The Secret Life of Deddeh Howard
Last week, we got to spend some time with Deddeh Howard on location at our swim shoot in sunny LA. We’ve been fans for a long time here at Knix HQ because of an initiative she started a few years ago called The Black Mirror Project— so we were extra excited to catch up with her.
The Black Mirror project is a photo series built from Deddeh’s experience in the fashion industry. “I’d walk into agencies and they’d tell me— sorry, we already have a Black model on our roster. They’d have an abundance of white models, but it seemed like just one Black woman was enough to represent us all”.
From these relentless experiences, Deddeh decided to re-shoot several brand campaigns herself with one big difference— herself, a Black woman starring in them.
“I wanted to start this project for representation in fashion, but also— we’re so rarely shown in a positive light in the media. We see countless news pieces of Black people getting shot or arrested, but I wanted to bring awareness that yes— there’s a positive light and joy to us too”.
Read on to learn more about The Black Mirror Project, Deddeh’s inspiration for it, and how she still shows up for her community everyday.
Hey Deddeh! Tell us a bit about The Black Mirror Project. How did that get started?
At the time I started The Black Mirror Project, I didn’t have a huge community yet. I just had my Instagram and blog and was just online sharing my experience. I was only really doing it for a few people and myself of course.
You know when you go to therapy and you just get it off your chest and let it out— that’s what The Black Mirror Project was like. I was like, Let’s just let it out.
We posted about it on my blog and the world heard us. The world heard me and felt my pain. It was covered quite a bit, but the most important thing was that it inspired people. It inspired little girls!
It was a way to hold brands, companies and "the media" accountable. And now that things are changing, I get to sit back a bit. I feel so glad I was able to take these steps early on. It was a topic that was dark, heavy and sensitive. And at the time it felt difficult to do, even if it was just a few years ago. It was like I had to decide between living with feeling not accepted or sharing with the world. I just put my heart into it.
Now, I love seeing what’s happening with more people speaking up about representation. I’m just so happy to see it.
Speaking of representation, why do you think it's so important in terms of eradicating bias and injustices that we see everyday?
Society has made it really easy to just do things one way. And this makes it really difficult mentally and emotionally. If people are represented or feel represented, it brings the community together. It makes us feel valid, it makes us work together.
Visibility is so crucial because we are all different. We should be accepted for who we are no matter what. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be told what to do or what’s beautiful. We should all have a voice and be celebrated for who we are. It just makes the world a better place when more people feel like they can be heard.
Look at what’s going on in the world right now. If people were heard and respected, none of this would be happening. That’s why visibility is so important— it gives people a voice, it gives people motivation. If there’s one little girl who knows that someone who looks like her is rooting for her, she can live a brighter, healthier and happier life.
That’s so true. It’s like— visibility is the baseline of respect. Once you feel seen, it helps empower you to go and do things.
Exactly. I can get up and I can do whatever I want. And I don’t have to feel scared or feel like I’m not important or that my opinions don't matter.
What’s something that you’ve learned about yourself throughout this project?
I am so freakin’ strong. I feel like I can bounce back if something happens to me. When the project happened, it wasn’t received by everyone in the right way. So I went through a lot of emotions! I learned to really accept myself and love me. It made me stronger, it made me feel like I had a voice and a community. It made me feel like people accept me, and made me realize that a lot of people feel the way I do— I’m not alone.
I still try and show up for my community every single day, just by being me. The world needs more light.
Yes! We love that so much. Deddeh, one last question for you. Can you brag about yourself? What are you the proudest of?
Oh my gosh!
You can really go off. We love hearing people brag about themselves.
Okay. I feel like people don’t know that I’m smart! I went from nothing in Africa— living in the poorest city, to putting myself through school. I went to UCLA and was like “You guys are going to hire me to work at your hospital and I will go to school here”, and it happened.
Glowing in the Capri Cut Out One-Piece in Honey!
I love that I’m able to say I'm a Sagittarius, I’m positive, and I make things happen. I know stuff! People think I’m just an Instagram influencer but I’ve done so much to be where I am.
I'm so proud of The Black Mirror Project too. I’m so proud I got to do that for my community. I’m so proud I spoke up. I said, I’m tired of being the only Black girl.
I feel so beautiful. Sometimes I check myself out in the mirror. I love it.