This Beauty Brand Puts Black and Afro-Latina Women First

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Though it was their second go-round at the beauty convention, according to Shaira Frías, this time was a bigger deal for Luna Magic than the first. “Everyone cares about the second show because if you make it the second time around, that means you’re still in business. Things are still going for you. You’re successful,” explained the professional makeup artist and former journalist. Shaira continued to explained that she and her sister Mabel had a goal to return for a second year and live to fight another convention. “We came back and we showcased our brand to all the people in the industry. Everyone was just so happy for us because they saw how much we grew since the last time they saw us in 2019. They were just happy for us that we accomplished so much.”

Mabel Frías: What’s exciting about this Hispanic Heritage moment is we were able to show up for our brand in a very big way. We grew up in the community of Washington Heights. We lead lives very similar to many brown people in America in the sense that we come from a first-generation family. We’re excited that we’re able to show up authentically through our packaging, our colors, our textures, and our messaging. The feedback that we usually get is that our presentation is done in such a beautiful and colorful way that it is clear we have a very strong identity around what we stand for.

Shaira Frías: I like to take it to the basic fact of our background. We are of African descent. The only difference is we were shipped over to the Caribbean, to the Dominican Republic. I always like to talk about when the wave of Dominican immigrants came to the United States in the ’70s and early ’80s, they realized how Black they truly were. If we don’t open our mouths, people assume that we’re African-American because of how we look.

We are of African descent and until we open our mouth and you hear the accent, that’s when you’re like, “Oh, this person speaks Spanish.” Our narrative and the narrative of African-American people are the same thing. We’re the same thing, the same energy, the same being. Your struggles are our struggles. I don’t understand why society has created this separation or this, “You have to choose. You’re this or you’re that.” We’re the same thing.

Mabel: We actually share a lot of the concerns that African-American women do. We have melanin in our skin. Hyperpigmentation is the same concern [and] our hair texture is the same thing that we’re trying to solve for. Even though culturally we’re Latina, Dominican, and whatnot, we fully embrace that beauty for us looks very different. it’s an ongoing conversation around why or why not? Should we not be included? I feel like Blackness and Black beauty should be seen as more of a global holistic moment because Black for me is a culture. We see ourselves as Black women in America who also have this dual identity of Latin culture. In our world, they both can coexist and they do because they have been since we were kids.

Shaira: Through our vibrant colors, our messaging, and our packaging. When we design something, I’m dark-skinned and we make sure it needs to look good on me. My sister’s light-skinned and it needs to look good on her. It will not be ashy on any skin color because our priority is for it to look good and have that quality so it can go through on every skin tone.

Mabel: We want to make sure that our customer doesn’t feel like an afterthought or that our messaging and our product are not performative. Because there’s a lot of people out there, when the game was changed with all these foundation shades, brands that have never really spoken to us or stood for us are now about us. At the end of the day, the customer is smart and people can tell whether a brand has been doing this or they’re just starting to do it because there’s pressure from the community to embrace something that was never part of your DNA. We do it in the content. We understand that in this day and age, social media content is very important to talk to the customer, to put things out there that are authentic and that we believe in.

Mabel: Celia Cruz to me, now more than ever. As I started studying her as an individual and really seeing the legacy that she’s left behind, I’m in awe of the reality of how much she was doing to advance this narrative of AfroLatinidad in a very different Latin world. If you look at her costumes, she just ran around and said, authentically, “Yo soy negra” which means “I am Black.” She even had a really big song called “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” – that black woman has that vibe. To think about someone like her celebrating it and showing up with her crazy nails and costume in her time, it’s nothing short of, to me, admirable, because she was making that statement at an age and at an era where women like my grandmother had very limited choices.

Mabel: My hope, and I think my sister can share her hope too, is very simple. Sometimes from the communities that we come from, we have parents that are entrepreneurs, but they’re different levels. We don’t have parents that have office jobs. Our parents may not have had opportunities to know that it was possible, but for us, we’re living our wildest dreams. My sister and I set out to build a company in an industry that is very subjective in many ways. Because we’re in the self-esteem business, it’s just by us simply existing tells other women or men that it’s possible for them to put the pieces together to bring their point-of-view to the world. That to me is enough. It’s really about creating hope and letting people know that it’s possible.

Shaira: There’s basically no representation of Afro-Latinas anywhere publicly and if they were, they were super light-skinned. It was never like the rainbows of colors that exist. I would tell my younger self, if you don’t see it, don’t worry about it. You’re going to become it and you’re going to start a new wave of Afro-Latinas that are seen as being successful that other people can see. I think me and my sister were the first in terms of authenticity as Afro-Latina business owners meaning we own our company one hundred percent. We bootstrapped it. We came from the hood. It’s all us. Everyone can see. I would tell myself, don’t worry about it. You don’t see it, but you’re going to create it. I feel like that’s exactly what we did.

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