Name: Raha Europ
Agency: New Icon NY
Claim to fame: Europ has appeared in beauty ads for Buxom Cosmetics and Danessa Myricks Beauty. She was also featured in a multi page spread in L’Officiel Singapore.
Raha Europ grew up in a world where women were rarely afforded the opportunity to be leaders.
“My family is from Somalia. I was born in Kenya. I lived in refugee camps. So culturally, there are a lot of barriers for people where I’m from, especially for women,” she told HelloBeautiful.
“I didn’t even think they had rights until I came to a different country,”she added. “You’re stricted, you’re being told what to do. You have to act a certain way. You gotta be a certain way, culturally, religion, everything.”
Europ felt fortunate to be allowed to immigrate to the United States. “I was the only person in my family that was lucky enough to be selected to come here because I still have many family members that live in the same refugee camps that I grew up in,” she said.
The opportunity permitted her to do things she never thought she would, including pursue an education. “I wasn’t able to go to school until I came here to the States. I thought that I would never be able to do school. That wasn’t a thing. You know, there were other plans, like getting married, being a good wife and you know, just finding what your parents want you to do,” she continued. “I didn’t even get to go to school until like third grade.”
Experiencing such a radical shift as a child helped prime her for her the leap of faith she would need to take as a young woman to entertain the idea of being a professional model in her strict religious household.
“I just decided to leave everything in my family behind,” she said. “I took things into my own hands and I left my family upstairs and drove down to New York City with like nothing but a dream. So like no money, no job, no place to stay. And I slept in my car and like, knowing that one day I would have what I dream about.”
The action was unheard of in her family. “You can’t just go out and travel by yourself without a man,” she said.
A short while after she stepped out on her own she was booking shows appearing in shows at New York Fashion Week for designers including Ese Azenabor, Tia Adeola, and Kim Shui but it wasn’t long into her career that the pandemic snatched her off of runways.
“Those were my first jobs and COVID has like had a huge impact,” she said. Like many other models Europ has found a way to be resourceful and stay safe by shooting digitals safely. She recently appeared in campaigns for a number of beauty brands including Buxom Cosmetics and Danessa Myricks. She connected to that part of the industry even more than the runway. “I also started doing more beauty work, which is even more fun,” she said.
Beauty introduced her to examples of the female leadership Europ missed in her early childhood. Watching beauty entrepreneur Danessa Myricks in command on set uplifted her. “It felt amazing because I felt like she understood me and like she feels, she knows what it’s like to be a Black woman. And especially in the makeup industry, you don’t always have somebody who understands you and you’re not always working with somebody who understands you, you know? And it was also empowering because she’s a successful Black woman.” She hopes she can provide that representation to others.
“I want to create work that inspires people,” she said. She wants to motivate others to “follow their dreams and chase their passion,” beginning with her many siblings. “I have literally like 11 siblings, 5 sisters, 6 brothers, 1 autistic and it wasn’t easy to leave,” she said. “It’s so much pressure because I’m also the oldest. So it forced me to grow up fast.”
Europ feels pressure not only to succeed but to find a way to honor her beliefs in the workplace.
In one of the first shows in her career she encountered a series of moments “where I felt my voice wasn’t heard or how I felt wasn’t taken into consideration.”
“I was upset with how the show was handled,” she said. “I was told that they didn’t need any more Black models, like right on spot.” She didn’t let that racist insult come between her and the opportunity and returned the next day but sadly she encountered more disrespect. “I came back to the show for the next day and I was fitted with clothes that weren’t like, well-fitted on me. They were overly exposed,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to experience that ever again. In that moment, I lost touch with who I was and ended up compromising to fit in.”
Europ is one of many models who have struggled to balance their religion and their job.
Leah Vernon, a notable plus-size model and author, has frequently spoken out about people on sets asking her to do things she is uncomfortable with. Halima Aden, one of the most prominent Muslim models in the industry, recently revealed that she will be quitting fashion shows because of the way her hijab was misused and criticized the industry for not using Muslim stylists.
Today Europ is vocal about her religious restrictions and she managed to appear in a multi page spread in L’Officiel Singapore fully covered. She wants to pursue styling and have more say on sets in the future. “That gives me a sense of freedom,” she said.
“I’m not just a Black model, you know, I’m Somali. I’m a Somali woman. I’m an African woman, but I’m a Muslim woman. And I find myself taking a moment with myself to acknowledge, like it helped me realize who I am,” said Europ. “I have all of these different identities, but all of them, appreciating all parts of who I am and not limiting or sacrificing any of me was essential.”