By Lydia Wilson
Self care may be a top top priority for most of us through the pandemic, but it’s been a way of life for Babba Rivera since childhood. Babba, the founder of Ceremonia hair care, learned at an early age that beauty rituals were a way of life. While her mother instilled the need to prioritize self care, her father, a trained hairdresser, would spend hours nurturing and caring for Rivera’s hair giving her a strong sense of appreciation for hair and beauty.
Growing up in Sweden as a Latin American Immigrant, Rivera didn’t see herself represented in the beauty world. The same held true once she moved to the US, inspiring Rivera to begin her own journey with Ceremonia.
Ceremonia is a clean hair care brand that boasts sustainable products that nourish hair from root to tip. Incorporating the beauty rituals she grew up seeing, each product in the Ceremonia line is designed for overall healthier hair. Using natural ingredients from the heart of Latin America, each product in the brand is nutrient rich with raw ingredients for the ultimate clean hair experience.
A few products of note from Ceremonia include the award winning Aceite de Moska Heritage scalp oil and the Guava Leave In Conditioner. The Aceite de Moska Heritage Scalp Oil is a 2021 award winning product that helps promote healthy hair growth. The oil works to combat frizz, and provides shine and nourishment down to the hair follicles. Additionally, the award winning Guava Leave-In Conditioner is a deeply hydrating conditioner containing the super fruit guava which protects hair from harmful UV rays and free radicals. Here, Rivera talks about starting her brand and the inspiration she finds in other women of color.
Get to Know – Babba Rivera
What was the impetus to start your brand?
Growing up as a Latin American immigrant in a homogenous country like Sweden, I never found myself represented in mainstream media or in the products I consumed, especially in beauty. Upon arriving in the U.S., I reconnected with my Latinx heritage thanks to the huge presence of Latin-Americans here. For the first time, I saw myself in others and realized how many people have also grown up in-between cultures.
Still, despite the fact that Latinx individuals account for almost 20% of the U.S. population, I continued to witness an enormous void of their representation in almost every aspect of my life here in the States—among my colleagues, in the media, in the brands I consume, and not to mention, in beauty. I began to feel a strong sense of responsibility to propel change. Ceremonia was born out of the desire to celebrate the richness of Latin culture, while highlighting the next-generation of Latinx individuals. Inspired by the rituals I grew up with, alongside a strong understanding for the modern consumer, Ceremonia provides a new-age perspective to hair care for all. Through this journey, I also hope to potentially inspire and pave the way for more Latinx founders and businesses and to continue to provide a platform for the Latinx talent and voices that deserve their spotlight.
Do you have a beauty philosophy?
Yes, my philosophy when it comes to beauty is nourishment above hiding. I practice beauty rituals as a form of self-care—moments for myself to unwind and show gratitude and care to my own body. I’m personally more interested in spending time and money on products that will help nourish my skin, hair, and body, as opposed to just masking them for the day. I invest in clean, effective skincare and hair care products with the goal of unlocking radiant skin and hair that I don't want to cover up with makeup and heavy styling. I believe that by focusing on clean and nourishing formulas, we’re able to unlock our naturally-glowing skin, and of course, best hair days.
Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?
This is a somewhat complicated question. I grew up in Sweden, but both of my parents are from Chile, and we eventually moved back there when I was a toddler. After 2 years back in Chile,
My mother realized the country was no longer what it once was before the Pinochet dictatorship, and decided to move back to Sweden with my brother and I to give us a better future. Today, I live in New York City and love it. I love this city so much! Living here has helped me reconnect with my Latin roots, while still staying true to my Swedish heritage as well. Long story short, I guess I’m a Swedish Latina living in NYC!
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up? What are some early beauty influences?
My father was a hairdresser back in Chile, but was sadly never able to get a job in his field in Sweden due to the language barrier. As such, he instead spent all of his creativity and passion for hair on me. I have very fond memories of him braiding my hair for 8 hours. My mom was also a big influence for me. She had (and still has!) the softest skin you’ll ever touch, a natural glow and shiny hair. She doesn't wear any makeup and doesn't know how to style hair. Instead, she focuses on nourishing products and uses beauty rituals as a form of self-love. She taught me from an early age that beauty rituals are a way of caring for ourselves and showing appreciation to our own bodies. It’s not about achieving a certain look, but more so it’s a form of self-care. Watching her take the time for herself instilled an inherent sense of permission to do so myself, too.
What does self-care look like in your life?
I try to always make time for myself daily and not feel guilty about it. My favorite ritual is using the Ceremonia Aceite de Moska, because it’s such a simple beauty ritual, yet so powerful. Not only is it incredible for my scalp and hair health, but it also makes me slow down from a busy day. It also inspires me to put on a face mask or to exfoliate my skin with a gentle scrub while the oil does its magic. I also like pairing it with the Scalp Massager–through small circular motions on my scalp this little miracle tool helps to stimulate blood flow and enhances the results of the oil. Another important pillar for me is movement. Whether it’s a 1h tennis class, or a quick 30 minutes on the peloton bike, I try to carve out the time for body movement at least 3 times a week.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
I feel very hopeful about where the beauty industry is going. There is increased focus and demand from consumers for cleaner and healthier formulas. There is also increased awareness around diversity and inclusion. It’s been such a long ride getting to where I am in my career, and it fills my heart to see the world opening up to new perspectives. I’m grateful for the women of color who’ve come before me and alongside me paving the way for so many of us and the next generation, and I’m committed to paying it forward myself as well.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
The greatest challenge was trying to fundraise right when the world went into lockdown. It was a very nerve racking time for me, I had recently decided to close down my agency business to fully focus on Ceremonia and had also just found out I was pregnant. Two weeks after kicking off our fundraising, the world went into lockdown and every investor seemed to be backing out. In addition to the uncertain times, I had to over and over again justify why representation matters to customers, and at times also sit through meetings with white males asking me if I had children and then advising me to not have kids until at least 5 years later if I was to truly do this business. In retrospect, I can’t understand where I found the strength to keep pushing but I did.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
The biggest win has definitely been the incredible love we’ve received from customers since launching. Stories from our community are truly what fuels our engine—customer testimonials, product reviews, and not to mention all the comments we receive from our community of Latinx consumers who are finally feeling seen and celebrated through our brand.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
I would like to see more venture capital going to brands that are founded by women of color. The statistics here are so incredibly disappointing, and while awareness and consumer demand is growing for this change, it is a major work in progress when it comes to capital.