Everything Herrana Addisu does feels like a celebration of Blackness. This is the case when she’s modeling for Ami Colé or speaking on Afropunk’s Roe v Wade panel. Additionally, her creative agency, Chucha Studios– named after her late mother– empowers Black storytellers. Each project from the production studio centralizes on reframing narratives that so often define Blackness. In 2022, for example, Chucha Studios produced the photography series, Welcome Home, as an exploration of Black immigrant resiliency. And more recently, the New York-based, Ethiopia-native’s work and unique lens has earned her a Shea Moisture Blueprint Grant– handpicked by partnering founder Ms. Tina Knowles.
The grant supports individuals who are pushing boundaries as founders, educators, and artists. Awardees are matched with creative industry mentors, who include the likes of stylist Zerina Akers, and Hanifa’s Anifa Mvuemba. In particular, Addisu has been paired with photographer Deun Ivory to craft a forthcoming project. Fellow recipients span the fields of fashion, skincare, and creative production.
Addisu intends to also use her time working with Shea Moisture to inspire conversations on skin complexion and “acceptable Blackness.” “In being a model myself, it’s sometimes so easy to talk about these issues in the third person. But it’s something I’m still navigating,” she tells ESSENCE. “I find it so interesting what we label as dark skin, light skin, etc. It always changes depending on where we are in history.” She notes that this has implications on a global level, hence her desire to explore instances of beauty stratification in the proverbial motherland.
“A lot of people have this false narrative that just because you grew up in Africa, being Black is acceptable in all forms. But we’re still holding ourselves to theWestern standards– which is often having lighter skin and slick hair.” That said, Addisu plans to travel to her home land, Addis Ababa, to develop a personal project for release later in 2024. The diasporic implications of Addisu’s return to Addis Ababa promise a compelling project that will expand narratives of what Black beauty means today.
“I’m really excited to work on this and other adjacent projects that uplift young girls,” she says. “It will be great to tap into a whole new realm and also to regain focus and purpose.” Addisu’s return home will be a unique opportunity to create and recommit to why she started Chucha Studios in the first place. “I do think as an artist and as a creative person, going back home is going to remind me why I do what I do.”