What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
I would have to say being able to effectively multitask being a wife, mother, and church volunteer -all while establishing and running my business.
Why did you start Maharlika Cosmetics?
The beauty community and industry does not have adequate Asian representation – you can either choose between 12-step Korean skin care or Japanese/Korean blotted lip and BB creme that comes in 4 shades, all of which cater only to a Northeast Asian demographic. Even Filipinx makeup brands BLK and Bench Beauty ape Korean colors and styles, which is incredibly disheartening. Because of this, the beauty industry and the world at large think Asians are restricted to only a few lighter-skinned nationalities–Japanese, Chinese and Korean. It was high time this changed and the darker skin of Southeast Asia get its time in the limelight. Asian colorism has declared since time immemorial that dark skin is gross, ugly and not good enough; I myself grew up with that everyday. I decided in 2019 that it would be the last year I took it and did nothing.
What is the inspiration behind the name?
Colorism is a huge reason why I began the company. While each Asian country has its own roots of why they have colorism, the Filipino version of it predominantly finds its flavor from the Spanish invasion. Spaniards instilled in Filipinos that people with lighter skin were racially superior and that ingrained itself in the Filipino psyche. “Maharlika” means “noble warrior” and it was what the islands were called before Spain decided it needed to be renamed after Phillip II.
What do you do when you’re not working on Maharlika?
I am a stay-at-home mommy to a 16-month old baby girl and that absolutely takes the bulk of both my days and nights and, while it is totally exhausting, I do love being a mother. While obviously it is part of being a full-time mommy, I have so much fun cooking and take great pride in making Asian meals from scratch. On Wednesdays, I volunteer to teach catechism for 3rd grade students at our local parish.
What is something you find challenging as an entrepreneur?
The overall multitask of every moving piece in my life [“mom”-ing, makeup creation, volunteering, homemaking] is my proudest achievement but also my biggest struggle. Having to mail out orders while you have a wriggling baby is no mean feat; Making dinner while thinking of a caption for your next post is not as easy as it sounds; And trying to come up with a better lip color formulation and keeping the house tidy can be tiring. The fact that I have to run the whole enterprise of the business solo–research, sourcing, experimenting, production, packaging, marketing etc–while meeting the demands of a growing toddler is huge.
What is the best part of what you do?
I love the message Maharlika strives to put out to the world – that beauty is for everyone. While colorism, again, is the main campaign, I take our slogan to also mean that tired stay-at-home moms, exhausted working moms, worn-out students, fatigued career women, legit EVERYONE is entitled to feel beautiful, no matter how rough the week has been. Maharlika fits that bill.
What is the worst part of what you do?
Wasting materials and ingredients trying to perfect a formula! You will never be able to get the formula right on the first go and it breaks my heart when I have to throw away puddles of stuff that went awry.
What is a book that you think everyone should read?
“The Art of Hygge” by Meik Wiking has to be one of my favorite reads. It talks about the Scandinavian lifestyle of “cozy” and every single page totally convinces you that it’s something worth adapting into your life – spending more time with family, wearing clothes that make you feel at ease, and decluttering your surroundings. I highly recommend it: it will get you to relax while inspiring you to make an internal change.
What is your go-to coffee order?
I’m your frugal Asian tiger mom–I make my coffee at home to save. I take one part coffee, 2 parts milk, half part of caramel creamer; I heat it up for at least 1:30min in the microwave [realize I have a baby, so coffee will inevitably get cold] and then use an Ikea milk frother to give it that Starbucks touch. 5 stars, would highly recommend.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem facing Asian women today?
Debunking Asian exoticism/fetishism. My national dress is not your bawdy Halloween costume or your Coachella fashion. No, it’s not ok to put chopsticks in your hair, and no, not all Asians do martial arts. We are not meek, quiet, subdued women that are bound only to the kitchen–we have academic degrees, dreams, hopes, achievements and goals too. As such we deserve better representation on the world stage – including in the beauty industry 🙂
Sabrina Davis is the founder of Maharlika Makeup, alongside being a mother, wife, and church volunteer.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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