Celebrate Black History Month: Ubah Hassan
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I grew up in Africa and I never really knew Black History Month until I moved to the U.S. To me, it means education. I don’t know a lot of Black American history, but it’s a humbling, mind-blowing experience to learn about Black pioneers and trailblazers—I’m like a kid in a candy store. I like to go down Google rabbit holes, especially learning about Black inventors, and I celebrate them by sharing what I learn with my nieces, nephews, and friends.
Which Black icons inspire you?
Oprah and Muhammad Ali. Oprah has healed her community through the books that she recommends and the things she chooses to show in her media company. Muhammad Ali was able to stand up and speak up for his people even if it put his career on the line. I admire people like that.
How will this month dictate the rest of your year?
I accumulate all this knowledge and it gives me hope and encouragement. It’s very inspiring to see people who look like me who had so many obstacles in their lives and went and overcame them.
Can you talk about diversity in modeling?
Growing up, I never really saw color. My mom never talked about beauty or ugliness or color, it was just about whether or not you were a good person. Coming to New York to model, I didn't really know the level of racial separation. For example, when designers would only have one Black girl in a show or how was often the only Black person on a job. Women like Naomi Campbell and Iman were brave and spoke about it, leading to changes that can be seen, for example like in the 2008 Italian Vogue issue of all Black women. For now, I’m so grateful to be alive in this time. Look at the world right now—we have plus-size models and models of many colors. The world has woken up and fashion had to catch up along with many other industries. And it’s the consumer who decides that—if you’re going to sell a serum for a 45-year-old, we want the woman in the ad to be a 45-year-old. More people are awake and speaking up.