[ By: Emma Lees ]
Hannah Hill is a 22-year-old woman from London. What first drew and continues to draw me to Hannah’s’ social media presence is her power to use raw relation in a way most people can’t stomach: forthcoming with not only her position on social standards, mental health, immigration, drug use, politics, equality and body image (to name a few), but she also shares her perceived weaknesses and strengths. She lays herself bare and brave. This in turn cultivates a network of girls who genuinely care about her; girls who read her vulnerable musings like a diary, who notice when she seems happier or sadder, and like a private-public chat room communicate that concern or well-wishes for all to see. Scrolling through her Instagram is the mental equivalent of a girls’ sleepover, the admiration for yourself you wanted to have but didn’t know where or how to start, an uninhibited conversation in the girls’ bathroom with someone you immediately know has shared a slice of your life and love, victories and losses. To summarise – Hannah is singlehandedly the girl gang we all need. She is the human manifestation of those girls who dominate the likes of Laura Callaghan’s illustrations – sassy, sincere and unapologetically sexual. She puts the time in to be the person reinforcing feelings worth talking about and for someone with 43.3k followers on Instagram, that’s a socially significant mindset to have and a courageous life to live.
One of the most recurring aspects of your Instagram is artwork. How does art fit into your life, and as a fine art student what kind of work do you create?
Art is literally everything to me. I fucked up at school, came out with minimal GCSE’s and a BTEC from college. Without art, I honestly don’t know what I would be doing, and I know that sounds so clichéd, but its really true. I’m always thinking about new pieces of work or projects, but lack of motivation can be a real problem for me. My work is very autobiographical, through stitching but more recently through drawing as well.
Hand embroidery seems to be your favourite media at the moment. When did you get into it, and is it something you would say benefits your mood and could be a creative outlet you would recommend to others for de-stressing?
I started stitching when I was about 17, although the influence was always around me as my mama is very crafty and a skilled embroiderer. It wasn’t until college though that I really tried it for myself and saw it as a new way of mark-making. I was never confident in my drawing skills, and had a lot of anxiety about producing work, but embroidery really changed that. It takes so much patience and planning and with lots of practice has turned into my chosen medium. Embroidery is mainly therapeutic to me as a process but when getting commissions I don’t think people realise how labour-intensive it is, which causes me stress to work under tough deadlines. I always feel accomplished with the final results which makes all my hard work worth it though.
Body positivity is something you have weaved through all of your posts. When I look through your profile I notice a steady belief that loving your body is one of the most important things you could do as a person. Would you say that’s an observation about you that is correct, and have you always felt this way?
As I have learned more about feminism, I have learned the importance of loving yourself. I have always had strong women around me who were not afraid of showing their lumps and bumps, as well as normalising female nudity without sexualisation. This has given me the safety blanket of self-love, but I still go through immense low self-esteem even now. I guess it really is a joinery that most of us will spend our lives figuring out but it is so important to do so. Self-acceptance mixed with laziness has helped me to not care about body hair or scars, and from there I have learned to embrace things which we’re taught to hate about ourselves in the media.
And for you personally, has there been a particular experience that led you to feel the way you do now?
I’m not sure I can think of a specific moment that made me feel this strongly, it is mainly my intense frustration at the hypocrisy and injustice that so many people deal with. We were taught to hate ourselves, critique ourselves and our appearance instead of accepting ourselves and showing what more we have to offer other than our looks. Saying that, I grew up with a lot of art around me that represented plus-size women, women with body hair, and unsexualised nudity, which definitely reassured me. Little things like that are so, so, important.
A picture which you posted was once removed due to the visibility of hair. Comments on your picture point out the double standard that men can share images with snail-trails with no consequence. How do you feel about Instagram’s role in this? Do you think social media organisations have a responsibility to consistently be on top of and at the forefront of social progress, especially in regards to women?
I was really gutted when that image was removed. I really liked every aspect of that photograph and saw many women commenting on it positively about body confidence and girl love. There is a huge problem with the censorship of women’s bodies on social media. I have had pictures taken down of paintings where pubic hair is shown, which absolutely did not go against any of Instagram’s community guidelines. There is a clear distinction between oppressive, oversexualised images of women’s bodies, and women finding empowerment in showing off their bodies, or bodies in art. That is an amazing thing about Instagram though, I can follow many babes of all shapes colours and sizes, who I can relate to and see beauty in.
You regularly post who about the ups and downs of living with depression and the importance of your support systems when rough patches happen. What people, places and things do you maintain relationships with to keep a sound and satisfied mind?
I am truly blessed to have an amazing mum dad and brother who I am 100% honest and open with, which means we all support each other and can confide in one another, especially when I am feeling bad. I do feel like a burden sometimes, but that’s the depression talking, and through our hardships with mental illness, we have become closer as a family. My best friend is my biggest cheerleader and I’m hers, I’m so lucky to have someone love me the way she does, and to give that love right back at her, she is a shining star. I have good friends who support me and keep me grounded, who I can have stimulating conversations with and laugh. A month ago a stray cat walked into our lives and we have fallen in love with her. She’s become my companion and definitely impacted my mental health in a positive way. I listen to grime music and smoke weed, binge watch trash TV, and try to appreciate nature or the small things in life. Reading comments on Instagram has also become the highlight of my days with so many beautiful people connecting with me.
Was there ever any element of denial in your attitude towards your mental health and what helped you feel comfortable with yourself?
I was sort of thrown in at the deep end with my depression, it came out of nowhere in the form of suicide attempts and self-harm. I think because I missed so much school, I developed this ability to not care what my peers may think of me as I went back and finished my GCSEs. My mum has a history of depression which is both good and bad at times. I’m not sure when I decided to be open about my struggles, it kind of just happened naturally. It’s been one of the most rewarding parts of my life, having people share their stories and experiences with me so openly, to have people care about my wellbeing and create a sort of community.
If you could go back and tell your younger self three things you know now, what would they be?
Don’t shave your lip hair, if you really want it removed ask mum coz she’s an expert, but also don’t worry too much about it because it’s not the end of the world and that’s just how you are!
Stay in London to get your degree with the support of your family around you.