Entrepreneurship became a golden — or should we say, pink — opportunity for her. Silva supported her family as a single mother, building her portfolio as a makeup artist in Los Angeles’ entertainment industry. Little did she know the sponges she used to hand-cut on sets would become a universal phenomenon.
“When I started, I thought I was inventing a tool for makeup artists only,” said Silva. “I was never expecting Beautyblender to be a category creator.”
Today, Beautyblender is the number one best-selling makeup sponge with fans including Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian. Her brand has since expanded into makeup, pairing perfectly with the iconic blenders.
Silva spoke with mitú about the origins of the Beautyblender, how she broke into the beauty industry as a Latina, and the challenges she faced along the way.
Rea Ann Silva’s career as a makeup artist started in the entertainment industry
Born to a Mexican, Spanish, and Native American mother and Portuguese and Irish father, Silva grew up in Los Angeles. Her mother signed her up to attend LA’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising because of her interest in art.
As a student, Silva worked at a department store selling perfume. Eventually, she moved to the makeup counter and learned how to apply it on others. This opened a door for her in the entertainment industry, and she soon found herself on TV and film sets.
She became head of the makeup department on the long-running sitcom, “Girlfriends.” As one of the first TV shows shot in high-definition, the makeup had to look flawless. Enter Silva’s handmade blenders, which became notorious on set for achieving on-camera-ready complexions.
“I handled the constant touch-ups with hand-cut, edgeless sponges to mimic the seamless look of airbrushing,” said Silva. “Soon, every celebrity that sat in my chair wanted their own hand-cut sponge.”
Challenges didn’t rain on her parade
Once Silva perfected the Beautyblender sponge, she had to find the right partners and resources to manufacture even more. Scaling everything up was challenging, but the makeup sponges found a production home in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
It was also difficult for Silva to break into the beauty industry as a Latina; people weren’t willing to work with her because of her ethnicity.
“I turned this adversity into an advantage and made a name for myself as an expert makeup artist who focused on people of color,” said Silva, who has worked with talents like Tracee Ellis Ross, Kerry Washington, Tupac, and more.
What she would tell Latinas interested in entrepreneurship
On the bright side, it’s a good thing Silva lives her life by embracing the challenges that come her way instead of fearing them. It led to Beautyblender winning several of Allure’s Best of Beauty awards and the monumental addition of the sponge in Sephora stores.
Her resilience is just one of the reasons Beautyblender was destined to become a hit. She would advise Latinas not to take “no” for an answer when it comes to future business endeavors.
“Find your niche in an industry you’re passionate about and pursue every avenue,” added Silva. “Take one little step to your dream every day.”
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