Valentina Padilla



L+A: Tell us about your current experience within the beauty industry.

I work in an agency that focuses on public relations and social media. 3 years after I graduated college I was working in public relations, and I realized it was something that I really didn’t want to do; it was and is something that I think will be dying out pretty soon. I switched over to social media and honestly it was the best decision that I’ve done. Social media is a platform that’s growing and changing and I don’t see it ever entering a black hole. At least I hope it doesn’t because it’s my career right now [haha].

I’m currently a project manager and I oversee about 8 - 10 brands across beauty, healthcare, and skincare. I’m usually overseeing a team of about 5 - 8 people [depending on the client], and within that team there’s people developing images, handling any photography, scouting models; and there's also the community team, who is posting, engaging with users, and scouting influencers. To sum it all up, I am the point person to relay any information between the project and the client, and lead the conversations.

“What makes my job fun is when the client is approachable. If the client is open and friendly, it makes the relationship better, and I love it”

L+A: Do you have any favorite brands that you work with?

Yes, I love Stila Cosmetics and Smashbox! Not only because they make great products but they are also very inclusive. They don’t just work with white women, they work with Latinas, Black women, and Asian women. I tend to stick to brands that are more inclusive with their campaigns, because at the end of the day you want to be able to relate. People connect more with brands that they see themselves in; and to be quite frank, a company that only focuses on one type of ‘look’, that dies out or it just stays flat-line and it never grows.

L+A: How do you feel about inclusivity within the beauty industry?

I think it’s great! But, it’s something that should have always been happening. Women of Color didn’t just pop out of nowhere, we’ve been here. There’s many beautiful shades of women out in the world; and after Rihanna dropped her foundation of 40 different shades, that’s when companies started to feature more products that were for WOC.

There was Makeup Forever that included many different shades before Rihanna, and I believe when Fenty Beauty dropped they made a statement of “we’ve been doing this”. Yeah, you have, but you unfortunately you just didn’t promote it the right way.

“Inclusivity shouldn’t just be a trend, it should just be something that should just happen”

L+A: What are some brands that you think that are just killing it, with being inclusive?

As far as inclusivity, I think Shea Moisture is doing a really good job. They’ve always been known as a company who caters to women with natural hair, but recently they did a campaign with a man who was mute, he could not talk. They really broaden their horizons and asked themselves “How can we go above and beyond and be far more inclusive” and I think when a brand does that, they just won! If you watch the video it’s this man doing sign language and communicating with us as to how Shea Moisture has changed his life.

There’s all type of people who shop for these products; and for some weird reason society and the masses think people with disabilities don’t shop for these products. We all are looking for something and care about our appearance. The campaign was kind of tear jerking, because it’s something you don’t see everyday.

L+A: Can you share your experience not only as a Latina woman, but also as a young woman living in NYC and being undocumented.

Yes, this is the first time I’ve actually opened up publicly and shared it. But, I think I just have a story to tell, and I’m at that point in my life to share it, because there’s so many people out there that can relate to it.

It’s not easy, but what has made it “easy”, has been my family. They are very well educated and they came into this country because Venezuela’s government is not the greatest. The living conditions are just not fathomable, there’s no resources, there’s no food; and the country has just been stripped away, when we’ve never been a third world country, it used to be such a rich country.

I think this point of my career, I was blessed enough to receive the DACA program and it was a wake-up call for me; because family before me had to either get married or file for sponsorship through work. The opportunity has been very rewarding but also very sad. The way that DACA works, it’s pretty much a renewal process every two years that does no guarantee citizenship; but Trump has rescinded the program and basically said we're not doing this anymore. So to break it down, there’s people in the program that can continue to apply, but there’s people that were within the process of applying that can no longer continue their application. I’m not a very religious person, but I talk to my God everyday about blessing me with the opportunity that I had six years ago.

“Being Undocumented is something that I’ve never spoke about before, but now that I am adjusting to it more, I feel like I should speak about it, a lot of people are going through the same thing, I came here when I was three years old, and all I know is this place”

L+A: Growing up and being undocument, did you ever feel like it was tough to relate to some of your peers?

I am first generation [living in the U.S] in my family and friends. I grew up relating to others that were undocumented or low income, because that’s what we were. So when I went to college and started working and meeting so many people that I could not relate to, I felt so odd. I was really hard on myself for it, and I still am, but I try to find a balance between it. I just gotta stay true to myself; and even though I am undocumented, I am no different than the person sitting next to me at work.

L+A: How do you stay motivated in the times we live in now?

I do battle with anxiety a lot, and I didn’t know what it was. I had friends that were struggling [with anxiety] but I would just tell them to get the fuck over it, but I have now apologized to two of my friends about it. I have a completely grasp of what anxiety is because I go through it everyday.

To be honest, growing up in a Latinx household, you just deal with your problems on your own. Meeting other people, changed the way I thought about things or other stuff I am now into. Yoga has helped me to focus my thoughts and acknowledge the situation I am in.

I used to be the type of person that walked into a room and not acknowledge anyone. I realized that it’s not the best way to go about your day. You have to be more aware about yourself and not think about “What the fuck am I doing here?” weather you’re at work or a social setting. I had friends that tell me/ask me, “Damn, you’re in a bad mood and you’re ruining the vibe” and I would think to myself, “Is this really what I am projecting how I’m feeling?” And it’s not even like that, I had to step away from myself within that situation because I was not aware about myself or those around me.

L+A: What was the hardest thing you had to hear growing up?

You won’t fit in. It wasn’t blatantly said, but it was very passive aggressive; and you haven’t seen me do it yet, or let me give it a try instead of allowing me to do it for myself, and that’s insulting, infuriating and limiting. I rather know that I took the ‘L’ from trying, rather than someone taking it away from me. It’s also happened to me in my work life; I’ve never been exactly told I am “inexperienced” but I have been told “ Maybe this project is too much for you to handle”. I’m here for constructive criticism but I am not here for people taking things away from me.

L+A: Have you ever had to check someone on an ignorant comment?

Yeah, I have, and it’s something that I thought about before. Like, what would happen if I was faced with that confrontation? Would I say something? And when that happened, It kind of just came out of me. I handled it in a more professional way than I ever thought possible, I went to corporate and it turned into a write-up for that person, and a company diversity training, it was a process. Long story short I can’t educate and have no time to educate someone that does not want to understand but I can offer my knowledge on a situation and speak my peace.

L+A: How do you Identify as a WOC, do you think people look at you as your race first, and being a woman after?

I think people look at my race first, because I am a Latina, but I am not a Latina that is a white complexion. There are a lot of Latinas that can be white passing; and sometimes people are curious as to what my background is. They say I’m so “ethnic” and people just assume where I’m from. I wish it were different, I wish people saw me for my intelligence first, but unfortunately it’s not like that.

L+A: Do you identify as Afro-Latinx?

I do because my father is black, both of my parents are from Venezuela, but my father is very dark and my mother is very light with green eyes. My hair is very coarse and my shape is very curvy. I explained to my boyfriend that I identify with being Afro-Latinx the most; because they are inclusive to women that have ‘other’ features. There’s a lot of Latinas that have European features because we were conquered by them. But there’s so many people within our countries that were affected by the slave trade and society tends to forget that.

One of the things my boyfriend explained to me was the lack of experience of what it’s like to be black in America. I understand that and it opened my eyes to how that in itself is a different experience. I do know what it feels like to be a Latina in America, and a Latina that doesn't have white features. So I do Identify as Afro-Latina and politically I wish I had the right citations to backup my statement, but I’m educated enough to know that I do Identify with being Afro Latina.

“I’ve accepted that this is my hair, these are my features, and this is who I am”

L+A: What is the best advice you’ve ever received from a woman?

My mom has given me so many gems, but, she has always said to be kind. I think that I was always very angry at the world, but you have to be kind because you are not the only person going through things. The world turns and you never know where you’re going to end up tomorrow, there’s always highs and lows in life and being kind to everyone you meet and to yourself, will allow you to take in the world in doses. If I’m kind, I know I’m doing something right and let’s me know who I am as a person. It speaks volumes to who you are as a person.

Photo Credit: Valentina Padilla