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How Model + Stylist, Baraka McCann Kept Her Dream Alive While Battling Cancer

If you’ve ever needed a reminder that God is still the great physician, then Baraka McCann is living proof of His healing.

After being diagnosed with cancer in college, instead of giving up, Baraka fought with the perspective that she had cancer and not the other way around.

Though it was scary being in the unknown of the outcome of her health, Baraka kept pressing forward with making the most out of life. She made a conscious decision to accept and fully live out the dream that chose her from childhood (fashion), and with mutual love, devoted her time to making the best out of her career.

With the weight of facing daily health issues, McCann went on to obtain not one but three degrees, walked in runway shows, started a brand, and so much more! One thing about a woman, especially a black woman, is we always get it done! With faith, strength, style, and grace, not only did Baraka endure cancer, she conquered it!

We’re kicking Women’s International Month off to an inspiring start. Therefore, without further ado, I present Baraka McCann!

Keiyana: Tell me, Baraka, what are the top pivotal moments that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

Baraka: I know we went to high school together, but you are probably unaware that I discovered I had cancer in college. Usually, I can control my situation, but that was something that was out of my control. That experience taught me patience, to be more lenient with myself, and to be more trusting in myself, my beliefs, and my faith. Being the kind of person that had things calculated on how I would do things, that reality just took a huge turn in my life. Not only did I not know what to do, but I was also unable to stop it. I felt lost. However, once I beat that, it gave me new insight into being true to myself.

The second moment that was pivotal for me was something I recently experienced. I was fortunate to go to New York Fashion Week for a modeling competition. Before my competition, I was able to see models walking for a brand designer, and I remember thinking to myself, “If I network while I’m here, maybe next year this could be me.” The crazy thing is, I was in my role as a stylist and art director backstage when someone pointed to me and said, “We need you. We need a plus-size girl.” Mind you, there were three other plus-size girls there, and it was their first time so I was willing to give it to them, not thinking I'm downplaying myself at the same time. I had to remind myself that I just said this was something I wanted to do, and before I knew it, I was walking for a designer brand. Once again, I learned the lesson of trusting in myself.

Lastly, starting my business helped me professionally because it's one thing to say you like fashion and to be a part of it, but it's another to be in it and try to navigate yourself through it. You can’t call yourself a stylist and art director, or anything for that matter without putting in the work behind it. So the fact that I kept on with my path and I didn't give up on it, still shocks me at times.

Keiyana: You mentioned that you are a model and stylist. Take us back, and describe when the love of fashion first surfaced for you.

Baraka: I never thought fashion would be something I would get into, but it is something that naturally and organically evolved. It started with my mom. She is a fashion diva, and the way that my mom would describe fashion for me just clicked. Her style is simple and elegant, which is also my motto for my company.

However, growing up with my mom, we would go to all the malls in Houston (which I know like the back of my hand), stay up-to-date with inventory in stores and catalogs, and watch pageants and Victoria's Secret fashion shows, which piqued my interest. No matter my size, I have always loved shopping. Though the prices could get frustrating, I knew how to pivot around that. People drew to me because I did not let my size affect me from looking my best.

As time passed, other small things started connecting that made me feel that I had a future in fashion, for example: winning best dress in high school, suggestions of starting a fashion blog, and my graduation cap going viral via Twitter on XXL. After earning my degree in Psychology, I got into Houston Community College's (HCC) fashion program, and that is when I knew. I was with like-minded people who genuinely love fashion and are not just there for a check. From there, I just fell in love with it more and more.

Keiyana: Tell us more about your brand, She Simply Chic. What inspired you to start it, and what is your mission and goal behind it?

Baraka: She Simply Chic is inspired by my mother. My mother is a beautiful and petite woman. I have always admired the way she carried herself. Her looks would be simplistic but elegant, and I wanted my name and vision to be a dedication to her. We laughed about it in high school, but our principal always said, “If you look good, you feel good.” Looking back, I realize that statement is true. Regardless of size, a cute look is a natural confidence booster.

My goal is to make more people confident in themselves. And I love that! I teach women how to put things together outside their norms to build more confidence in what they are wearing, especially plus-size women. I let people have their style, and I add to it. And the thing is, it is not about where you get fashion, but how you wear it to your body.

Keiyana: What pros and cons have you experienced within the fashion model industry?

Baraka: In high school, I was a contract model with Neal Hamil and attended a school catered to modeling. I experienced some of the cons early in the industry. We are starting to see more women of color in the industry, but it is still justified, so I would consider it both a pro and a con. Especially after I learned that most designers want their models to look the same, and by that, I do not mean what they are wearing.

People do not realize it, but a model is a rack on the runway. People are not there for you, but for the clothes. Some models stood out for their catwalk on the runway as Naomi and Tyra Banks, but they were known for that and could pull it off. When you realize that designers are looking to cast Caucasian, slender (size 2), and tall women it becomes harder for your career, especially being a plus-size model. If you are past a size six, you are considered plus-size in the modeling world, and if you are a size eighteen you are not cast often. I believe it is because America tries to replicate what they see in foreign places during Fashion Week, but at the end of the day, America does not look like that. Yes, we are beginning to see more diversity in backgrounds, but diversity in body types is still an issue. Therefore, the industry is still very closed-minded.

Keiyana: Thank you for that transparency. With that being said, where do you see your career headed in the next three years?

Baraka: I plan to focus on growing as a stylist and art director. However, my biggest goal is to begin working on my fashion line. People have asked me about it since I started blogging for my brand, so hopefully, in three years, I can begin production.

I have noticed certain brands know what to do, but others don't when it comes to plus-size fit because they're thinking about the cost of fabric. With my fashion line, I plan to have a variety of sizes. I want to have more tailored pieces to fit everybody. That's my goal. To have a collection dedicated to women that fit well and you can wear anywhere.

Keiyana: As women, we are natural nurturers to others. In what ways do you show self-care to yourself?

Baraka: As of lately, I have not <laugh>. I have been working nonstop. Self-care, if any, has been shopping, so I say I am a shopaholic. It has been helping me since I have been unable to do anything.

Coincidentally, today my boyfriend and I are headed to San Antonio. We have not had a fun trip in about a year and a half, almost two years. I’ve traveled for work, but not personally. I have also recently gotten back into reading. So shopping, traveling, and reading would be my current self-care.

Keiyana: How valuable is sisterhood to you, and what does that look like for you?

Baraka: I honestly have been struggling with this because I had to learn just because I care for somebody does not mean they care for me in the same sense. I have always been the motherly friend figure if that makes sense, but I have never got that back in return. However, I still desire genuine friendships and sisterhood. I would say the only two people that meet what I am looking for in a community are my mom and a friend from college.

With getting older and starting my business, I have become a loner. In the fashion industry, you see and hear how people come around because of the people and places you know. Yet, if I can find someone who can equally give the same energy I give, I would be open to new friendships.

Keiyana: What woman had the most impact on your journey and how?

Baraka: We're going to go back to my mom. I admire her drive, dedication to helping others, and her altogether. My mom is one of those types of people. You can throw stuff at her, and she gets right back up. You do not meet people like her often. To this day, my mom still inspires me so much.

Keiyana: Based on a life lesson, what advice would you give to our community of women?

Baraka: My advice to the women in our community is to stop listening to people that have never been where you are trying to go. They tried to do what they wanted in life, and it did not work out for them, so now they are putting their insecurities and failures onto you. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that it is our people: parents, family members, and close friends.

As a result, you need to be around people who do what you are doing or who have been where you are trying to go. If I did not do that, I would still be listening to people who never did anything in their life, so we need to stop listening to people who never even attempted or fathomed of thinking about doing what they love to do.

Do what you want, research, and fall in love with what you are seeking. You will not like everything that goes along with the process, but at least you will be doing something you enjoy and are passionate about.

Keiyana: As we close, tell our readers where they can find you on social media and what to expect from you this year.

Baraka: You can find me on all social media platforms under She Simply Chic.

My plans for this year are to go back into production and give a variety of creative images involving editorial work and mental health. With my first video, I did not like it, but it’s a lesson I am growing in. Production is a long process due to expensive costs and getting people’s schedules to align, but I am putting out a creative video this year. This time my goal is to be more confident and see how much I have grown and continue to create.

Instagram: shesimplchic

TikTok: shesimplychic

YouTube: Baraka McCann


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