growing through it
A COLLECTION OF LOVE LETTERS AND ADVICE FROM FEARLESS WOMEN.
GROWING THROUGH IT BLOG
BY RACHEL GOMEZ
This idea sprouted from a tiny seed and after much nurturing, love, and hard work from the VLB Team, we were able to create the espookiest pop up of our DREAMS.
There is such importance in embracing Love in all of its forms. This photoshoot was a beautiful celebration of the Love, comunidad, and the environments that shaped me and many other Mujeres.
In a galaxy far, far away . . . a group of BONITA Baddies was sent on a mission to spread Love and Vibras Buenas across the Universe . . . .
A collab between two homegrown businesses with a mutual love for the 818: the root of inspiration for local neighborhood LEAD Skate Shop x Viva La Bonita’s exclusive collection.
MEET THE BONITAS WHO BLOOM THROUGH IT ALL
THE GLAM QUEEN
Every artist has their tools. Some have paint brushes, some have instruments, and others are purely digital. Our Bonita Sariah has a wide selection of tools as she is a certified makeup artist from Glam Lab Makeup Institute. Born and raised in Oakland Cali, Sariah is a single mother raising a strong son who is on the spectrum. She tells us that makeup has been her creative outlet.
The love she has for her passion has allowed Sariah to travel the world and use her skills to glam up people all over the globe. She says that in different parts of the world makeup is bold, like in Latin America. In Asia, makeup is simple, or stain-like makeup is used for rituals part of the culture to tell or respect a belief. We asked Sariah if she could share how being able to use makeup as a tool to beautify people makes her feel.
"I often find makeup as an art form to express your self with colors. Having the proper tools and knowledge to create a master piece in color. Every day we see color on our face. Makeup is science. Making people feel gorgeous is satisfying when it’s done. Makeup is art a statement, there are many opportunities in the industry film, television, runways, celebrity’s, you have to master the brush. The biggest advice is to master the formulas, master face structures"
You can follow Sariah on IG @oakland_smokin.
THE TECHIE LATINA
There's something about Bonitas that when they're told they can't do something, they always prove the haters wrong. This Bonita is no different, making room for herself in an industry where finding a Latina is pretty hard. Heidi was born and raised in Sharpstown Texas, a bustling city with a vibrant immigrant community. Her parents escaped from El Salvador during it's civil war to seek a better life.
Heidi's childhood was full of hard work. Her mom worked as a house cleaner and her dad as a construction worker. Her teen years were spent working with her dad on roofs in the middle of hot Texas summers. This made Heidi push herself harder because if she could work along men in the sun, she could definitely work along them in the corporate world.
Now Heidi works in Tech, a role which she is very proud of as she worked very hard to earn it. This has allowed her to make her dream of buying her mom a home come true. She also runs a blog called Heidi's Highlights, where she lets others get a glimpse into her mind and life, as well as provide resources in her community. She hopes her experiences inspire other Bonitas and shows them they aren't alone.
We asked Heidi what it's like being a Latina in Tech and if she ever felt different being of the few women in the field: "It honestly has never phased me. I can't exactly sure I can tell you why that is, but I've never seen my gender as a deterrent to my work. Now, that does not mean that there likely have been plenty of times where it may have been a hinderance, that is always a possibility just given the way Corporate America can be, but, it's never been something I internalized. While I know there's the reality of gender pay gaps, I don't let this stop me. If anything, my story and my life is yet another reason why I voice my opinion so strongly against this reality because it just isn't fair or just. "
THE COMMITTED ONE
We all have plans for our future. Even when we write it down, make a checklist, and commit yourself 100%, life usually throws things our way that we didn't plan for. Ask Inelise, a mom of 5 who planned to continue her education after High School but had to put that plan on pause when she found out she was pregnant at 18.
Inelise now devotes her life to caring for her 5 beautiful kids. This devotion got her back in school, as she wants to show them that it's never too late to follow their dreams. She wants to make sure her kids have everything they need once they are on their own. Inelise is a strong Bonita who is raising the next generation of Bonitas and making sure they set their sights on beautiful things and never stop dreaming. We asked her if she had any advice for anyone who might feel like life is dealing them an unfair hand and this is what she had to say:
"Life isn't what it gives you but what you make of it. It's challenging, and sometimes it's easier to give up, but that offers haters the fuel they need to keep putting you down. Be proud and prove everyone wrong; only you can make it happen; you can give up and fall into your lowest depths, but that doesn't hurt anyone but yourself. Learn to love and hold yourself together for yourself and keep your head up at all times."
Scars are interesting because each one comes with a story. Some of us hide them, some of us embrace them like fellow Bonita Helen. When she was 2, she and her cousin were playing "Birthday Party" when a candle caused a blazing fire. In a rush to help, her cousin grabbed a bottle of what he thought was water, only for it to be paint thinner, which is extremely flammable. Helen suffered 1st and 2nd degree burns throughout half her body.
Helen survived but this incident affected her for the rest of her life. She dealt with depression through her teenage and early adult years and turned to overeating as a way to feel better. But all of this changed when she became a mom. She found the gym to be a perfect place for some "me" time. This safe haven became her new stress reliever and her life completely changed.
This led Helen to share her fitness journey through the hashtag #MotivateToFit in 2004. Fast-forward to 2017 and Helen co-founded Lvel Up Studio (@levelupstudiollc) a training facility in Bayonne, NJ where she teaches small group classes and sees personal training clients. Helen says her passion is empowering women through strength training.
We asked her how her life turned around once she started working out and here's what she said:
"Falling in love with working out just made me change so many things in my life; I quit smoking, started spending more time at the gym instead of at bars. Fitness also instilled with me a different level of confidence, not only did my body change but so did my mind. Strength training made me realize how strong (mind and body) I really am and although I still have bad days I take out all of my frustrations in the gym and feel my best when I'm training myself and my clients."
LA FLOR BONITA
Flowers are admired for their gorgeous petals, but we can't forget that their beauty depends on where their roots start. No matter how far we go, our roots will always help guide us. Florencia is no exception. A young Latina who has immersed herself in the medical field to find her dream job. All while not forgetting where she came from.
Since she was a little girl, Florencia would tell her mom that one day she would create medicine for her. She was fortunate to be surrounded by supportive women who let her know she had the potential to do anything she set her mind to. Now this Flor Bonita is one of the few Latinas in STEM healing the world and helping change the narrative and stereotype of what Latinas are capable of. We asked Florencia if she had any advice for Bonitas with big dreams but might be scared to pursue them, and this is what she has to say:
If your dreams don't scare you, you're not dreaming big enough. It's normal to be scared especially when it comes to making sacrifices, but you can't let stop you. I think when you keep challenging yourself, you learn so much about yourself. You will see you probably can do WAY more than you initially thought. This is probably the root of my success along with my drive. So in short, stay focused, stay driven and NEVER give up.
THE BLESSED MAMA
Sometimes life deals us a bad hand and there's nothing we can do about it except keep moving forward. But if we keep at it, blessings are guaranteed. Makeila experienced this during a doctor check up where she found out she had stage 1 cervical cancer and would never be able to have a baby. After accepting her new reality, imagine her surprise when she found out she WAS pregnant during a routine visit!
Makeila was overwhelmed with emotions. She was excited because she had accepted that she'd never conceive, but scared because of what the doctors had previously told her. But all of this changed when she heard her baby's heartbeat for the first time. That sound gave her reassurance that she was meant to be a mom. Her journey into motherhood made her realize she has to work on her mental and emotional health, as it directly affects her daughter. She had to learn this on her own, as the women that raised her didn't know how to do that themselves. Now Makeila is cancer free and a proud mama to a beautiful little Bonita. We asked her if she had any advice to Bonitas who are trying to navigate something similar, and this is what she had to say:
Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. To anyone who is a product of immigrant families or culture, we are breaking those generational traumas and strifes and for that we also have to give grace and patience to them. It’s okay to ask for help and ask questions. We may not always get the responses we would hope for, but we are doing the work for ourselves and future generations to come. In my personal journey to motherhood it was completely an unexpected blessing I never thought I would have the chance to experience. I was able to find joy in things I never thought were possible, but in the same token also brought up some unresolved issues. From this it really taught me to take things as they come and to let go of the things I can’t control. It’s okay to say you’re not okay and ask for support. We can’t fix everything in a day, but we can always start the work.
You can follow Makeila on IG @makilleryou.
THE PATTERN BREAKER
What do you do when life sets a path for you that you literally can't follow? You do what you gotta do and keep on going Mija. This is what Melisa, who grew up in a strict Catholic home, had to do when she got pregnant at 19 and felt like her parents wouldn't approve. The fear of disappointing them led her to get an abortion and keep everything a secret from them.
It wasn't until almost 10 years later that Melisa realized how much of an emotional toll keeping such a big secret was. This realization led her on a self healing journey. Through therapy, open conversations with her family, and opening up to her parents about it, Melisa is now finding a lot more positivity in life. We asked Melisa if she had any advice for any Bonita going through something similar. Here's what she has to say.
"There’s a plan for you. What people think about you is not your business. In the end, things will work out. Once I explained to my parents about the abortion, my dad was understanding and cried with me. Latinas are very secretive, but we need to ask for help."
You can follow Melisa on IG @mrsjefababe
Everyone knows the iconic Phoenix. When you think it's down and out, it rises in a beautiful flame and begins a new life. That's exactly what Keithy, a proud first-generation Latina, did. She told us that 7.6% (3.1 MILLION people) of Latinx/Hispanic roots struggle with substance use disorder. She was one of them, but made the decision to get sober and is about to celebrate her 3rd year being alcohol free. (YOU GO GIRL!!)
Now, Keithy has a life mission: To help anyone struggling with substance use find a way out. She is a program coordinator at The Phoenix where she is responsible for helping bring programs to people who struggle with substance use disorder. They do this by providing free programs and events to anyone with 48 hours of sobriety. Keithy had a few words for any Bonita who might know or might be dealing with similar problems.
"You are not alone! There are so many resources available waiting to be used - find your support group and get the help you deserve! It might be intimidating to let people in, but your whole world changes for the better when you have a power squad behind you. Remember - Selena, Ellen Ochoa, Don Francisco, Walter Mercado - all the legends did their thing with a team supporting them! We all deserve to live our best lives! You got this, Bonita! P.S if you need advice looking for resources, reach out to me on my Instagram and I'll be happy to help! "