Mexican Makeup Founder Harnesses Culture for Colorful Line Mexican Makeup Founder Harnesses Culture for Colorful Line Latin-American beauty Regina Merson had a very specific, very personal point of view when she created her makeup brand, Reina Rebelde, which translates to “rebel queen.” “I founded the brand on my experience as a Mexican American woman and my relationship to beauty and its rituals,” says Merson. “There are many nuances within the culture to explore.” With the goal of uniting bold, saturated colors with artful packaging that was expressive of Latin culture, Merson’s brand is meant to capture some a Hispanic woman’s key attributes; namely “big emotional eyes,” strong brows and “gorgeous full lips.’ “Two categories that have been hallmarks [of Latin women] in pictures featuring Aztec princesses to revolutionaries to beautiful entertainers in the Fifties, have always been a strong eye and beautiful lip.” Merson, who was an attorney before launching her beauty company is a self-taught “makeup junkie” who wanted to create a line that mimicked the experience of being a Latin woman in this country. “My brand expresses the duality of my life: speaking Spanish and English, having multiple cultural norms, traveling, feeling intense nostalgia and pride in my heritage and being part of a community of fierce Forward-thinking, hardworking Latina women. To wit, Reina Rebelde products incredibly long-wearing, with pigments that are versatile (can be applied dry or wet), as well as buildable for more intensity from morning to evening. “We have a very similar relationship with beauty as a Hispanic culture,” says Merson. “People who are interested in beauty are captivated by unique messaging that is so rooted in a specific point of view.” According to Merson, her consumer community has been built via grassroots word of mouth initiatives, and is the brand’s social channels reflect real women using the product line. “Our Mentality is we are rebel queens,” she says. “Each woman is part of it.” Here, 10 questions with the gorgeous founder, on changing the narrative on diversity through beauty. What separates your brand from other brands in today’s crowded market? Reina Rebelde is the only brand on the market that directly and authentically celebrates and speaks to the Latina consumer, specifically by recognizing what it means to be bilingual, bicultural Latina in the United States, which we bring to life via our carefully curated makeup products. Can you speak a little about the look of your products, specifically the art you chose to feature on the components? Every touch point of Reina Rebelde is designed and inspired by the essence of this unique Latina woman and the many dualities she has in this life—spiritual, physical and social. From the initial encounter with the carton, which features butterflies and skulls—Mexican symbols for the spiritual transformation that we undergo in our lifecycle, to the interior of the box with the vibrant red and pink Mexican roses that speak to our inherent love of life, color, and our own cultural and personal vibrancy. The main icon of the brand is our Chica, who was was designed by a talented tattoo artist in East Los Angeles. The Chica is meant to be a pictorial representation of our customer. She is always beautiful and her makeup is always flawlessly applied, because we are very much in touch with our feminine energy, but she also has another side that is constantly operating in her life. She is so fierce, brave, strong and unapologetic -that is where the imagery of the tattoos come in. The tattoos are “Milagros,” which mean miracles in Latin-American spiritual folklore. The tattoos are not meant to be literal, but rather they signify this long history that we have of women in our lives and in our communities who have prayed for us and blessed us with the best of intentions. There is a very unique culture within this empowering demographic and we get it, because we are this demographic. It is also a brand with a very defined and specific point of view not just on brand identity, but product performance, and speaks to the unique cultural relationship that Latina women have with their makeup and their beauty routines. How has being a Latin American shaped your brand? As I always say, being a Latina woman has been and will always be the most profound privilege for me. It has shaped me in many complicated, but ultimately positive ways in who I am as a woman and how I relate to other women around me. There is a such a deep, connected, multi-sensory attachment that I have to my heritage and my homeland of Mexico, and knowing that my cultural core has given me the foundation from which to explore what being a modern woman is in the world. The name is a complete reflection of that journey that I know I share with so many other women — how we call each other “Reinas” (queens) as terms of endearment and empowerment in our culture. It seems today all social influencers are launching beauty products to immediately successful results. In your opinion, is this a good thing or a bad thing for the beauty industry? I think it is a positive thing, because it is democratizing beauty in many respects. It is no longer in the hands of just major corporations to decide what products consumers get, the consumer gets say in the process to some extent, and that is always a positive in my book. What are your primary marketing activities? How do you find and attract new consumers? Primarily, we use social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) to market Reina Rebelde and attract new consumers. Reina Rebelde was built on a very grass-roots ethos that is very word-of-mouth based. We know it will take more time to grow, but we also think we will ultimately reach the consumers that really connect with the brand and will hopefully connect emotionally with it as well. What are some of the challenges in terms of running a beauty brand? It is ALL challenging, but that is part of the fun. Some of the key challenges are having the patience to do things the right way for the brand long-term even if there are so many short-term solutions or options that feel very seductive at times. Product innovation is difficult, because the options may seem endless, but finding exactly what you are after can be limiting. Running a tight ship is difficult, as a start-up beauty brand, I want every dollar to count in ways that are meaningful/impactful for the consumer, which often means that there is more work that has to be done by me on the backend, and as I am learning, there are many aspects of the operations that I am not great at, but am learning to be proficient at. Can you describe your target customer? A Reina Rebelde is a fierce, aspirational, unapologetic Latina woman who appreciates and owns her identity. She is an exquisite and ambitious woman who embodies her powerful cultural duality by showing her grand beauty to the world. What beauty brands do you think a good job of being inclusive of different ethnicities? Overall, I created Reina Rebelde because I felt that so many beauty brands were missing the mark with the Latina consumer in the United States and their unique cultural relationship with beauty, specifically. So many beauty brands were/are talking to Latinas in a monolithic manner, which dismisses the complexities of our culture or they create “one and done” marketing initiatives once a year and don’t truly dedicated an ongoing dialogue with this powerful beauty consumer. What are some of your creative inspirations? I’m a multi-sensory woman in the sense that I absorb the sights, sounds, smells of everything I do and experience. To that end, I find creative inspirations in the most random of places, but always discover that I am at my creative peak when I am traveling (especially to Mexico or other countries in Central America) and when I am meeting and connecting with different women through the brand. Their individual stories, how they bring the product to life as part of their daily narrative and express their individual version of being a Reina Rebelde gives me a constant source of creative material. What is your expansion plan? What can we next expect from you? We have some new products in the works that are taking some time to get right. And that will of course be a constant process, but only when it makes sense. And there are some big strategic ways we are working on to connect with individual communities around the country and penetrate deeper in these amazing Latina communities. The Quick 10 1. What app do you most use? Instagram. 2. Briefly describe your morning routine. Up at 6:30 AM, tons of coffee + check all emails + work out, dressed and made up by 8:30 AM, do my morning calls from 8:30 AM to 9:30 Am. Next, in-person meetings/social media marketing and management/special projects preparations through lunchtime. 3. Name a business mogul you admire. Steve Jobs – because his journey to Apple started with his love of an art form (calligraphy), not the linear route we would have expected. I love stories of moguls who have no technical background in the companies that they build. 4. What product do you wish you had invented? Flaming Hot Cheetos. 5. What is your spirit animal? My 13-year-old golden retriever Maximus. 6. What is your life motto? “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell 7. Name your favorite work-day snack. Flaming Hot Cheetos. It’s an obsession and my guilty pleasure. 8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful? “A little crazy.” 9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to? Botswana 10. Desert Island. Three things, go. My dog (for my heart and soul), Reina Rebelde Bold Lip Color Stick in Rosa Salvaje (for my vanity), and my iPod (for my mind). Belisa Silva Belisa is an editor with more than 10 years of experience. Prior to SWAAY, she worked as freelance writer, covering lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries. Belisa was a Market Editor at Women's Wear Daily for five years, where she interviewed rockstar business women like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Iman. Belisa also contributes to Cosmetic Executive Women, where she highlights female executives making an impact in the beauty industry.