Why Stephanie Flor Is Rebranding Around The World Beauty To Focus On The Latina Community
Stephanie Flor’s 14-year career as a makeup artist, travel influencer and entrepreneur providing global beauty tours through her company Around The World Beauty came to a screeching halt in March of last year when COVID-19 struck the United States. “I was working at CNN as a makeup artist and that was gone. Every client that I had ever worked with was gone because I can’t touch people’s faces. Around The World and that income was gone because travel was nonexistent,” she says. “Everything I had built was gone overnight.”
Like a lot of people, Flor made some productive pivots. She launched a line of skincare products and beauty boxes rooted in discoveries made during international trips, and booked partnerships with The Body Shop and Pantene to keep herself afloat. She also moved back home with her family. “There are like eight, nine people at my house, and we’re all crazy Hispanic people. All the stereotypes that you could ever think of Latins in America, I’m living that,” she says, adding, “and I love it.”
Forced to stay grounded for the first time in a long time, Flor reflected on Around The World Beauty’s history and where she wants to take it going forward. Here, she tells us about the business’s next steps as well as the difficulties Latinx entrepreneurs face.
Around The World Beauty started off as my college passion project. It was an idea where I would create these beauty boxes that were inspired by different cultures and include things like products and accessories. As a Hispanic girl, I was obsessed with culture, and I’ve always been so curious about different parts of the world. There’s something beautiful about learning about each other’s worlds and why all of us have our specific cuisines and different ways of celebrating things. The more I learned about other people and their stories, the more I learned about myself.
While I was in college I started working with Mariah Carey as a makeup artist, so I ended up putting the beauty box project on pause. I wanted to be a famous celebrity makeup artist before anything. That was my goal in life. At the time, I was jet-setting on private planes and getting paid really good money, but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I wasn’t representing the reality of what beauty is. This was at the beginning of when travel blogging was starting out, and I said, “I’m just going to empty out my bank account—all the money I made with Mariah Carey—pack my bags, travel the world and specialize in global beauty.”
One thing that was happening, too, was the Hispanic market was becoming a thing in the U.S. My agent contacted me about working with cosmetic companies that wanted me to be a Latina ambassador. I was working with different brands as not only the face of the brand and consulting, but they wanted me to also give my expert advice on ingredients and traditions of the Hispanic market. Yes, I’m Hispanic, but I was raised in the States and born here. There was a connection that was missing. Just because you’re of a certain race doesn’t mean that you really understand your culture because it’s not like I was traveling there since a little girl.
I spent two months backpacking South America and Central America, really deep-diving into the culture of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and, then, also India and Morocco, trying to understand what the essence of beauty was. There was a moment when I was in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador, and I remember looking at the stars and being like, “If I could just show people how beautiful our countries are, maybe there wouldn’t be that much judgment.” The biggest lesson that I learned as I traveled the world was that a lot of the history I’d been taught wasn’t true. It wasn’t until I went to these countries and met people that I really understood the beauty and the magic of who they were. Everything I had learned up until that moment was completely erased and I said I want to build a company where I can bring people to experience the truth.
I built Around The World Beauty in 2012 focused on five destinations. We went to Kyoto, Japan, which is where the Geisha stories are born. We went to India, where the sacred heart of Mama Ganga is and where the Hinduism religion stems from. We went to Morocco because it’s where Muslim culture is at the forefront, and we could explore Muslim culture. We went to Tanzania in East Africa because it still has a very strong Maasai culture, which gives us an insight into the nomadic tribes. Then, we would go to Peru because that’s where the Incas resided. I was also documenting my adventures via a web series on Latina magazine where I was able to show my travels through South America.
We started hosting women in 2016 and did our first trip to Ecuador. Since then, we’ve brought hundreds of women to the destinations that we go to and have done events there as well. In 2018, I received a scholarship from Shea Moisture to go to Dartmouth, which really elevated my way of thinking. They said, “What you’re doing is amazing, you’re impacting the world and women to see beauty differently, but how can you make a larger impact without being there and actually help the women there locally?” That gave me the idea to start a tour that can live there without me being there. We launched our first on-the-ground walking beauty tour with local women in Marrakesh in 2019. Anyone that was going to Marrakesh could book the walking tour with our guides and learn about beauty through their lens.
In 2020, when COVID hit and travel wasn’t a thing anymore, I tried everything that came to mind. I started this online e-commerce site where we sold jewelry. We launched the product line inspired by different cultures, and we did beauty boxes that were inspired by each of the destinations that we were going to in an effort to keep our business alive. We also did online chats with experts from around the world that were a part of our original tours. We hosted cooking classes, beauty classes, virtual walking tours, anything. I hosted weekly Sunday self-care meditations where we would learn about beauty rituals and do them together. We were really building community as much as we could.
My relationship to travel definitely shifted. As a traveler, we have a joke that we don’t live on the same wavelength as humans. We don’t live in this reality of dimension. I think, as entrepreneurs, it’s the same. We operate on our own set of rules and ideas, and I think that that’s been a really beautiful way of living up until now. COVID has shown me that it no longer works in that way. I can’t see myself taking advantage of my privilege and taking up space in places where people might not have the same opportunity. It’s not about me and my enjoyment anymore because I have seen the world already. So, I’m moving forward with my business and my life in that space.
With the Black Lives Matter movement, all of these amazing women from different cultures were standing up for themselves. The Black girls were coming together, the Asian girls were coming together, the Hispanic girls were coming together. I was blown away by what I was experiencing. I’ve always been an advocate for culture because I know what it did for me and, here, all these women were embracing their cultures and saying, “This is who I am” And I just felt like Around The World Beauty had done its work. I felt like I no longer had to hold space for these women, they were holding space on their own. I was so inspired during COVID to see all these women just embrace their own cultures that I said, “Maybe I’ve been running away from my own a little bit and maybe it’s time for me to lean in.”
I worked with [Ready to Beauty CEO and partner] Corey Huggins on the Ready To Beauty Latinx study. One of the biggest struggles that I noticed within our community was that there is a responsibility for us to take care of our family. It’s never just about us. Especially with the Latinx community who are first-generation immigrants, it was a huge commonality that we had. You don’t just move back home without paying the rent. You have to show up for your family. In the survey that was very clear that most people that were starting their beauty lines were first-generation with parents who were migrants that are still working those housekeeping jobs, heavy labor jobs in the farms, etc. During COVID, they were still working, and they were also getting sick.
“Maybe all of this has happened to allow me to look at how far I’ve come and to see what other work can be done.”
Latinx entrepreneurs don’t have the right resources, which doesn’t necessarily just mean money. You can have the money and still not know how to invest that money correctly. Everything I’ve done has been self-funded. I don’t come from money and have used whatever I’ve made from my work as a makeup artist. I didn’t make money with my tours until 2019, to be honest. I was breaking even just to prove the concept. I’ve always thought that, as long as I stay aligned with my purpose and mission, which is to unite conversations of culture, the money will come. It has, but, as I evolve, I also know that that’s not realistic either.
It’s difficult for Latinx entrepreneurs who are launching anything to raise capital because we don’t have friends and family to borrow money from. When I launched my product line, I had to ask my loved ones, “Hey, can you guys just buy a box to show that you support me and that I’m not doing this for nothing?” They did, but it’s hard to even ask that question. I also surveyed friends who work in the beauty industry, and none of us felt like any of our family members who own businesses before us were successful. They made money, but they were still in the trenches.
It was like they were coming from a place of scarcity and not abundance. They started something with a dream, but it was killing them at the same time. When you have that as an example of what success is, you run away from it or you have a fear of ending up that way. I grew up with a lot of white friends and their aunts and uncles are prosperous. They weren’t first-generation successes, they were third and sixth generation. My mom cleaned houses and did so much crazy stuff to get to where she is, and I feel like it’s up to me to take it to the next level. We have a long way to go, and it’s harder for us, but we’re going to get there.
Recently, I’ve been taking a step back from everything and focusing on rebranding. Specifically, I’ve been working on the product line that we launched during COVID. We weren’t selling that much, but what we were selling was the Latina products. The Latina box was doing really well. It didn’t surprise me because a lot of the girls that follow me on my journey are Latinas. I used to work with a lot of Latina publications. Sometimes in life you have to look at what’s working and what’s not working. And maybe all of this has happened to allow me to look at how far I’ve come and to see what other work can be done. I’m excited because I feel like that’s what’s going to be next for Around The World Beauty. Maybe we won’t be around the world anymore, but will be primarily in Latin America. I feel like that’s where my voice is needed the most.
This interview has been edited and condensed slightly for clarity.