We are all seeking a sense of normalcy right now. With everything going on around us, including a pandemic, we seek the little things that make us feel normal, comforted, and safe. For many mujeres maquillaje is one of those daily rituals that they refuse to give up. I know because my mom is one of those women. And I know that this is true for most Latina’s, the simple act of putting on makeup, coloring your hair and dressing up for work, has been a comfort during this time. Even if it’s just to sit in their DIY office space. It is ingrained in us as young girls to present yourself in your best light, which includes your outward appearance. While times have changed and we know that the outward appearance should not be the end all be all, it doesn’t change the fact that when you look good, you feel good. And with a swipe of red lipstick and a perfect cat eye we can feel that much more powerful.
Award-winning, Reina Rebelde, a makeup line created by Mexicana, Regina Merson, is helping Latina’s feel like the luchadora’s that we are. This Latina owned brand speaks to our ability to hold our traditions in high regard while accomplishing feats our ancestors could only dream of, and for which our parents sacrifice so much for. When you look through the products you can tell that they were created with Latinas in mind. It can be seen through the package design, product names, and advertisements, that in their boardroom there isn’t just one Latina, giving their input for a widely diverse culture. You can tell that this company holds our voices, our differences, and love for our people and culture at the forefront of their decisions.
I wanted to make sure that Latinista readers learned more about this Latina owned brand. Being so, Regina and her team were gracious enough to help me accomplish this goal with the following interview.
Tell the reader who doesn’t know anything about Reina Rebelde, about the brand and how it came about?
Reina Rebelde is the first makeup line for Latinas by Latinas. Reina Rebelde aims to honor and celebrate Latina women with a makeup line that has built-in versatility to give life to our many dualities, full of high-quality products with provocative shades that deliver the boldness and passion that we bring to the rituals of applying them. Collectively as Latinas, we share so many fascinating things that are unique to our experience — from our over-bearing mothers to living a bilingual/bicultural lifestyle in the United States, and of course, our connection to each other and other women in our lives through our beauty rituals. Reina Rebelde’s goal is to make these women proud of who they are and where they come from. I want their experience with our makeup to allow them to be unapologetically proud of who they are.
Tell us about getting into Target. What was that process like?
Our partnership with Target came about as a result of different activities, which began in July of 2017. First, Reina Rebelde’s incredible Latina community was vocal about their love of our products, our brand, and our mission. Second, the press coverage we received, from both top national beauty media and international business press, for a brand new, Latina-owned and operated beauty line was unprecedented. This press coverage demonstrated not only that the Latina community wanted a cosmetics brand that authentically understood them and their relationship to beauty, but also, that the impact of our spending power in cosmetics was finally understood and appreciated by different facets of this industry. Finally, we attended a variety of trade shows in our first year where we were approached by someone on the Target Buying Team and separately, we were contacted by another member of the Target team who had been watching the brand’s grassroots growth in our first year. Target was searching for new, innovative, trending products from brands to delight and excite their guests that would be placed in their revamped beauty departments, and given that the Latina customer is a core element of their beauty section, it really was a match made in beauty heaven.
What was your family’s reaction to you starting your own business after being a lawyer? Especially from your mom, who as you mentioned in the Juntos We Shine podcast, originally did not want you to give it up.
Jumping ship from lawyer to entrepreneur was more like life throwing me over board. My parents were very nervous and uncomfortable about the decision in many ways, but they always believed in me and my idea. But they knew that it would be a stressful and difficult number of years to get it off the ground, and a huge risk for me personally. After it launched, and they saw it in real time though, they were very much behind it.
Looking back, do you think you would have ever realized your second career in makeup if it were not for therapy?
Definitely not. I think I really needed an outside voice to encourage me to be true to myself and to help me process all the parts of my personal story that were holding me back.
Before going into law, had you ever thought of going into the beauty business? Was law always the original plan? Switching from law to makeup is a giant shift, what made you choose makeup?
Prior to launching Reina Rebelde, I never thought I’d be here now. Yet, while I was practicing bankruptcy law, which is what I always thought I wanted because I worked so hard to be where I was as a Latina in law, I felt that I was not where I was supposed to be. There was a longing to contribute to my community and connect in another way that was not related to law. After several years of soul searching, turned out I really craved something that was both intellectually challenging and creative. The creative piece was missing in my legal career. Once I figured out that I needed a creative outlet, (a very obvious but important A-ha moment for me) things really started falling into place for what was to become Reina Rebelde. However, in the process of figuring out how to make what I thought would be a year-long transition, a serendipitous round of lay-offs at my law firm I was working with did the final push for me. The universe was sending me a sign.
What does your background in law bring to your business acumen and how does it help you run the brand?
I very much appreciate my legal training and the opportunity to actually practice law prior to starting Reina Rebelde. I think it has made me very analytical and savvy about business dealings. It also taught me about work ethic, being resilient to criticism and feedback, and persistence. However, it has definitely hurt me in other ways – a lot of people in this industry do not want to work with lawyers and often times the legal training can hinder business progress, ironically. Lawyers by their very nature are not comfortable taking risks, so that is something I have had to train myself out of very consciously.
Reina Rebelde is now in Mexico as well, are there plans to expand into other countries, specifically Latin America and the Caribbean?
Yes, we are eager to expand to other places in Latin America and the Caribbean. We were working on several new territories over the last year, but coronavirus has stalled much of that progress. Each country has its own laws, regulations and taxes around importing goods, so that presents challenges as well, but we are trying to find partnerships that will ease those barriers to entry.
How did the first product collaboration with Kay-Lani of Viva Glam Kay come about? As a Boricua, I was excited to see this collaboration happen.
When I launched Reina Rebelde in the fall of 2016, I always said that the initial collection was inspired by what I know authentically and that is my Mexican culture and heritage. From the very beginning, however, I was committed to representing and celebrating all of the other unique and beautiful cultures that make up the Latino community, but only if I could do so from a place of authenticity. I have always been fascinated by Puerto Rican culture and have learned about it over the years through my Puerto Rican friends, and it was always my intention to find a Puerto Rican voice within our collective community to bring that heritage to life for Reina Rebelde. Kay-Lani Martinez was someone that we had worked with before and is not only a super talented beauty powerhouse but also a proud Puerto Rican woman. Overall, the whole collaboration took a year and half to bring to life. We are a small brand, we have to move slowly and carefully. It took some time to work on the colors, because the blue had to be very vibrant in order to really convey the proper emotions and pride we were after and also to show up on darker skin. And nude lipsticks are incredibly challenging, and it has always been difficult for both Kay-Lani and I to find the right nude for our skin tones. We are both perfectionists, so getting everything just right for both of us took more than a minute.
Will there be other products added to that collection and will there be other influencer collaborations?
We hope to continue collaborating with influencers like how we did with Kay-Lani, but they take a long time as we truly develop a personal relationship. There are a few influencers we are eyeing but nothing is confirmed. The most important part of a collaboration of that scale is partnering with an influencer that authentically understands our mission and loves the brand. It’s more than just the money behind it.
Can you give us a sneak peek into upcoming projects or products?
Ah! So many fun things we’re working including expanding in the lip and eye categories. In July, we have a fun product launch with a really empowering theme behind.
What are some of the entrepreneurial tips you can give other Latinas who want to start their own business?
The most important thing is don’t be afraid to do things in your own style and way. There will be so many nay-sayers on how to start or run your business. Also, while running a business can feel tremendously isolating at times, the truth is there is a huge community of women in the Latina community that have so much energy and good intentions behind you too that may not always be visible. Tap into that energy to help propel your business and mission. We are all here, cheering for you, so don’t be afraid. I launched Reina Rebelde on this energy. I know first-hand that it exists.
Being that we are in the time of social distancing and quarantine during Covid-19, what is keeping you sane? How are you keeping connected with family and friends?
Initially, it was quite a bit of zoom calls, facetime, baking, and gardening (a new one for me). But nothing has been able to replaced human-to-human contact for me. I have had to be gentle with myself and the process along the way. I am trying my best to listen to my body, unplug, rest and sleep when I feel I need it. The trauma we are all experiencing right now is a lot to process physically and emotionally – taking care of yourself is key.
And finally, although it might be like picking a favorite child, what are your go-to products of the moment from Reina Rebelde?
Not fair! But my makeup definitely changes with my moods. Since COVID hit, I have been wearing our Rebel Eye Definer Liquid in Bonita Bandera and Bold Lip Color Stick in La Jefa quite often. I think the pop of blue is helping lift my mood, and La Jefa is a no-brainer shade that makes me feel pulled together, even if I’m not wearing a bra (which I am not!)
Reina Rebelde uses its platforms and website not only to bring us great products but to showcase “Jefas” in various industries. Sharing different women’s stories of strength, resilience, and entrepreneurship with their massive audience. In another move that we can all get behind Reina Rebelde is offering 25% off purchases and donating 25% of your order to Covid-19 relief efforts. The brand is also now selling cute face masks that will support No Kid Hungry and let’s not forget that the collaboration with Kay-Lani, supports the UNIDOS, Disaster Relief, and Recovery Program that supports Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.
Thank you to Regina, Lissette, and the rest of the Reina Rebelde team for working with me and taking the time to answer my questions. Make sure you check out the Reina Rebelde website to grab products fit for any Reina!
Pictures courtesy of Reina Rebelde