Every now and again, you meet someone who marches to the beat of their own drum and inspires you to do the same. Someone who quite literally sees a problem and takes an issue into their own hands. Well, this is exactly what beauty enthusiast and SCAD student Hannah Harris did. Earlier this summer, Hannah read a Medium article by Jessica Defino that noticed a lack of brown girl hands from nail companies to beauty brands everywhere. This set off a lightbulb in Hannah’s head, so she started her own Instagram page, which has now amassed over 3,000 followers. She has also worked with beauty brands like Supergoop and Versed. In a two-hour conversation, I sat down with the content creator herself to learn a little bit more about her and her hands.
Her Campus: Tell me about yourself, where are you from?
Hannah Harris: My mom is from Trinidad & Tobago and my dad is from Grenada, so both my parents are immigrants. However, I’m from Broward County, Florida.
HC: Do you think your background had an inspiration for what you're doing now?
HH: I think more so growing up as a Black American. I’m the first generation to be raised here and I think it’s a lot different to go from an island that has a majority of mixed people to here. Especially in college, oftentimes I found myself to be the only Black person in a room. It took a while for me to even have a Black professor. This was the first time I even experienced something like this because growing up in Broward, this was not something I even had to think about. I never had to talk about diversity before college. So, I would say college had the biggest influence on me when it comes to speaking on diversity and what work still needs to be done.
HC: You have a very interesting major, how did you come to choose that?
HH: Yes, it’s the Business of Beauty and Fragrance. I wish I had some really well thought out answer. It was literally that I got to SCAD and they said we have three new majors this year. I said, “Oh cool, what are they?” And they said, “well, one of them is beauty and fragrance.” So, I said to myself, that sounds way cooler than what I was going to do, which was either advertising and branding or fashion marketing. I went to a major/minor fair [at SCAD] and I met the chair of beauty and fragrance and I was sold.
HC: Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in beauty and content creation?
HH: Probably not, I feel like it was a gradual thing. I started off really loving fashion, I went through a project runway phase. My 13th birthday party was project runway themed. It was the best birthday party I ever had, I will never top it. I even took sewing classes from the age of 8 until my first year of high school. I used to make my own church dresses. From fashion, I think that was my gateway to beauty. As I got older, I fell in love with brands like Glossier and beauty started to feel more personal.
HC: What was your inspiration behind Brown Girl Hands?
HH: I read an article called Where are all the brown hands? by Jessica Defino, a freelance beauty reporter. She did a deep dive and she literally scrolled through the Instagram of multiple nail polish accounts and counted how long it took her to find a hand of color. She even talked to a social media manager for one of the brands who said they don’t post brown hands because they get less engagement. It was really eye-opening and I kept it in the back of my mind. Then one day I got my nails done with my mom and she said, “your nails match your Glossier balm dotcom, take a photo and send it to them.” I was like “mom, that’s not how it works.” But she did have a point, so I got my camera and took photos and wanted to post them. However, I know my followers don’t care about a triptych, three photos in a row, of my hands, so I thought what if I just made an Instagram account just for hand photos? Gelcream does it, so why can’t I?
HC: What do you hope to achieve with Brown Girl Hands?
HH: I’m honestly just taking it day by day. I thought this was just going to be a cute thing to do but I already had to buy a new lens for my camera. I kind of have a mini content studio going on with backdrops. I’m pretty okay with just helping brands diversify their content in any way I can.
HH: No, not at all, it really hasn’t hit me yet. I’m just in shock, I just keep going every day. I check my email and every day it’s a new brand, I haven’t even processed it. What am I supposed to do? I just put one foot in front of the other each day.
HC: Were there any fears when Brown Girl Hands started to take off?
HH: When brands started asking for photos and sending me products, I guess I had a fear of not being good enough. Like I’m not a photographer and I still take pictures on automatic. I’m giving brands professional photos and invoices and because I wasn’t a photographer, I had to become one. With this diversity movement, I don’t want to get a job just because I’m black. I want them to hire me because I’m black and good at what I do. I also know that if I do a terrible job, these brands may decide to never work with black creators ever again.
HC: Since I'm talking to Brown Girl Hands herself, what hand products can you not live without?
HH: I’m not really tied to brands, but I feel like you need a good hand lotion. The night before I shoot, I usually lace my hands in too much lotion. I’m currently using the Augustinus Bader, but Nivea works just fine. I also use the Bare Hands cuticle oil but any cuticle oil will do. Olive and June also has a good one.
HC: What beauty products do you find yourself constantly reaching for?
HH: I literally only have three steps, some nights only two. I’ve been using either the Versed or the Lesse cleanser. Sometimes I use them together; I don’t think you’re supposed to but it works for me. Then I just do oil, I use the Lesse one in the morning but I have just started using Supernal, which I mostly use at night. And on days I feel like I need it, I add in a mask. I go back and forth between the Lesse one and the Versed Doctors Visit one that they sent to me. It actually hasn’t launched yet. What I really love about it is that it’s like jelly. It’s really fun and you only put it on for three minutes, which I love because I have no patience.
HC: What’s your signature scent?
HH: Byredo Bal D’Afrique, which I got in France. I was smelling so much perfume when I was there that after a certain point, they all started smelling the same. This is the only fragrance that I smelled and was like this is it. Your signature scent should represent you, so even though it’s expensive, people identify this scent with me, so I’ll probably keep repurchasing. I was using You by Glossier before this, which I highly recommend. I love that it’s not overpriced!
HC: What’s next for you and Brown Girl Hands?
HH: I’m trying to think of ways of how I can keep it interesting. I just want to keep the momentum going and keep brands wanting to come back for more content. The thing with social media is that you can do something really well, but people only pay attention for so long because we have become humans with no attention spans. I’ll keep doing product shots because beauty people will never get tired of new beauty products to discover. I also think of new ways to put diversity issues at the forefront and merge these two things together. Sometimes there’s just a good product I want to post about, and I think that’s okay too. There’s so much pressure on Black people to be advocating all the time, which is pressure that white beauty bloggers don’t deal with. It’s okay for Brown Girl Hands to just be an aesthetic page because we don’t see that very often for Black people. As Elaine Welteroth said in her book, “sometimes just existing in the space you’re in is powerful enough.”
For more amazing brown hand content, product shots and reviews, make sure you’re following the trailblazing Hannah Harris at @browngirlhands.
All photos are courtesy of Hannah Harris.