for the first time a transgender contestant.

“My heart is filled with so much gratitude. There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure,” said Gray, who wore a red and orange dress that was inspired by Mount Mayon, a volcano that erupted this year.

Miss South Africa, Tamaryn Green, 24 was the first runner-up, followed by Miss Venezuela, Sthefany Gutiérrez, 19.

Gray was asked during the contest about her views on legalizing marijuana and replied that she supported it for medical uses.

After she was crowned, Gray told reporters the question was “definitely relevant” and “an active topic”, in an apparent reference to the war on drugs in the Philippines that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm.

Gray said during the pageant that working in a Manila slum had taught her to find beauty in difficult situations.

“If I could teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face,” she said.

Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, 27, made history as the first transgender contestant in the 66-year-old pageant.

Gray is the fourth Filipina to win Miss Universe and the second in three years. The pageant was shown live on the country’s biggest television network and dominated social media.

Salvador Panelo, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said her win would put the country on the world map for its “beauty and elegance.”

“In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work,” he said.

The Philippines previously won Miss Universe titles in 2015, 1973 and 1969. – Reuters

  • Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Neil Jerome Morales 

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IN PICTURES | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives Nelson Mandela public lecture

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“When it comes to history and memory … it’s easy to remember Nelson Mandela, because he is Nelson Mandela. Who determines whose story we value above others?”


This was a question asked by Cathy Mohlahlana, the facilitator of a panel discussion at the Nelson Mandela Tribute to mark the fifth anniversary of his passing.  

Celebrated author and notable feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the keynote speaker at the event hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation at the UNISA Ormonde campus in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 12, 2018.

Before Adichie’s address, the audience was regaled by the sounds of the Soweto Gospel Choir who sang songs such as Thina Sizwe, Lizalise Idinga Lakho, and Brenda Fassie’s Vul’indlela. 

In paying homage to other anti-apartheid activists, the choir concluded their performance with the Peter Gabriel song Biko. The song is named after Bantu Stephen Biko who died in police detention in 1977, and was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid campaign the Black Consciousness Movement.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang also acknowledged Pan Africanist liberation hero Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, who he says was a “towering figure in our history and a man who the apartheid regime tried to erase from memory”.

In recognizing the role played by women in the struggle for South Africa’s liberation Hatang said, “we should also remember that this year is about mme (mother) Albertina Sisulu, and those women whose stories and contributions were distorted an minimized by the structures of patriarchy … We should also remember that this is the year we lost mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela.”

Activist and wife of late former President Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, was also in attendance and listened attentively as Adichie spoke about the power of memory and public imagination. “When I first came to South African ten years after the fall of apartheid, it felt to me as though the past was not yet passed, but that there was a concerted collective resolve to turn away from this truth. South Africans of all races spoke to me of the rainbow nation, and I did not entirely trust this optimism. Well-choreographed as it was.”   

“It felt to me a little too easy … It cannot be so unbearably, terribly tidy this process of peace-making,” Adichie said.

 Sebabatso Moneli and Neo Muyanga were part of the panel discussion facilitated by Mohlahlana.

“We are entitled to rage. We are entitled to anger – to the grief of a painful history. But, we are also invited by history to a breath of stories that expand beyond the stereotypes of slavery and colonialism.

“African history is vast and I believe that part of the freedom that we are looking for, that our true liberation will not be found in the absence of tension, but in embracing the tension of history,” Moneli said.

While interrogating the idea of telling the facts and the truth, Muyanga added, “the responsibility is all of ours … The process of colonization which is premised on the idea of erasing the original memory and replacing it with the colonists’ memory. So history begins with the arrival of the colony as opposed to the stories we tell of ourselves before.”

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From Beyonce To Shonda Rhimes, The Most Powerful Women In Entertainment 2018

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Shonda Rhimes may have defined Thursday night television, but she’s now dictating the medium’s future. When the Grey’s Anatomy creator signed a nine figure, four-year deal with Netflix last year, she cemented her place at the forefront of entertainment’s digital future-and pioneered Netflix’s handsome producer paydays.

Rhimes, who created and executive produced ABC hits including Scandaland How To Get Away with Murder, is now developing eight shows for the streaming service through her production outfit ShondaLand.

“We are powerful women and when we say we have power, what we are really saying is that we deserve to have power. We deserve whatever good thing it is that we are getting,” said Rhimes at Elle magazine’s 25th annual Women in Hollywood celebration.

Demanding what you deserve can feel like a radical act.

Worth an estimated $135 million, Rhimes is the wealthiest female showrunner–the person who oversees writing and production of each TV episode-in Hollywood. She has said that her deal, which reportedly includes a base salary of $150 million with incentives that could bump it much higher, is bigger than the $300 million secured by Ryan Murphy.

Rhimes is just one of the world’s most powerful women in media and entertainment effecting change and impacting her industry with groundbreaking deals and inclusive storytelling. Take Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who has helped pioneer Star Wars‘ most inclusive casting yet. Under Kennedy’s stewardship, Kelly Marie Tran became the first woman of color to have a lead role in the multi-billion dollar franchise, playing Rose Tico in 2017’s The Last Jedi.

Across the lot, Dana Walden has seen her power grow in the studio landscape. Following Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the majority of 21st Century Fox, the former chair and CEO of Fox Television Group will also head up 20th Century Fox TV, ABC Studios, the Freeform network, ABC-owned TV stations, ABC Entertainment and several other divisions.

Walden believes more women need to be in decision-making roles at every level. “There must be women in the highest ranks of every organization, and meaningful female representation on every corporate board,” Walden told Forbes last year.

Our recruiting and our training has to be oriented to ensure that we’re identifying and nurturing future generations of female leaders.

Entertainment’s most powerful span Hollywood, music and publishing. As each segment continues to deal with the fallout of the #MeToo movement, women have taken action. Anna Wintour, who continues to control Vogue, suspended photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino amid sexual misconduct charges and set a code of conduct for models and photographers.

Wintour teamed up with music power woman Beyoncé for the September issue of Vogue; she was given creative control over her cover photo and leveraged that power to hire the first African American photographer to shoot the cover in the magazine’s  126-year history. Another first for Beyoncé: In 2018, she became the first black woman to headline Coachella.

Here’s the full list of Media and Entertainment power women:

1. Oprah Winfrey, Media mogul

2. Shari Redstone, Vice Chair, CBS & Viacom

3. Bonnie Hammer, Chair, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment

4. Donna Langley,  Chair, Universal Pictures

5. Anna Wintour, Artistic Director, Conde Nast

6. Beyoncé, Singer

7. Dana Walden, Chairman, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment

8. Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian

9. Taylor Swift, Singer

10. Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist

11. Kathleen Kennedy, President, Lucasfilm

12. Shonda Rhimes, Showrunner

13. Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

14. Serena Williams, Tennis player

15. Shobhana Bhartia, Chair, HT Media

16. Priyanka Chopra, Actress

– Natalie Robehmed: I’m an associate editor at Forbes covering media and entertainment, with a focus on the movie business. For the magazine, I’ve written cover stories on 

 

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