The Beatdown

This Afro-Puerto Rican-Owned Vegan Nail Polish Brand Is For Women Of Color Who Dare To Live Without Shame

Afro-Puerto Rican business owner Regina Bultrón Bengoa is bringing a much-needed pop of color to vegan beauty products with Selenia Beauty, a hand-made, cruelty-free nail polish brand for women who dare to live without shame.

Motivated by her grandmother’s love for poppin’ nails and a desire to “be as free as possible,” she launched her small, Brooklyn, New York-based beauty company on May 12 with the goal of offering “non-conformist, disruptive, provocative and supportive” women of color with a healthier nail polish brand that celebrates them.

Selenia Beauty’s six vibrant summer-ready colors aren’t toxic to your nails, because all of its products are 10-free, meaning they don’t contain harmful ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin and xylene and don’t have parabens, fragrances, phthalates or animal ingredients.

“With Selenia, I want to honor the unf*ckwithable tribe of sisters I’ve earned throughout my journey and all the other​ ​warrior​ ​womxn that have paved the way for us to​ ​enjoy our birthright to BE,” Bultrón Bengoa notes on her website. “By creating each nail polish one by one, and utilizing the least chemicals possible, Selenia aims to promote a beauty culture centered in​ self-love and self-care.”

(Photo Credit: Angela Hill, CGH)

While some vegan nail polishes can cost up to $25, Bultrón Bengoa is intentional about offering clean products that are also reasonably priced — each polish is just $12 — so that her community can enjoy them.

“Our people are constantly denied access to healthier options in this country. We see it all the time when our communities are systematically deprived of healthy and nutritious foods. I will always make sure Selenia’s Beauty products are accessible, especially to my communities that have supported me and inspired me since day one,” Bultrón Bengoa, 32, told FIERCE.

Affordability, beauty and quality packaging are so important to Bultrón Bengoa that she actually mixes all the colors in small batches and bottles them up herself.

Bultrón Bengoa’s love for her community and dedication to creating products that are safe and affordable is also a way to honor the namesake of her company, her grandmother Selenia.

(Photo Credit: Angela Hill, CGH)

“My grandmother Selenia was a Black Puerto Rican that, just like all her siblings, were devoted to style, neatness and fashion. My grandmother was very special to me. She was my best friend. We were cómplices. She would take me everywhere and would hook me up with my favorite candies behind my mom’s back. I want to honor my grandmother and promote a wave of fearless womxn that are not afraid to not conform to what society expects from them,” Bultrón Bengoa told us.

With no formal industry training, Bultrón Bengoa’s passion for beauty and creating is a familial characteristic. “Some of [my grandmother’s siblings] became seamstress and tailors, so they could make each other fashionable and unique clothes,” she said. Channeling her ancestors, she got to work, researching the nail polish field in order to launch a brand she was proud of.

“I learned online, reading one book that was available, and asking one or two nail polish makers that were kind enough to share their knowledge with me. Then at my workshop, I experiment and create the recipes for my colors, mixing different micas and concentrates until I get the colors I have in mind,” she said.

The line includes colors like “Bachata Rose,” one of the hottest pinks you’ll see this season, while “Unbothered” gives all the Celia Cruz vibes with its beautiful attention-grabbing yellow hues. “Thickums” is a bright orange that guarantees to make the undertones of your melanin pop under the searing sun, while the ocean-like teal of “La Eufemia” reminds us of a refreshing piragua on a hot summer day — whether you’re strutting down the shores of Playa Luquillo or running to catch your train, this one will assure you the summer is yours.

(Photo Credit: Angela Hill, CGH)

Being an Afro-Latina business owner in a homogenous market like vegan beauty products can be intimidating, but Bultrón Bengoa truly believes that “fear is a misuse of your imagination” and that calling on your own personal history and giving back can be huge sources of motivation.

Bultrón Bengoa’s hopes for Selenia Beauty are “to be able to provide an opportunity for womxn to have relevant and empowering conversations through my nail polishes. That when you cross paths with a Selenia Beauty nail polish bottle and you read the name or the story behind it, you see yourself somehow, and you walk away with something that adds to your own personal journey.”

You can read more about Selenia Beauty and see all of their summer-perfect hues at www.seleniabeauty.com and on Instagram.

Read: This Cubana-Owned Eyeshadow Palette Has All The Tropical Shades You’ll Want To Rock This Summer

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10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

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10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

It’s Black History Month, a time to uplift and celebrate the historic events and people of African descent who have contributed to culture, achieved excellence and sparked social and political change. But it’s also a moment for reflection, of honestly evaluating how much — and how little — has changed for the African diaspora throughout the US, Latin America and beyond.

Confronting the everyday violence, discrimination, disadvantages and inequality Black individuals have and continue to endure, while necessary, could be enraging and upsetting, and makes self-care practices all the more necessary.

This year, whether you’re celebrating the beauty, resilience and magia of blackness with a Black History Month party or well-deserved care day, music can always add to the occasion. Here, a mix of Spanish and English songs by Afro-Latinas and for Black women that unapologetically declare self-love and engage in self-worship to add to any Black joy playlist for the month of February and all the days that follow it.

1. Celebrate being a daughter of “La Diaspora” with Nitty Scott.

When the Afro-Boricua rapper dropped Creature in 2017, she gifted Black women, particularly Black Latinx femmes, with a full project that saw, understood and exalted their existence. None of the bangers on the LP did this as intentionally as the song and short film “La Diaspora.”

2. Make your voice and joy heard with Christina Milian’s “Say I”

When the cubana teamed with Young Jeezy to drop this 2009 bop, she encouraged women to “do what you want to do. Don’t let nobody tell you what you’re supposed to do.” And that’s some pretty liberating ishh.

3. Some might call you “CRZY,” but Kehlani wants you to embrace the term.

Confidently dancing to the beat of your own drum, especially as a woman of color, is neither expected nor welcomed, largely because it makes it more difficult for white supremacy to thrive. With “CRZY,” the part-Mexican R&B songstress encourages femmes to embrace and reclaim the slights people throw at you for being a radiant, go-getting mami.

4. And Calma Carmona’s “I Got Life” shows that there is so much to be joyous about.

In her Spanglish rendition of Nina Simone’s “I Ain’t Got No … I Got Life,” the Puerto Rican soul singer declares all the beauty she has, from her voice, to her hair, to her smile to her life, in a world that told her she has nothing.

5. Something else you have: “Tumbao.”

In la reina de salsa’s multi-generational hit “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” the late cubana Celia Cruz reminds Black women of that unfading, indescribable, swing and swag that Black women carry with them in every space they occupy.

6. Prefer an English joint? Cardi B will also remind you how “Bad” you are.

With “She Bad,” featuring YG, the Dominican-Trinidadian rapper engages in self-worship and encourages other Black women to feel themselves and own their sexuality without apprehension or apologies.

7. ‘Cause Like Maluca told you, you’re “la mami del block.”

In the Dominican singer-rapper’s mega bop “El Tigeraso,” Maluca makes the indisputable claim that Afro-Latinas have it all: “tengo fly, tengo party, tengo una sabrosura.”

8. And like Farina says, not everyone is deserving of your greatness.

In “la nena fina’s” urbano-pop jam “Mucho Pa’ Ti,” the colombiana raps what everyone knows: She, and you, are too much — too poppin’, too powerful, too radiant — for the unworthy.

9. Now that you’re reminded of who you are, enter every space like Melii walked into the club in her music video for “Icey.”

With sparkly, high-heeled white boots, a laced v-neck bodysuit, some tiny red shades and confidence that entraps you, dominicana-cubana Melii knows her value — as a woman and an artist — and watching or listening to how self-assured she is will undoubtedly rub off on you.

10. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re a “Million Dollar Girl” like Trina.

Like the Dominican-Bahamian rapper, alongside Keri Hilson and Diddy, told you in 2010: “Baby if I want it, I got it / ‘Cause I’ll be gettin’ some more / ‘Cause I’m a million dollar girl, for sure.”

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

Lilliam Rivera has written two novels featuring strong Latinx female characters including her latest Dealing in Dreams. The Puerto Rican YA author released The Education of Margot Sanchez in 2017, a romantic coming of age story set in South Bronx that explored family dysfunction and the importance of being true to yourself. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Rivera penned the ode to her hometown after relocating to Los Angeles. The book was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Fiction by the Young Adult Library Services Association and Rivera has also been awarded fellowships from PEN Center USA, A Room Of Her Own Foundation, and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Speculative Literature Foundation.

In Dealing in Dreams, Rivera takes readers on the kind of fantasy adventure she imagines her teenage self would’ve wanted to read. The feminist dystopic novel is clearly influenced by Latinx culture following the adventures of sixteen-year-old Nalah and her all-girl crew Las Mal Criadas and her dreams of escaping Mega City to the exclusive Mega Towers. Read on to learn about the strong Latinx women in the book, why she chose to portray toxic femininity, and how immigration came into play. The book will be out March 5 and she’ll be talking at bookstores throughout the U.S.

The story focuses on an all-girl crew, can you tell me more about Las Mal Criadas and how you developed these characters?

Nalah is the sixteen-year-old leader of Las Mal Criadas, an all-girl crew who patrol the streets of Mega City. They are notoriously fierce but Nalah is wary of the violent life. She believes the way off the streets is securing a home in the exclusive Mega Towers where her leader Déesse lives. She’ll do anything to reach that goal. I wrote a draft of Dealing In Dreams six years ago and Nalah came to me first. I had just given birth to my second daughter and there were people, mostly women, who remarked how my dream of being a published author would have to be placed on hold. Rage can be a great incentive for generating art. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I wrote this draft while taking care of a newborn and I put it away for six years, workshopping a chapter here and there, until a year ago when I returned to the manuscript and still felt its relevance.

Can you describe Mega City and the Mega Towers and their significance in the story?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I based the concept of the Mega Towers on the housing projects I grew up in the South Bronx. The Twin Park West Housing Projects is a U-shaped structure connected by three buildings. With the Bronx slowly being gentrified I could just imagine how these buildings will soon be so desirable for those in power. In Dealing In Dreams, the towers are the only structure that survived the Big Shake, a man-made disaster caused by drilling. The Mega Towers is where the elite live and it’s where Nalah believes she can secure a home for her crew if she plays by this society’s rules. There are a couple of hints that Mega City is the Bronx but only a person from there would discover those Easter eggs.

The book is being described as a feminist Latinx dystopia and The Outsiders meets Mad Max so suffice it to say it’s a fierce book, how would you describe it to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? 

I would describe Dealing In Dreams as a young adult book about a girl who grew up in a violent world and must decide if that path is truly her only salvation to a better life.

There is a very clear Latinx influence in the city and characters, why was that important to you?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I grew up reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels (Ray Bradbury, George Orwell…) and didn’t see any of my people in them. Where were the Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx crushing monsters? The same holds true of current films. I love Star Wars and have watched it hundreds of times but how amazing is it that my kids get to see Oscar Isaac being a part of the Star Wars canon? The future I envision in my novels is very brown and very black, just like my upbringing. I want to write Latinx characters that are flawed and heroic, who fall in love and discover their voice.

This is your second time writing a teenage Latinx protagonist, why is it important to you to tell these stories through the lens of a Latina?

These are the type of stories I craved for when I was young, desperately trying to connect with protagonists in novels. I think there’s more than enough room in bookstores and libraries for different Latina stories.

You take toxic masculinity and flip it to women instead, what was your intent in doing this?

There’s this great image of activist Angela Peoples taken during the Women’s March. Angela holds up a sign that reads “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for Trump.” I thought of that image when I was rewriting the novel. I also kept thinking of how our own people will gladly throw us under the bus in order to secure a place beside someone in power. Sometimes our own family are quick to lead us to destruction. I wanted to explore those two realities in Dealing In Dreams.

What are some of the main concepts you wanted to tackle when you wrote this book and why?

I was thinking of books I’ve read that inspired me as a young person such as Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was drawn to their violence and also to the idea of formed families. I wanted to explore this idea of blood family versus the family you create but I wanted to come from the point of view of a Latina.

The idea of finding a better home is a concept that’s all too real for many Latinx in the US, was it a conscious decision to have Nalah’s journey mirror the immigrant experience in a sense?

@lilliamr / Instagram

The quest for home is so rooted in my family’s history. My parents left Puerto Rico to find a better home in New York. Each decision they made, however hard, was made with the intention of providing us with the tools to succeed. Almost everyone who wants to enter the United States come with that hope. There’s an amazing painting by the artist Judithe Hernández titled “La Muerte De Los Inocentes” and it is of a child who clutches a ribbon that states: “We come but to dream.” I feel that painting really captures Nalah’s journey and the journey of so many who come to the U.S. searching for a better life.

There’s a lot of action in this book, what was it like writing those scenes featuring all women?

I had the best time writing those scenes! I think it’s so rare to see young women owning their strength on the page and not being afraid to use it. I love that my characters are unapologetic about it. I also didn’t want to give the reader a chance to rest, to think of putting the book down, so I tried to inject as much action as I could.

What do you want readers to take away from Dealing in Dreams?

I want readers to be transported to a place that looks at times familiar and completely new. I want Nalah, Truck, Nena and the rest of Las Mal Criadas to leave an imprint on the readers long after they read the last page.

Read: YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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