Brown, proud, and a boss! Meet Michelle, Lily, and Maria—three successful Latinas sharing their journey on becoming creatives in the events industry.
Michelle Barrionuevo-Mazzini, MB Creative Co.
As a daughter of immigrant parents who came here seeking a better life, being a Latina is something that I felt has always defined me. I was raised by a single mother who taught me to be proud of my ethnic roots, my South American heritage, and to embrace the good and bad that comes along with being a brown woman in a society that oftentimes doesn’t view us as educated, strong, or capable of leading. I started my small business at the tender age of 24, but my mother said she knew I was a natural entrepreneur from the age of 10 when running a lemonade stand just didn’t cut it for me. I had a bigger plan, a bigger vision, and I wanted something more profitable.
That 10-year-old never gave up on becoming her own boss and carving out her own path to success, which hasn’t always been easy. Being a strong and often times vocal Latina in an industry that hasn’t always felt inclusive, hasn't only been challenging at times, but hard to keep up with. I know I've had to work twice as hard just to be seen, just to be heard, just to be recognized and valued for my work and expertise. I've fought for every seat at the table and the truth is, this is the case for many Latina women regardless of the industry they’re in.
I've been in the event industry for about 16 years and I’d love to say that visibility for all creatives is on the leading forefront, but it's simply not. I do believe that we're finally taking positive strides and measures in the right direction to become a more inclusive community and to recognize the many talented BIPOC creatives that have always existed. I absolutely love being a creative and sharing my passion for events with my fellow industry pros and clients alike. I feel blessed to be able to be my own boss and have a career that I love, but I never forget where I came from and the sacrifices that were made so that I can live out my creative dreams. This is why Hispanic Heritage Month is important for me. It’s an opportunity to highlight my people’s talents, strengths, passion, and dedication!
This is where I'd like to introduce Lily and Maria and highlight them and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them. I've had the pleasure of working with both of these beautiful and talented women and for me, it's been important to work with and support BIPOC creatives from the start of my business.
Lily Pineda-Roden, Lily Roden Floral Studio
It hasn't been until recently that I've embraced my creative self. I always knew I was creative but I was scared to give into that—scared to be vulnerable, scared of rejection, and scared to fail. As an immigrant, I was taught to value education and above all else and fight for a stable job and a comfortable income—the American Dream. Although there was nothing wrong with those goals, the attempt at the quintessential and comfortable lifestyle caused me to suppress any creativity I had. I wound up graduating from UC Berkeley with honors and working desired corporate jobs but always felt lost. At 30, drowning in a sea of work-related anxiety and depression, I found my creative calling while arranging flowers as a de-stressor. I've been creating ever since. It's been an honor to turn my stress-relieving hobby into a five-year floral business. A business that allows me to be creative while providing for my family, but also a venture that gives me the privilege of sponsoring five children in El Salvador (my home country). This is something that I'm immensely proud of. Although my flowers may wilt and fade at the end of the day, they leave a lasting impact 2,800 miles away. No matter how large my weddings become or how important my clients may be, giving back is my greatest accomplishment.
This is why Hispanic Heritage Month is so inspiring to me. It's allowed me to share my immigrant story and learn about creative Latinos that are killing it in their field. There are so many of us out there and I'm thankful for this sacred space where we're able to inspire each other, learn from each other, and grow together.
María Calderón, Makeup Artist + Art Photographer
I began my entrepreneurial journey as a homeless asylum refugee in the United States, my family left Nicaragua amidst war and extreme poverty, we had to leave everything behind and start a new life from zero. Uncertainty has always been the fuel that propelled me forward. It allowed me to take risks and be comfortable with failure. As a Latinx woman and artist, I had to work twice as hard to create a place of prestige and impeccable reputation. Knowing that I had nothing to lose, it gave me the incentive to go above and beyond in my business and prove my worth. Latinxs do not lack the motivation to work hard but the reality of this society is that there's a lack of opportunities in the “High End” or “Luxury” market. We are perceived as less educated or lacking the ability to lead. Even though I'm a white Latinx, my accent gave away my origin and it closed some doors when I first started my business. This is why I’ve dedicated my life to empowering minority women, trying to be a role model, and encouraging them to overcome the obstacles imposed by society and become business leaders.