Meet Priscilla Ono: The Mexican-American Who Learned To Glam Rihanna From Watching Her Abuelita Get Ready For Church
It was a routine afternoon, I was organizing the office when the silver elevator doors chimed and out walked a fiercely real, beauty, carrying tons of bags. She had a gorgeous glow, a simple beat, and was wearing an all-black outfit with fabulous, pointy claws. There was a joyful presence about her, as she said hello and asked, “Is Jen here?”
I was an intern at FENTY Corp and was blessed with the opportunity to witness the talent behind Rihanna’s billion-dollar empire. Little did I know, I had just been graced by Priscilla Ono, the Global Beauty Brand Ambassador for Rih’s latest venture, FENTY Beauty.
I would have never guessed that the little girl who would lock herself in a bathroom after snatching her abuelita’s makeup bag to recreate looks, would go from doing $25 makeovers in Lynwood at Plaza Mexico, to becoming Rihanna’s key makeup artist. We are talking about a jefa — a woman who has created an empire for herself with Priscilla Ono Beauty Makeup Courses, and as a fashion designer with her latest fashion collab with ELOQUII.
The reality is, you can see her heart in everything she does and it’s no surprise that her hard earned success is a living testament that with hard work, faith and determination, she se puede. Here are some lessons I learned from her success story.
#1 Find Purpose In Your Passion
Priscilla did not grow up with a vision of becoming a makeup artist, she grew up with a strict Mexican abuelita, who did everything she could to get her family to the United States for a better future. Priscilla’s grandmother had big expectations for Priscilla to become a doctor or a lawyer. However, Priscilla fell in love with makeup, interestingly enough, while trying to get her now-husband to fall in love with her, she revealed in an interview with Dazed Digital. He was a photographer and music video director and she, as an amateur makeup artist, accepted the makeup artist role for this particular project to impress however, she then went on to realize makeup artisty is something she enjoyed more than just a hobby.
#2 Sometimes You Just Need To Jump In
The revelation of Priscilla’s destiny stirred some uncertainty. Set on her new path, Priscilla told Pop Sugar, that she dropped out of community college to pursue makeup as a full-time career and landed a gig as a cast member at Sephora. She totally took a leap of faith and faced her fears head on — and what do you know, they paid off!
#3 The Sacrifices Are Worth It
Priscilla’s interview with Pop Sugar, also revealed that her grandmother was disappointed when she learned Priscilla quit school. This decision almost cost her relationship with her grandmother; they stopped talking for two years. Eventually the fruits of her labor led her to succeed in her field and her grandmother recognized that this was not just a capricho but something much bigger than that.
#4 You Have To Put In The Work And You Have To Put In The Time
Priscilla is a hustler. Her success journey was no real quick 0 to 100. She’s been grinding for over 15 years. After perfecting her craft for three years at Sephora, she revealed to Pop Sugar, it was the $25 makeovers she did at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood that led her to meet a Univision producer that then took her to become their on-air beauty go-to-girl for advice. That’s when abuelita saw Priscilla on the Spanish-language television channel and finally put the harsh silence treatment to an end.
“That’s when my grandma knew I’d made it. She would get all her girlfriends to come over and watch me. I could tell her that I’m working Fashion Week with Rihanna and that still wouldn’t prove to her that I made it quite like being on Spanish TV does,” the beauty guru spilled to Pop Sugar.
#6 Fight The Standards That Are Meant To Oppress
Priscilla still had strides to make fighting against exclusive beauty standards in the industry. She came up the ranks at a time when the beauty industry was even more discriminatory than what it is now. Priscilla revealed to HOLA! that her colleagues often treated her like she was inferior. She recalls being discriminated against because she is Latina but that’s when her abuelita’s advice came into play. Her abuelita once told her she needed to work three times as hard because she is Latina and a woman.
#7 Secure The Bag And Build Your Brand
Priscilla began teaching in 2007 and what started off with a small community has grown into an empire. She often hosts Masterclasses and courses that are hosted in L.A. and New York. Her classes will set you back for about $1,500 — some consider this investment a good price for what you get in comparison to other beauty programs. Attendees have mentioned that they learn more during this three-day course with Priscilla than what they learn after taking semesters in makeup school.
With the uncertainty that comes with freelancing, it is often nervewracking. Priscilla jumped into personal projects that ultimately led her to create a brand for herself that hundreds of thousands of industry leaders now reconize and respect.
#8 Landing Fenty Beauty & The Power Of Intent
In 2011, Priscilla met Rihanna on the set of Rihanna’s music video for S&M. she was set to assist a makeup artist and while doing so an opportunity presented itself. If you look closely at the video about 23 seconds in, you will see a blonde, pixie-cut Priscilla in a leather corset with a whip in hand bouncin’ around with Riri.
This was the start of a genuine relationship with the superstar. Priscilla would then run into Rih at award shows when was doing makeup for other celebs like Amber Rose, Iggy Azalea and more. The two then showed more signs of an everlasting friendship like DMing from time to time. When Priscilla caught word that Rih was working on a makeup line, she reached out to her Creative Director Cierra Pardo, a boricua, and pitched her services to aid in any way she could.
Priscilla told Pop Sugar that before she knew it, she moved past thousands of applicants and was in a room with an hour to beat the face of Rihanna as the final audition.
“Afterward, I was in an Uber on my way home and I started crying,” she told Pop Sugar. I was like, ‘This is f*cking amazing. Even if I don’t get the job, the fact that I made the cut out of thousands of people is amazing.’ That night, I didn’t sleep at all. You ever just not want to go to sleep because you’re living a dream and you don’t want to stop reliving what you just did over and over again? That’s what it was like. To think that I was doing $25 makovers at Plaza Mexico and now I’m here doing Rihanna’s makeup. And then I made the cut. It was just a cherry on top — I couldn’t believe it,” said the superstar makeup artist.
Priscilla told Dazed Digital, that it was a YouTube video that hairstylist Danilo Dixon made where he made a list of everyone he wanted to work with and eventually he worked hard enough to make that happen. Priscilla was inspired by his vision and she then made a list of her own dream collaborations. Rihanna was at the top of her list. Fastforward and Priscilla’s vision came to life.
Life Since Fenty
Priscilla continues to travel the world training, shooting campaigns and servicing the lewks of Rih.
In the midst of all of this, Priscilla continues to expand her business and her opportunities. When executives from fashion retailer ELOQUII called Priscilla for a collab, she added designer to her resume.
Design Director Yesenia Torres, told forbes, “Priscilla has been a long-time customer of ELOQUII, so for both of us, this has been a truly organic partnership.”
The limited-edition Priscilla Ono x ELOQUII Collection is fire. It includes 12 pieces spanning across dresses, jumpsuits, mini waist bags, sets and accessories in bold colors and silhouettes. The collection dropped April 2018 and its success was solidified by the large amount of units that were sold.
All this success and Priscilla still pays homage to her Latina background. Her latest magazine features with Amazing Magazine and Dazed Beauty feature models adorned by chola makeup. When you look at Priscilla’s work it is easy to see her love for 90s glam and adoration of her tias who rocked that classic chola look.
She continues to inspire the next generation of industry disruptors.
Priscilla has inspired women and men of all colors around the globe to strive and embrace their own identity and find their mark in the beauty industry. Here’s what some up-and-coming makeup artists are saying about how Priscilla Ono has influenced their careers.
“Priscilla Ono’s success is not only inspiring but, proves to young Latin girls and boys that they can accomplish their dreams” — Brandon
“Seeing her incredible talent transform the beauty industry and break down barriers has been an honor to experience. She works hard and makes her dreams a reality; that is who I strive to be. ” —Valerie Pamela
Priscilla Ono isn’t slowing down and we don’t want her to.
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