News & Runway

21 Questions With… Model and Activist Ubah Hassan


Ubah Hassan

Image: Getty

Things haven’t always been glamorous for Ubah Hassan who, as a child, fled war-torn Somalia for Kenya with her father and brother. Her mother and sisters went to Ethiopia and the family was separated for seven years until they were finally reunited in Canada. Her rough beginnings have fueled her philanthropic work, which keeps her as busy as her modeling work. “Fashion is fun, but it’s also about forward thinking,” she has said. “So when they don’t hire colored models, to me it means that the industry is not as forward or creative as it should be.” Aside from being vocal about equal representation in the industry, she works closely with TOMS global charity. We spoke with Hassan, who has modeled for designers like Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Rachel Roy and Gucci, and asked her our quickfire questions.

  1. My morning routine consists of… starting with a glass of hot water with lemon before doing yoga or heading to a Pilates class.
  2. My go-to beauty products are… coconut oil and La Mer lip balm.
  3. I’m dying to splurge on… I don’t usually crave material things. If I can afford it, I get it and if I can’t afford it, I don’t want it.
  4. When it comes to my philanthropic activism, the most touching thing has been… how people can have so little yet still be grateful and hopeful.
  5. The career moment I still can’t get over… my Ralph Lauren campaign will always be the best thing that ever happened to me in my career, he selected me before anyone even knew me.
  6. My fitness routine consists of… yoga, Pilates, Body By Simone and Physique 57.
  7. When I can’t motivate myself to work out… I call a friend and see if she wants to take a dance class or go play tennis.
  8. If you looked in my fridge you’d find… asparagus, fresh ground peanut butter, Fuji apples and Fiji water.
  9. What I’d love to change about the modeling industry… to have more diversity.
  10. One thing people don’t know about modeling… it’s not as easy as it looks.
  11. My favorite beauty trick is… you only need a great eyebrow pencil — Anastasia Beverly Hills eyebrow pencil is my favorite. Eyebrows are very important.
  12. A tip for looking good in a picture is… to think of the word prune when you are taking a picture, it will make your lip bigger and always think happy thoughts (the camera can read your body language).
  13. I deal with insecurities by… surrounding myself with people who love and care about me. Whenever I feel down or I doubt myself, I talk to my friends or family to help me remember to not sweat the superficial stuff.
  14. If my days had one extra hour I’d… spend it with people I love.
  15. The best place I’ve ever traveled is… Ubud, Bali, it was more than Eat, Pray, Love. I recommend to all my girlfriends to go alone.
  16. My most memorable runway experience… was Ralph Lauren when I wore a gold dress and Oscar de la Renta when I wore this beautiful mermaid-cut burgundy dress. He loved it so much that he made a wedding gown like that (in white, of course).
  17. To stay looking good while traveling it’s important to… manage your jet lag, no sugar and drink plenty of water.
  18. If I wasn’t modeling I’d be… a chef.
  19. The best piece of advice I ever got was… this too shall pass and that the grass is greener where you water it.
  20. My biggest pet peeve is… fake people.
  21. One thing I wish people knew about me is… that I cry when I hear or see an act of kindness.