By Erica Soroka
Review Contributing Writer
The word selfie has always had a negative connotation attached to it. But Lake Orion native, Sierra Harbin, is determined to take the self-absorption out of the word and put self-love into it.
Set to break the stereotype, Harbin recently opened the doors of Zany Bubbles, a selfie shoppe designed to help people of all ages love themselves and feel powerful in their own skin.
The teal-colored storefront invites you inside, where you’re quickly consumed by pops of color and the sounds of today’s top hits over the speakers. Envelopes filled with encouraging words for future guests written by previous guests greet you on the right, while a swirling rainbow staircase on the opposing end descends you into the unique immersive space.
Hyping up her last clients of the day is the 25-year-old owner and creative mind behind the concept that is now Zany Bubbles.
“You’re a natural!” Harbin says as she holds a ring-light in each hand for optimal photo capturing.
Located in Keego Harbor, Zany Bubbles is a 2,000 square foot gallery offering customers 22 different backdrop areas for photos, all of which are strategically themed around positivity and empowerment. This unique shoppe allows for a self-guided tour where guests can stay for as long as they need to capture the perfect selfie. There is a large event space located toward the back of the shoppe for private parties, along with plenty of space to explore and be yourself. Tickets are $20 per person, or personalized event packages are available upon request.
Looking around the space, you can’t help but feel a sense of overwhelming excitement. From a black-and-white positive affirmation room to a wall made entirely of flowers, complete with hanging swings, a kissing booth and live fish happily swimming on the wall, the possibilities for the best selfie are endless.
“I want people, not just women but men too, to be proud enough to share who they are with anyone and everyone,” says Harbin as she locks the doors for the evening.
As we sat on a blue couch underneath a wall covered in flowers, Harbin is quick to point out it was the most labor-intensive idea she had but is one of her favorite places in the entire gallery. When asked where her inspiration came from, Harbin can’t help but laugh.
“I have too many Pinterest boards and a lot of WTF moments if I’m being honest. The inspiration comes from a lot of small things in my life that resonate with how I’m feeling or what my friends are going through,” says Harbin.
“The throne room for instance, I’m always calling my girlfriends ‘queens’ so I wanted to have a royal room. When I thought of royal, I thought of purple, which led me to wanting crowns to wear and of course the giant throne. It just kind of spirals from one idea to the next.”
Harbin’s plan for this selfie-shoppe first came to fruition in early 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic derailed her plans and construction officially started June of this year. Determined to complete the project as quickly as possible, Harbin, with the help of her friends and family, pulled off what was thought to be the impossible and completed the transformation in just one short week.
“With the year we all had, I really wanted to open a place where, among all the negative self-talk in our society, no one is made to feel small, but instead empowered,” says Harbin.
The young entrepreneur is no stranger to hard work; as she is a full-time communication professional and mother to six-year-old daughter, Macey, who was a large part of the inspiration behind the entire concept.
Harbin refers to Macey as her business partner, who is responsible for straightening the teddy bears, feeding the fish, and cleaning up around the shop. Complete with her own office, Macey can be found drawing up new ideas for a backdrop, welcoming you into Zany Bubbles and filling you in on all the best poses.
“She’s always watching me encourage people to let loose and be themselves, so she tries to imitate me,” says Harbin. “My daughter used to hate having her picture taken and would always hide. Now, after being surrounded by all these messages of self-validation and self-love, she borrows my phone constantly to take pictures of herself. She smiles. She feels good about herself. That is why we’ve done all of this.”
Having struggled with mental health her entire life, Harbin wanted to create a safe space where you can celebrate self-love and not self-obsession.
Zany Bubbles runs on the idea that everyone should love themselves for who they are and be able to see that tangibly. In doing so, Zany Bubbles will be participating in Viewfest, an event with a purpose to provide the community with mental health resources and support.
“I want to become more involved with events like this to help spread the word about mental illness and let young people like myself know that they’re not alone,” says Harbin.
Viewfest takes place at Walled Lake Central High School from 11 – 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9.
When asked what her plans are for the future, you can’t help but notice the light that flickers behind her eyes as she perks up; the possibilities seem to be endless.
Zany Bubbles is hosting its first public event, Magic and Mayhem Halloween Spooktacular! From 5 – 8 p.m., kids and adults can dress up in costumes and join Harbin and friends for a movie night while taking pictures at the decorated Keego Harbor location. Halloween themed treats and drinks will be provided, and four movie choices are available.
Oct. 19 – Hotel Transylvania
Oct. 20 – Hocus Pocus
Oct. 26 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
Oct. 27 – Casper the Friendly Ghost
Zany Bubbles is in downtown Keego Harbor, at 2900 Orchard Lake Rd., behind Sage Green Floral Shop.
Hours of operation are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
To learn more, visit zanybubbles.co