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Shaira Frías recalls the jubilance she felt when she would go to the drugstore and see herself represented so proudly and accurately by a few specific brands on the shelves, years before she became the co-founder of indie beauty brand Luna Magic.
Her main reaction? “Omigod, my color!” she recalls, looking back at IMAN Cosmetics’ impact. Same for Black Radiance. “Those were my drugstore beauty buys,” she says. Aside from the higher-priced M.A.C. Cosmetics, “Those brands were the first to make me go, ‘Wow, so many Black [foundation] ranges.'”
Today, an inclusive shade range from the onset is a lot more commonplace in cosmetics than in years past. And while Luna Magic doesn’t have any face base or foundation in the line just yet, that same incredible affirmation of feeling validated and witnessing corrective promotion happens through not only Luna’s color products — which actually pop on deep skin tones — but also by Shaira and her sister and co-founder Mabel Frías simply being themselves.
“When we did a Target campaign and they showed us in the Facebook ads, [there were comments like,] ‘Omigod, Latinas that look like me! Latinas that look like my mother, my sister, my cousin!'” Mabel says. The Frías sisters are American-born and of Afro-Dominican heritage. “We saw Latinos, as well as African-Americans and self-identifying multi-cultural people, just excited [to see us in the ads].”
Based out of Los Angeles, Shaira and Mabel are a part of a new generation of black women and women of color entrepreneurs in the beauty industry that includes Melissa Butler of The Lip Bar and Topicals founders Olamide Olowe and Claudia Teng.
In 2022, we are somewhat in a post-Ain’t I Latina landscape, where there’s been a larger acknowledgment that non-white people of Spanish-speaking descent exist. The conversation about systemic discrimination against Latinx people has opened up to include those with highly melanated skin, like the Frías sisters. Though, as Mabel notes, “there’s still a lot of work to be done around accepting Blackness and all the layers that come with it, from societal to colonial thinking.” So while Luna Magic isn’t the first Latinx-founded brand by any means, it remains less common for such founders to have darker skin.
Although they’ve always been aware of the need for more Afro-Latinx visibility in the beauty industry, it wasn’t the sisters’ initial driving force behind launching Luna Magic in 2019. The shout-outs to Spanish-language culture and countries — inspiring words in español via some of the product names, marking a hue as Reggaeton in the Uno palette, naming lashes Soñadoras (dreamers) — were meant to celebrate and pay tribute, not necessarily to educate.
“We didn’t go into this thinking, ‘This is an Afro-Latina brand.’ We launched [Luna Magic] as ‘Mabel and Shaira Frías are starting a makeup brand,'” says Mabel. The two sisters were raised in a New York City household that embraced Blackness. “But, of course, in life, people put you in spaces and it takes its own shape. And through just being awesome, authentic, and showing up as who we are, we accidentally became influencers and ambassadors for Afro-Latinadad. We love it and take so much pride and honor.”
It wouldn’t be until later in life that they would learn, as Mabel puts it, “in certain rooms, we’ve had to sometimes lead with [being Afro-Latina] to show that blackness is intelligent, sophisticated, beautiful, and that blackness is articulate. In some ways, we are fighting against stereotypes.”
Appearing on Spanish-language news programs, such as Telemundo’s Acceso Total, has helped with that fight. Such cameos have put them in the position of showing up for Afro-Latinos in Latino spaces that are still often homogenized, skin tone-wise.
Initially, Shaira was worried about being tokenized by both English and Spanish media once their Black Latinx identity began to get noticed and asked about in interviews. English-language media has been especially interested in the two discussing their Afro-Dominican roots and encapsulation of what it means to be Afro-Latinx. And this specific curiosity in itself exposes the erasure of Black people within Latin American or Latinx content.
“Growing up, you didn’t see women like us on TV. Out of the two Spanish channels, you [maybe] had that one token black girl,” says Shaira. “So even though at first, I told my sister, I don’t want to be put in this bucket because every time they want to talk about Blackness, they look for us, you know?”
Yet, as the warm responses from consumers, elated to see Afro-Latinas in a field as visual and influential as beauty started to trickle in, Shaira realized the power both she and Mabel held for change. “I saw beyond [my initial worry]. We were inspiring girls because of how we look. They’re now saying, ‘We can do that?’ We can be successful! We can be entrepreneurs!”
Latin television’s also honed in on the Frías sisters’ immigrant connection. “[For them] it’s more of, yes, you guys are Afro-Latina. But it’s also about the immigrant experience,” says Shaira. “Like us being first-generation Americans and going to college. That’s where they focus more, after us being Afro-Latina.”
Mabel attributes this to the fact that “in Latin culture, the American Dream is the North Star. We say that we’re living our American Dream [because] for us, this is more than we expected. Plus, the success doesn’t lie.” In addition to the brand’s website, Luna Magic is sold in 2,500 Target and Walmart locations and sometimes sold through the subscription service BoxyCharm. “So now we can also talk about makeup, culture, and business,” she says.
Shaira and Mabel definitely have at least one concrete business example of their positive influence to point at too: Fellow Shark Tank contestant Alicia Scott of Range Beauty, a complexion-focused brand that debuted in 2017.
Most recently, Scott disclosed to the Frías sisters, around the time of her appearance on their ongoing IG Live With series on Instagram, that she was motivated to get on the lion’s den show after seeing their June 2021 episode air. (Scott’s episode, in which she pitch alongside Range’s Myisha Fantroy, aired this past February).
“Hearing from someone who we looked up to [such as Alicia, shows that] inspiration [can be] cyclical,” says Mabel. “We all keep inspiring one another.”
Seeing success in the beauty industry as more collaborative than competitive is also the blueprint for Luna Magic’s in-the-works one-day symposium in New York and Los Angeles called Mentor Magic. After having fielded questions on a weekly basis about what it takes to launch a brand from various walks of life, the sisters are gathering what they’ve learned so they can share that info in a formalized way.
“There’s enough of the piece of the pie for everybody, there’s enough money to be made for everyone,” says Mabel. “We can all succeed. In the same way, there are hundreds of hair-care and skin-care brands for women not like us, we can co-exist.”
“It’s good for the community,” Shaira adds.
The community Luna Magic’s gained in only four years trusts the founders’ judgment and advice, as well as a ton of trust in their products. The shadow palettes are particular crowd-pleasers, with plenty of options for both rich, soft glam neutrals (“Desnuda”) and jewel tones prime for Carnival (“Goddess“).
The items that have reached holy grail status (and are often bought in bulk, according to Mabel) are the best-selling mascara primer Va-Va Pink and the voluminous Rebelde lashes. Adorably, these products are also the ones Mabel and Shaira, who are 15 months apart, chose when asked what item represented the other. As Shaira says about Mabel, “She’s the base to my mascara.”
Rebelde is one of the items given what Shaira calls those Latin winks (remember those shout-outs?) that customers have been picking up like Easter eggs throughout the Luna universe. Shaira says they get a lot of comments from customers saying the products remind them of something from their past. “We name a lot of our products from telenovelas [such as Rebelde. Xica da Silva. Usurpadora], childhood. [We reference the astrologer] Walter Mercado. Everything ties back to our culture.”
Rebelde 100% Faux Minx Lashes
The founders say their customers are a multicultural mix, with Latinx and African-Americans at the forefront, purchasing the faux and real mink lashes the most. White buyers come in third and are most interested in Va-Va Pink.
That devotion to culture and “energy” — the word Mabel says they constantly hear from fans describing the brand — reinforces Luna Magic’s #lunamood, the hashtag they use on all the brand’s social media posts.
“Luna Magic to me, as a brand, is a person, place, or thing,” explains Mabel. “Like, how we’ve manifested it is a comic thing, to begin with. But it’s about energy. We’re inspired by women in our community. We’re inspired by a day in the life of us having a mood.”
“Whenever we put #lunamood, we’re just saying, ‘Can you feel these vibes?’ Good vibes, good energy, and positivity,” says Shaira.
“People can feel our energy!” says Mabel. “We also get, ‘Wow, you guys are sisters. You guys are so cute together. And for the products, great quality for the price.’ It’s unbelievable!”
This story is a part of The Melanin Edit, a platform in which Allure will explore every facet of a melanin-rich life. Read more stories here:
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