Lansing native Siham Hassan is an inspiration. She was valedictorian at Everett High School and won Miss Congeniality in the 2021 Miss Michigan USA pageant competition.
Now at MSU, Hassan is a double-major in Pre-Law and Media and Information with a concentration in film and media production. On top of her impressive academic efforts, Hassan also is the founder of Foreign House.
Foreign House is a community of artists coming together with a mission to promote diversity and inclusion within the film and creative industries. Members range from makeup artists and models to actors, comedians, musicians, storytellers, fashion designers, and more. Foreign House builds a bridge for different communities to come together. Foreign House also has members that are interested more in working behind the scenes in the industry such as directors and managers. Members come from all over the world, and each has something unique to offer.
“The pandemic occurred before I could make a lot of connections within the MSU community,” Hassan said. “But through the process of starting Foreign House, I was able to make great connections, especially within ComArtSci. We have collaborated with Impact, Comma Concerts, and so many cool and talented people from ComArtSci.”
The idea of Foreign House began during the pandemic, in the middle of Hassan’s sophomore year, as a conversation with her sister at the kitchen table. Hassan’s primary vision for Foreign House was to promote diversity and make creative environments more inclusive.
“Everything is so black and white, Asian and Hispanic, etc.," Hassan said. “We are failing to accept others for who they are and come together as a community. When I recruited talents to Foreign House, I did not ask the artists to change who they were, but rather bring their unique talents and combine it with that of others to create something special.”
Like many startups, Hassan’s journey to create Foreign House has not always been smooth. She reached out to over a thousand different artists online before she got her first yes. That yes came from Drian Bautista, a makeup influencer from the Philippines.
"I never stopped and gave up on my idea because I knew that what I am working on is something spectacular,” Hassan said. “If I could just have one person who believed in me, I would let that ignite my passion for Foreign House. Recruiting Drian gave me the extra motivation to continue with the journey.”
After getting Drian involved, Hassan found the confidence to keep reaching out and recruiting new artists. Artists began flocking to Foreign House from all over including Jordan, Canada and India, as well as even more from the mid-Michigan area.
The next big step for Foreign House is to secure its own physical space. Hassan and the group rely on Zoom calls to coordinate projects. According to Hassan, a physical space would allow Foreign House to create projects seamlessly, create more content, provide an inclusive space for local artists, and generate revenue by hosting special events.
“We have got our eyes on the old Stock and Field building over on Edgewood Blvd, but realistically speaking, we just cannot afford it,” said Hassan. “We have set up a GoFundMe to raise some money. Any assistance we can get would be greatly appreciated because Foreign House is more than the voice of one story; it is about our story together.”
By Joe Strother