Two Trans Women Started a Beauty Company to Help Jackson Heights’ Trans Latinx Community

Lead Photo: Creative Commons by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Creative Commons by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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Three years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza got together to dream up Mirror Beauty Cooperative, the inclusive space they and their LBTQ+, Queens-based friends in the beauty industry desired. The goal? “A worker-owned makeup and hair salon run by and for Jackson Heights’ trans Latinx community,” as the duo told HuffPost.

Their main priority is to provide jobs to the trans community, but their broader goal is to help the undocumented community at large. This is why they registered as an LLC rather than cooperative cooperation (co-op). Choosing to do so rules out the need for keeping tabs on social security numbers; instead they use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs). A minor, major detail.

“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” said Mendoza, a Mexican cosmetologist. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”

According to a 2015 survey, more than 15 percent of trans, genderqueer and nonbinary people claimed they were fired because of their gender identity or expression. Unsurprisingly, trans women of color are disproportionately affected. A space like the one these women have envisioned would be greatly beneficial in New York, but particularly in Jackson Heights, where trans people are particularly vulnerable.

Though Mendoza and Castillo started organizing and strategizing in 2015, their official GoFundMe Campaign was set up in late May. They have yet to reach even 1% of their goal. “Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.”

Mirror has a backup plan but no intention of using it. As new recruit Jonahi Rosa explained, they want to take the crowdfunding route when it comes to establishing their financial foundation because it will show a unified front, and truly make it a project for and by the people.