BY: DAISY SOLIS
One cannot ignore ones true calling in life. One can have many passions and purposes and should never feel the need to sacrifice one for the other. As a human being, as a woman, as a Latina, one can have it all. The sky has no limit and neither should we. Regina Merson used that same fire she armored herself with in the corporate world to go after her dream and created a make-up line that embodied the beauty and uniqueness of being a Latina… of being a REINA REBELDE. But who is a REINA REBELDE? She is a dreamer,a warrior, a boss and a femme fatale who takes pride in her culture; in whom she is and where she came from. Her roots are everything to her and she never forgets it, nor does she let the world forget it no matter how high up that corporate ladder she climbs or how many glass ceilings she shatters. She is an iron fist in a velvet glove. As a “Reina” she wears her crown with her head held up high and as a “Rebelde” she is fearless and relentlessly fights for her family, perseveres life’s hardships and pursues her passions and desires. She works hard, dreams big and loves hard… She’s all in. She is someone who gives respect and demands it as well… Someone who can win a case before the toughest judge all while looking flawless, confident and composed… She is someone who can stand in a boardroom full of men, demand attention and pitch the winning idea… She is Super Mom, Wonder Woman, President of the PTA, Drill Team Coach and Iron Chef all wrapped into one… She is a role model and mentor for her siblings, her students and her kids… She uses her voice to speak for her community and is at the frontline marching for equal rights… And at the end of a day comprised of wearing multiple hats, she still has the energy to put those heels on, rock that red lipstick and become the fiercest Salsa dancer to ever hit the floor! She is a REINA REBELDE and she is all of you.
Born in “la tierra del tequila”, this Yale graduate took on the corporate world as a successful bankruptcy lawyer for many years. Despite achieving her educational and career goals, making her familia proud and not letting obstacles and stereotypes dictate her destiny and her objectives, Regina remained true to herself and true to her roots. Con la bandera de México y la Virgen De Guadalupe muy en alto siempre, Regina conquered what is all too often seen by many as “a man’s world.” But as the song clearly states, “it’s nothing without a woman or a girl…”
In getting to know the Founder of this beautiful brand, I have learned that REINA REBELDE is so much more than a make-up line. It is a MOVEMENT.
DAISY: What inspired you to create this line and why did you choose the tattooed pin-up for your packaging?
REGINA: I wanted women and young ladies to identify with it. I wanted them to pick up this compact and say: “That’s me. I’m a Reina Rebelde.” So to me, the milagros that are the tattoos on her back, are not meant to be literal tattoos. That’s not what it’s about. De eso no se trata. We have these layers of women that have paved this path where a community of women were sectioned off all over the country, and really we have nothing but the very best of intentions. We are such a spiritual group of women and when we put on our lipstick it comes with intention. There is so much intentionality behind everything we do in the beauty space, it makes us who we are as women, and it prepares us for where we have to go. When I would get ready to be a lawyer and I would put on a bold lip, I would be asked, “Where are you going?” and I would say, “I’m going to work and I need this today. I slept two hours and I need this for me.” It’s something that I think is unique to the Latina experience. It’s one of the reasons for the Reina part of the name. We, as women, share beauty tips. Lissete [her Publicist] and I have been sharing all these things for two days. All we do every morning is do our make-up for an hour and a half and say things like, “tell me how you do this . . .” Asi, that’s how I learned to do my make-up. I’m self-taught. I feel so many Latinas are. My thoughts were: I’m going to do my make-up my way, I’m going to learn something from my consumers and they might learn something from me. I want to give this to them and let them grow with it and run with it and have it be about them. This brand is for you… It’s created for you.
DAISY: Would you say that when you’d put that bold lipstick on for the courtroom, it was your shield?
REGINA: Andale. My shield… my armor. Pero tambien cambiar. I felt it was so important to have that versatility. Porque, I would go to work and I would be speaking English to all these corporate types doing these huge bankruptcies at a Wall Street-level law firm and I would be wearing a polished red lip and winged eyeliner and later on that night I would go out with my Mexican friends for margaritas and we’d only be speaking in Spanish and I would completely change my look. And THAT’S the experience of who we are today. I think that how messy it is and how messy it felt for me in always feeling torn, half pa’ca, half pa’ya, I’m Mexicana, but I’m educated here and I’m doing all of these things… but I believe that messiness is where the beauty really was. I think it took me a long time to figure that out, and I think that experience was empowering for me. As Latinas, because we have all that exposure and all those complications, we’re also empowered to switch from one minute to the other. So one minute I’m going to wear red and the next day I’m going to wear black and I’m going to change from hour to hour. I change my make-up look a lot multiple times a day depending on my mood.
DAISY: Did you, at any point, feel that your identity was lost?
REGINA: I never felt like my identity was lost, I felt I had a lot of pressure to chose. “Are you going to be Mexicana and be a part of that group or are you going to be gringa? What are you going to be?” Even when I was a little girl and I moved here. My mother remarried an American man when I was ten. The day she said, “We’re moving to the United States…” I didn’t want to; I didn’t want to leave Mexico. At the heart of it all I felt, “No, I don’t want to have to choose. I’m both… I will always be both. In my soul, at my core, I am Mexicana, but I now live an American life and I can transition between both every five minutes or every minute if I want to and I shouldn’t have to choose. I believe this is very empowering. I think this country really tries to tell us things that imply, “This is your lane and you’re going to stay in this lane.” And my attitude to it all is, “No. I’m actually both. I’m a Latina. I’m Mexicana and I’m Americana. I’m a reina and I’m rebelde and I’m in control of what all that is and I think that it’s a privilege. I remember when I started college and people saying, “Well if you’re a Mexicana, you should go hang out with those people…” And my response was, “No, I’m going to hang out with those people, and those people over there and with whomever I want to.”
DAISY: What inspired the brand’s name?
REGINA: Reina comes from mi reina. It’s obviously a term of endearment. My mom would call me mi reina, her mother called her reina, I call my friends reina. I love the ternura that comes with that and the respect that Latina women have for each other reina. I love the respect that it shows for the feminine force and the feminine energy that Latina women have. The Rebelde part is nuestra fuerza. No matter how perfect our hair and our make-up is, we’re badass women that know how to use our power. We know how to use make-up to improve our presentation of ourselves and use our looks and feminine energy to our advantage. I believe that many other segments of the population of women tend to shy away from it. I have a lot white friends that feel very uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves and we don’t.
DAISY: What about the names of the products?
REGINA: They’re all inspired by moods and experiences I’ve had as a Mexicana. FRESA for example, there are times when you just have to be a fresita. Sometimes it’s MORETON, so it’s that purple lip. My 66-year old mother wears that color! ENCHUFADA, I love this idea of women being plugged in to the community, they’re so alive! I have always said that Latinas know how to live, the American side of us knows how to work, but the Latina side of us knows how to live and I love the idea of being ENCHUFADA and knowing that everywhere you go where there is a Latina community in this country, there is action and life. MALINCHE is obvious, and I love the controversy of it. I do believe that many Latina women are controversial and I think that’s very exciting. I believe that if you’re going to do something, do it with your heart, do it with passion. FRIDA and LA DOÑA for the brow pomades make sense, because they had very strong brows, but they were also inspired by reinas rebeldes. Frida was an incredible trailblazer. She was androgynous, she was bisexual, she was married to one of the most famous artists, but she herself was an artist and no one else understood that. She wore feminine clothes . . . she wore men’s clothes. She said, I’m going to be whoever I want to be and she owned it. She was beautiful and in many of her paintings they show her holding a mirror up to herself and she is not only doing a self-portrait, but she’s literally painting herself. I wanted the names of my products to have significance and in a way serve as a history lesson for many of those Latina women that aren’t familiar with these stories . . . to learn a little bit about the culture. The same goes for the eye palettes: OAXACA is one of my favorite places; AZTECA is inspired by our ancestors, TAPATIA because I’m a Tapatia. ZAPATISTA was perfect for the eyeliner. Zapatistas are current rebels and every time I go to the south of Mexico and visit the rebel territories, the women are wearing masks, but they still have their beautiful eye make-up. No matter what you are doing, you’re fighting your fight but the beauty never suffers and I love that about Latina women.
DAISY: What could be more perfect timing than to be experiencing this with you today considering what is happening tomorrow [Inauguration Day] and the Women’s March this weekend…?
REGINA: It was so crazy when it happened. I know this is dangerous territory, but it was a very difficult thing for me. I’m an immigrant myself and people would say, “She’s going to learn English or this girl is not going to amount to anything.” And if people really believed that, if the women in my life didn’t support me, I wouldn’t have become a lawyer. I went to an Ivy League school, but I’m an immigrant. The notion that we are anything but contributors in this society is one of the things that is very important. That’s why we have the hash tag #SoyReinaRebelde. I want the make-up to be a conversation piece because of course, we love beauty but I want to learn about women and I want women to be inspired by each other and being able to see on Instagram that someone across the country created an amazing make-up look and asking them, “but what makes you a Reina Rebelde?” and then hearing all these beautiful stories of women who overcome challenges and I think that we, as women need to be more open about hearing them on a platform, even if they are little sound bites saying: We are contributing in really profound ways at every level to this society and we have a right to proud and passionate of what we have selflessly given to make a difference. I was ready to crown Hillary as a Reina Rebelde, I had the post already! I respect people’s political opinions because I know there are many Latinos that voted for Trump. However, it’s important for me that Latinos are recognized, especially Latino women. We suffer from a triple oppression. It’s not easy being a woman in this country, being a minority woman in this country and being part of what feels to be a patriarchal culture within the Latino sphere. We are fighting many different things and yet, we’re doing it with a beautiful face. It’s very important for me to focus on the positive side of the Latina fuerza that’s driving a lot of this country.
DAISY: We are living in a very important time, in a very important moment, if you could send out a message to Latinas, both, born in the US and those who came here in search of a better life and future for themselves and their families, what would that message be?
REGINA: It is a privilege to be whatever combination of whatever you are. To be born here, but with those beautiful roots, it is a privilege! There is no greater and more beautiful privilege than to be born a Latina woman today. Don’t squander it, don’t apologize for it, own it and run with it. Absorb it and let it be part of who you are. Accept that it’s a privilege and love it. I think there are many women who shy away from talking about it. You need to talk about it and show people how amazing you are. Being Latina is part of why we get to where we are. It’s a holistic thing. If I hadn’t been born in Mexico and experienced the things that I experienced I wouldn’t have achieved half the things that I achieved. It’s an important part of your story and I want women to be orgullosas and fierce.
DAISY: What does your family in Mexico think of you leaving a successful career in law to chase this dream?
REGINA: They think I’m crazy, but all the women are secretly rooting for me.
DAISY: Eres como una Adelita…
REGINA: Andale, como una Adelita. In fact we call our women on the ground that are out there talking about us our little “Adelita Force.” My family thinks it’s crazy, but at the same time they are saying, “That’s right…Go get it!” They know it. We’re done. We’re no longer apologizing. It’s no longer about: We came here, we did this and that’s the end of the story. The end of the story is when I say the end of the story is. We write the story. It isn’t about, “we expected you to be a lawyer and you exceeded our expectations y ya, dejalo…” No, now I’m going to go do this. So yes they think I’m crazy, but they love it!
DAISY: You’re like me, siempre con la bandera de México muy en alto.
REGINA: Yo he viajado por todo el mundo y he pasado por muchas experiencias, pero para mí el ser Mexicana lo es todo. Llego a México y veo esa bandera, veo la gente, el olor a tierra mojada, la comida típica, la música…es lo máximo. Es Mexico, lindo y querido through and through. I love every nuance of this and it is so important for me. There are so many women from different cultures, be it that they are Cuban or Dominican and the message just resonates for them. You can see it… You can feel it. Everyone has a different pride for their country and I love learning about that, and yet the fuerza and the orgullo is the same. The REINA REBELDE essence is across all the different nuances.
DAISY: If you can go back in time and give any advice to 10-year old Regina, what would it be?
REGINA: Don’t be afraid. It’s all in your head. And I say this as a little girl moving here and remembering being so afraid of so many things and feeling so nervous. If you can imagine it, if you can believe it, go do it because once you start it, it’s never as scary as you think. I was petrified of going to college, I was petrified of going to law school, I was petrified of my first day at work, I was petrified of leaving my job, I was petrified of starting this and then once you are there it’s never as scary as how it felt in that moment, so just go for it!
DAISY: Lastly, what gives you ALEGRIA?
REGINA: Connecting with the women that use my product and have them express things like, “Oh my God, you made me feel a certain way… I picked up this eye shadow quad and thought, Tapatia… My grandmother was a Tapatia. Picking up this lipstick and seeing Rosa Salvaje, it’s the telenovela I use to watch with my mom as a little girl. No sabes, it’s the best feeling in the world because I feel that I am bringing something to the world that really gives people pride, it makes them happy… I feel that it makes the whole journey worth it. Its make-up, but it’s a feeling and I believe it is so important and that is what makes me happy these days… That and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos!