Celebrating Our Members in the Hispanic Community

Erica  La Sala: 10/7/2021

This month the Independent Beauty Association honors National Hispanic Heritage Month by spotlighting the stories and personal histories of its Hispanic community. From seasoned executives to category creators, inspired product developers, and digital influencers, these four women represent the dynamic contributions of Hispanic entrepreneurs and business leaders on today’s beauty industry.

After 20 years managing national sales teams for global powerhouses like Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Avon where her team won WWD’s highly coveted “Best Executed Brand Launch” award in 2014, Sonia Summers decided it was time to be her own boss. She launched Beauty Barrage in 2015, an independent sales management agency that has since partnered with some of the most successful beauty brands and retailers in the business in tackling their most pressing retail challenges.

In just six short years, Sonia and her team have taken home a bevy of awards. In 2020 alone, Beauty Barrage made the Inc Magazine 500 list for “Fastest-Growing Private Company,” the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Service Provider of the Year Award, and the American Business Awards Bronze Stevie for Minority-Owned Business, amongst others. Sonia currently sits on the IBA’s Board of Directors.

IBA: What does your heritage mean to you personally?

Sonia: My heritage means everything to me. I love to cook. I love music and dancing. I’m a warm caretaker, but I’m also very competitive, super driven, and love to win. Even when I feel I haven’t won, I always focus on what I learned along the way. I learned this all from my parents, who worked tirelessly so that their children could achieve great success.

IBA: Has your heritage played a role in building the business leader you are today? If so, how?

Sonia: My heritage has played a huge role in who I am today. I saw my parents struggle to ensure that my sisters and I had the values we’d need to enrich our future. They pushed us to excel and to never believe that we couldn’t do anything. They told us that we could build our own American dreams. I recall way back when I would run home with a “A” grade just to make my parents proud. That encouragement and support is my drive.

As a businesswoman, I think of them often and believe they are smiling down on all my accomplishments, including my beautiful family.

IBA: What do you want the IBA to know about the Hispanic business community?

Sonia: What I would like for our community of members to know, is that my culture is all about achieving greatness, from family to business. We have an incredible amount of passion, and we are resilient. We add insurmountable value to any organization.

Gabriela Hernandez is known by many titles: photographer, art director, artist, designer, author, makeup historian, and brand founder. Born in Buenos Aires, she emigrated to the US when she was 12 years old. She received her bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and Photography from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. During her 30-year career, she’s worked in art direction, creative direction, and photography for several Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s, Disney, Marvel, and CBS/Viacom, as well as the Marilyn Monroe Estate.

In 2004, Gabriela launched the prestige vintage-inspired cosmetics brand Besame Cosmetics with a single red lipstick. She is at home breaking down the amazing colors of a 100-year-old lipstick or creating inspirational drawings for her design team. This reverence for history and design brings a unique, never-before-seen perspective to the cosmetics industry.

IBA: What does your heritage mean to you personally?

Gabriela: Personally, I think it means honoring the past, learning from it, and passing it down for others to learn and make better choices. It also involves a sense of pride in the ways our ancestors contributed to society and the ideas we have today.

IBA: Has your heritage played a role in building the business leader you are today? If so, how?

Gabriela: I think as an immigrant, resilience is something that comes from being displaced from the things you know so well. It makes you a fighter, and it makes you very resourceful in solving problems in unconventional ways. All these traits are valuable in business today.

IBA: What do you want the IBA to know about the Hispanic beauty business community?

Gabriela: I think the best thing about our community is the fact that we care about people. We care about the customers and our employees. We are ethical and moral people, and we want to do the right things. We also have a deep appreciation for keeping history alive. We want to bring joy and beauty into the world. We are artists and creators; this is the work that makes us happy. Preserving traditions and family is very important. It informs the next generation of where we have been and where we are going.

Rea Ann Silva’s experience spans a nearly 30-year journey as one of the most sought-after Hollywood makeup artists in the industry. As the creative force behind Beautyblender, she single-handedly changed the beauty game. The Beautyblender concept came to Rea Ann while she was the department head of one of the first TV shows shot in hi-definition. She handled the constant touch-ups with her hand-cut, edgeless sponges to mimic the seamless look of airbrushing. Soon, every celebrity that sat in her chair wanted their own hand-cut sponge, thus creating the original edgeless sponge. Today, the category-creator holds countless beauty awards and is beloved by both makeup aficionados and newbies as the go-to tool for achieving a perfectly blended complexion.

In November 2020, Rea Ann was honored at the Smithsonian American Museum of Natural History in the “Only One in The Room” exhibit, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

As profiled by Bluemercury

Why is it important to you to highlight your culture? 

Rea Ann: Making it in the beauty industry as a Latina had its challenges. The one question throughout my life and even today has always been “What are you?” Not being able to identify myself as either white or black provided certain advantages and at the same time presented unique challenges. I never saw any women that looked like me in a position of power that could mentor me in business, so I learned a lot of things the hard way. Being a Latina gave me license to see and live with skin tone vibrancy. As a make-up artist, it helped me perfect my artistry in cosmetic complexion application and this experience helped me to create the Beautyblender.

Being Latina to me means that I am a part of a colorful, passionate, and beautiful culture. I want to highlight that and continue to inspire and mentor other Latinas around the world.

Christen Dominique is a digital entrepreneur known for her hugely successful YouTube channel, and her passion for encouraging others to be comfortable in their own skin by using makeup as a tool for expression. Her reliability, honesty, and creativity has made her a YouTube favorite and one of the industry’s fastest-growing and most recognized personalities. Christen has been named a top influencer by Forbes and featured on Entrepreneur and Business Insider.

After more than a decade of success online, having amassed over 7 million+ followers across various social media platforms, Christen launched Dominique Cosmetics to serve her loyal community with aspirational yet relatable beauty products. Now three years old, her namesake brand is carried at Sephora and Nordstorm stores across the nation. She is currently focused on further developing her beauty empire to touch the souls of her audience in a meaningful way, both online and offline.

IBA: What does your heritage mean to you personally?

Christen: My Latin heritage represents who I am: it’s the way I listen to music, the foods I eat, how I speak to my Mexican family members, and the reason I’m so passionate about the people, topics, and things I love.

IBA: Has your heritage played a role in building the business leader you are today? If so, how?

Christen: I know that being a Latina business owner is rare. Being that I am one, that makes me so proud. I’m able to inspire others and let them know that what may seem impossible is possible. As long as you’re fully committed to it, have a strong drive and a “never give up” attitude, your dream will become your reality.

IBA: What do you want the IBA to know about the Hispanic beauty business community?

Christen: The Hispanic beauty business community is supportive of one another, and they are all proud of each other!

Erica La Sala is a beauty writer and reporter who specializes in covering the business behind beauty. Her work has been featured in several digital publications and newsletters serving both the professional and consumer communities, including Beauty Independent, Glossy, CEW Beauty News, BeautyMatter, and Allure Magazine. She graduated from Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business with an MBA in Management Systems.