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Black History Month: In Conversation With Milly Kuerna

In honour of Black History Month, S/ is highlighting inspiring Canadians across the creative realm on the significance of this month and what it means to them. First up is Montreal-based model Milly Kuerna, who shares that celebrating Black history should go beyond the month of February.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

“This might be silly, but the concept of a ‘Black History Month’ is very much new to me. Here’s the thing, I was not born nor raised in Canada. Where I’m from, race is not a social determinant of one’s ability to succeed in life. Upon arriving in this country, things weren’t at all as I imagined they would be. There are clear racist undertones but you can’t really pinpoint them because Canadians aren’t as open with their racism. This is now my home, I have assimilated myself to the environment and the culture, and have come to understand that I must work twice or thrice as hard in order to attain half of that a white counterpart has achieved. And because of this, I choose to celebrate Black history on a regular basis—it doesn’t end on February 28th. It motivates me to work hard, and to make sure I do better for a life and future that I envision for myself.”

How is the 2021 commemoration of Black history differ after last year’s widespread efforts to raise awareness, amplify, and protect Black lives?

“It shouldn’t differ! If anything, you take the time to sit down and reflect on how the world is still so backwards, wherein millions of people across the globe have to march to call out injustice to the Black being—it’s unfathomable! I do, however, believe there is hope for the future. But, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Who is a Black figure that has inspired you to tap into your creative and entrepreneurial pursuits?

“At the top of my head, my Mum, ‘a resourceful woman’! Within my career, there’s plenty of people, Maya Angelou, Bethann Hardison and Edward Enninful, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Pat McGrath, Aurora James and many, many more.”

Are there any moments in Black history that have had a profound impact on you?

“Oh there’s a lot of moments, it’s so hard to choose! Nelson Mandela’s fight against the apartheid regime to me is incredibly groundbreaking, and of course, fast forward to 2008 with Obama winning the presidency, there was just a sense of ‘togetherness’ with his slogan of ‘yes we can’—now, that’s a thing of the past. But, there are incredible women who have had an impact in my life, Michelle Obama being one of them, to Oprah, Serena Williams—who is inarguably the greatest athlete ever—and not to forget Naomi Campbell’s fight for inclusivity in the fashion industry.”

Feature image photographed by Nelson Huang, styled by Alex, hair & makeup by Jasmin Winnie Stephen.