Flint native pays homage to her hometown with an exclusive nail polish collection

FLINT, Michigan -- Although Ashley Hamilton, founder of Prism Lacquers, resides in Washington, D.C., she keeps her hometown of Flint close to her heart and has dedicated a special collection of nail polishes to commemorate the city. 

The exclusive “Where The Heart Is” collection features eight colors with names that are synonymous with Flint, including “Flintstone,” “810,” “Downtown,” and “Bedrock.” The other four colors were named after four women from Flint — Natasha Thomas, Tracy Palmer, Ebonie Gipson, and Chia Morgan. Hamilton was inspired by their community efforts.

Prism Lacquers was founded in 2019 after Hamilton noticed the lack of representation of Black people and people of color in the nail polish industry, particularly in nail advertisements and campaigns which left many people uncertain about how nail colors would look on their skin tones. 

Hamilton was also adamant about creating products that were vegan and free of harmful chemicals as well as partnering with organizations that are community-based, including the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village which Prism donates 10% of each purchase from the “Where The Heart Is” collection.

The nail polish is available online and select colors can be found inside of Comma Bookstore & Social Hub located in downtown Flint. 

In an interview with Flintside, Hamilton spoke about her mission with Prism Lacquers, the "Where the Heart Is" collection, her fondest memories of Flint, and advice to budding beauty businesses. 

Flintside: What made you decide to establish Prism Lacquers?

Ashley Hamilton: “A few years ago, I was shopping, looking through this nail polish brand that I was interested in purchasing from. But I'm like, “What do these colors look like on women my shade?” All they had were very light or white models, essentially. And then I noticed that there were so many other black women, women of color in the comments saying that it’d be great to know what the shade might look like on darker skin. 

“It just kind of hit me like, “Why are we still having to beg brands to include us?” We are also an important part of their consumer population. And so it just kind of clicked that this is something that I could do. There's a need that I could also help fix, and so I just noticed the need for greater diversity and inclusion. I wanted to create a brand that lacquer lovers of all shades and all skin tones could see themselves in.”

Flintside: Nail polish has always been associated with harsh chemicals, some of which may be harmful to health and the environment. Did you experience any obstacles obtaining a nail product that's vegan, non-toxic, and cruelty-free?

Ashley Hamilton: “I can't tell you how many bottles of nail polish I've accumulated, tested and tried over the years trying to get the formula perfect. It was a labor of love because I wanted to create a product that I would also love, wear and enjoy and that I would feel great about promoting. There are so many beauty products that we use and that are geared and marketed towards us that have so many harsh and harmful chemicals in them. It was super important to me to be able to provide a product that was safe and that I could really feel good about selling to people.”

Flintside: How has the response been since the initial launch in 2020?

Ashley Hamilton: “The response has been overwhelmingly supportive! So many women of color, so many Black women specifically, come to me and say that they love this polish because we think about skin tones. We create the collections with melanin in mind so we want to make sure we're choosing colors that are going to pop against your skin. Some colors can look kind of ashy and we keep that in mind. When we create the collections, the response is phenomenal. I'm so grateful.”

Flintside: Let's talk about the "Where the Heart Is" collection. How was the process in naming each color? 

Ashley Hamilton: “That's actually one of my favorite parts! I love it so much because I also get a chance to bond with my sister. We come together and we fight about all the color names, lots of opinions, lots of very strong emotions about that. But it's one of my favorite parts. With four of the colors in the collection, I modeled after four women that I think are just doing really phenomenal things in Flint. 

“Advacutie” is named for Natasha Thomas. She is an incredible advocate, she is constantly fighting for human rights, equality, all of these beautiful things that are so important, so necessary, and just bringing such a light to our community. I wanted to work in how much of an advocate she is but with a cute little twist.”

Flintside: Although you're well-traveled, you have a strong sense of pride in your hometown and community. What are some specific things that made you want to stay closer to your roots?

Ashley Hamilton: “I still have lots of family [in Flint.] There are so many people that I love and care about who are still in the city, so no matter how far I go, no matter where I go in this world, I'm always going to gravitate back towards Flint. It'll always have that special place in my heart. I cannot say enough and talk enough about the resilience of the people in the city, it's just something I admire because I feel like it gave me some of that grit that I needed to be able to go anywhere and really be able to feel confident in a room, go into different spaces and speak my truth and do what I need to do. So much of the city has shaped me into who I am.”

Flintside: Can you share with me one of your fondest memories of growing up in Flint?

Ashley Hamilton: “Absolutely! I think one thing I really love about the community is it's kind of like a small community so it's really easy for everybody to know everybody. One thing I really cherish is going to high school and elementary school with the same people. I have a very close-knit group of friends that I went all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade with, and that's one of my fondest memories because, to this day, we still keep in touch. I know that when I'm back in the city, I can call them, I can see them. I'm just so proud of the people that they're becoming, the people that they have become, and the wonderful things that they're doing.”

Flintside: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to launch their own niche beauty business?

Ashley Hamilton: “I would say that if you feel that pull to pursue it, just do it. Sometimes, we are our harshest critics and tend to shoot ourselves down before life or anybody else can even have the opportunity to do so. If you feel that pull, give it a shot because even if it doesn't pan out the way that you thought it would — the way that you hoped it would — you learn so much. 

“I've learned so much throughout this whole process just from taking my idea, creating something from that, and actually growing it into a business. Definitely give it a shot, then do your research. Research is incredibly important. Also, you're going to find people who want to support you along the way, people who have wonderful advice to give you, people who've been in your shoes and are so willing to reach back and help you out.”

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Read more articles by Tia Scott.