Shaira and Mabel Frías discovered that being labeled as "an Afro-Latina brand" was inevitable soon after starting their business. Here's how they learned to embrace it.
Years before she became the co-founder of independent beauty brand Luna Magic, Shaira Frías remembers the joy she experienced when she would visit the drugstore and see herself reflected so proudly and accurately by a few particular brands on the shelf.
Today, cosmetics are much more likely to start with an inclusive shade range. Even while the Luna Magic brand currently lacks any facial bases or foundation, Shaira and her sister and co-founder Mabel Frías have found that by being authentically themselves, they have been able to experience the wonderful feeling of feeling validated.
The Lip Bar's Melissa Butler and Topicals' Olamide Olowe and Claudia Teng are among the new breed of black women and women of color business owners in the beauty sector. Shaira and Mabel are based in Los Angeles.
In 2022, there has been a greater recognition that non-white people of Spanish-speaking origin exist. We are sort of in a post-”Ain't I Latina” scenario. The discussion regarding widespread prejudice against Latinx individuals has expanded to encompass those with dark complexion tones, such as the Frías sisters. Luna Magic is not the first Latinx-founded company by any means, but darker-skinned founders are still less common.
Although the sisters have always recognized the need for more Afro-Latinx representation in the cosmetics sector, this wasn't their primary inspiration when they first launched Luna Magic in 2019. The nods to Spanish-speaking nations and cultures—inspiring Spanish terms in some of the product names, such as designating a color in the Uno palette as Reggaeton and dubbing lashes Soadoras (dreamers)—were intended to honor and enjoy rather than to impart knowledge.
They would discover, as Mabel puts it, "in some spaces, we've sometimes had to lead with [being Afro-Latina] to show that blackness is educated, sophisticated, beautiful, and that blackness is articulate. We are, in some ways, fighting stereotypes.”
Participating in Spanish-language news programs like Acceso Total on Telemundo has aided in this battle. These cameos have forced them to represent Afro-Latinos in Latino places where skin tones are still frequently homogenized.
As soon as their Black Latinx identity started to be recognized and brought up in interviews, Shaira was first concerned about being tokenized by both English and Spanish media. The two have drawn a lot of attention from the English-language media as they explain their Afro-Dominican heritage and embody what it means to be Afro-Latinx. And this particular question alone highlights how Black people are absent from Latin American or Latinx content.
“When you were a kid, you never saw ladies like us on TV. You [maybe] had that one token black girl on the two Spanish stations,” claims Shaira. “So even though I initially said to my sister that I didn't want to be included in this category because, you know, every time they want to discuss Blackness, they search for Blacks.”
However, as the positive feedback from customers who were delighted to see Afro-Latinas in a sector as visually stimulating and influential as beauty began to filter in, Shaira became aware of the potential for change that both she and Mabel had. "I looked past [my initial concern]. Girls were being inspired by us because of our appearance. Now they are saying, ‘We can do that?" We are capable of success! We can launch businesses!’”
At least one specific business example of Shaira and Mabel's favorable influence is available: Alicia Scott, a fellow Shark Tank candidate and the founder of the complexion-focused Range Beauty, entered the scene in 2017.
The idea behind Mentor Magic, Luna Magic's upcoming one-day symposium in New York and Los Angeles, is that success in the beauty industry is more collaborative than competitive. The sisters are compiling what they have discovered after answering questions about what it takes to launch a brand on a weekly basis from people from all backgrounds so they can share that information in a systematic way.
The community that Luna Magic has amassed in just four years has great faith in both the founders' opinions and suggestions as well as their products. With many options for both rich, soft glam neutrals ("Desnuda") and jewel tones perfect for Carnival, the shadow palettes are very popular ("Goddess").
Mabel claims that the popular mascara primer Va-Va Pink and the volumizing Rebelde lashes are the items that have attained holy grail status and are frequently purchased in bulk. Interestingly, when asked to choose a thing that best embodied the other, Mabel and Shaira, who are separated by 15 months, both chose these items. "She's the base to my mascara," Shaira says of Mabel.
One of the products that Shaira refers to as having received those Latin winks, which customers have been discovering like Easter eggs all around the Luna cosmos, is Rebelde. Customers frequently note that the products remind them of anything from their history, according to Shaira. “We take the names of several of our products—like Rebelde—from telenovelas. Childhood. Xica da Silva, Usurpadora. Walter Mercado, an astrologer, is cited here. The roots of everything are in our culture.”
According to the creators, their clientele are a diverse group, with Latinx and African-Americans leading the pack in terms of demand for both fake and real mink lashes. White customers, who rank third, are most drawn to Va-Va Pink.
This commitment to culture and "energy," the phrase fans frequently use to describe the company, supports Luna Magic's use of the hashtag #lunamood in all of their social media posts.
"Every time we use the hashtag #lunamood, we're merely asking, ‘Can you feel these vibes?’ Positive vibes, nice energy, and vibrations," exclaims Shaira.