Fierce

She Turned San Marcos Blankets Into Jackets That Were Featured In Vogue And She Credits All Inspo To Her Mom

Long before women of color found a queen in Beyoncé, Latinas like Brenda Equihua saw reinas in their mothers. The Mexican-American designer is the founder and owner of the Los Angeles-based brand Equihua and says she found inspiration in her mother when it came time to design so many of her pieces. Many of which have been featured on the pages of Vogue and purchased by fans across the globe. But, like any jefa, Brenda’s path to success includes a thread of heartache, struggle and a coming to terms with wanting to chase her identity and desires.

Long before she launched her own brand, Brenda was –as so many creatives are– working to elevate another person’s dream.

Fierce by Mitú

The designer who trained at Parsons School of Design spent her days creating clothes for other designers and their work. In the evenings, while so many were letting loose at happy hours with friends, headed home to work on her own future. “I would go home after work and I would work on my own ideas because I would never want to lose myself in what I was doing,” Brenda tells FIERCE in an interview.

The routine which often causes so many artists and creatives to burn out worked out well enough for Brenda for a while.

Then her mother suddenly passed away and Brenda found an urgent sense of motivation to focus on her own work.

Fierce by Mitú

“I became very interested in art from an early age and my creativity was the one place that I could go to [and] kind of make sense of the world,” Brenda explains. “I had my mother’s passing and for a long time, I was thinking everything has to be in order for me to have the confidence to go out there and make this happen. That really impacted the way I saw life in general after that and I just decided I’m just gonna do it.”

She took some time to evaluate her life and what it was that she wanted to manifest in her future. “I was taking the train every day and I kept a notebook with a series of questions that I’d ask myself like who are your people what do you believe in what are your fears what motivates you just life stuff,” she explains.

One day inspiration struck Brenda with a new passion. She realized a dream she had that she would soon refuse to let go of.

Fierce by Mitú

“What happened was that my brother had picked up and we were on our way to Six Flags and the idea just came to me,” she explains. “It was in the most bizarre scenario and when it happened I knew it was a really precious thing and I held it like an egg.

Eventually, Brenda quit her job to become La Jefa of Equihua with memories of her mom to throttle her designs and push her to ensure her business excelled.

Fierce by Mitú

“My mom was a very fashionable person so I think it was a combination of art and fashion that really led me to where I am today eventually,” says Brenda. “That really impacted the way I saw life in general after that and I just decided I’m just gonna do it. I grew up seeing my mom as my Beyoncé. So you know you grow up and a lot of people have people that they idolize that are famous and for me, that was my mom. She was just very glamorous and just over the top and that had a lot do with how I developed the brand as well.”

Check out the full story on how Brenda became a real Jefa below!

Latinas Have Always Pushed The Envelope When It Comes To The Acrylic Nails Game

Culture

Latinas Have Always Pushed The Envelope When It Comes To The Acrylic Nails Game

NailzImage by Michelle Yip / Flickr / ljaebeauty / Instagram

Acrylic nails have been a long-time fashion staple. Many of us have those early memories of a tía, a vecina, mom, etc., rocking the long red nails. Today, fake nails are not just a passing fad, but they have become an essential part of pop-culture, wearable art. Most famously, Cardi B (who has worn acrylics since before she was famous and has remained loyal to her same nail artist Jenny Bui) is one of the celebrities that has captivated the world which her famous “sets” which, no doubt, has inspired millions of fans.

Acrylic nails have always and will continue to be a woman’s strongest style accessory.

Credit: iamcardb / Instagram

One of the most iconic sets is part of a special exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Back in the 90s, Lil Kim (the original Queen Bee) asked her manicurist – celebrity nail artist Bernadette Thompson – to add something different to the nail design for a photoshoot for the Junior M.A.F.I.A. single “Get Money.” Thinking on her feet, Thompson cut up a dollar bill and…the rest is history. Thompson is credited with moving nail art into the world of high fashion since she often had to fight against editors of Vogue, and other big-name fashion magazines, to feature the nail designs worn by the artist.

They can tell any story you want and make any statement you can imagine.

Credit: Pinterest

However, acrylics have been here long before celebrities and Instagram. One of the most famous manicures has even held Olympic gold, thanks to Hall of Famer, Florence Griffith Joyner. “Flo Jo” – still considered the fastest women in history – not only was she an iconic Olympian, but she was also known for her distinctive fierce style and nails.

Credit: Pinterest

If we look at the history of nail art, India is the first to put color on the map in 5000 B.C. and are credited with being the ones to dip fingertips in red henna, a practice which is still seen today.

Different cultures across the world have incorporated acrylic nails.

Credit: Pinterest

But where did the concept of acrylic nails come from? The earliest traces can be found somewhere around 3000 B.C between Egypt and China. We can thank ancient Egyptians for almost every aspect of the beauty and cosmetics that we use today. They also introduced the notion of associating red with power and nobility. Noblemen and women would use berries to add red hues to their nails and if anyone from the lower class was caught with red nails, they were put to death. It is believed that the ancient royal Egyptians used ivory, gold, and bone to create extensions of their nails. Shorter nails implied that you needed your hands available to work, therefore, longer nails became a symbol of status, wealth and non-laboring hands.

Around the same time period, the ancient Chinese were the first to make a “permanent color stain” that would taint nails the same as nail polish does today. Here is also where we have the closest example to modern-day acrylics. The earliest dynasties created elaborate “fingernail guards” which gave the appearance of exaggerated long nails. The nail extensions were made of gold and precious gems; and as with the ancient Egyptians, long nails became a symbol of a someone that did not need their hands free for manual labor and therefore became a symbol of the ruling class. The ornate nails were usually worn on one hand, covering each finger (except the thumb) and only the most elite wore fingernail guards on both hands.

Credit: Pinterest

In both Egypt and China, higher-ranking men and kings also sported the acrylics and nail polish. When King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922, among his treasures they found the royal red nail coloring still in a sealed bottle, and the paint was still good.

Ancient Greece also got in on early acrylic nails. They believed in the healing energy of the moon and favored the appearance of moon shape nails. Greek women would place pistachio nut shells over their nails and in order to give a pleasing round appearance.

In South America, the Incas of Peru, are said to have been the first to have actually created nail art, by adding a decorative element – an eagle – to their nails.

Credit: Pinterest

Over time, artificial nails were slowly making their way throughout Europe and eventually made their way across the ocean.

In 1934, Dr. Maxwell Lappe – a dentist from Chicago – was working on a remedy to help his patients who bit their nails. Mixing two dental acrylic products – liquid and powder – he created Nu Nails. The mixture was thick and heavy, meant to create a hard nail protective covering.

However, these are the first official artificial nails documented in modern history.

Credit Pour L’ Image / Facebook

During the 1930s, starlets –  like Greta Garbo –  often tried to create their own “nail extensions” by wrapping foil around their fingers and then painting the foil red.

In 1957, twenty years after Nu Nails, another dentist – Dr. Frederick Slack – made a breakthrough. As the story goes, he broke his own nail and in order to create a temporary fix, he used dental acrylic and aluminum foil, and accidentally invented the first sculpted acrylic nail. The Slack family went on launch the modern acrylic nail industry and has since created several innovative products, including the first non-yellowing bonding formula, which is still used today.

The nail game is constantly growing and evolving.  Today, we are in an acrylic boom again, nails are not only a part of our fashion, but they can also be part of the larger conversation.

Your set can reflect your politics, religion, heritage etc.

Credit: Pinterest

Acrylic nails and nail art aren’t going anywhere, they have been here since the days of B.C. and will most likely continue to always be part of our human story. Although women of color in the United States are often chastised for wearing long and elaborate nails, it has never stopped us from doing so, nor should it. We are walking in the traditions of ancient royals and nobility – men and women – so continue to hold your head high, pick your colors, add some bling and don’t be shy; tú dale, and make the ancient world proud…live boldly.

READ: Cardi B’s Blinged Out Nails Have Inspired Reebok New Dazzling Limited-Edition Shoe

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

Entertainment

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

mirror_cooperative_ / Instagram

Four years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza both had a vision to create a worker-owned makeup and hair salon for the trans Latino community in Jackson Heights, New York. It was ambitious and for them, it was necessary. For years, the duo faced racial and gender discrimination from employers. Their own community, Jackson Heights, was also becoming a problem as the area became the site of multiple anti-trans hate crimes in recent years. So they came together with a plan to open Mirror Beauty Cooperative in 2015.

The beauty shop would create numerous jobs for the local trans community but more importantly assist undocumented individuals who were denied opportunities due to their legal status. So Castillo and Mendoza made the important decision to register the business as a cooperative cooperation (co-op). This was done so the salon would basically be “worker-run” and there would be no need for things like social security numbers, an obstacle many undocumented workers face when applying to jobs. Instead, the salon will use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).

“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” Mendoza told the HuffPost. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”

While their idea started four years ago, the duo hasn’t yet obtained a physical space to open up the salon. But they hope with enough support this vision can become a reality. 

Credit: @equalityfed / Twitter

While both Castillo and Mendoza haven’t opened up a physical salon space, they are both continuing to work in other salons as they continue to save and plan for the Mirror Beauty Cooperative. This past May they began to reach out to more people to help fund their goal through a GoFundMe Campaign. The results of the campaign fund have been less than 1 percent of their $150,000 goal. The duo has also faced other socioeconomic setbacks like lack of traditional education and the economic instability due to their immigrant background. 

“Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.” 

But Herrera notes that the white trans community is still an ally to them even though they are on different economic levels. “We can always depend on the white trans community” to offer support “because they know they’re on a better [economic] level.”

For the trans, gender-queer and nonbinary community, job discrimination has been a reoccurring issue. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 16 percent of gender-queer and nonbinary respondents who had held jobs reported having been fired for their gender identity or expression. But for trans women and trans people of color, they were the most likely to have gone through this. 

While the salon is still in progress, Castillo and Mendoza have become a presence in their own neighborhood uplifting and bringing attention to the trans Latino community. 

As of now, the duo has a secret backup plan in case they don’t meet their fundraising goals by the end of the year. They hope that the campaign does one thing though, create and share their broader call for building community with people. 

That has already started to take place as Castillo, Hernandez and their new partner, Jonahi Rosa have all become presences in Jackson Heights advocating for the trans community. The trio even participated in the Queens Pride Parade as co-grand marshals. This has also included various charity events for local LGTBQ+ youth. 

They all feel that the salon has the potential to bring people together and spread awareness about issues that affect their lives every day. From the start, the trio has always wanted to not only create a space for the trans community but give them an opportunity. 

“We want to work, [and] we want to give agency to our community,” Rosa said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for our community to come together and make something for our future.”

READ: Our FIERCE Readers Share Some of the Most Outrageous Lies They’ve Told To Get Some Time Away With Their Boo