On a brisk Thursday night in November, Ginella Massa sat poised and smiling behind the desk at Toronto’s CityNews station, coolly delivering the day’s script and making history with the simple snake-print scarf wrapped delicately around her head—the first hijabi woman to anchor a major late-night newscast in Canada.

It was a moment that made instant waves—media calls immediately began pouring in to get time with Massa—and those effects still ripple one month later. “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.” Perhaps because it was not even Massa’s first bit of ground breaking. That was almost two years prior, when the 29-year-old landed her first on-air post at CTV News in Kitchener, just west of Toronto, and became the first hijab-wearing television reporter in Canadian history. “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.’ ”

A similar mood defined her debut as an anchor—a standard fill-in for a coworker who wanted to go to a hockey game, “or something like that,” she says. Of course, that routine nature made it all the more notable for Massa—that this could be normal. “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.”

Now it’s been done, and with a return to the news desk set for this weekend, Massa will proudly wear her hijab on-air once more—a powerful beauty statement that is more important now than ever, in light of the recent surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamophobia. “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.”

As it happens, the hijab has become a bit of an asset for navigating the difficult world of broadcast makeup, which the self-taught Massa does herself—knowing what needs to pop out on the street or beneath the harsh studio lights. “If all else fails, and I’m being really lazy, I’ll still always wear a strong lipstick,” she adds of her signature slick of jewel-toned product, pulled from her roster of matte MAC bullets, which is often all she needs to complement the headscarf. “I try to be really confident in my own skin,” she goes on. “So that, at the end of the day, I hope people will focus on what I have to say.” There’s a beautiful message in that.