Like so many first-time moms, Kay-Lani Martinez found herself at home and bored when she was pregnant with her first child almost a decade ago. A makeup artist by trade, she started doing her own makeup and sharing photos of her looks on Instagram. It wasn’t long before her followers started asking her to post tutorials on YouTube so they could replicate her amazing work. She went for it, and the influencer @viva_glam_kay was born. Martinez now has over one million followers on Instagram across three accounts, over 400,000 subscribers on YouTube, and over 40,000 followers on TikTok.
“Remember, no one was making money from it. That wasn’t even my motivation for it because that wasn’t a thing to make money from yet,” Martinez tells HipLatina, of the early days of her career as a beauty influencer. “Honestly, it just snowballed, and I’m at where I’m at. This wasn’t really like the plan, because I had no example to follow. It just kind of happened.”
Now in her thirties and a mom of two, the social media mastermind has realized that she’s not going to be doing makeup tutorials for the rest of her life, and she’s decided to branch out as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. A couple of years ago, she started a second Instagram account, @vida_with_viva, that chronicles her family life, and in April 2022, she launched Ani’Lu Home Essentials, a multigenerational company she started with her aunt.
Originally from New York, Martinez moved to the Orlando area with her Puerto Rican grandparents when she was 13 years old. With a mom who simply wasn’t around and a father who spent a good chunk of her childhood in prison (she has good relationships with both of them now), things weren’t always easy, but there was always extended family around to support her and guide her.
By 21 she was married for the first time and expecting her first child. Without much money to fall back on, she decided to quit school and pursue her passion as a makeup artist. Her talent was undeniable and she ended up working for MAC as a stepping stone until she had enough clients to branch out on her own as a freelance makeup artist.
She tells us that before she had her daughter Lee’Ani, she was content to just go through life waiting for things to happen, she thought she’d become a social worker because her own upbringing put a desire in her to help other kids. As she got older, she realized that what she wanted to do as an 18-year-old, wasn’t necessarily what she should be doing for the rest of her life, and she knew she would end up going in another direction.
Being a mom though, has changed everything for Martinez. Instead of simply “coasting by” as she says she once did, Martinez is proactive about her life and her goals, because she wants to make sure that her two daughters are always provided for and, she wants to be a good example for them. It’s part of the reason she decided to go back to school and get her degree, even in the midst of juggling so many other things. She’ll be studying marketing and public relations starting in the fall of 2022.
“I definitely feel like I have a huge responsibility to lead by example, and they really motivate me to go back to school,” she says. “How could I encourage them to go to college and get their degree when I didn’t lead by example?” But, she knew she’d have to do it while still maintaining her social media presence and making a living as a content creator, in order to maintain the financial security she’s worked so hard for.
About five years ago, Martinez hired a a manager — fellow Latina, entrepreneur, Lissette Rios of Chic Influence PR — and things really took off for her financially. Lissette helped her expand and build partnerships with brands that don’t typically showcase Latinas, refusing to allow her to be pigeon-holed.
“It’s now that they’re becoming a lot more inclusive,” Martinez tells us. “But even five, six years ago, they didn’t wanna work with girls like me…I remember we were meeting with a big magazine company and you know, they were suggesting all these magazines that my look would work for, and it was Essence magazine, Latina magazine, she’s like, ‘yeah, that’s cool and all, but she could also do good in Elle magazine, Marie Claire magazine,” Martinez tells us of how Rios has advocated for her.
Since then, Martinez has worked with brands like Amazon and Gain dish soap, which has now enabled her to explore other options for her future, from getting her degree to launching Ani’Lu Home Essentials, because she had the finances to do so.
“I don’t see myself doing the content creation 10 years from now, but I do see myself tapping into the more business aspect of it,” Martinez tells us, explaining that right now, the big hope is that the home goods business she launched with her tia, Lynette Munich, will take off, although she admits that they’re purposely taking a slow approach.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martinez and Munich, who is a military veteran and a teacher, decided that they wanted to go into business together, but Martinez, wanted to branch out from beauty. Her business had taken a hit during the pandemic because people were at home and not wearing makeup or hiring makeup artists, and she wanted the new venture to be something more stable. Munich had started making soap as a hobby and gotten quite good at it, so she and Martinez decided that they could use her skills and Martinez’s seed money to start a home goods company.
Not one to coast along, Martinez decided to learn how to make candles during that time, so that they could launch Ani’Lu Home Essentials with several products. The affordable line now also includes body scrubs and an assortment of accessories.
The goal is to grow the company slowly so they don’t take on too much and fizzle out early. Martinez and Munich are hoping for long-term success. They want to establish a solid business that will allow them to securely transition out of their current careers.
“I’m also very realistic and I think a lot of business owners of course, we have this dream that our business will expand and eventually become like this multi-million dollar business, but I also have to be realistic that there’s a chance it could happen, but there’s also a chance that it may not happen,” she says. If it doesn’t work out, Martinez hopes to use her future degree to establish herself in the PR world and as a manager for content creators.
Yes, she’s juggling a full-time career as a content creator and beauty influencer while in the early stages of owning and running a brand-new business that is completely self-funded, raising two little girls, and going back to college in a couple of months. Did we mention she’s getting married soon too? It sounds like a lot, because it is. For the most part though, Martinez doesn’t dwell on how much she’s got going on or how difficult it can be, she just gets up every day and does what needs to be done.
“I don’t ever want my kids to struggle, that’s my biggest thing,” she says. “So I feel like that’s kind of why I tap into so many different things, just to make sure that they have the life that I feel like they deserve.” Like so many other mompreneurs have told us, Martinez agrees that having a support system is so important. She fully acknowledges that she does a lot — sometimes too much — but says if it wasn’t for her fiancé and her younger sister who is her girls’ nanny, it would be a lot more difficult for her to manage. Regardless, she’d still do it.
“I could leave this Earth tomorrow…that’s really what keeps me going — yeah, there are days like, ‘what the hell, did I get myself into? I’m so stressed out, my grey hairs are multiplying by the hour’ — but, I push through,” she says. “I think of all that I went through as a kid and I just would never wanna see my kids have to feel what I felt growing up.” With that in mind, she’ll keep pushing herself to keep being creative, pursuing new opportunities, and meeting goals, so that she can reach her full potential and one day know that her daughters will be able to as well.