Put your hands together for Hannah Harris, the creator of the Instagram account, @browngirlhands. After reading a Medium story titled “Where Are All the Brown Hands?” from writer Jessica DeFino, Harris recently kicked off her new Instagram as a space to casually share photos she’s taken of beauty products featuring her own (as you might’ve guessed) brown hands. A few months later, it has now caught the attention of beauty brands everywhere. In fact, the photos she posts have encouraged brands to include more Black and brown hands in their photo campaigns.
Thanks to Harris, brands are realizing they need to do a better job at thinking about diversity from all angles and companies have invited her to create content for their campaigns. Harris’s account has now grown into a community of over 3.7K followers and counting. We sat down with the influencer to talk about her creative process, her hopes for diversity in the beauty industry and — of course — her favorite hand care products.
Q: What are your earliest memories of experimenting with beauty?
Hannah Harris: As a Black woman, a Black hair salon is a place you go to from a very young age and I think that’s where my relationship with beauty began, trying out all the endless array hairstyles — some good and some bad. I was also a competitive dancer growing up so backstage hair and makeup were a huge part of my childhood. I think stage makeup had a reverse effect on my beauty taste though because now my makeup routine is extremely minimal.
Q: This year has been a whirlwind. Why is it that you wanted to create @BrownGirlHands now?
HH: I created Brown Girl Hands in June of 2020, which was an interesting time of both the pandemic mixed with heightened racial tension. I wanted a place to showcase a somewhat niche hobby of mine. When we think of aesthetic things, like hand photography, it often leans very white. Brown Girl Hands aims to diversify that perspective one hand photo at a time.
Q: You have such a cool way of playing with lighting and shadows. Has photography always been a hobby of yours?
HH: I took a photography class in high school but never really considered myself a photographer. Looking back, I should’ve paid way more attention in that class, you never know when skills and experiences may come in handy down the line. During that class, we focused more on photojournalism, while beauty photography was something I was introduced to on digital platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and media/magazine outlets.
Q: Have you set up a studio in your house?
HH: No! Everything is shot outside in natural light. Also, Karen Rosalie has been my biggest inspiration in this whole process. She gives so much amazing advice, tutorials and business tips for photographers.
Q: Do you have any tips for someone who’s looking to create beauty product photography content, but they’re not sure how to start?
HH: Every day that you’re in it, you get better. Play around with different styles, practice, follow other beauty photographers on Instagram and don’t be afraid to DM them questions. I DM photographers all the time asking, “What lens did you use?” or “Where do you get your backdrops?” Starting from Instagram first is a great way to build a following without even having a professional website.
Q: What do you envision the future of beauty photography to look like? Do you think beauty brands will commit to a more diverse array of models in beauty photography?
HH: Brown Girl Hands works with brands in order to create more inclusive product photography. I love seeing that brands are backing up their words with real action. The future of beauty photography isn’t just seeing more diverse skin tones in the campaigns but also behind-the-scenes working with stylists, photographers, creative directors, etc. that are people of color. This gives them the opportunity to tell unique stories from their perspective as well as build a globally inclusive narrative.
Q: What does your hand care routine currently look like?
HH: My hand routine is pretty simple: hand lotion and cuticle oil. Moisture is key! Some products that are perfect for this is Olive and June’s hand serum and cuticle oil, Bare Hands cuticle oil, and Nivea hand cream. I recommend keeping hand lotion right next to your hand soap so you don’t have to think twice about it!
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@mejuri // while I test my newest product obsessions wanted to share an easy way to elevate any manicure — jewelry. In my personal opinion gold jewelry on brown skin is *chefs kiss.* My faves are all from #mejuri including this bar charm hanging from my bracelet which is engraveable, making it more personal for me.
A post shared by Brown Girl Hands (@browngirlhands) on
Q: Your nails always look on point. Do you have any at-home manicure tips? What are some of your go-to nail polish colors and brands?
Hannah: I don’t do much! Just file, cuticle oil, and hand cream. My go-to nail polish brands are Olive and June, Essie Expressie, and J. Hannah. I personally love nude and neutral colors with a yellow or burnt orange every now and then, but for Brown Girl Hands I try to do what looks best with the products.
Editor’s note: ‘My biggest manicure must is to start with clean nails! That soapy water isn’t just softening your cuticles and skin, it’s also removing excess oil from the nail which is the best way to ensure your polish will stay on and not chip’, says Jess Hannah, CEO of J. Hannah.
Q: What do you think the future for Brown Girl Hands would look like? Would you consider photographing beauty products full-time?
HH: Only time will tell if this will be full-time. I think for the next steps [are] I’d definitely want to get a website up and expand into Pinterest.
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