September 15 marks the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month—a time when many nations in Central America celebrate their national independence and Latinx and Hispanic people are honored for their history and contributions. Two such women who are paving the way for their communities are Tata Harper and Rachel Gomez, business entrepreneurs who’ve found success in the beauty and fashion spaces, respectively—through the proverbial (and sometimes literal) blood, sweat, and lágrimas. Although they’re from different walks of life, both women’s identity-informed experiences inspire the work they do. Here, the tastemakers share how their heritage influences their brands and empowers their communities.
TATA HARPER, Founder of Tata Harper Skincare
Tata Harper attributes her passion for the world of beauty to her family. Growing up in Barranquilla, Colombia, Harper spent Saturdays at her grandmother’s home where the women in her family would stop by for a ritual day of spa-like pampering. “I loved helping my grandmother make the products from scratch using local Colombian ingredients that came from the earth,” recalls Harper. “I would watch her teach the women how to take care of their skin and noticed how much more confident and beautiful they would feel afterwards.”
It was that loving sense of self-care—combined with a desire for natural, home-grown ingredients in her own skincare routine—that prompted Harper to start her eponymous line, Tata Harper Skincare, in 2010. The founder credits her Latinx upbringing for helping her embrace beauty as a time to relax and unwind. Always a maximalist, she believes Latina women have a more-is-more approach. “They don’t need simple and uncomplicated routines. We like to be proactive and layer up a lot of things,” she says. Because of this philosophy, Harper uses an abundance of high-performance, all-natural ingredients in her products that deliver great results and can make any skincare routine feel indulgent.
Many of the raw ingredients found in Tata Harper formulas are sourced from the brand’s Vermont farm, but Harper also sources an array of raw ingredients from Latin American countries. From the moisture-retentive Rose of Jericho plant from Mexico’s Chihuanhuan Desert to exfoliating sugars from Harper’s native Columbia, each ingredient has a distinct story.
Harper’s humble beauty beginnings have come full circle. One of her favorite parts of her job is hosting skincare classes similar to those spa days she shared with her grandmother. Her line also sells curated treatments and tools for making a spa day in your own home. Today, family and community are core values of her brand. “Latinx communities tend to be tightly knit and members rely on one another, which is something I love and appreciate so much,” she says. And because her family is what kickstarted her beauty journey, she continues to lean on them for support.
RACHEL GOMEZ, Founder of Viva la Bonita
Growing up in a Mexican-American family, Rachel Gomez was constantly surrounded by vibrant colors and culture. But when she began working at a mall retail job near her home in Los Angeles, she noticed how many of the stores’ marketing and branding lacked diversity. “Why can’t there be a cool lifestyle brand that would create and empower the Latina community?” Gomez asked herself. From that question, Viva La Bonita was born.
The streetwear line features relaxed-cool separates that channel the colors and familiar motifs of Gomez’s LA neighborhood of Pacoima. But the stand-out pieces in the Viva La Bonita collection are the comfy sweatshirts and graphic tees emblazoned with Spanish affimations often spoken in the Latino community. With phrases like “dream big mija” and the cult favorite, “allergic to pendejadas,” (which translates to “allergic to bullshit”), the shirts aim to empower all women with the words Gomez grew up hearing from her Latino family, friends, and neighbors.
“Bonita isn’t about how you look. It’s about the strength you get when you show up as yourself,” she says. “I believe that there is beauty in the grit and challenges we face and overcome daily.” Finding empowerment in discomfort and self-doubt is part of the brand’s success. “The truth is, magic exists in that uncomfortable space. That’s where we grow, discover, and learn,” says Gomez.
What advice does Gomez give to young Latinos who are looking to break into the fashion industry? Don’t be afraid to take up space, because there’s room for everyone at the table. And always embrace your heritage and use it as inspiration, she says. “The Latino community is so diverse, so layered, and so complex, that there isn’t just one way to represent us or just one story to be told. We are all writers of our own story.”
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