Online makeup gurus are heavily praised, yet seem intimidatingly inhuman through our glass phone screens: those beaming cheekbones, smiles with pearly whites and crisply lined pouts, and skyscraper-length lashes portray the mask of an online persona, but seldom times are we able to see who they truly are unless heavy controversy strikes their image.
Then, there’s a refreshing breath of air in the name of Bri Hall: the viral makeup artist that actually keeps things real. The makeup creative wants to diverge from the superficiality of the influencer world and transform into a raw, vulnerable being — she’s actually human, so to speak.
“Every time I talk to influencers, they’re going through so much in their lives, but they wear this mask in front of everyone because they don’t want to open up about what’s going on,” Hall told Cools. “The first superficial layer isn’t always makeup, sometimes it’s faking happiness.”
From this need to break the mold, as well as her longing to go back to her roots, arose a new side of Hall: her musical alter-ego, La Hara. Through soulful tunes like “Mindful” and “Unlawful,” this influencer-turned-pop-star is letting her cosmetic-loving followers see the true woman behind the vanity.
“I grew up in an area where I’ve seen a lot of tragedy and hardships, and art and makeup has always been such a coping mechanism for me,” Hall says. “It helped me release emotions that are usually extremely hard to express, so I feel like La Hara is much more vulnerable and edgy. La Hara definitely goes against the traditional beauty and perfection of the average beauty influencer.”
Cools talked to Hall about her transition from beauty into music, her love for Jean-Michel Basquiat, and more.
Why did you decide to transition from beauty vlogging to music?
“Well, I would say that I actually started with music. My whole life, I pretty much have always ventured into art and music. As time went on, I found that beauty was a way to express art, and it was different from all of the other stuff that I was already doing. But, I found this need to go back to my roots of art and music.”
So why did you decide to venture into beauty in the first place?
“Well, it’s a funny story — I actually met Kandee Johnson in the beginning of my career, and I was telling her about being in college and the expenses of being an artist, and she said, ‘One thing I learned about makeup is that your face is free, so although makeup is costly your face is an unlimited canvas for creation.’ So, I found that it was a really great way to express myself artistically without breaking the bank.”
Makeup is truly a versatile art form in itself, yet people still observe them as two different entities.
“That’s why I decide to start doing makeup, because it’s an amazing way to express myself. It was pretty easy for me to fall into makeup, since I knew how to play around with how natural shading and shadows fell through my art background. That really helped me with contouring, shading, all of that good stuff.
There are some people who know how to do makeup, but they can’t draw. It’s so interesting to see how similar yet completely different these two art mediums are, and how one can transition into the other.”
Why did you decide to name your musical alter ego La Hara?
“Through my high school years, one artist that inspired me a lot was Basquiat. He was a black man based in New York and he pulled in cultural influences into his work; his work was so different from that of Andy Warhol’s, yet they were able to form such a cool friendship. ‘La Hara’ is a Basquiat piece that was one of his favorites, so I felt like ‘La Hara’ was the introduction to a side of me that people haven’t seen yet.”
How would you describe that side of you?
“This side kind of seeps out through my videos; through the animation and Halloween-esque content I create. But, I grew up in an area where I’ve seen a lot of tragedy and hardships, and art and makeup has always been such a coping mechanism for me. It helped me release emotions that are usually extremely hard to express, so I feel like La Hara is much more vulnerable and edgy. La Hara definitely goes against the traditional beauty and perfection of the average beauty influencer.”
Speaking of beauty influencers, sometimes people find that they aren’t being their genuine selves — they create a whole new, happy persona to the world.
“That’s another aspect that influenced La Hara. Every time I talk to influencers, they’re going through so much in their lives, but they wear this mask in front of everyone because they don’t want to open up about what’s going on. The first superficial layer isn’t always makeup, sometimes it’s faking happiness. And it works for some people, but I want to show both sides.”
How do you think you’ve evolved from the beginning of your career to now?
“When I started, I was very fresh and just trying to find myself. I was in a transitional period, and I always wanted to express my emotions in very unique ways. One way was dying my hair, I used to dye it every month. I would go from pink and purple to more natural, and I feel like now I’m expressing myself in more of a variety of ways. I’ve been doing more humanitarian work, just going out and helping people makes me feel like I have some purpose in my life. I also feel like I’ve matured in different ways, especially musically. I spent about a year just finding my sound, just experimenting and making fun stuff.”
What’s one piece of advice that you would give yourself?
“To be a little less hard on myself, and that perfection doesn’t exist. I was so enraptured with perfectionism and I just wanted to not mess up. Also, I’d tell myself to plan for the worst — that’s probably the biggest thing I’d tell myself. I think was all spend too much time planning for the awards or millions of subscribers, that’s why life in this generation is so hard — we strive to be perfect. With Instagram, we can show off that perfect makeup, but we don’t see when the person accidentally smudges their eyeliner, or when it gets all messy. There are so many imperfect moments that aren’t shown on social media, just the perfect finished product.”
Being a well-known face on YouTube, you’re put on a high pedestal. What’s the toughest thing, in your eyes, about being part of the influencer society?
“It can get tough. I sometimes forget that I’m an influencer, because I’ve always been so grounded in who I am that I literally forget that I have a following. But, I think the hardest part is learning how to let yourself shine through in such a narrow, acute world.”
Who are your biggest influences in music?
“I had a really big rock phase — I wouldn’t even call it a phase, because it’s still happening — so bands like Paramore were a huge influence on me. I also love artists from the 80’s and 90’s eras, like Deniece Williams is amazing. ‘Silly’ is one of those songs that will always get to me, how does someone’s voice even get to her magnitude? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill will always and forever be one of my favorite albums, Lauryn Hill was such an influence on me. It was a huge record in my household growing up, my mom always put it on while she was cleaning.”
How about your style and beauty influences?
“I’m so cliché, but of course Rihanna. First off, I’m half Jamaican, so we’re both Carribean women. So, seeing a fellow Carribean woman reach the heights that she’s reached in both music and beauty is so inspiring. Even along the humanitarian vein, she’s just such an amazing person and I look up to her so much. Style-wise, I think Rico Nasty is so fun. We went to the same high school, so our community definitely seeps into her looks, and it’s so great to see that.”
Wait, you went to high school with Rico Nasty? That’s dope.
“It’s a really funny story: when I first started YouTube, Rico’s child’s father was actually my cameraman for my videos. I didn’t have a camera at the time, I was waitressing to make end’s meet, so he helped me film my videos. I think the area that we came from is finally getting some recognition. It’s really cool to see more of the East Coast getting into the spotlight.”
Which beauty brands are you currently into right now?
“Fenty Beauty is a huge one for me, because she switched up the whole beauty industry with her shade ranges. This is an on-going issue within the black community, and the South Asian community — people need to remember that dark skin isn’t only in the black community. These communities have been left out of the conversation around beauty for so long, and to finally see that evolution happen is so great. I also really like Bobbi Brown, they’re doing a lot not just in cosmetics but in skincare as well. I really love Glossier too. Their brand, messaging, and packaging is so fun and great. And the new highlight concentrate from the Glossier Play line is so good, I’ve been using it a lot because it leaves such a nice glow and it photographs so well. It’s nice to see a brand that caters to natural looks and a fresh feel. The full, 3-layer cake beat was such a standard for a long time, I’m happy to see that the natural look is more popular now.”
You’re stranded on a desert island and you can only bring one album and one beauty product with you: what do you choose?
“For makeup, definitely the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter. It has such a blurring effect, and it moisturizes so it gives me the most luminous skin. For album, I’m gonna go back to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without this album.”
Any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
“I have another single coming out in May, and I’m very excited about that. It’s called ‘Unlawful,’ and I think this one will be more of a vulnerable and open, and I think people will really enjoy it. And I’m also working on a mental health awareness campaign, which is in correlation to my previous single, ‘Mindful.’ I’m also working with a clothing brand — I can’t say which one just yet — and I’m going to donate the proceeds to a non-profit of my choice, and I’m really excited about that. I just want to do more things where I can make a difference in the world.”