Why this did not make headlines earlier is a mystery to us! Ginella Massa delivered the evening news on a “brisk Thursday night in November” wearing a simple and elegant snake-print hijab wrapped around her head. Massa is the first hijabi woman to anchor a major Canadian newscast.
“I didn’t expect for it to take off the way it did,” she says. “I still don’t think it’s really hit me how big of a deal it was.”
While this is a big deal for the media at large, Massa is no stranger to breaking new ground. According to an interview with Vogue, she became the first hijabi news anchor in media history at the age of 29 when she landed an on-air position with CTV News in Kitchener, just outside of Toronto.
“My first story was on sidewalk clearing or something really innocuous,” she recalls, laughing. “Which was kind of nice — it was just, ‘Here’s a local story; I just happen to be wearing hijab while I’m reporting on it.’”
Oddly enough, her news anchor debut came about because a coworker wanted to go to a hockey game. A perfectly normal fill-in request to Massa, but a huge step for everyone else.
“Growing up, I had fears about whether that could be possible because I wore the hijab, and I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV — that tells you something about where you do or don’t belong,” she says. “It was my mom who said it — ‘You want to be on TV, go for it.’ Just because no one else has done it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
With current events, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and Islamophobia, Massa recognizes it is important to show that the hijab is not only beautiful but a part of everyday life. While it may seem groundbreaking now, news anchors should be recognized for what they have to say, not what they wear on and off the camera.
“Part of it is showing the hijab can be beautiful, too,” she says of fighting that pervasive stigma — and it’s a thing of beauty, draped elegantly around her in sheer white silk or soft lilac. “I like that it does frame my face and keeps the focus there.”
“If all else fails, and I’m being really lazy, I’ll still always wear a strong lipstick,” she adds. “I try to be really confident in my own skin. So that, at the end of the day, I hope people will focus on what I have to say.”
We could all learn something from Massa. She is confident not only in her own skin but with who she is as a person. While she is not blind to the hurtful actions and words of others, she realizes she can make a difference without leaving the newsroom.
Stay beautiful, Ginella!