It all began with a cooking video.
We’ve all seen those videos cross our Facebook feeds. A pair of well-manicured hands dances across the screen, combining ingredients that culminate in a fancy-looking meal that you too can make in your own kitchen!
This video was different. These hands prepared a full day’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. In many ways, this video was similar to all the others: the camera angles and subject matter were familiar. That being said, in this video, the hands were the size of a toy doll’s. I first saw this video in August of 2017.
In reality, the tiny hands in question slip over one’s pointer finger, giving the illusion of a baby making the food. And as another surprise, one of the people behind the hands is Goshen College’s own Kali Miller, GC’s residence life coordinator. Today, Miller’s original tiny hands video has sprouted a Facebook “business” known as Lil’ Hands Photography. On the site, Lil’ Hands boasts 124 page likes and 127 followers – 348 users also follow @lilhandsphotography on Instagram. Their posts tell the story of someone living their best lil’ hands life: going to see Kinky Boots, fighting sickness by gobbling oranges or relaxing in a hammock.
I sat down one cloudy afternoon with Miller herself to talk about the company’s roots as well as to get to know her. I learned that she is a self-described funny woman—she was even voted class clown in high school—who has always loved making people laugh.
“My best friend from college…had these little hands that she brought when she came to visit once last year, and we made one of those tasty videos…with us cooking with them,” said Miller.
In the video, tiny hands put together a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles, a small salad and a ham-and-potatoes dinner. Miller lamented what seems to be the only downside to the project: “It’s kind of hard in the summer because it gets so hot, but you have to wear long sleeves to make it work.”
I asked Miller if there was any specific inspiration for starting the company alongside her longtime friend Maria Denlinger.
“There really wasn’t anything in particular; it’s just kind of who we are as people. We’ve always wanted to go viral on the internet like we did Vine,” Miller said.
With the unfortunate passing of Vine in 2016, Miller and Denlinger needed to find another way to share their humor-loving personalities with the world. When they started Lil’ Hands Photography in 2017, they opted for Facebook and Instagram as the company’s platforms.
“I feel like [many different] generations are moving away from Facebook. Denlinger doesn’t have Facebook anymore, and it was easier for us to share an account…through Instagram,” she said.
By using two different social media sites, Miller reasoned that Lil’ Hands could reach multiple generations of tech users. She also reaches the non-tech crowd by “leaving business cards everywhere, like stores, and I think one time we walked on all the [dorm] floors and put them on…bulletin boards.”
While the duo are not the first to use tiny hands as humor in the media—think Saturday Night Live with Kristen Wiig wearing a pair of actual baby doll arms—Miller and Denlinger offer a relatable take on the joke, incorporating their tiny hands into moments from real life.
“I can’t say that I’ve seen anything quite like Lil’ Hands Photography before. I’m always impressed by their ability to come up with funny material every day,” said Emily Hahn, a former member of GC’s residence life team and friend of Miller.
Along with their usual Instagram moments, Lil’ Hands has posted a few more cooking videos as well as a reenactment of a scene from Mean Girls.
In addition to staying authentic, Miller and Denlinger are also great at getting friends and community to participate in Lil’ Hands shenanigans. Sometimes it’s a college friend, sometimes it’s a few students, sometimes it’s a colleague.
“I’ve only been officially involved with one post, and…it was more difficult than expected to navigate those lil’ hands,” said Hahn.
One can only imagine—or watch as Miller spills dressing into her hand rather than on the salad. An occupational hazard, but one that the team doesn’t consider a roadblock to their company’s goal.
What if Lil’ Hands Photography ended up becoming Internet-famous?
“You have to remain humble, right?” Miller said, laughing. “I don’t know if we’ll ever go viral. It’s just something that brings a lot of joy for us. But if we do, I don’t think anything would change. You just don’t know until you know.”
While Miller would like for Lil’ Hands to become an overnight sensation, she wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t. But in the age of yodeling Walmart kids and “pen-pineapple-apple-pen,” it would not be surprising if this page took off.
In the words of Hahn, “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Lil’ Hands Photography!”