Meet Herrana Addisu, a multidisciplinary artist and a human rights specialist in the United States. Having been born and raised in Ethiopia then immigrated to the United States, her family’s journey to the country has shaped her career in human rights advocacy. Herrana is the owner of Chucho Studios, a creative agency that puts the community first and aims to reduce social disparities within marginalised communities. As a creative director and a model, she incorporates her expertise in human rights issues into her work.
T. What was your starting point for Chucha Studios?
H. I always wanted to do creative work since I was younger but was often restrained from it because of my upbringing. Growing up in an immigrant household, you are told to be a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. Chucha Studios’ foundation started forming during the pandemic and the BLM protests. At the time, I was working with an NGO doing advocacy work against prison labor and modern slavery. Outside of work, I was organizing a local network against police brutality with my old colleagues in New Jersey. I felt depressed. Every day became a reminder of the lack of happiness within the black community so I decided to start documenting black happiness. That was my first creative project in New York. Slowly, I started working on more projects connecting creativity with community engagement. After a year of forming, without realizing it, Chucha Studios came into existence.
T. What do you hope to see within the creative industry in 5 years?
H. In the era we are in now, diversity and representation are essential for companies to sustain their business. We have seen numerous marketing strategies directly utilizing cultural branding to reach isolated consumers.
What I would hope to see in the 5 years is companies investing in the communities they are capitalizing from. You see brands pulling inspiration and exploiting urban culture for marketing, but have limited interaction with the community. It just does not make sense for one part of society to make millions of dollars on a lifestyle many are being killed and incarcerated for. The marketing and creative industry to mainstream sustainability and social impact within their production process and invest in POC culture.
T. What are your three most important values?
H. Equity, Community, Quality
T. Favorite project that you have worked on or with?
H. My favorite project is definitely ” Welcome Home”, a photography series that brings visibility to the voices of three Black immigrants to tell a story of resilience, strength, and community.
It was the one that spoke to me directly and my own experience of being an immigrant. It also allowed me to meet amazing advocates that truly moved me.
T. What does happiness mean to you?
H. Happiness means peace and stability. Most importantly beginning at peace with myself. I have high expectations for myself and give myself a hard time when I am not “perfect”. My mindset to remove any room for error often feds into my moments of unhappiness. That has been my biggest journey recently, to allow myself to make mistakes and still be happy with myself.
T. How important is finding a community?
H. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day, goals, and milestones. The worst thing you can do is forget the reason why you started doing what you are doing and that is in any field or industry, especially in the entertainment and creative field. You are constantly being required to be the “IT” factor that changes every season and you forget the “YOU” fact. Your community is what holds you down when times get rough and when you want to give up. It is the beacon light that keeps you alive.