Bri Hall is known for her art, makeup, and motivational talks. Now, the renaissance woman is taking the music world as La Hara. Her new songs are filled with emotion and depth and there's that feeling of self-love and empowerment. She's truly the voice we need in the music world right now. We talked to her about being mindful and the challenges she's faced in the industry.
Well, let's just start with how you got started in music. I know you did YouTube, and you're a motivational speaker. But what kind of made it click that you're like, "Okay, music now."?
Bri: Well, I would say that I basically started off in art and music. I went to a performing arts middle school. I got my degree in art in interactive media, game design, and 3D animation. So, music kind of came naturally to me since I was younger. And I just wanted to come full circle and finally just take the plunge and release some of my writings.
And tell me kind of how you started your YouTube channel? I feel like a lot of people start these things, and yours just really exploded. How did you kind of start that, the initial part of it?
Bri: Oh, wow. So it's been quite some time. But the initial start was actually completely by accident. I was actually doing art and then I had something that a lot of artists, I feel, experienced, which is artist's block. So I decided, "Okay. I'm going to make a contest where suggest things they want to see me draw or paint." And then the top comment on Facebook, I'm going to make a speed portrait, like a time lapse. So then, the contest started getting so big and popular that I was kind of getting friend requests from a lot of strangers. I just decided, "Okay. I'm going to make a YouTube account and start posting the speed drawing there." Then that started gaining traction from the actual general YouTube community, which was, again, completely by accident. And then, one day, my mom, being a Jamaican mother, was like, "I don't want you showing your face all over the internet." It's still a running joke in our house now. But the funny part is I actually one day just said, "Okay, mom. I'm 18. I'm going to post a video where I do an intro for one of my art videos." And then I got spammed after that with people asking what I did to my hair and how I did my makeup and if I can do tutorials on that as well. So I decided to make a totally separate channel because I didn't want to crowd the art channel with beauty stuff. So then the beauty channel took off already. My first video got 50,000 views. And then the requests just kept coming in from there. And here we are.
I love that. And tell me about La Hara. What does that kind of mean to you? Why are you going with an alter ego?
Bri: Well, I would say that I feel like everyone in the beauty community has this mask that we're, subconsciously, told we have to wear all the time. Somehow, we work with companies who censor us. And we have to constantly be beauty. We have to smile and then be a certain way, whereas I've grown up in a kind of gritty art scene with a lot of tragedy and loss. And I never really felt like a beauty girl. I felt like I use makeup as a coping mechanism more than anything. So growing up, Basquiat was one of my favorite artists especially since I was born in New York as well. And he just - you know what I mean - worked in New York and made a big impact as a black man in the art world. La Hara is actually one of my favorite Basquiat paintings.
And tell me about “Mindful”, your debut. Tell me the story behind your song.
Bri: I was sitting on a plane home from Los Angeles one day, and I actually wrote a little bit of the intro on the plane. And I just was thinking back on my childhood and my life and reflecting. And then I started writing the part where I say when I'm flying, the descent is still my favorite part. And I noticed sometimes, why is it that I'm so quick to-- not quit things, but if something is disappointing or what have you, I would just do something new. That's why I always, on YouTube, had a million hair colors. I'm like, "Okay. I'm tired of this, I'm doing something new. So I was like, "Why is that, that I do that"? And I noticed that changing things up was again another coping mechanism for me. So I started thinking as to why I used alternate things to cope rather than confronting my problems. And then I thought back to people in my life that have just not really been there for me in the role they were supposed to play according to society. And the words just started flowing completely. Then one day, I don't know, I was on Google or something, and I was responding to an email. And the word mindful literally just appeared on some random weblink. I just paused everything I was doing. Then the melody just came to me immediately, and I was like, "Need you to be mindful of me." And I was like, "Oh, snap. Wait a second." And I revisited when I was on that plane. So the song is just what I would say to the people that have ever made me a second priority or not been mindful of me. It's also a message to myself about being more mindful of me. Because I like to help people a lot, and sometimes to the point that I don't take care of myself as much as I should. It was kind of a lot of different stories integrated into one universal message of mindfulness.
I love that. And I feel like-- I was reading through your bio, you just have a very interesting life and you're always doing all these different things. But on top of that, you do a lot of community outreach. Can you kind of tell me why that's important to you? And maybe what you're working on right now?
Bri: Absolutely. So community outreach and humanitarianism is really important to me. Because something I've learned along the way is, in order to do that kind of work, you really have to be a compassionate person. And according to the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, he said, "Compassion is the understanding of suffering," so who better to understand suffering than someone who has suffered a great deal? So I feel like due to my life experiences, I just have this hunger to save people who are suffering. I really know that's one of my life's purposes, because I've read a lot and watched a lot of documentaries. And I noticed that a lot of my experiences would be very, very sudden but also kind of quick, the tragic experiences. And I have such a diverse palate of life experiences. I read somewhere that when someone is meant to be helpful in society or a healer in some way, they'll experience basically kind of an initiation period where they go through a ton of shit and through that, they're able to help such a diverse group of people.
Well, I think it makes you more empathetic.
Bri: Oh, my goodness. Yes. That's something I talked about recently on Instagram not too long ago. I've made one of my captions “empath” and I didn't know a lot of people knew what that meant, but it definitely describes me because I really can give my all, but I also absorb a lot of emotions and stuff, so it does make being in the public eye a little bit harder because I really like-- when I'm in public settings, I give my all and then I also take a lot home with me.
And I think that makes you a good writer.
Bri: Absolutely. But that's so true because some of my work that I've written are also me stepping into the emotional perspective of somebody else.
And can you kind of tell me more about the challenges you face as a black woman in the music industry?
Bri: So just in entertainment in general, I feel like there's been instances where-- I know people talk about micro-aggressions, but that's something that I did a huge video on because I actually asked some of my friends who are white and from different backgrounds what would be helpful for them in discussions about race. And one of the biggest, most helpful things that one of my friends said is, "Hey. Oftentimes, people will complain, but they won't give us any solutions as to what we can do better." You know what I mean?
Yes of course!
Bri: So in this video, I decided to do that differently. I told everyone, "Hey. I'm going to explain micro-aggressions. I'm going to go through some of my experiences and my friends' experiences as it pertains to this list that was made by university and then I'm going to, at the end, give some helpful things that you can do to be a part of the solution and a part of change." But I feel like with micro-aggressions, it's really a huge part of being in this industry. I've been to events where I've been assumed to be on custodial staff or working the event. Yeah. And I'll be waiting to do a panel or something like that. I spoke about this one experience where I actually just finished up a meet and greet and a whole session with the brand Bobbi Brown, and one of their chief creative directors, she's Muslim and a black woman as well. And the woman in the dressing room, we were standing next to the dressing room waiting for the rest of security and everybody to come up the escalator, and she came out and scoffed at us and said, "Can one of you please zip my dress up?" Like we were kind of employees slacking off. You know what I mean? So just stuff like that and then having to go about your day normally, and it's a lot of-- I feel like I have to have slippery shoulders as a black woman in this industry and just let a lot slide off and not let it stick with me because if you let that stuff stick with you.
I like that. And what would be, I guess, your best advice to a young woman who wants to be in entertainment or music?
Bri: I would say stay authentic to yourself, of course, but also I would say don't be afraid of no. I think a lot of people are afraid to hear no. But one thing I've always realized is that no is not the end. It is a part of the process, and an important part, at that. And I made a tweet, actually, a couple of weeks ago where I said, "Hey. Don't be afraid to get no's and don't be afraid to say no, either, because it's also about knowing your worth." And even me as a new artist who's budding and trying to get as established as possible, I still say no to things. There was a company when I was pretty new on YouTube but still had a good following that didn't want to pay me-- at the time, I think it was $500 just for a feature in a video, and I said, "Yeah." They ended up paying me an undisclosed amount that was more than 30 times or 40 times what I was initially asking for a year later. So sometimes, those no's can literally either come full circle or even open other doors.
I do like that. I actually had an old editor who made me do rejection therapy to get used to no's. You have to seek out getting rejected once a day for something.
Bri: Oh. That's so smart because part of life and actually, the people who are most open to rejection usually are the most successful people because even when I look at other artists who I admire, even if you look at Beyonce and Bruno Mars and some of these artists who will tell their backstory of literally having doors slammed in their face. And it's like, "How can I look at all these stories and see where people are now and then use that in my process because I'm just beginning." And also, I'm obsessed with growth and learning. So even if someone may not be a fan today, I know that with my spirit and my energy and how hard I work, I know that I might be able to turn a few people around in the next few years.
I love that. And last question. What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Bri: I have some really, really dope collaborations coming up with some brands. So I know a lot of people have seen me work with Calvin Klein. I have some work coming up with them that I'm really excited about. I'm also going to be helping launch a black-owned beauty brand, which I'm really excited about as well. I'm not launching it as much as developing it, but I will be one of the faces in helping launch that brand and they'll be helping sponsor one of my music videos, so it's kind of cool to just be a part of that process because I'm super passionate about black-owned business. I feel like it's very much lacking in the world right now, so I think those are two of my very exciting pieces out.