Meet The Founder of Reina Rebelde, a Makeup Line That Celebrates the Beauty of Latinas
As a kid, I loved watching my mom get ready in front of her vanity. Hot rollers, makeup, and dark red lipstick were all part of the routine. Today, I equally love the process of putting on "my face". Even if I'm just lounging around in sweats all day, I'm sure to have some moisturizer, a spot of foundation, blush, bronzer, lashes, and some lip color on. Now as a mom myself, my four-year-old daughter loves watching me put on makeup and insists on joining me every chance she can. For Latinas, beauty is a bonding ritual, much like cooking or rounding up the chisme.
Reina Rebelde is a bold new makeup line that understands the connectedness of beauty for Latinas. Founded by Mexican-born Regina Merson, the cosmetics company is on a mission to celebrate the beauty of Latinas all while remaining authentic to her duality. We were thrilled to speak with Merson shortly after the brand's Target.com launch.
First off, congratulations on your Target launch!
Thank you! It's such an amazing experience. Nothing replaces the surreal aspect of seeing your brand being promoted by Target.
How long have you been working on Reina Rebelde?
Since 2012 or so, conceptually. I was a bankruptcy attorney for 6 years and I did not leave my legal career until the middle of 2013. I then launched the line in 2016.
Growing up, did you always know you wanted to start a makeup line and/or go into business for yourself?
Growing up, I always wanted to be an attorney. It was a big passion of mine. Starting my own company was never really on my radar. I realized pretty early on in my legal career that I was missing a creative component, and this became more important to me as I got older. I never really found my "tribe" in my legal career. Makeup was always a side passion of mine. It's part of how I related to my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and friends. And I realized that it wasn't just true for me, but for a majority of Latinas as well.
At what point did you decide to just go for it?
I had been working on the concept and it was impossible to work my day job and keep the concept going. Being an attorney is not your typical 9-5 job. I was working nights and weekends as well. To my benefit, there was a huge round of layoffs in my department, and I was let go and received a severance. Coming from Latino parents, you just don't walk away from a steady job. So it was a blessing in disguise. The hardest part for me was the next day. I was getting a lot of calls from headhunters to interview for other legal jobs, and I had to really ask myself if this [Reina Rebelde] is what I wanted to focus on. The headhunters told me if I was out of the game for too long, it would be hard for me to get back in. I had done a lot of work beforehand on the makeup line and I really believed in it. So I turned down the interviews to focus on Reina Rebelde. Nothing in my experience has been an overnight success. It's difficult and to walk away from job opportunities that had a lot a prestige and go into starting your own business. It is a huge change and emotionally difficult.
What kind of support did your parents give you? And what do they think now?
They were very supportive but also nervous. And now, they are extremely excited and proud.
Reina Rebelde is absolutely gorgeous. How was the reception of the line when it first launched?
It's been amazing. It felt like I was giving birth. People have reacted very positively. We won Best New Beauty Packaging, got featured in some high profile media sites, and from there it just sort of snowballed. It's important that the message of the brand was really accurate. You know, we launched right before the election, and I think it ended up working for our benefit because there were a lot of issues and talk regarding Latino identity taking place. It's a complicated landscape, very political, and I think Reina Rebelde succeeded because it celebrates Latina pride.
We've grown up with so many dualities that we've had to manage. I immigrated here from Mexico and I had to reconcile all of these things, these conflicting dualities. Reina Rebelde is for the Latina who wears all of these hats unapologetically.
Creating a makeup line is extremely difficult. Besides the obvious, did you encounter any other frustrations during the process?
It was important for me to come out with a line that spoke to Latinas that had a prestigious feel and quality to it. One of my personal frustrations is that products that are branded to Latinas are construed as cheesy, cheap, and low-brow. There is such a misrepresentation of who we are. We are a subset of a much larger population that is super sophisticated, educated, and not accurately represented in our society. The level of misunderstanding of what we are capable of doing is mind-boggling. It was important for me to come out with a brand that was authentic to Latinas but also accessible to the larger market.
I completely agree! If you had to choose, what would you say is your favorite piece from the line?
I use everything! It depends on my mood. I'm really proud of the bold lip color stick Brava. I have a drawer full of red lipsticks and I was always told I needed to wear a brick red because of my skin color and it never translated well on me. Brava was born out of the frustration of finding that perfect red color where you can put it on and feel amazing. I worked really hard on getting this shade of red right, one that looked amazing on darker skin and announced that you have arrived! It was a hard shade to get right but so worth it. Of course, I have a lot of other favorites, but that one stands out for me.
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Images Courtesy of: Chic Influence