Hermon & Heroda Berhane | Being Her | London, UK
Celebrity of the Year Award
Born and raised in Asmara, Eritrea. We became deaf at age of 7 at the same time due to unknown causes. We were having a happy childhood like any other children. Before we became deaf, we remember the sound of church bells, chicken’s clucking, adult conversations but sadly, we also remember the sounds of civil war in Eritrea. We remember gunshots and explosions, they were so loud it felt like it was in the next room. Many times, we had to hide in the bathroom to protect ourselves and it was terrifying. We remember our mother was talking to her neighbour by the gates, we saw gunfire in the sky like shooting stars and we all ran inside to hide. When you are young it was just a part of life, we were scared but it’s only when you look back you realise how different life could have been.
We moved to USA when we were 7 because we became profoundly deaf and babbled speech at the same time due to unknown causes and they could not provide the treatment that was needed in Eritrea and Ethiopia. When the doctor in America confirmed that we were deaf, Mum gave up everything and spent a year teaching us how to communicate in English. We then moved to the U.K for better education and we embraced the deaf community and British Sign Language. Once we accepted our deafness, we learned to accept ourselves. We learned to rejoice in the journey and celebrate the new path that opened up to us, we found our identity at boarding school. Sign language was so beautiful, and the deaf community just became our family. With our hearing diminished our other senses become heightened, therefore our touch, taste, and vision can appreciate and experience different aspects that maybe a hearing person wouldn’t.
Our passion for fashion started at a young age, we attended fashion college and university. The competitive nature of the fashion industry made us feel patronised, we had the feeling our dreams were being diluted by our deafness. BEING HER was born from frustration. We were frustrated by the fashion Industries lack of accessibility. For a creative Industry the volume of constraints being applied to who and what can be achieved is surprising. Therefore, we gave up everything in order to follow our dream, BEING HER was created from zero, it was very challenging to promote our voice and to create our content every day if it wasn’t for social media, we wouldn’t be here and couldn’t spread our important message of inclusion.
We advocate diversity in all aspects of life and we feel women of colour especially need inspiration to travel and experience new countries and cultures. Young people and also people with disabilities are particularly important to us because we want to encourage them to show their individuality, personality to the world.
Being yourself is the most powerful beauty product available. We couldn’t find enough images of female travellers that represented the true diversity of the actual people exploring the world. We realised that, when it came to representing women of all colours, cultures, shapes and sizes, the travel industry was lagging sorely behind. Women deserve to have a chance to see the world, just like us. Sometimes it’s easy to feel intimidated because there’s a lack of diversity and representation in the travel industry. We have our own stories what we have been through and they are so different from traditional bloggers and our followers love the authenticity we bring to our stories. Authenticity is KEY, when engaging with the public, sooner or later people will see through bloggers or influencers that aren’t true to themselves.
We have received so many amazing opportunities through our blog growing in popularity and recognition from media outlets from around the world (Daily Mail, Elle, Marie Clare, CNN, Oprah Magazine, Blavity and Forbes). We have given talks at Stella McCartney head offices, WOW festivals and we were selected by OkayAfrica as two of the Top 100 Women in the Continent, and were truly honoured to be OkayAfrica honourees 2018. We recently appeared in the BBC series ‘Twinstitute’ and River Islands self-love campaign, RI deserves credit for choosing such an important message to send. We wanted our message to be heard, it’s a powerful message to those people who struggle in life. We think there’s a lot of rejection, self-loathing in life and we want to encourage people, it’s OK to be yourself, it’s OK to look like you look. It’s beautiful to be involved with our BSL messages and we want to educate people what Sign Language is and how beautiful it can be. Our identity is so important to us, we are proud of who we are, and our deafness is a huge part of our being. Our self-love letter is one of the greatest gifts we can give to the deaf community especially. The RI campaign with our inclusion made it accessible to the deaf communities, we hope more brands will take notice and make their brands more accessible in the future. All because we have gained exposure and recognition through BEING HER