By Johanna Ferreira
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Rafaela Gonzalez grew up on an island where Eurocentric standards of beauty were constantly being pushed on young girls and women in her community. Derogatory words rooted in anti-blackness like “pelo malo” which translates to “bad hair,” were terms often used to describe curly or coily hair textures like her own, which made it that much harder to embrace. Her own journey to self-acceptance and self-love is what inspired her to launch Gloryscent Beauty, a pro-melanin skincare brand “created to facilitate the journey to healthy radiant skin by protecting the skin from environmental aggressors such as air pollution and sun damage.”
“Like many young women of color, I grew up believing in the European standard of beauty. This idea began to be confronted when I was about 19 years old, soon after I began to question why I felt uncomfortable with my natural hair,” Gonzalez tells thirteen lune. “This led me to follow through with the so-called big chop. I cut my hair extremely short to start fresh with my natural hair and through this journey I began creating products for myself. Then the idea of creating a product that benefited women of color came about. After a couple of years of experimenting with different products and ideas, Gloryscent officially launched in October 2019, as a Latina-owned pro-melanin skincare brand for people who value inclusion and clean ingredients for all.”
Gonzalez believes that beauty goes way beyond our skin. Gloryscent is built on the philosophy that beauty lives in our confidence and in the assurance of our identity.
“I believe that my beauty was highlighted when I finally discovered my identity and when I sought out my purpose. I can confidently say that purpose is beautiful,” she says.
Gloryscent prides itself in providing sun protection for all shades, as well as, protecting skin from air pollution which can result in everything from clogged pores, to dull skin — even acne or eczema. The collection consists of the Urbana Elixir, Enzyme Cleansing Gel and the brand’s signature Manketti Oil Serum, a luxurious facial oil made from African-derived manketti that fights against inflammation and leaves skin deeply hydrated, nourished, and radiant — all while protecting it from potential sun damage.
“The name Gloryscent Beauty is meant to give reference to discovering our identity, which in turn releases an incense that pleases God,” Gonzalez says.
Get to Know – Rafaela Gonzalez
Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?
I am originally from the Dominican Republic. I came to the U.S. when I was very young and have lived in Massachusetts ever since. I do travel frequently to my country to visit family and to vacation. I love my country and my culture, so sometimes I wonder why I’m still putting up with the New England winters!
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up? What are some early beauty influences?
When I was in the Dominican Republic — I remember a lot of wide tooth combs, hair beads, hair grease, clips and lots of crying. I cannot remember any major beauty influencers besides my mother. I remember combing my fingers through her hair when she had just got it done. I remember feeling frustrated because she always cut her hair short. I wanted to see her with long hair but it was just not her thing.
What does self-care look like in your life?
My type of self-care is not too different from anyone else. I love cleaning myself up — doing my nails and hair, putting on some loungewear, preparing my drink of choice and relaxing at home. I am also a spiritual person so the most important thing to me is my connection with God. If my communication is messed up with God, then I am likely to be an emotional hot mess. So, keeping a balance in this area is part of my overall self-care.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
I think the beauty industry has gotten to a point where there is little we can do wrong. I feel like everything is practically acceptable. Everyone has an open mind. I supposed this has in some ways opened doors to endless creativity for me.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your own business?
Starting a new business has countless challenges. As a solo entrepreneur, the weight of everything falls on me and every decision is a wait to carry. I have faced economic challenges, lack of resources, and lack of mentorship. I come from a sociology and psychology background so coming into the beauty industry was a huge shock to me. The learning curve has been unprecedented. But as a woman of faith, hard work, and determination, I have pushed through many of these challenges and continue to strive to edify the standard of inclusion in clean beauty.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
The biggest win thus far has been to be part of the Credo for Change initiative. This has been a wonderful experience full of extremely caring and helpful industry people and founders. This has opened many doors of opportunity for Gloryscent.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?Gloryscent was founded with a message of inclusion and diversity, so I welcome this question so warmly. For too long the products marketed towards women of color have been filled with man-made chemical ingredients. Ingredients that in many cases have been reported to be potentially harmful. And even now that natural and organic skincare has gotten good traction, it seems as though clean ingredients are rarely being talked about by women of color. This begs the question of why? Why are WOC not being seen in this area? This is one of the reasons why education is a key value for my brand; because education is what’s going to bring freedom from this dilemma we are facing. To say the least, I would love to see more women of color speaking about health and clean ingredients. I would love to see a day where clean skincare or makeup do not have an ideal skin tone. Inclusion and diversity is about EVERYONE — every race or ethnicity. No one is left out when it comes to uplifting an inclusive message.