Lauren “Lo” Harris ’18 was working in NBC News’ graphic design department in summer 2020 when she was asked to create a graphic about the Black Lives Matter movement for the news network. The visual, Harris explains, was paired with audio of George Floyd’s last words. Watching the footage of Floyd’s murder over and over again left her wanting to speak out and convey her frustration with police killings of Black men and women.
“When it came to my career, I had the very strong impression that journalists couldn’t have an opinion on events like these because they were politicized,” Harris says. “But for me it was really difficult to separate my identity as a Black woman — and the very real experiences facing me and my family — from my work in the newsroom.”
So Harris turned to her side hobby: digital art. She drew a Black woman wearing a bright orange cloth mask with her fist in the air, the word “justice” hanging over her in bold lettering. When Harris posted it to her Instagram account, she was shocked to see it go viral.
“I didn’t post it for attention,” she says. “It was something that I really posted for my own processing, because I was so angry about George Floyd.”
Harris’ courage to express herself put her on a new path. As her social media following grew, Old Navy and The Ellen DeGeneres Show reached out to commission Harris’ work, drawn in her signature style of bright, bold graphic designs and self-empowerment messaging. In January 2021 Harris quit her 9-to-5 job and turned her hobby into a full-time career.
“I’ve had a long journey in terms of building confidence in myself,” she says. “A lot of my art is very focused on reinforcing ideas about confidence, self-love, joy, community. Those are the things I want to give people.”