Punctuated with emojis, Hannah Bronfman’s Instagram bio reads: Co-founder of Beautified App, Food Lover, Workout Enthusiast, Beauty Aficionado, Native New Yorker, HBFit.com. It’s a summary of her professional life as much as her personal, which in Hannah’s case is one and the same. Call her an entrepreneur, a personality, an IT girl if you really want, but there’s not one title that sums her up effectively. Regardless, there’s a common foundation to all that Hannah is which makes her so appealing: a genuine confidence and a belief in what she stands for. When I ask her where this comes from, she says she can’t really explain it—that she just grew into herself. You could say she was born into it, with powerful parents in their own rights: her father is former CEO & Chairman of Warner Music, her mother is 70s actress Sherry Brewer. But at the end of our conversation Hannah starts speaking about her younger sisters, how aware she is that they’re growing up in this technology-charged, virtual-values world—and how everything she does stems from wanting to be a positive figure in their eyes. Hannah’s purpose clear, it’s not hard to see why everyone loves her.
“I never wanted to be put in a box. I was raised in a community of performing arts, an industry where there was so much pressure, and I was not into that at all. My parents created a really supportive, loving environment, as well as challenging me in ways I didn’t understand at the time. I went to an all-girls school on the Upper West Side, and in my senior year my parents sent me to a rehab boot camp in Idaho. I didn’t need to go, they just thought it would be a good experience for me to have. I thought it was so fucked up for them to send me somewhere like that for no reason—but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was with a group of kids who had been forced to go, taken-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of thing. They were sad and angry and didn’t relate to why I was there, but I ended up being a leader in that situation. It gave me a whole set of skills that I would never have learned otherwise. I’m very grateful my parents made me do that, because it gave me a completely new perspective on how I had grown up, the things that I was privileged enough to have, and to not take any of it for granted.
I loved growing up in New York. I grew up quickly (sneaking out to clubs at 15), but I don’t think I’d be in the position that I’m in now had I not grown up here—had I not seen the hustle, the networking. I had no idea when I was younger that my friend’s brothers or uncles or cousins would be connections that I would one day need. Simply from growing up in the city, my network is very vast. I think New York contributes to a sense of ambition, but I also know plenty of native New Yorkers with no drive at all.
I’ve always been really ambitious, and my family placed a lot of importance on the value of hard work.
My mom was a huge hustler back in the day. She grew up on the south side of Chicago, came to NYC when she was 18, and never looked back. She got herself on Broadway and lived her dream. That’s something I’ve always really admired—my mom and father always told me there was nothing that I couldn’t do. So that ambitious nature has been with me from the start, and the business sense is something that I’ve always been driven towards. Starting a business in this environment has been really exciting, especially seeing how people have taken to Beautified, HBFit, and to me personally. I’m very lucky for that because I feel it could have gone a completely different way. In my younger years I found New York could be competitive, but now I find it really supportive. Karma-wise, I support New York, so I would hope that New York supports me.
All areas of what I do lend themselves teach other. I’ve never been the one-lane type of person and think that’s a very old-school mentality. We’ll see it more and more as the youth grow up and build their own companies, but for the most part we’re an ADD generation. I’ll start writing an email, then I’ll start writing another, and then another, until all of a sudden I’m writing 5 at once. But then I’ll hit send on all of them, and they each make more sense than if I had written them individually. I think that’s the way I approach life. I’ve been able to turn my passions into a business, and my passions don’t ever stop or stay stagnate.
They’re constantly progressing and developing, therefore my business will as well.
In that sense I try and let things happen naturally. I like to think that I’ve got the big picture in mind, but at the end of the day, I try and go with the flow. With that said, we do have a roadmap for Beautified, and I’m trying to figure out what that roadmap is for HBFit. It’s very new, in it’s infant state, and I don’t really know where it’s going to go yet. But we have goals which we cross off every time they’re met, we have to be accountable and we have to execute. It can be difficult managing other people—hiring people is everything. You have to make sure that they’re the right fit, that you see eye-to-eye so that you don’t need to micro-manage. Micro-managing is the worst, it doesn’t allow the work to be as good as it should or could be.
When I get super busy, the first thing to go are my emails. When I’m on the go, I’m either giving people face time, have a full day of meetings, or a shoot—my emails pile up. Except for when I’m flying. Flying is maybe the only time when I get 5 hours of solo time with my computer which is really nice. But often after I finish a long, full day, I’ll come home to 150 emails in my inbox, and that’s my evening. No matter how busy I get though, I don’t compromise on my eating and I don’t compromise on my workouts. I try not to compromise on sleep. Those are my 3 things I can’t function without. If I haven’t worked out in the morning or don’t have a workout to look forward to, I won’t be on point. That’s what forms a clear mind for me. I’ve always been wellness-oriented. I grew up dancing so was always very conscious of my health and nutrition, and was doing face masks at 8-years-old. Like anyone else, I went to college and partied, and I still party now—it’s just finding that balance. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
There’s something to be said for someone who can go out, have a tequila, then go to yoga in the morning.
I think we’re seeing that more and more with people, how they’re implementing wellness into their lives in ways that fit, as a very conscious shift. It’s been really interesting to see that wellness community expand on Instagram, even just by the response I get personally. I now know what people like to see from me; fitness, food, a little bit of DJ and fashion, overall girl power shit. I’m about that on a daily basis. Something I find really rewarding is for my followers to appreciate what I’m giving them, and for them to look forward to it. That’s something I never anticipated which is really cool. I definitely curate what I post, but I never think about assumptions people may make.
I’m sure there are thousands of misconceptions about me, but if I concentrated on that, I’d go crazy.
Someone asked me the other day, if you could have given your 16-year-old-self advice, what would it be? I think it would be to not spend so much time worrying about the haters. You’ll soon realize it’s all jealousy and insecurity that has nothing to do with you. As long as you’re putting off positive vibes then they will come back to you. If you’re a mean girl, it will come back also. With social media in general, I’m very conscious of the fact that I have younger sisters, now 14 and 16. I ask them all the time about what’s going on and who they look up to—and they’re like—Justin Bieber used to be cool, but not anymore because he’s a mean guy. Kim Kardashian used to be cool, but now she doesn’t stand for anything. From listening to them, there aren’t that many positive female figures out there. That’s always been my thing. It starts as simply as: How can I empower my little sisters? If I can be a positive role model in their eyes, I think I’ve won.”
As told to Amy Woodside, October 2014
Photographed by Amy Woodside