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    How This Midwife Created a Judgement-Free Zone on the Internet for Women to Talk Freely About Their Bodies

    In the age of Instagram, one of the biggest issues people express is a lack of authenticity on the platform; too much curated content and not enough applicable, real-life stuff. And while that can be true, it’s anything but for Ailsa Emmel of Happy Go Curly.On Happy Go Curly, you get your daily dose of style inspiration, but in between that also get something less expected: health education, particularly on vaginal health. What started out as a fashion Instagram has evolved into including insight that Ailsa has experience with from her day job as a Certified Nurse-Midwife, and her weekly Women’s Health Wednesday posts touch everything from birth control to breastfeeding to real talks about lubricant. 
    Curious about how Happy Go Curly came to be and what Ailsa’s plans are for the future? Look no further.

    Name: Ailsa Emmel, Certified Nurse-MidwifeAge: 40s Current Location: Miami, FloridaEducation: Master’s degree, Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, Bachelor’s of Science in Pyschology

    What was your first job and how did you land it?

    [My] first job out of college was easy. I had an NROTC scholarship, so I was commissioned in the United States Navy as an officer. I was a Navy nurse. 

    Tell us a little bit about your career journey. You’re a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)—what inspired you to start your Instagram on top of that?

    I went to college and got a Bachelor’s in Science in Nursing. I became an RN (after taking the credentialing test, of course). I spent four+ years as a commissioned officer and got out to join the reserves. This was during wartime, and it was too hard on my family since my hubby was also on active duty. We had young twins and were worried we would both be sent to war at the same time, so I decided to get out and attend Midwifery school at The University of Miami. 
    I started my Instagram years ago as a fashion account. I wanted to make good use of my closet, and back then styling prompts were a thing. I initially started my account as @emmeltwins. @_happygocurly_ didn’t evolve until late 2018 in my kitchen. I was brainstorming with my girlfriend and daughters. My account was moving away from a private, small account, and I wanted a name that defined me. I wanted people to know a little bit more about me just from seeing my handle. It was still about clothes and everyday life. The true integration of being a CNM coupled with fashion and lifestyle came later.

    What were the beginning stages of @_happygocurly_ like? Was there a moment where you felt like, wow, I’m really doing this?

    HGC truly came to be when we moved to Boston from 2018-2019 for the year (my hubby was doing a fellowship at MIT). I say this because I spent a lot of time exploring and spending time alone. I think it helped me to get to know myself. I fell in love with ME. It was there that a follower recommended I do a Women’s Health Wednesday every week. I was like, ‘No way, I don’t have enough topics to talk about every week,’ but I was wrong! The topics came flooding in, and people were tuning in and asking questions.
    The beginning of @_happygocurly_ was a troubleshoot. I didn’t identify my why; I didn’t know what my purpose was on Instagram. I was so busy looking at what everyone else was posting and not using my voice. It was when I started to use my voice that things started changing. 

    How has @_happygocurly_ evolved since you began it? What would you say your main priority is in choosing your posts?

    HGC has become a safe haven for many—at least that is the atmosphere I want to create and cultivate. Women can come to me and ask and share anything. It is a judgment-free zone as long as you are kind. I want them to embrace their bodies and all that she is capable of. I want them to move their body (exercise of some form), meditate, perform self-care (however that is for them), read (explore different topics and books), and follow different accounts (diversity is key from different body types to ethnicities).
    My main priority is reality. I want people to not seek perfection, but to seek understanding. I want them to know it is OK not to be like everyone else. I want them to explore their differences and embrace them. I know it sounds trite, but I want everyone to recognize their strengths and beauty. I say this because “pulling the curtain” in patient’s rooms, I see and hear their insecurities. I choose my posts based on how I am feeling and if I have something to say or share. I used to think I needed to post every day or twice a day and have found that is much more meaningful when I don’t. So, maybe one day I have a lot to say on my feed, and then other days not so much. I do, however, love stories. I am very active there and share it all. 

    I want people to not seek perfection, but to seek understanding.

    How do you balance  @_happygocurly_ with your CNM career? Do they overlap in any ways?

    Eek. It is definitely a hard balance. I work out of state every three weeks for a week or more. I have to plan (I say this lightly because that is not my forte), and I truly like the more spontaneous posts. When I am working, I like to give my undivided attention and energy to my patients. I find that I miss my Instagram friends so very much. I still pop in and out and always do my #happygocurlywhw
    They do overlap because I do talk about women’s topics on Wednesdays. I dedicate Wednesdays for that reason, but also at any time I may discuss vaginal health. I want women to talk about their bodies freely. I have found that these are the topics they have the most questions about: vaginal dryness, menopause, mothering/parenting, bonding, breastfeeding, labor, and the list goes on and on. 

    What has been the greatest challenge of your Instagram? Your favorite part?

    The greatest challenge has been getting good pics and Instagram-worthy scenery to capture the content. Trying to stay ahead with all the new changes has been defeating at times. While I like to think of myself as dynamic, sometimes the new additions can be daunting and time-consuming. I have been frustrated with my content going away after 24 hours and realized I needed a way to have it be accessible.
    My favorite part is the people for sure. I have made some of my closest friends on Instagram. I love the impact my WHW has made on so many, and when I get messages saying they listened and went to their provider and got a diagnosis or were able to advocate for themselves based on my talks. I think it is normal to question every once in a while if you are making a difference.

    I love the impact my Women’s Health Wednesday has made on so many, and when I get messages saying they listened and went to their provider and got a diagnosis or were able to advocate for themselves based on my talks.

    The past year hasn’t exactly been easy. How do you approach your Instagram when there are such major current events happening?

    I find that I speak my mind. I don’t want to bombard my followers, but I also want them to understand how current events affect me as a BIPOC/Black woman. I share my experiences in relation to BLM. I try to expose them to a different world. I invite them to ask questions. I try to call in my community, rather than call out. I want them to always ask the hard questions in an effort to gain knowledge. 

    I invite them to ask questions. I try to call in my community, rather than call out. I want them to always ask the hard questions in an effort to gain knowledge. 

    What career moment are you most proud of thus far?

    Becoming a CNM. I am so happy it worked out that I get to live my passion. Every time I deliver a baby, I pinch myself. I thank the parents for allowing me to share this moment with them. Living your life’s passion is the greatest high for me. 

    Where do you see yourself next year? Five years from now?

    In the next year: moving to North Carolina. I want to start a blog. I want to create a place where women can find the information they need in case they miss WHW. 
    Five years: Well, my hubby will probably be retiring from the USMC, and we will have to pick a location to live. I have no idea where that may be. Geez, I don’t have any grand plans except to be happy and to keep plugging along. I think I am living exactly what I want and don’t want for much more. That can change quickly—heck, it may change tomorrow. Ask me again next week.

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

    To thine ownself be true. This is my mantra. When I start to get lost in the hustle, I remember that if I am not making myself happy, I am no good to anyone else. 

    What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

    Keep working hard, you’re going to be amazing. Be sure to love you first before you try to give yourself to others. 

    Ailsa Emmel is The Everygirl …

    Go-to coffee order? Grande latte, light foam (I know it defeats the whole point of a latte). Or a Venti black unsweetened iced tea with two Splendas
    Favorite act of self-care? Working out and sweating
    Top song of 2020? Ed Sheeran, Perfect
    Favorite piece in your wardrobe? Denim jacket
    If you could have lunch with any woman, who would you choose and why? Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Oprah Winfrey—all inspiring and strong women. They were (and are) tenacious and headstrong yet so caring and helped me stay focused. More

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    5 Hyperpigmentation Myths About Darker Skin Tones

    As a Woman of Color, I’ve often struggled not only with finding foundation and color cosmetics that match my skin and its undertones, but also with finding the right skincare for the one condition that affects Black and Brown people the most: hyperpigmentation. Folks of any complexion can experience hyperpigmentation, as anatomically all skin is the same. We all have the same types of dermal layers, pores, blood vessels, and glands. However, there is one small and very obvious way that our skin differs, and that is in pigment. Skin color is determined by the presence of melanin, a pigment made by cells called melanocytes. Contrary to popular belief, we all have the same number of these cells, but depending on where we are from geographically and genetically, these cells make more melanin for some of us versus others. Darker skin is still prone to hyperpigmentation and needs all of the protection that fairer skin tones warrant.
    Hyperpigmentation happens when cells produce too much melanin at one time, causing what we commonly call a dark spot or a blemish. So, why does this happen, and why does it happen more frequently in darker skin-toned people? Surprisingly, it all leads back to one of two things: hormones or inflammation. Hyperpigmentation can happen when our hormones are out of whack due to pregnancy, changes in birth control, or even menopause. Changes in skin pigment due to these causes frequently show up on our skin in larger brown patches, or in a “mask-like” formation and should be addressed by your medical doctor.
    However, most of the dark spots that we seek to correct with skincare products are caused by inflammation and cause Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, or PIH. Have you ever bought a bag of fruit and one random apple slips out of the bag and bounces onto the floor? Though said apple is now slightly dented, you place it in the bowl with others. A day later, you may notice that the apple has a bruise or a brown spot around the dent? This inflammation is its response to trauma. Our skin responds much in the same way. 
    Any “trigger” to darker skin, even the seemingly innocent ones–which can include exfoliation, acne, waxing, or shaving—can cause melanocytes to overproduce skin pigment (melanin), causing a dark spot. So, what can we do about this? First, we can debunk a few myths about hyperpigmentation and Brown skin.

    source: @gethyperskin

    1. Dark skin is less sensitive than fair skin
    You may have already guessed after reading the above that this is false. Though fair skin can easily reveal any irritation or changes due to its lighter pigment, dark skin can mask irritation and have more visible and prolonged reactions to irritants and trauma.
    Therefore, it is important that skincare regimens for Black and Brown skin contain calming and soothing ingredients to prevent irritation, thus the overproduction of melanin. Even during exfoliation, it’s important to be sure that manual or scrub exfoliants are not harsh and exfoliating agents, such as acids, are not irritating.
    2. Dark skin tones can’t use peels
    This myth is a tricky one! Black and Brown skin tones have long been warned against laser treatments, and rightfully so. Early lasers and those used for hair removal were designed to find and zap pigment in the skin, preventing them from being an option for deeper skin tones. However, there have been a number of new developments in this space including, the invention of Pico Lasers, which can work on various skin tones!
    Peels have long been a go-to for lightening and brightening dark marks left by acne or sun damage; however, if you recall, inflammation can be caused by irritation, which means that things like strong acids can actually cause more harm than good. It is important to make sure that the peel you choose does not contain an acid that you may be allergic to. Peels tend to have varying strengths, from lighter strengths that you can perform at home to deeper peels that only a dermatologist should perform. If opting for a medium to deep peel, it is recommended that you have it performed by a professional who understands darker skin tones and your unique needs.

    Source: @blackgirlsunscreen

    3. Thinking acne is not the culprit
    I rarely break out, but when I do, whether I squeeze my pesky pimple or not, it almost always leaves a dark mark. This is because acne is, by definition, the occurrence of inflamed or infected oil glands in the skin. So, the best way to counteract dark spots from acne is to prevent them.  
    Use a clarifying cleanser to keep your face free of bacteria and your pores decongested, especially if you’re oily. This is an important step in preventing breakouts from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, once the irritation has happened and the pimple has erupted, it can be days to weeks before that dark mark makes its exit.
    4. Using lightening products will help
    Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you may have heard that many of the lightening products used by our moms and grandmothers have actually not only caused skin damage, but may have caused some serious side effects due to toxic ingredients that went under the radar for many years. In addition, society has begun to address the use of these products as they have historically promoted colorism in certain cultures.
    I personally am glad to see this conversation at the forefront of the beauty industry favoring safety and inclusivity in skincare. That said, lightening products can indeed still be the solution if you take the time to vet ingredients to ensure their safety. Ingredients such as licorice root, kojic acid, and skin superhero vitamin C are all great options for safely lightening and brightening dark spots.

    source: @blackgirlsunscreen

    5. Thinking you don’t need sunscreen
    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the biggest myth of them all! Yes, we the Brown people have more melanin, but our melanin isn’t stronger than the sun. 
    The biggest culprit of hyperpigmentation is UV exposure from the sun. Though Black people have lower rates for skin cancer, we have higher rates of dying from it, as we typically will go undiagnosed for a longer period of time. Therefore, it is important for all skin tones to wear sunscreen each and every day, even in the winter or when it’s cloudy out. In addition, if you are using products to lighten PIH, your skin may actually be more sensitive to the sun, and you may be undoing all the correcting effects of your regimen by exposing your skin to UV harm.
    Lastly, I have experienced the common complaint of “ashy” or “gray” skin after an SPF application. Luckily for us, given the current heightened visibility of the beauty industry in addressing melanated skin, we are now seeing new brands that have launched expressly to address these concerns. One such company, Black Girl Sunscreen, manufactures SPF products with no white cast or residue. More

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    I Believe I Experienced Biased Healthcare—and I’m Far From the Only One

    “Surgery?!” That was my first thought after hearing the doctor’s announcement. “Ri-DAMN-diculous,” was my second thought. Although I had no concrete proof, I was sure that I had been subjected to disparate medical treatment because I’m Black. My doctor minimized my concerns and refused to thoroughly investigate my symptoms. This doesn’t just happen to “regular” Black females. Perhaps you remember Serena Williams’ very scary, post-childbirth experience in which her concerns were dismissed. Or maybe you’re familiar with the more recent story of the Black, female doctor who ultimately died from COVID-19 after pleading for medication and routine checks. A 2019 article from Consumer Reporters (via the Washington Post) discussed how gender and racial bias can impact the way doctors diagnose and treat pain. Physicians are more likely to attribute female pain to other issues, such as stress, while ordering tests to investigate male patients with similar symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S., Black, Native American, and Alaska Native women are 2-3 times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy-related issues than White women (the numbers get worse as women get older). And a 2019 review published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that Black patients were less likely than their white counterparts to receive medication to ease acute pain, and, according to TODAY, 34 percent less likely to be prescribed opioids. 
    Data confirms that racial disparities in health care exist, and, unfortunately, I can say that I experienced it firsthand. It started in March of 2017 when I felt a dull, nagging pain in my stomach. I took some ibuprofen and paced the living room, hoping that would help. It didn’t. After about an hour, my sister convinced me that we should go to the ER. I was diagnosed with indigestion. 
    I saw my primary care physician (PCP) the next week. My PCP ordered a test and prescribed two medications for indigestion. The next month, I had another episode, only this one was much worse. I took the medicine for “flare-ups,” and it felt like I had just poured gasoline into a fire, inside my stomach. This time, the ER ran a CT scan, but it came back clear. I didn’t know how to feel. I was relieved, because I thought a clear scan meant the problem wasn’t serious, but I still didn’t have any answers.

    I didn’t know how to feel. I was relieved, because I thought a clear scan meant the problem wasn’t serious, but I still didn’t have any answers.

    My previous PCP had left the clinic, but I met with a new one. She referred me for an endoscopy to see into my esophagus and told me to keep taking the medicine. I explained that one of the pills had only made things worse, and I wouldn’t be taking any more. Her immediate response was, “I can’t give you narcotics.” Confused, I explained that I wasn’t asking for pain pills, I was asking for a different antacid. She said she couldn’t give me anything else, and that we would have to wait for the test results. The wait time for the scope was four months. You read that right—four months.  
    My pain became more frequent and more severe, and each time I called the PCP’s office, she told me to keep taking the meds and wait for the scope. At the time, I was traveling for work, and only spent weekends at home. My family was concerned about what would happen if I had an episode away from home. Honestly, I did, and I suffered through them alone in my hotel room. I was too afraid to go to the ER by myself, especially in an unfamiliar city. Finally, an old mentor suggested I talk to her friend who was a gastroenterologist. As unexpected as it sounds, I flew 600 miles away from home for an appointment with him, something I realize not everyone would be able to do. 
    The out-of-state doctor didn’t find anything wrong and suggested that I get an abdominal ultrasound. So, I called my PCP’s office to get a referral for the ultrasound, but she was on vacation and the other doctors in her office were all booked. This time I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I reached out to everyone I could think of looking for a new physician. 
    A friend recommended her doctor. He got me an ultrasound the day after my appointment with him. Two hours after the test, he called with the results: “Your gallbladder is severely inflamed and has to come out.” In less than 24 hours, this new doctor had diagnosed my problem and come up with a treatment plan. Why hadn’t my previous doctor suggested an ultrasound? Why had she insisted on a “wait and see” approach while I was in unbearable pain?

    In less than 24 hours, this new doctor had diagnosed my problem and come up with a treatment plan. Why hadn’t my previous doctor suggested an ultrasound? Why had she insisted on a ‘wait and see’ approach while I was in unbearable pain?

    I don’t have any proof, but I believe it was because she didn’t believe that a Black woman could actually be in real pain. She was too busy assuming I was seeking opioids that she couldn’t provide proper care. She could have easily explored other options during those months. While my former PCP was finishing her vacation, I was undergoing surgery.
    While I’m grateful that my gallbladder didn’t become infected or rupture (which can be life-threatening), the waiting period was exhausting. I was on edge 24/7 not knowing when the pain would strike. I altered my eating habits to eliminate the foods I thought might have triggered the episodes. I refused lunch and dinner invitations from friends and skipped team dinners with my co-workers. After having an episode while driving, I wouldn’t eat before running errands, and never went anywhere by myself.  
    Since I couldn’t predict when I’d find myself in the ER again, I only slept in color-coordinated pajamas in case I ended up at the hospital in the middle of the night. I suspected I was already being stereotyped by one doctor; I thought “looking presentable” might lessen the risk of being judged by another one. I learned to observe how the ER staff interacted with me and my family. At the same time, I dreaded the bills that kept accumulating (they weren’t cheap). I’m thankful that I was able to seek alternative care, but why should I have had to do that in the first place? As I said, ri-DAMN-diculous! 

    Since I couldn’t predict when I’d find myself in the ER again, I only slept in color-coordinated pajamas in case I ended up at the hospital in the middle of the night. I suspected I was already being stereotyped by one doctor; I thought ‘looking presentable’ might lessen the risk of being judged by another one.

    If you’re in a similar situation, know that you deserve a doctor that listens to you. Fight until you find that doctor. Speak up if you don’t think you’re being taken seriously. Ask your physician to consult a colleague or get your own second opinion. Ask people you know for recommendations. Read online reviews. If you switch doctors, tell the new one about your previous experience, and let them know exactly what you are looking for. If they seem upset or offended, grab your purse, and run. Your health is too important for your concerns to be dismissed. You deserve a doctor that believes you. More

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    Our Favorite Black-Owned Accessory Brands to Shop This Month (and Forever)

    Friends, I think I have my mother to blame for the shopaholic that I am today. I know this because when I first started getting into fashion, I wasn’t really into the accessorizing of it all. I had, somehow, resolved that the most important pieces to have in my closest were graphic tees and Baby Phat jeans. Moreover, I imagined that if I had a healthy mix of the former, I could get away with wearing my Uggs, or flip flops, and a North Face backpack with everything. Can you tell how old I was? As I outgrew my Baby Phat Jeans phase, my mom’s closet became my happy place. It was so much bigger than my own and she had so many things: purses, shoes, accessories, you name it. I figured I could get through life without having to buy my own accessories because she had so many, but that hasn’t been the case. Turns out she’s not a fan of people shopping in (or as she calls it “stealing” from) her closet. So, I’ve had to build out my own accessory collection and I’m here to help you do the same. 
    As a proud Black Woman, I don’t go a single day without thinking about the inequities and injustices that Black people in America and worldwide face everyday. It can get immensely exhausting to shoulder that burden and work to fix it while Black. However, something that I am passionate about, and hope to inspire others to become regulars at, is uplifting my community by boosting our economic power. A great way to do that is to invest in Black-owned businesses and services. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite Black-owned accessory brands you can support this month and forevermore. 
    Happy Black History Month! 

    If you want to grab a Telfar bag you’re going to have to be quick and astute! These shopping bags sell out in 10 minutes or less on every single drop. They’re cute, high-quality, and luxuriously affordable (even AOC wears one).

    Cise bags are known for their social and political demands. Written on the bags that sell out regularly, you’ll find statements like Protect Black Women and Protect Black People. Make a difference, but make it fashion. 

    You know that bag in your closet that you keep in the dustbag when it’s not being used? That’s what you’re going to want to do with your Anima Iris. These bags are truly pieces of art.

    If you’re a leather-lover, these bags are for you. Self-taught designer, artisan, and founder of the brand, Valerie Blaise, describes these pieces as, “Passionately made, wearable leather accessories.”

    Meet your new favorite everyday bag. Designed to be minimalistic and long-lasting, Tree Fairfax bags are heralded for their timeless designs and quality craftsmanship. 

    If you can manage to snag one of these bags, grab me one too! Brandon Blackwood mixes expert craftsmanship with trendy styles to bring us bags that make a statement and are built to last. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the restock of the End Systematic Racism Trunk Bags, but until then take a look at the other art he has in stock! 

    These luxury bags from Lagos, Nigeria, are a trendy pop of color that can spice up any and all outfits.

    Voni Los Angeles bags are heralded for being affordable and innovative in style. You’ll get your money’s worth with these purses because they can be worn in so many different ways.

    Every time The Wrap Life adds a new style to their website, I’m tempted to buy. From headwraps to bandies to turbanettes, they’re my go-to for hair accessory basics that are high-quality and don’t break the bank. 

    Aṣọ Dára was started by a group of siblings that wanted to create a lifestyle brand that reflected the genius and diversity of Pan-Africanism. Fans of Aṣọ Dára love the ability to make bold statements with the headwrap prints and chokers to match!

    Oprah and I agree that these beanies are revolutionary. With silk lining to keep your hair from being tugged at, Grace Eleyae has reinvented the beanie game, ladies! 

    It’s an umbrella for your hair and your face, need I say more? 

    CocoXRobyn has so many trendy accessories it’ll be hard to just pick one. You can also shop for tops, bottoms, and stickers on their trend-forward site. 

    Who knew an accessory could heal the soul?! B.serene hand-crafts crystal jewelry to raise your vibrations, promote self love, and make wellness wearable. I’m guilty of owning about six of these necklaces, because you can never have too much self-love.  

    Layering necklaces is the easy way to take your look from drab to fab. Filosophy makes the beautiful basics you need to elevate your look today and every day. 

    Personally, I’m a gold hoops every day kind of girl, but I do recognize that there are occasions when my hoops don’t cut it. That’s when I need fashion-forward statement jewelry like that of Zuri Perle. 

    I’ve fallen in love with the Pleasure Principle anklet and I absolutely must have it for spring. Wanna twin?


    Could it be? A watch worth retiring my Apple Watch for? The elegance and femininity of these pieces are unmatched. 

    Talley & Twine is one of those brands that you’ll blink and own five different watches from. They boast quality, style, and professionalism. 

    Dreaming of a post-COVID getaway? Manifest it with a pair of these—if not because I love them, then because of all the potential Instagram photos.

    I’ve found your next Blue Light frames and they are fabulous. More

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    Having 40 Foundation Shades Doesn’t Make a Brand Inclusive—Here’s What Does

    One of the many things I do in my day-to-day as a beauty editor is source images for articles, which has me following hundreds of beauty brands, influencers, and other people in the business on Instagram. In both my personal and work-time, I’m scrolling through new releases, product reviews, announcements, roundups, and more. Over time, you start to notice trends. Some brands always get it right (read: Fenty Beauty), pandemic life has basically ended the need for lip products beyond the usual lip balm, and drugstore skincare is really on the up-and-up. But one thing is glaring, even in 2021: product images still aren’t diverse, and I’m forced to scroll endlessly to find options that showcase Black and Brown bodies.This is especially difficult for nail polishes and any photos that involve hands. One look through a mainstream brands’ feed can take 40-or-so rows to see a different skin tone be represented. What if you’re searching for how a shade looks on your skin, or how a product performs with your skin type? But it’s beyond that; it’s about representation. So, Hannah Harris, student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, started Brown Girl Hands, an Instagram account and website dedicated to showcasing and reviewing beauty products through Black hands. We talked to Hannah about why she started her business and account, her favorite beauty products she’s tried along the way, and her product photography tips.

    What made you start your Instagram account?

    Brown Girl Hands was the culmination of many things crossing paths at the right time. My high school camera (in hindsight, I should’ve paid more attention in photography class), my unique fascination with hand photos (my Pinterest boards can vouch for me), and my love of reading (particularly, a Jessica Defino article titled Where are All the Brown Hands?). It was after reading that article that the idea for Brown Girl Hands came to be. I thought to myself, “Where are all the Brown Hands? I’m right here.” I wanted to show brands that Brown hands can be aesthetic and that they deserve to be represented.
    How did you start? Did you have any previous experience with reviewing products or photography?

    I took a photography class years ago in high school, but everything else I taught myself. It’s been quite a bit of trial and error, following the sun for good lighting and shooting in my driveway. Instagram was one of my biggest resources. I followed different photographers, watched their tutorials, and messaged them with questions. My approach for reviewing products is just talking like it’s a good friend [who is] asking me for a recommendation!

    The industry is pretty slow to show swatches and product images on Black and Brown people. How do you hope your Instagram will change this? What changes would you like to see in the beauty industry?

    I hope Brown Girl Hands’ account brings awareness to beauty brands that they need to include different skin tones in their product photography.  At Brown Girl Hands Studio, I work with beauty brands to offer more diverse product photography and have shot entire product line-ups. I would love to see different types of diversity in the beauty industry. I think we got stuck on the “40 shades!” for such a long time, but what about diversity in product photography, in age, in ability?
    What is your favorite aspect of your Instagram?

    The community. The Brown Girl Hands community is the reason why we exist. When women message us about how much it means to them for someone to acknowledge that you can be Black and Brown and enjoy minimalism, enjoy beauty, enjoy beautiful things—that means everything.
    You are also really passionate about age diversity in the beauty industry. Can you explain a little bit more about why and what you hope to see change in the future?

    I was recently a finalist for the Fashion Scholarship Fund for my project on age inclusion in haircare. This really stemmed from my mom and the lack of positive messaging I saw for her age. It was always about reversing their wrinkles but never about empowering them. So many women over 40 are our biggest inspirations: our moms, grandmothers, Michelle Obama, Brene Brown, Oprah, I could go on. Why do we continually leave them out in our advertising in a confident way? Currently at SCAD, I’m a junior in the Business of Beauty and Fragrance program where we learn the ins and outs of the industry from marketing to leadership and ethics and emerge well prepared for new opportunities. I’m excited for a few upcoming projects and positions, including interning at the Estee Lauder Companies this summer and being a part of the inaugural first-class of 20 Virgil Abloh Scholars to receive mentorship from Abloh.

    Now onto the fun stuff 🙂  What are your favorite beauty products you’ve featured on your Instagram?
    My top 3: Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm, Ranavat Kansa Wand, and Lesse Ritual Serum.

    Summer Fridays
    Lip Butter Balm

    “This is, hands down, the best lip gloss and balm I’ve ever tried … It gives me the super shiny look I want with zero stickiness. I wear it to bed at night to moisturize, and I wear it during the day over my favorite lip colors. The scent/flavor is a super mild vanilla,” Hannah said in her review of the product.

    Kansa Wand Facial Massage Tool

    “This facial massage tool from Indian owned brand Ranavat has been my favorite part of my skincare routine these past few weeks. After applying my face oil, I gently massage it in in circular, upward motions. Used for centuries in Ayurveda, it slowly detoxes the skin,” Hannah said in her review of the product.

    Ritual Serum Balancing Turmeric & Sea Minerals

    “I love that I can read everything on the label … I wish it came in a body version so I could douse myself in it. So balancing, calming, moisturizing, yet simple—I truly look forward to applying this oil and giving myself a little face massage every night,” Hannah said in her review of the product.


    Any tips on taking good product photos?

    Sunlight is your best friend; good light can make or break a photo. For hand photos specifically, I use Glossier Futuredew to add luminance to the hands and a hint of cuticle oil.
    Are there any products you’re excited to feature or try in the future?

    I would love to try the Dyson Hair Dryer–what a dream! I’m also excited to feature all Black-owned [brands] for the month of February. More

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    What I Wish Someone Told Me as a Black Girl Struggling With an Eating Disorder

    I was 17 when I decided I wanted to take control of my weight, and like every single weight-loss-related piece of information will insist, it requires a lifestyle change. For a long time, I considered the way I completely avoided entire food groups, severely restricted my daily calories to around 1,000 a day, and my hours-long, six-days-a-week HIIT workouts, to be the aforementioned lifestyle change.I think everyone understood my initial desire to lose weight (as I was ostensibly overweight), but not my desire to want to be skinny—and skinny was what I so desperately wanted to be. I wanted no parts of those curves that women like me were supposed to embrace. I was a Black girl that wanted to see hip bones rather than hips. 
    Which is the whole problem, right? As a Black girl growing up, having some meat on your bones was a good thing. Our community values curves. We’re tacitly taught that we should be desirous of a thicker body, and there are many complex, historical, and cultural reasons for this. This is why the idea of a Black girl wanting to be thin seems absurd, and having an eating disorder even more so. In fact, per NEDA, when it comes to eating disorders, Black women are under-diagnosed and under-treated when compared to their white counterparts. Unfortunately, according to VeryWell Mind, studies have shown that medical professionals are simply less likely to diagnose BIPOC with an eating disorder,  even if they have the same kinds of symptoms as a white person who is diagnosed with one. 

    Studies have shown that medical professionals are simply less likely to diagnose BIPOC with an eating disorder,  even if they have the same kinds of symptoms as a white person who is diagnosed with one. 

    This might be why it took me so long to understand that having such severe anxiety about food wasn’t just part of my new, “healthy” lifestyle, and it actually wasn’t OK that I couldn’t eat something without googling the calories (and this was almost a decade ago, so imagine trying to look up the nutritional facts of Chipotle’s fajita vegetables on my Blackberry Storm!).
    Years later, my relationship with food is much improved, though I am still a work in progress. And to be clear, I am in no way offering any medical advice. If you feel like you might be struggling with an eating disorder or you are concerned about your relationship with food, I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. 
    That said, as Black people, we navigate a unique cultural landscape that impacts the way we look at our bodies and food. This kind of discourse is often absent when we talk about eating disorders or unhealthy relationships with food. And while I’ll be thrilled if this message resonates with a broad spectrum of people, I really hope that this article helps a Black girl like me feel a little bit more seen.

    Ignore cultural myths about being a Black girl
    The world has placed Black girls in a box, complete with a laundry list of things supposedly we do and don’t do. And to varying extents, we’ve internalized it as well. I think having a better understanding of this would have been the difference between unsuccessfully telling myself that I needed to stop acting like a white girl and acknowledging that I was going through something that required professional help. I don’t want to frame it as though it’s empowering to assert that Black girls do experience eating disorders, because it’s far from—but thinking that you are immune from a condition because it seemingly “just doesn’t happen” in your community is problematic.
    I think, intuitively, we know that we are complex; I don’t know a single Black woman that lives up to the caricatured stereotype of what we are supposedly like. But we need to remind ourselves of our nuance every time that voice in our head tries to box us in. That’s when we’ll start viewing ourselves as full human beings who have the capacity for the entire range of human experience.

    Don’t lose your culture in your quest to lose weight
    I’m from the Caribbean, and food is a huge part of our culture. We love any excuse to cook a huge meal, stock the bar, and have a good time. Caribbean food is a lot of rice and peas, fried fish, barbecued pork, curry goat, fried plantain, and so on. All delicious, but not necessarily the most healthy if they’re prepared traditionally, and I believe that across the African diaspora, you’ll find similar foods and methods of preparation.
    The thing about an eating disorder is that it will have you terrified of the foods that you’ve grown up with, and by extension, a part of you as well. I’m not trying to say you are what you eat or that entire cultures are defined by foods, but I do think that, especially for People of Color, our foods hold a certain cultural, historical, and emotional weight. I think back to my college days, juggling the trauma and mental stress of living in a foreign country (and the accompanying micro-aggressions and culture shock), all the while depriving myself of the foods that would’ve made me feel closer to home. Don’t do your soul a disservice by suffocating a part of it.

    You are responsible for how you present yourself to the world, but not the world’s perception
    I think that sometimes as Black women, we are so used to having every single bit of us scrutinized: our hair, our skin tone, our behavior, our tone of voice, “If I do X, how will it look? What impression will I give?”
    We spend a lot of time policing ourselves, because we know if we don’t someone else will. I totally get it; it’s something I’m very guilty of myself. It was (is) pretty difficult for me to even write this because I’m so anxious about the way I’ll be perceived. There’ve been times that I’ve randomly gone on my Instagram profile and tried to look at it through the eyes of a stranger (please let me know if you’ve done this too, by the way, so I don’t feel totally alone!). I want us to collectively unlearn all of that. Viewing your appearance, your body, or your life through the gaze of others will leave you unhappy and sick. It is your birthright to show up in this life the way you choose; life will become a little lighter once you start owning that. Consistently and relentlessly ask yourself, “Who am I doing this for?”

    I’m not trying to say you are what you eat or that entire cultures are defined by foods, but I do think that, especially for People of Color, our foods hold a certain cultural, historical, and emotional weight.

    Your looks will never bring lasting contentment
    When you embark on a weight loss journey, you expect that it will transform your life—you’ll be prettier, happier, healthier, and skinnier. Some of us unfortunately end up on a slippery slope thinking, “only a few more pounds, then I’ll be good for sure.” Your goal weight keeps getting lower and lower, you are getting thinner and thinner, and somehow you’re still not happy… what gives?
    The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we can achieve lasting happiness from the way we look. I’ve experienced my body in a vast range of sizes and shapes. I’ve been thin, I’ve been fat, and I’ve been equally dissatisfied either way. Weight loss is not a cure-all, and being skinny won’t make you happy, no matter what society would have you believe. As I try to lose my quarantine weight this year, I’ve been actively trying to keep that in mind. I want to be happy with my body at every stage of this journey, rather than expecting happiness to suddenly emerge at the ‘end.’

    Don’t just cut the branches—uproot
    I was 21 spending a semester abroad in London with a group of amazing girls who were equally eager to soak up all that Europe had to offer. We ran through all our money (I had like $33 to my name on the flight home), finding the cheapest ways to experience the most amazing things. Suddenly, the idea of leaving Paris without trying an authentic crepe or Amsterdam without, ahem, splitting a space cake seemed so absurd, I didn’t care about being skinny. I ate, I laughed, I lived, so obviously I thought, boom, I’m cured—that was easy! Looking back now, I can see that though it was a tiny step in the right direction, it definitely wasn’t a cure.
    You see, while losing yourself fully in an experience can help put things into perspective, if you don’t do the work to actually deal with those unhealthy behaviors, you can slip back into them. As Black women, we are used to doing work on our own, so much so that getting help— any kind of help— feels uncomfortable. Several years later, I’m a long way from where I was, but about a year ago, I realized that though I may have cut the branches, I didn’t uproot the unhealthy behaviors. I tried working with a nutritionist, and in the spirit of full transparency, that experience didn’t quite work for me. But recently I’ve started working with a personal trainer and that process is in fact helping me rethink the way I look at my body and food. When it comes down to it, you basically have to find what works for you, but to truly heal, you have to confront what got you there in the first place.
    For further reading or resources, check out the below links
    The National Eating Disorders Association
    What You Need to Know About Eating Disorders
    Yes, Black Women Struggle With Eating Disorders Too
    It’s Time to Correct the Narrative Surrounding Black Girls and Eating Disorders
    If you are struggling with an eating disorder or with disordered thoughts or behaviors regarding food and eating, please seek help. Call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 for support, reach out to a qualified medical professional, or, for a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741. More

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    24 Women of Color Revolutionizing the Wellness Space

    When someone says “wellness,” you might have a specific image of what that looks like in your head. Maybe it’s healthy food, maybe it’s therapy and mental health care, maybe it’s making sure you get enough sleep at night or go to the dentist every six months like clockwork. If all of the people in the wellness space who you’re following on Instagram look the same, however (i.e. they’re white), you’re missing out on so, so much. Wellness has traditionally been a pretty exclusive space, which is not at all a good thing. These BIPOC health and wellness experts are making serious waves—and if you’re not already following them, well, what are you waiting for? 
    1. Sophia Roe, Chef, Wellness Writer, and Advocate

    Source: @sophia_roe

    Follow if: you’re looking for the perfect balance of elevated healthy recipes, relatable inspiration, and powerful social issues. Sophia covers our favorite wellness topics through a lens of diversity, inclusivity, and honesty.

    Source: @caliwolf

    Follow if: you’re interested in conversations about health, mental health, grief and loss, and her experience as a Native woman. Cali is changing the game by bringing Native women together and encouraging a healthy lifestyle grounded in nature.

    3. Ailsa Emmel, Certified Nurse Midwife and Blogger

    Source: @_happygocurly_

    Follow if: you want more evidence-based conversations. Check out Ailsa’s weekly #WomensHealthWednesdays for important, fascinating, and honest topics. Her killer fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content is a definite added bonus!

    Source: @hannahbronfman

    Follow for: gorgeous pictures, honest content, and helpful tips on everything from fitness to food to self-care. With an adorable new baby, an IGTV interview with Barack Obama (NBD), and a wellness empire under her belt, Hannah is serious #goals. 

    Source: @themirnavator

    Follow for: inspiring content that will make you want to get moving and get outside. If her well-known writing and motivational workshops don’t motivate you to live your best life, following her active life on Instagram will make you actually crave exercise–trust. 

    Source: @thenutritiontea

    Follow if: you’re over diet culture (aren’t we all??) and looking for health tips that are both helpful and inclusive. Shana gives us the reminder we all need that “healthy” looks different to every body, and food is meant to be enjoyed. *follows immediately*

    7. Traci Copeland, Nike Master Trainer and Fitness Instructor 

    Source: @traco4

    Follow for: some serious fitness motivation and help reaching your health goals. Traci is an empowering badass who regularly shares yoga flows, smoothie recipes, and health tips. 

    Source: @healthylatina

    Follow if: you want some health content that’s actually relatable. Michelle shares recipes you’ll crave (like tomatillo salsa or gluten-free chocolate chip cookies), workout tips you’ll use, and her experience living with eczema that you’ll find inspiring. 

    Source: @chic_in_academia

    Follow for: science and health content from an expert you can trust. Bertha is a genetic epidemiologist and public health expert, focused on presenting scientific facts in an attainable way. Add on amazing travel and lifestyle content, and you’ll be wondering how she has time for it all (but feel so glad she does). 

    Source: @doctoranddancer

    Follow if: you’re looking for science-backed info, relatable parenting content, and inspirational quotes. Dr. Desai is both a renowned doctor and TEDX speaker, so you know you’re getting the perfect combination of scientific facts and inspiration.  

    11. Jessamyn Stanley, Yoga Teacher, Body Positive Advocate, and Author of “Every Body Yoga“

    Source: @mynameisjessamyn

    Follow if: you want more health tips that are inclusive to everyone. Covering everything from yoga flows to fitness challenges to calls to action on major social issues, Jessamyn is transforming the wellness game to be more inclusive, diverse, and encouraging. 

    Source: @nativein_la

    Follow for: the inspiring combination of fitness motivation and social justice. Jordan authentically shares her experience as a Native person and proves that movement can be medicine to not only heal ourselves, but heal our communities. 

    13. Cara Harbstreet, RD, Food and Nutrition Expert

    Source: @streetsmart.rd

    Follow if: you think health and nutrition should also be fun. Cara features witty content that will have you LOLing through your Instagram feed, mixed with no-nonsense recipes that are as practical and delicious as they are healthy. 

    Source: Dr. Mariel Buquè

    Follow for: shareable inspirational quotes that will brighten up your Instagram feed and boost your mood. Dr. Buquè covers a wide range of life-changing holistic mental health content, like intergenerational healing, self-love, and more. Pro tip: don’t miss her meditations and inspiring interviews on IGTV.  

    15. Ginger Dean, Psychotherapist, Relationship Coach, and Creator of The Inner Circle

    Source: Loving Me After We

    Follow if: you need a little extra inspiration and guidance with your relationships. Ginger helps women overcome heartbreak, increase self-love, and boost confidence after toxic relationships, but her inspiring tips are applicable, no matter your relationship status. 

    Source: Jenny Wang PHD

    Follow for: a space where women can safely express emotion and explore areas that feel unfulfilled. Jenny Wang focuses on mental health content for members of the Asian diaspora and shares important conversations with other revolutionary women. 

    Source: @chelsey.moves

    Follow for: beautiful images, inspiring lifestyle tips, and all things Indigenous wellness. Wellforculture is an Indigenous wellness initiative to promote holistic lifestyles that we can all learn a lot from. 

    Source: @hellolaurenash

    Follow if: you need some serious stress relief on your Instagram feed. Lauren founded Black Girl in Om as a space for Black womxn to heal and help them feel liberated, empowered, and seen. Now that’s wellness.  

    Source: @berrionlberry

    Follow if: you have period symptoms or are looking to feel more connected to your reproductive system. Even just a scroll through Berrion’s Instagram feed is extremely educational: you’ll learn everything from how to eat on your period to why you should use a menstrual cup, and how to sync your cycle to your work schedule (genius, right!?). 

    20. Jessica Rihal, Yoga and Meditation Instructor

    Source: @jessicajadeyoga

    Follow if: you need that extra push to break out of your comfort zone. Best said by U.S. News & World Report, Jessica has transitioned from “someone who was too scared to go into a yoga class, to a yoga instructor who has been featured in inspirational documentaries and ad campaigns.” Now that’s the kind of 2021 energy we need RN. 

    Source: @askdrjess

    Follow for: concrete advice, powerful conversations, and radical self-acceptance. Dr. Jess gives such good advice, in fact, that #AskDrJess has basically gone viral, thanks to her her profound responses to a variety of topics from anxiety to self-love. 

    Source: @nutritionhappens

    Follow for: delicious, easy, and everyday meal inspo you’ll be screenshotting to make later. May is the queen of making veggies look utterly delicious, thanks to recipes like sesame cauliflower and butternut squash oat bars. 

    23. Lalah Delia, Spiritual Writer, Wellness Educator, and Author

    Source: @lalahdelia

    Follow if: you need an extra dose of love and inspiration in your feed. Lalah is basically the Oprah for millennials, thanks to her inspiring writing, relatable content, and shareable graphics that will help you pause and reflect while scrolling through your feed. 

    24. Roz Mays (AKA Roz The Diva), Certified Pole Instructor and Personal Trainer

    Source: Roz the Diva

    Follow for: an instant confidence boost. Roz is on a mission to help nontraditional athletes enjoy fitness, and is encouraging self-confidence, inner “Diva-ness,” and body pride along the way. Just check out her stunning videos for all the motivation you need to tackle any Monday, workout class, or tough time. More

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    7 Lessons From 2020 We’re Bringing Into 2021

    Considering the blockbuster-worthy, 12-month, traumatic event that was 2020, even the most enthusiastic “new year, new me” advocate is probably tempted to skip the whole resolution thing this year (or forever). I must admit that I am an avid New Year’s resolution writer; there’s just something about setting down a year’s worth of intentions on paper that feels magical to me. But this year I’m feeling a little different. As 2020 (also known as the most drawn-out, sped-up, chaotic year in recent memory) comes to a close, I realized that this was a year that life forced a lot of very necessary lessons on me. And despite my very valid apprehension about 2021, I owe it to myself, to bring those lessons along with me. 2020 taught me a hell of a lot—here are some things I definitely don’t want to forget in the New Year. 
    1. Some days (or weeks), you’ll accomplish absolutely nothing—and that’s OK
    Throughout this pandemic, my productivity came in waves—some days all I could find the energy to do was shower and eat handfuls of cereal. I felt so frustrated with myself because I’d always said “if only I had more time…” and now here I was, with an excess of time, and squandering it. And so I’d plan my days out—‘Learning Tuesdays’, ‘Writing Wednesdays’—in hopes of forcing productivity, and end up feeling totally overwhelmed. Now, I try to listen to my body’s natural rhythms; to be guided by my energy’s ebb and flow, rather than try to fight it. These past few months have shown me that our desire to create needs to be coupled with moments of rest. We won’t always be in a pandemic, but the rules don’t change—real productivity comes with peace, and peace comes from mental, physical, and emotional rest. So rest.

    Source: @jaceyduprie

    2. Personal space is not negotiable
    I’m eagerly awaiting the day that face masks are a thing of the past, but I will definitely be maintaining my six feet of distance. Having a mandated personal bubble has shown me that people (often men) really have been encroaching on my space in a way that I’ve never enjoyed. And yet, I’ve just been allowing it. But now that I know the peace that comes with the appropriate amount of breathing room, I’m never going back. Back it up, please!

    Source: @jahirka

    3. Dressing up has everything to do with you, and nothing to do with anyone else
    My Leo sun already knew this, but this year definitely solidified it for me. There were a lot of days this year where I just didn’t feel like myself, and doing my hair, putting on something nice, and adding a swipe of my favorite Fenty lipstick made a huge difference. I’d look at myself in the mirror-like, “sure, you might have lost your job in the middle of a pandemic, but sis, don’t you look good?” Getting all dolled up for no one’s benefit but my own gave me the boost I so desperately needed at times. And I learned a very valuable lesson: there’s no one who deserves me showing up as my best self more than me.

    4. Black lives still matter
    This year was a tumultuous one, and for many of us, a wake up call, especially when it comes to issues of racial injustice. But the work does not and cannot stop in 2020. No one wants to be a ‘black square’ ally, where posting that black square back in June is the extent of your engagement with racial issues. You still need to buy Black, you still need to support Black women, and you still need to call out your racist colleagues, neighbors, and family members. Keep that same energy in 2021 and beyond; the work is not done.

    Source: @localwanderer

    5. You’re better than stressing over a few extra lbs
    Full disclosure—I’m still working on this one! While I understand that a little extra weight is NBD in theory, putting it into practice is where things get a little shaky. But here’s the thing, guys, maybe we did gain a little weight over this year… but like, so what? No seriously, so what? We survived every single thing this year has thrown at us—how dare we beat ourselves up over a couple of inches! Our bodies are operating constantly and dynamically on our behalf (even in a pandemic); let’s give them a little grace, shall we? It helps to remember that your body is not some future goal, but a current, wonderful reality. I used to see my post-HIIT sweat as calories burned, ergo, potential lbs lost. Now, I try to embrace the exhaustion and endorphins, focusing on the fact that I’ve done something that serves my body.

    6. Falling in love with your bare face is beautiful
    This year stripped me bare in a lot of different ways. Even though I certainly spent days in lockdown, thinking wistfully about my next visit to my wax girl, nail tech, lash girl, etc., the time forced me to come to terms with my face without the enhancements. And I started finding things I liked—the shape of my cheekbones, how my skin looks like the perfect cup of coffee, the way my smile reaches all the way to my eyes. I hadn’t realized how much I relied on the extra stuff to feel satisfied about the way I look and the process of becoming reacquainted and falling in love with my naked face feels really, really good. This doesn’t mean I don’t still love a perfect brow and a bomb highlight (cause I do), but I’ve also become OK with leaving home with just sunscreen and lip balm. We call that growth!

    Source: @onairplanemode__

    7. No more waiting for a ‘special occasion’
    I’m no longer putting down that bottle of wine for later or saving that outfit for a special date. Forgive the cliché, but life is short! I don’t think we consider how much of our life we spend waiting—waiting for the right moment, the right weather, the right mood, the right crowd. I’m here to say the right ‘whatever’ is exactly when and where you want it to be. If you feel like the right time to pop a bottle of champagne is on a Thursday evening after clearing a particularly daunting inbox, then so be it, darling! Forgive this second cliché, but being alive is the special occasion! More