When Regina Merson was dreaming up Reina Rebelde, the makeup line that she launched just a few months ago, she demanded two things: One, that it celebrated Latinas’ unapologetically bold beauty style, and two, that it united women from all Latin cultures: Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, to name just a few―acknowledging the nuances within the Latin umbrella.
Reina Rebelde, or (rebellious queen), is as Latina as they come. For instance, the illustration of the chica on the packaging is more than a pretty face with whimsical tattoos on her back. (More on that later.) Then there are the shade names, encompassing both iconic cultural touchstones (Malinche, Azteca) and signature Latina traits (Exagerada, Atrevida). And perhaps most importantly, the brand is inviting conversation on its site and Instagram.
“There’s definitely a deeper purpose here for me,” says Merson, an Ivy League–educated, corporate lawyer who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in Dallas, Texas. “Because as integrated as we are, we always come back to our roots. I want these real women to tell us how they’re being Reina Rebeldes in their own lives. And beauty is just the beginning of that conversation.”
Let’s start with the name: Reina Rebelde. What inspired it?
The rebelde manifested in my life in that I was a lawyer who gave that up to start a makeup line. I also wanted the word reina as a celebration of Latina women. My mom calls me reina. That’s how I address my friends and cousins. It shows the respect we have for women in the Latino community.
Are you, like most Latinas, beauty-obsessed?
Yes, and it started at a young age for me. I was five years old, living in Mexico, and I’d watch my mom get ready to go out with friends. She looked so beautiful! And it’s not only about the end result. We love the ritual of beauty, from finding the ideal shade to perfecting the technique that you learned from your mother or aunt. It’s carried down through generations. I’ve seen this with all of the Latinas in my life.
We do love to look good! Why do you think that is?
We’re vain! From a very young age we’re about looking as good as we possibly can. That’s culturally rooted for us. Other women might feel that they need an excuse to put that much focus on beauty, but for us, it’s about more than just makeup. It’s a sign of self-respect. And yet, we’re not shallow people. We feel everything so intensely. We wouldn’t be the #1 beauty consumer in this country otherwise!
You’re an Ivy League–educated former lawyer. How did beauty play into your success?
In college, I’d be made up so my fellow students would ask if I was going on job interviews. As a lawyer, we’d spend long hours in business attire, and everyone’s makeup would go out the window. I always disagreed with that. Don’t lose who you are or the presentation of yourself. That’s the integrity behind the Latina culture.
There’s also a duality in Latinas’ existence, no?
There’s a duality all through life, especially in this country. Latino culture is perceived to be very male-dominated but in reality, the women run the show. Latinas are fierce and know how to maneuver a patriarchal society. You can be a badass in life and be beautiful. We’re getting our hands dirty. We’re speaking English. We’re speaking Spanish. Some of us are the first in our family to attend school. We have one foot here and one foot there and we’re owning that duality. That’s a blessing and my biggest strength.
Tell us about the Reina Rebelde chica.
The chica is meant to be you! I wanted a very beautiful, vintage-style illustration, so I had a tattoo artist in Los Angeles tattoo milagros on her back. Those same milagros show up in the packaging. I wanted a way to show that these great intentions are rooted within us. And to have a sense of wherever you go, there’s a community of women who came before you and love you.
Finally, what are your favorite products.
I wear these quite frequently:
1) Bold Lip Color Stick in Brava, $16: I know what it means to wear an amazing red lipstick. We worked on this for a long time.
2) 4 Play Wet Dry Eye Color in Salvaje, $20: This was inspired by a crazy trip I took to Mexico, where the people spoke in ancient Mayan dialects. Also, wearing green eye shadow makes me happy.
3) Rebel Eye Paint for Brows + Eyes in Frida, $16: I’m just obsessed.
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