Note: A few things have changed since we interviewed Hannah Eko. (Ya’ll gotta remember, we’ve been working on BeautifulBlackPortland.com since 2011. We finally launched March 1st, 2014.) First, she no longer resides in Portland. Second, She is now in a relationship. Third, she blogs at HappyAmazon.tumblr.com
I am 6’3″ and while I love my height, I have and will continue to be defined by it and would also like to focus on other aspects of who I am. Height is very powerful. We associate height (and the lack thereof) with things that often have everything to do with our preconceptions and nothing to do with the actual person standing before us. I think women who are taller than usual have their fair share of issues when it comes to dating, especially if you wish to date men primarily. Some men are not comfortable with a woman being taller than they, some men consider tall women to be a ‘prize’, some men consider taller women to be their special kind of fetish. The best thing, and definitely not the easiest process, is for a tall woman to define and love herself for who she is. The worst thing we can do as people is let other’s define us. This is easier said than done! But, I have found that the more I take pride in how I am, the more ease in which I move through in the world, the more others do the same. So tall women: don’t date assholes who who uncomfortable with your height or ask you not to wear heels.
Hey Hannah, how are you? Please share your background
I am second-generation Nigerian, born in London, England. I emigrated here in 1990 with my British accent still intact. Sadly, it has departed since then. I grew up mainly in Orange County, not like the cancelled show, but La Habra. It wasn’t very exciting.
How did you end up in Portland?
I’m stationed here on active duty with the Coast Guard. I remember really liking Portland during a basketball tournament when I was 17, so I put Seattle and then Portland at the top of my “dream sheet” for Coast Guard billets. Luckily, I got my #2 pick and here I am.
Now that you are here in the thorny City of Roses, what are your impressions/thoughts/observances…
My relationship to this city socially is very love-hate. I love that there is a lot of art and non-profit work going on. If you work at a non-profit people won’t look at you like you’re crazy. I like the coffee and a lot of the people I’ve met. What I cannot stand about Portland is this disregard for people of color. It’s like you don’t exist. I think if Portland didn’t showcase itself as this open-minded city, it’d be a lot better. New York is a lot more honest that way: no one’s going to pretend that everything’s okay. I often feel very walled off from different experiences here and I grew up in Surburbia! It seems people of color here accept a level of racism that I don’t find so prevalent in other cities. I know that this is all relative, but that’s what I see. It seems that everything closes at 8 pm and people dress like they are about to go camping every day. I never knew there were so many hues of hunter green.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Keep Portland Weird” do you think Portland is weird, why or why not?
New York is crazy, Portland is strange, or how they would say it: weird. I’ve seen some very odd things, mostly on public transportation. Everyone has a story. (Especially if you ride the #6 ever.) Sometimes I think it’s this cute-little thing that Portland plays into, but then you talk to people who grew up here and yeah, pretty weird.
Being newly relocated to Portland, how hard has it been to connect…you know, on practical things like, where to purchase Black hair supplies, bookstores etc…
I’m not gonna even lie, it’s been pretty tough for me. Its probably a little bit due to me being kinda idealistic. It’s been an adventure to try and connect with like-minded people out here, but I have met very good people. That’s what can make any place bearable, I know this just from being in military schools for 5 years. To find hair supplies and other practical things, I’ve had to ask around and for the most part, I haven’t been steered wrong. You kind of discover things like that accidentally here because there are so few resources. I am glad they actually exist.
Hannah, I have to ask you this… How does it feel to be so gorgeous? 🙂
It’s pretty tough, people don’t understand what a burden possessing beauty like mine can be. I turn down advances from the time I leave my house to the time I come in. It can get pretty exhausting and heart-breaking for the admirers! Obviously, that was a joke. On the days I am in self-acceptance mode, it feels pretty good I guess. I’ve worked pretty hard to accept how I look and it hasn’t (it isn’t) easy and that journey is still going.
Recently, you had an article in Bitch magazine. Will you share the title of the article and what it was all about? Also, I know you are involved locally with the Women of Color Zine project, will you explain what that is and how interested folks can get involved?
The article was called On Stereotypes: Why Tall is a feminist issue, too. I wrote it not because I wanted a revolution of Amazons or even to request longer inseams, but just to show how tall women also encounter negative stereotypes. It was to get people to at least question assumed thoughts on female height. The Women of Color Zine Project is a group headed by Tonya Jackson. We would meet at PSU and learn about zine culture and how people of color had a place within it, contrary to what’s usually shown. I joined because I was curious about zines, I mean, I used to pronounce them with a long i like “ziiiiine” that’s how oblivious I was.
Are you single?
I am single and oh-so ready to mingle. (As long as you’re not weird in the not so fun way.)