“I think one of the things that was surprising about filming [The Foundation of Belleza] was how vulnerable you need to be to actually tell a real story, your true story,” Desiree Verdejo, founder and CEO of Hyper Skin, told Remezcla.
The Foundation of Belleza is a mini-documentary series created in collaboration with Sephora, Digitas, and NBCUniversal, and it is currently streaming on Peacock. Hosted by Adrienne Bailon-Houghton (best-known for co-hosting The Real, singing in the early-aughts girl group 3LW, or her breakthrough role in The Cheetah Girls), the series — directed by award-winning Gabriela Ortega — follows the story of Latina founders and the origins of their respective beauty brands. The brand founders showcased are Babba Rivera from Ceremonia, Carina Chaz of DedCool, and Desiree Verdejo from Hyper Skin. Remezcla sat down virtually with Desiree to discuss the series, her cultural identity, and why she founded Hyper.
When Desiree was approached about the possibility of this series months ago, she kept herself from getting too excited in case the series didn’t happen, or she didn’t end up featured. But once it was certain, she was on board. “Once the director was named and the green light was lit, I was super excited to start to see the team that was coming together,” Desiree said.
Given that everyone involved, from the director to the entire behind-the-scenes crew, was Latine, she experienced a much more comfortable filming experience than she had anticipated — with the details behind her story treated with the delicate respect they deserved. “I mentioned the importance of my family as it relates to my identity — I have a very multicultural family, being black and Puerto Rican,” she shared. “One of the scenes turned out to be having my family together for a brunch to really get a picture of what our conversations look like. When someone is just filming you for days and telling your story, you never know how it’s actually going to be told, and so when I saw that it was very much in line with the stories I shared, I was much more comfortable about it all.”
Desiree, an Afro-Latina whose family is from the Bronx, New York, underwent a few career transitions before becoming the brand founder she is today. After living in Puerto Rico for a few years as a lawyer, she transitioned to owning a beauty boutique in Harlem before ultimately launching the brand Hyper. The unique line features products that target specific concerns like hyper-pigmentation for diverse skin tones while still being safe for sensitive skin. Hyper is the super playful alternative to the old-school, harsh brands for acne-prone skin that is finally dedicated to darker skin tones.
People that look like me will hopefully feel seen in the beauty space going forward.
“The biggest part of my story is that people that look like me will hopefully feel seen in the beauty space going forward. Hyper was the light-hearted brand I always wished I had growing up, as someone who grew up in the ’90s with severe acne,” Desiree said. “When you have certain skin conditions, the skincare gets very serious, right? And so I wanted serious results but in a very unserious way.”
In interviews, I always ask the interviewee what advice they wish they would have been given at the start of their journey. The answers always vary (that’s the fun part), but Desiree’s answer came without hesitation: “None,” she said before we both broke into laughter.
I was briefly caught off guard, but she specified: “Investors, retailers, and all sorts of people will tell you how to grow your brand. I think knowing when to listen and when not to is my biggest takeaway.” That last sentence is something I’ve definitely felt but could never really put into words. It’s one of those pieces of advice that applies to everyone in any situation, whether they’re building their own brand or not. Sometimes, having discernment and listening to ourselves instead of all of the differing voices around us is simply what’s best.
The Foundation of Belleza only has four episodes currently, but it’d be amazing to witness even more stories in the future — especially giving the ever-growing pool of Latine beauty brands with unique origins and diverse founders. “By spotlighting these Latine-founded brands, we hope to highlight their amazing contributions to beauty and continue pushing forward with our mission of creating more welcoming, supportive, and collaborative environments within the beauty industry,” Anne Cambria, the Vice President of Campaigns and Content, Product, and Brand at Sephora, said in a press statement.
“I had the chance to watch the episode with about 50 people from the Hyper community last week. And it was really beautiful to see other people experiencing the show, so I’m just happy to be a part of something so beautiful,” Desiree shared.
Beyond the significance of the stories told in the series, perhaps even more valuable is the sense of representation it provides to Latines who share a love for beauty but have yet to witness themselves portrayed as founders rather than just consumers. “As Latinas, beauty is cultural, and as a director, I was thrilled to find the intersections between each founder’s story and honor them to the best of my ability,” series director Gabriela Ortega told Remezcla.
This series demonstrates that we have the power to carve out our own space in the beauty industry, a truth exemplified by the inspiring story of Desiree.