This week In Conversation series, we talk to the unstoppable duo behind BEING HER. Hermon and Heroda discuss taking risks, personal style and important messages for the hearing world.
What industry do you work in?
Hermon : Actress. Influencer. Travel and Fashion Blogger
Heroda: Commercial Actress. Influencer. Travel and Fashion Blogger
Tell our audience about your background (what’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now & what you do for work)?
We were born and raised in Eritrea, East Africa, where we both became mysteriously deaf at the young age of 7. We moved to USA, for medical testing and our mother spent a year teaching us how to communicate in English when our loss of hearing struck. Then we moved to U.K for a better education. Heroda took the retail fashion path, Hermon followed an opportunity to become an actress which lead to many successful roles and Heroda featured in her third commercial. Now, we’re bloggers or we prefer content creators.
What was your biggest motivation for this career choice?
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. When we felt limited, that’s when we decided to push the boundaries. We decided to show people fashion, lifestyle and travel don’t have to be expensive. We also like to challenge the world’s attitude and views towards disabilities whilst embracing our own. Love being yourself and the world will love you.
What has been the most challenging about working on your blog full time?
BEING HER was created from zero, it was very challenging to promote our voice and to create our content every day, even grow our audience through social media, which we were told bloggers can take 4 to 5 years. We were lucky to be recognised after 6 months because we believe that being deaf separates us from other bloggers out there and our disability actually enhances our popularity within media. We had lots of barriers through our careers for many years but we are proud that we have managed to break down many so many. If it wasn’t for social media, we wouldn’t be here and couldn’t spread our message of inclusion.
Your blog, BEING HER, is all about being twins with different personalities. How would you describe each others personalities?
Heroda : What I love about Hermon is her confidence, she enjoys adventuring and her bubbly personality plus her creativity.
Hermon: What I love about Heroda is her personality, she’s sensitive, creative and caring, expert at her make-up and styling.
You’ve both spoken about how attending boarding school was a turning point in your lives. Can you tell our audience a bit about the experience and finding your identities through school?
We found our identity at boarding school. Sign language was so beautiful, and the deaf community just became our family. Within the hearing world, it can be lonely. As soon as we were in that deaf world, we fitted in. It was where we belonged. Signing is physical and beautiful. It’s visual, it relies quite a lot on facial expressions and a positive vibe. We want to educate you on what sign language means and give you a sense of deaf awareness. You need to be more open minded and learn sign language. Our identity is so important to us because if we weren’t deaf, we would simply not be the way we are now. Life for us would be so different, we are proud of who we are, and our deafness is a part of that. Being deaf hasn’t held us back from doing what we want in our lives.
What have you found are the top three misconceptions about the deaf community?
Hearing people think deaf people are not as intelligent as hearing people. Wrong. Deaf people are not dumb. They simply can't hear. Just like the ability to hear does not make you intelligent, Deaf people can do everything a hearing person can do, except hear.
Deaf people can’t drive. That’s not true, they do drive cars. In fact, there are studies that have shown that deaf people are better drivers than hearing people.
But you don’t look deaf? How are we supposed to look? How exactly does a deaf person look?
What’s something you would like African youth, both in Africa and in the diaspora, to work towards in the future?
Yes, young people are going growing up in a world where they feel under pressure at school, bullying, body images and online culture. We believe that Being Her gives young people the best possible start in life. We are proud to help the younger generation be it African, deaf or any other denomination. We want to encourage them to believe in themselves, achieve their goals in the future. There are so few role models for deaf people, 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.
Young people need every bit of help, support and empowerment they can get, without helping them, they can easily get lost. It’s important to open yourself to the community around you. It can help you grow and expand yourself and your business or career goals. It’s important to connect your experiences with the community and they shouldn’t be afraid to use their voice.
You both emphasise the importance of believing in yourself. How long did it take for you to believe in yourselves?
Hermon: I have always wanted to be an actor since young but didn't have confidence. Four years ago I was traveling in South America to explore my perspective, I realised I had to do something about it. After returning I joined a short course (drama group) to develop my confidence and skills and finally found my hidden talents.
Heroda : I started believing in myself when I landed a role in a television commercial with Hermon. I’ve had an awful experience through my career when I stopped believing in myself because of my deafness. I looked up to Hermon because she followed her passion to become an actress.
We didn’t pursue an ideal career or start our own business because we didn’t think we could. We have been talking about the blog for 3 years and decided to go ahead after that. Being Her gave us confidence and proof that we are capable of anything. We have our own brand as influencers, which we never thought in a million years...
You both spoke recently at the Women of the World festival. Can you tell us a bit about the panel you were apart of and the biggest takeaway from that experience?
The panel we spoke on was for Deafness and Self Care.
Deaf Women are twice as likely to experience mental health issues as hearing women, yet most “talking therapies” such as CBT are not Deaf Aware, and self-remedies such as mindfulness apps or mediation classes only cater to the hearing community. With higher risks of depression, suicide and self-harm.
We had a discussion about the Deafness, mental health and self-care. We have learned a lot about mental health and deafness, the deaf community struggles daily with stigma and communication barriers, functioning in a hearing world can lead to mental health issues. The problem is, mental health services are too difficult for deaf people to access because of these communication problems.
Think about it, if you were a deaf person seeking help from the mental health services having a BSL/English interpreter isn’t good enough. This approach isn’t working for deaf community as three-way conversations can cause stress and/or misunderstandings. What is needed are trained therapists who are either deaf or fluent BSL users themselves.
It’s very scary that hearing people from the profession are not aware about the issues surrounding deafness and mental health. This is something we need to discuss openly due to the high-risk factor. If there are no BSL therapists or interpreters, how can they communicate? It’s important to make sure everyone has equal access to mental health services.
What do you do for self care?
Self-care is important for your physical health as well as your mind, soul. Because it makes you feel great. Taking care of yourself sends a positive vibe into the world that you want to be the best version of yourself. We always follow the lists to remind ourselves.
If it feels wrong, don’t do it, say exactly what you mean, don’t be a people pleaser, trust your instincts, never speak bad about yourself, never give up on your dreams.
Don’t be afraid to say no. don’t be afraid to say yes, be kind to yourself, stay away from drama and negativity.
Turn your phone off
We always tell each other that if you really want something in your life, you have to take a risk and never let anyone tell you no. Especially if it’s because you’re deaf...
What are your experiences with Africans in the deaf community?
They are like a family to us. We’re lucky to have another community that has the same culture but also, understanding the deaf culture too.
What is your go to styling tip?
Photography, fashion and arts really allow our creative juices to flow. Style is dependent on our mood, it could be simple, boho, chic, sporty or glamorous. For us, social media is very influential, especially the various ‘fashion week’s’ and trends. We love taking a trend and making it our own. Fashion is about expressing your identity, showing someone who you are through style choices and using your clothes to tell someone about you. For us, it’s about expressing your personality through fashion without saying a single word. Always keep an open mind!
Dream collaboration, who would it be with and why?
There are so many brands who we admire and would love to work with. But you have to have a long-term collaboration with brand and travel, allows us to get to know the brands and create amazing content.
Travel collaboration would be a dream because there aren’t enough images of female travellers who represented the true diversity of what women who travel around the world really look like. Every women deserves to have a chance to see the world, just like us. And sometimes it’s easy to feel intimidated because there’s lack of diversity and representation in the travel industry. We aim to inspire diversity in girls and women. It’s okay to be yourself and look the way you do while you travel around the world.
Where would you like to see your brand in 10 years?
Ooh, to expand our brand and launch our very own ranges...
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
We gave up everything in order to follow our dream, like we said Being Her was created from ZERO.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
We’ve definitely experienced disappointing failures, they made us want to give up but failing doesn’t mean you should stop trying and it can lead to better things. We found that failure motivates us to be better and helps us grow. The important lesson we all learn from failure: life goes on and learn from the failures!
What has been the best advice you’ve ever received?
Our friend Chris Fonseca, a professional deaf dancer who encouraged us and said “dreams don’t work unless you do, stop wondering what if? And don’t waste your time. Just do it!” He’s a good role model and inspires others with Disability that the world is available to you.
“Plans are made to change but dreams don’t have to...”
What brings you happiness?
Our family is the most important things in our lives.
Being with close friends you can laugh with and they can accept who you are, no matter what. Be silly. Travelling is the best things for us. Adventure, blogging and create content, working together as sisters is really fun and allows us to be creative everyday
Eating ice-creams Summer
Best place you’ve travelled to so far?
This is difficult, we would say ALL, but Santorini and Chefchaouen were the most magical places we’ve have been too. Check out our website to read about our adventures in Santorini and Chefchaouen.