Building a business is no mean feat, let alone doing it from the other side of the continent. But this Filipina put in the work, including standing up against society’s beauty standards.
“The moment I entered the security part in the airport, waved my last goodbye, [and] turned away, I broke down. I was like ‘f*ck, this is happening.’” These were the exact words of Johanna Vizmanos, a first-generation immigrant that moved to San Francisco from the Philippines four years ago to pursue her dreams. Growth is always uncomfortable, but isn’t that part of life? Coming from a marketing background, working with travel agencies and local clubs in the past, Johanna knew that settling was never an option, lured by THE dream, she went in for the chase—except she was jobless for a year when she landed in the Bay Area.
That’s when she started dabbling on content creation, as it became a form of therapy after she felt depressed. Little by little, armed with nothing but her creativity and the support of her husband, Johanna jumped on different opportunities like social media management and strategy. But even if she was flourishing by herself, she was intentional in bringing her roots with her. Wanting to do more, she co-founded KOLORETE (tagalog for makeup) Cosmetics last year along with partner Angela Weinberg who’s the HBIC in product development.
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The result is a stunning lipstick line that promises “tinted skincare but for your lips.” Not only does it feel like luxury in a tube that’s worth $32, especially with its bougie packaging, the lipstick balm is made with organic ingredients—an important element in F-Beauty (Filipino Beauty). Feeling the lack of representation and diversity in society’s beauty standards, Johanna helped in helming a brand that filled that gap from where she stood. Aside from fulfilling her childhood dream of creating her own brand, taking pride in being kayumanggi and sharing it to the world was her utmost goal. As a quote by poet Darius Simpson once read, “perhaps we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” And so dream she did.
Read more about Johanna Vizmanos’ journey from immigrant to entrepreneur as we caught up with her:
How does it feel like being able to create something authentically Filipino in a place that isn’t your homeland? What are the difficulties you encountered in production, dealing with people?
Following certain beauty standards growing up, it feels liberating to be able to finally accept, love, and be proud of being Filipino. By creating something authentically Filipino, by going against the tide and by building something that’s never been done and recognized before, I feel proud of my vision turning into fruition by being the first lipstick brand in the US co-founded by a Filipina. Filipinos haven’t really been in the beauty scene that much, so seeing more and more Filipinos in the industry is exhilarating! It’s time to bring more representation across the country and to show the entire world our beauty and our culture, and what we are capable of. It is challenging to prove your concept to the over-saturated industry, especially if you’re starting small. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with such a supportive community and people. The amount of support we’ve been receiving from the Filipinos and even non-Filipinos here in the US is beyond amazing. I am really grateful that we’re slowly getting into the spotlight.
If K-Beauty is all about skincare, what is F-beauty or Filipino beauty to you?
Filipino beauty is a representation of diversity. We’ve had a lot of foreign influences, but we have our own distinct culture, and we have a wide range of skin tones (fair, kayumanggi, morena, dark). By doing KOLORETE on a global scale, we’re not only representing Filipinos. Instead, we want KOLORETE to be a celebration of human diversity, by being unique and beautiful just the way we are whatever ethnicity, skin tone or sexual orientation.
What does representing all the Filipinas everywhere mean to you as a beauty brand co-Founder and Owner? Did you ever struggle with your identity at some point?
To be your own kind of beautiful as a woman of color. I’ll admit—I’ve had certain influences growing up. “Being beautiful should look like this or that.” But the most important thing is that I’ve always known who I am, I love the way I look and I’ll always be proud of that. There’s no certain standard to be considered beautiful. By representing all the Filipinos everywhere and by being a woman of color, I aspire all Filipinos to be more accepting of ourselves, to love every version of being Filipino and to express ourselves by wearing KOLORETE. I want you to feel great and to have the confidence to shine.
What message would you give to your five year old self?
If I were to give my five year old self a message, first I’ll hug her very tight then I’ll whisper to her ears gently and say, “I’m so proud of you for being such a ball of sunshine while rolling with the punches. You’ve proven yourself to be brave, confident and resilient for surviving all of that. I never ever doubted you. I’ve always known you’re born to be a star. So, give yourself some credit because you deserve it! Every little thing that you’ve learned during your younger years has definitely molded you and prepared you for a future you’ve dreamed of.”