Isabella Hurlbut is a graduate of the University of Maryland and one of our Creator’s Class of 2020 honorees. She currently lives in New Jersey where she manages social media for a local clothing boutique while running her art business BeKindBella. I recently sat down with Bella where she told me her mission is to provide a sense of connectedness and support regarding mental health and body positivity through words and art. Read on to learn more about her inspiring journey.
On becoming a creator...
Her Campus: Do you remember the moment when you decided to start your BeKindBella?
Isabella Hurlbut: Art has always been my saving grace. Last year, I was struggling with depression and anxiety while also battling an eating disorder, so I first developed bekindbella as a way to cope. Once I realized I could really help people through my art, I decided to develop my platform and create more content.
HC: Was this your first time embarking on a brand launch journey?
IH: Actually, no! I took a course in college where I had to start my own business. I decided to sell hand-painted flower t-shirts and they were a big hit! I ended up placing first in the class, which lead me to believe I could really do the whole ‘business thing.’
HC: Is there any advice you wish you could tell your then self?
IH: Nothing in this life is perfect, you don’t have to be either. The messier the better.
HC: What’s been your proudest moment with your brand?
IH: Doing this partnership with Her Campus x Aussie! It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of something like this and being recognized. It gave me the confidence boost I needed to keep creating.
HC: When do you do your best work?
IH: Early morning! I have a hard time sleeping because my mind is constantly thinking of new things to do, so as soon as I wake up I’m always excited to get started. A big cup of coffee next to me and I’m a very happy Bella.
HC: Where is your favorite spot to work?
IH: My bedroom floor. I can spread out all of my supplies, listen to music, and really get into my zone there. I need a private space to work.
On her beauty look…
HC: You have an important meeting: how do you prep and what do you wear?
IH: I always write down small speaking points for myself so I can stay on track. I’ll go over these in the morning, and listen to some happy music to help shake my nervous jitters. For an outfit, I’d keep it classic and easy with this Polka Dot Dress from Zara. Slip on some stockings and heels and you’re good to go!
HC: How has your curly hair inspired your style/beauty look?
IH: I’m all about ease and comfort when it comes to how I style myself, and the same goes with my hair. I never straighten it or do much to it because I just don’t feel like myself when I do. I like my hair natural and a little bit messy (like me!).
HC: How has your hair played a part in embracing your individuality?
IH: I will admit, my hair plays a large role in my identity. It’s curly in some places and straight in others, I enjoy the way that it isn’t always perfect since that’s something I had to learn to let go of in order to grow.
HC: If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one hair product/brush/accessory, what would that be?
IH: A bandana. It’s my go-to accessory when my hair just can’t be saved. Roll it up, flip your hair over, and tie it at the top for an easy look!
HC: Why are hair products like Aussie’s important to you?
IH: I have a lot of hair, and sometimes it gets hard to keep it tamed or looking fresh all the time. Aussie helps me be able to style my hair and feel confident when I accidentally spend all night painting and don’t have time to shower!
On her free time...
HC: You have 10 free minutes, what do you spend it doing?
IH: Doodling! (and making a mess somewhere probably!)
HC: It’s Saturday night, where can you typically be found?
IH: I feel like this is kind of embarrassing to say, but I’m usually at home watching cheesy crime TV and making art. I’m not much of a big party person, and I really enjoy my alone time. It’s when I can really let myself create and be free with my thoughts.
HC: How do you manage the stress/frustration that comes with being an entrepreneur?
IH: My major character flaw is that I relate productivity and movement to success. If I’m not constantly doing something, I become extremely discouraged in my craft. When this feeling hits, I have to do the exact opposite of what I want - relax and step away. I’ll go for long walks, talk to myself, all that good stuff.
On finding inspiration...
HC: When working, what fuels you? What are you typically snacking on?
IH: When I’m in the zone, I can sometimes work through lunch and dinner which is not good! So, when I’m working on a project I actually set timers for myself to take a break and eat. My favorite snack currently is a big piece of avocado toast - basic I know, but I can’t help it.
HC: What is your biggest source of inspiration? Your current muse?
IH: I gather a lot of my inspiration from everyday life and emotions. I recently just finished an outpatient program for my eating disorder in September, and I was so inspired by the people I met there. Their battles, including my own, really fueled me to channel those emotions and stories into my art - which is why I focus a lot on women’s bodies and body positivity.
HC: What entrepreneurs/brands do you look up to?
IH: I love the platform For Women Who Roar, they’ve created a space for women and creatives to get together and talk about important topics like feminism, body positivity, healing, trauma, etc. I enjoy the way they give a voice to those who need it.
I also love Carissa Carlson, founder of the IG page @peopleiveloved. Her art is quirky and honest, and she’s done a lot of amazing collaborations. I use her entrepreneurship and creativeness as a guide for my own journey and it’s also reassuring to see a fellow artist pursuing this path.
HC: When planning, do you take notes on a laptop or notebook? In your iPhone notes?
IH: I’ve tried to be organized and have a nice little notebook for all of my thoughts like my sister does (very Virgo of her)..but it just never works out. My ideas come so fast and random that I just pull out my phone and use my notes.
On what she’s learned...
HC: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten since starting this journey?
IH: If it scares you, then do it. I suffer from major anxiety, which unfortunately keeps me from doing a lot of things I dream about because in my head, it all ends in disaster or I tell myself I’m not capable, etc. It’s pretty crippling some days, but I get through it by listening to this. Starting my e-commerce platform scared me, so I knew I had to do it (best decision ever!).
HC: What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
IH: You won’t always be moving. There will be stagnant and awkward points in your life. They are difficult and frustrating, but they are just as important as the exciting parts. These are the times you will spend the most time with your true self - get to know it well.
HC: Who/what is your biggest support system?
IH: My family and friends. Not a single day goes by where they don’t tell me how proud they are of me. It’s small - but it keeps me going on the days the self-doubt seems a little heavy.
HC: How have you managed to keep your individuality in your company/resist conforming to norms?
IH: I feel especially in the art world - comparison is extremely common and…very much soul-crushing. When I start to doubt myself, I remind myself that my art is meant to be my art - not anyone else’s. It doesn’t have to look perfect or extraordinary. If it’s honest and a part of me, it will always be special.
On her business goals...
HC: What is your biggest goal for your brand in 2020?
IH: I really want to land a collaboration with another brand or company. If I could have custom bekindbella artwork in a store, or design a piece of clothing I would probably cry lots of happy tears.
HC: In 2030, where do you hope you’ll be with your brand/career?
IH: I’d really like for my platform to grow into a full-time career, where I would be doing collaborations with other brands, designing unique works and designs for clothing, etc. I don’t really want to limit myself to doing one thing!
HC: What do you hope your brand accomplishes for your peers?
IH: I just want my audience to feel understood. If someone looks at my art and thinks “Wow, that made me feel better” or “I’m not alone in this feeling” then I’ve done my job.
Inspired by Bella’s story?! Read more about our 2020 Class of Creators here.