Entering inside of Mrs. Mandolin, a lifestyle shop and cafe in the Miami Design District, feels like home but at the same time feels like the entire world is at your fingertips. I take a seat on the cozy couch, surrounded by hand-made goods from artisans across the globe. Women of all ages trickle into the boutique and cafe as they wait eagerly for social media star, founder of the HBFit (health, beauty, fitness) blog, and Adidas ambassador Hannah Bronfman.
It is an odd feeling— to see a woman in the flesh when you and her other half-a-million followers have only seen her through a screen. Her presence is authentic. She takes the time to introduce herself and converse with each woman in the room and complimenting many (she told a friend and me that we had poreless skin).
My own connection to Bronfman quickly became apparent when I sat down with her the following morning at the tropical Cecconi’s Miami Beach. We are both women of color, of similar body type, and former dancers, who now love a good workout. However, what plagued my mind was how uncommon of an occurrence this meeting really was. Every time I attend a pilates, yoga or barre class why am I the only woman of color in the studio?
Bronfman gives three reasons for such circumstances: “A mix of accessibility, price point and the fact that women of color are so used to taking care of everyone else, they’re not putting themselves first.” If women of color are placing themselves at the end of the to-do list, it will leave little time for self-care activities like scheduled workouts. Hopefully, it is influencers like Bronfman, whose unique approach will encourage women of color to join the wellness and self-care conversation.
What sets Bronfman apart from others in the wellness industry is the simple fact that she never gives her followers a one-way guide to wellness through a particular beauty product, diet or workout plan. “I’m never telling you what you should be doing or how you should be living but rather showing you what I’m doing and hopefully that motivates,” Bronfman explained. The goal is for her routine to inspire a wellness journey suitable for each individual’s life not push them to create a photocopy of hers.
She credits her success to her “evergreen” and accessible wellness message that focuses on self-care, instead of latching onto the trends that come and go in the industry. “I’m saying you need to listen to your body. This is really about tuning into yourself.” One main concern of hers is when people become intimidated by wellness and what it should look like. When in actuality, “wellness can start as easily as making hot water with lemon for yourself or getting yourself to a yoga class.”
It’s important however not to get swept up in the facade of wellness, the expensive fitness classes, spa days and Instagram-worthy açaí bowls (I tried one and hated it). “Wellness isn’t about boutique fitness, wearing Lululemon and shopping at Whole Foods. It’s about making mindful decisions, taking care of yourself,” Bronfman said. She recommends affordable paths to movement and well-being: a walk around the block, yoga in the park, at-home fitness videos and face masks. “We can get our wellness and our workout on anywhere.” This essentially creates almost no excuses for a lack of self-care.
However, the road to well-being is a long one. Interested in the evolution of a beauty and wellness blogger I inquire about her college days. A graduate of Bard College, Bronfman studied fine art, creating large-scale installations. Since then, she has transitioned to digital media, crediting her carefully curated online content to those college classes of color theory, drawing and design principles.
She pauses as she ponders. She wishes to tell her younger self not to “get so caught up, in wanting to have it all figured out.” She points to the fact that often in college, we all strive to be grown, but reminds us that we are “still learning, still evolving, still changing.” Instead, take this time to “live your life by trial and error. It’s okay to make mistakes when you’re young because when you’re older it’s a lot harder to recover from your mistakes. You never know what’s going to affect you in a profound way unless you try it,” Bronfman stated. She herself learned how to DJ in college and hasn’t stopped since, recently DJing the new Bravo Project Runway launch party.
While we talk, the restaurant starts to fill quickly and the sun shines through the wooden pergola as midday approaches. Curious, I ask about her favorite beauty products. She calls this the hardest question of the day before listing off Mary-Kay’s clear eyebrow gel, a Consonant Skincare cleanser and the Erborian BB Cream. Spotlighted in depth in her appropriately titled book, Do What Feels Good, Bronfman also explains that eating well is essential for good skin.
At the closing of her final event in Miami, a trio of women of color lingers behind. They approach Bronfman and are brought to tears as they detail what her influence has meant to them, sharing the same power of connection I experienced. Bronfman has a rare gift in this right, to be relatable yet inspirational to the women around her. The key to it all— “I’ve never strayed away from my truth.”