Natalia Durazo and LaLa Romero love makeup but felt like the industry didn’t necessarily love them back as they didn’t see themselves represented so they decided they would fill that void. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the entrepreneurs celebrate and honor the trademark looks of their beloved city with the launch of their makeup line, Sweet Street Cosmetics. The line currently includes eyeliners (“Wing Queen”) and a trio of lipliner duos in bold colors, all inspired by the LA style they grew up with.
“A lot of cosmetic brands that have popped up recently are doing a really good job representing for women of color, for us there was still another layer that was missing, the neighborhood element. There are so many beauty rituals and nuances that are unique to and bond WOC who grew up in the neighborhood.”
The duo previously founded Bella Doña with the same intention featuring accessories, apparel, and jewelry devoted to celebrating LA style. Sweet Street Cosmetics launched late last year with their ode to the signature look of women of color with the Wing Queen eyeliner.
“We knew if we were stepping into the beauty sector, we had to launch with a product that was going to make a strong statement to our girls that we are here for them,” Romero said. “Sharp Wings are like our armor, they are more than just a look. Wings are a daily staple where we come from, you don’t leave home without them.”
The line is by and for women of color so designing products comes easily because, as they say, they are their target audience. They draw inspiration from two core elements of the brand: the city and the everyday woman, though they also say they can’t help but admire the likes of Selena, Amy Winehouse, Missy Elliot, Maria Felix, Diana Ross, and Aaliyah. This exemplifies the mission behind the brand as they bring the style of femmes of color into the mainstream, reclaiming it after it’s been appropriated time and time again.
Artists like Gwen Stefani and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas have been known to imitate the chola look and in 2015 Givenchy’s Paris show was described as having a “chola Victorian” look. None have any ties to the real chola experience and it’s that very truth that’s at the core of the line, in all its gold-hoop and winged eyeliner glory.“We really want people to acknowledge and appreciate the flyness and innovation that comes from our neighborhoods,” Durazo said.”It’s also really important to us that we help build confidence in women from our communities by reminding them daily that they are the beauty standard.”
With an Instagram following that’s already 50k strong, it’s clear that the big hair, winged liner, and bold lip resonates. Their “Thick & Thin” lip line features lipliner/lipstick duos with the model on the main page using a darker lip liner and gelled hair reminiscent of the chola style that’s a trademark of the streets in Los Angeles.
Writer Barbara Calderón-Douglass explained how chola culture is separate from the chola style that has been appropriated in the fashion and celebrity world. The fierce street look is extrapolated from its context as a culture rooted in the marginalization of Mexican Americans in Southern California.”It embodies the remarkable strength and creative independence it takes to survive in a society where your social mobility has been thwarted by racism,” she writes.
For Durazo and Romero the line is for these women whose style is rooted in defiance in the face of marginalization and who have mastered their beauty regimen and made it their own. They describe the Sweet Street girl as someone who doesn’t have a full glam squad and instead figures out how to do her own makeup just as well and uses the sidewalk as her runway.
“From the way the palm trees bend when the Santa Ana winds hit, to the candy paint on our lowriders, every single aspect of our city is a constant inspiration to everything we do,” Durazo said. “We have some fun things coming with great names and artwork inspired by the beautiful hues and colors which paint our city.”
They say they are taking their time developing formulas for every product so it’s a timely process however they do plan to debut products for the whole face (sans foundation). Because of the personal nature of the line, they also want to make sure it’s authentic to who they are like, for example, the development of the lip duo Angel BB which was inspired by the Jordana lipliner in Cocoa and the Roller Gloss they grew up using.
“Sweet Street is all about honoring our generational fly. Culturally we don’t have a lot of heroes and superstars in mainstream media that represent us. And we’re okay with that because we know that the real style and beauty icons can all be found in our family photo albums,” Romero said. “From our winged eyeliner to overlined dark brown lips, these aren’t new beauty trends, they are classic neighborhood looks that we grew up seeing and emulating.”