I’m heading to meet esthetician, Silvia Ortega Jimenez, and her mother, Alicia Ortega Fry, to discuss their Mexican heritage and how it has influenced their views and experiences with beauty and skincare. Hispanics make up a large collective voice in this country, almost 17% of the total US population, as reported by The Pew Research Organization in 2015. And it’s a voice I want to tap into – on beauty, skincare, politics and life.
Tell me about growing up in Mexico and immigrating to the US
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “We grew up in a small town on the west coast, near Guadalajara. The town didn’t have cement. We had rocks for roads and we had to go to the well for water everyday. We had cattle and would milk the cows ourselves to boil the milk for butter and cheese. My uncle harvested beans and we grew corn, tomatoes and onions. There were times we didn’t have meat, but we always had vegetables and dairy.
“Neither of my parents went to school. My father went to work with cattle and my mother on a farm. That’s how my parents met; working on the same farm. My dad was 18 and my mom was 16 when they got married. It was common that women would just get married right away at a young age. When I was ten, my dad decided to move the family to the US. My parents ended up finding a house in Oxnard that my brothers helped pay for. All my brothers were working on the strawberry fields with my dad. My mom stayed home and cooked and took care of the kids. Us girls, we made flour tortillas by hand every day and the young kids would go to school.”
“I’m democratic, but if there was a woman running for a republican side, I would vote for her. I want to see a woman president. I feel it’s time.”
How did you take care of your skin growing up?
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “We were poor, but we always had food and we always had a home. I can say that from middle school all the way through high school I only had one pair of tennis shoes. When you don’t have money, you don’t spend money on beauty things. I didn’t have the things my friends were having like curling irons, nails or hair spray. I never had a toothbrush until I came to the United States when I was eleven years old. We would use a natural remedy – burnt tortilla. We would burn tortillas until it was charcoal, then get the ashes and use it to scrape our teeth. For our faces, we would take twine and spread the fibers to create a sponge and we would scrub our faces with it.
“When I got older, I never wore foundation. No lipstick. I never put makeup on. I was always natural. We didn’t have any money for those kinds of things. When I started working as a teenager and having money, the first thing I bought was Maybelline mascara. It was my one beauty thing I had and cherished. For maybe 20 years, I only wore mascara and Neutrogena SPF 30 sunscreen on my face. No moisturizer. But Silvia has been teaching me how to take care of my skin better. Silvia has made the difference in me.”
Silvia: “When I was younger I started breaking out a lot. I would pick my pimples and just use drug store products. This past year, I’ve learned so much about skincare, since I got my estheticians license. Since then I’ve been taking better care of my skin. I do monthly facials and do monthly facials on my mom too. I think it’s really important to do that.”
How do you take care of your skin now?
Silvia: “Since I have oily skin, I get shiny through the day, but I noticed when I use the Eminence Naseberry Cream I’m less shiny throughout the day. I always use an eye cream. The H2V Eye Tox is amazing. I use that morning and night. I also love this Eminence Sugar Plum Revitalizing Masque. It’s good for acne since it brings the blood up near the surface of the skin and blood contains oxygen. It oxygenates your skin. Helps it heal, makes it firm and plump.”
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “In the morning, sometimes I feel stressed, so I take a deep breath, and I apply DoTerra Serenity Calming Oil behind my ears to calm down. Probably, the best thing I have done for my face is to remove my eye makeup before bed. I should have done this many years ago. I didn’t think it mattered, but Silvia has made the difference in teaching me. Now, sometimes I forget and I can’t go to bed. I have to get up and wash it out. For my hands, I’m gonna be fifty-three, but I don’t have any sunspots. I always been applying sunscreen on the tops of my hands since I was young. For my skin, I use Lancome.”
On why natural beauty is important
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “I want my grandchildren to know what it took for me to have gray hair. Or wrinkles. I don’t want to change anything. I want to keep everything natural so I can tell them why I have it. It’s important to teach grandchildren to be natural and be who they are.”
What do you think abut the up coming presidential election?
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “I don’t see Trump as a threat. He’s a minority of a minority within the white population. He does not represent the values of our American culture and country. But when it comes to the presidency, I want to have a woman president. I thought machismo was only in Latino cultures, but America have really put women down. Women couldn’t vote here for a long time and they don’t get equal pay. I’m democratic, but if there was a woman running for a republican side, I would vote for her. I want to see a woman president. I feel it’s time.”
On illegal immigrants in the United States
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “A lot of people who come here don’t have status. And it encourages more crimes to be committed. There are people who don’t want to have immigration status, too. They don’t have to pay taxes, but their kids go to schools that we pay for. I mean, they live here, so why not give them American citizenship and tax them. It’s a difficult issue, but they need to do something.”
“There’s no magical wand to make you perfect. But sometimes that thing that is different about you is going to be the best thing in you.”
What’s one powerful experience that led you to where you are today?
Silvia: “I went through a depression. But seeing my mom and her bravery to pull through really helped me. My dad is an alcoholic and I watched my mom find bravery to get out of that relationship and finally get remarried to a good guy. Witnessing that gave me the strength to go after my dreams.”
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “I was married when I was twenty-one for eighteen years. I met my ex-husband when I was eighteen. I thought life would have been nice because he had a career; he was an engineer. I had Silvia and then a few years later I got pregnant again. He was very jealous and he had a drinking problem. It was so bad. I wanted to break the relationship, but I couldn’t. He beat me up and I forgave him. I had my son and then finally, I got the courage and said that’s it. I met my husband now and got a divorce. I thought I was never going to end that relationship. I was so unhappy and so scared. But I’m very lucky.”
Silvia: “I remember moving out of that stressful environment, into a new home with my stepdad. I love my stepdad. He’s great. My mom was brave to leave and she chose to be happy. That experience and seeing her move out. It impacted me and my self confidence. But I always knew I had her support. I kind of always knew I could find happiness too, because my mom did.”
Advice for young women out there?
Mrs. Ortega Fry: “I always feel that my daughters are beautiful, but if they don’t believe it, there’s nothing I can do. It’s important to develop confidence and be proud of what you have and don’t change anything. There’s no magical wand to make you perfect. But sometimes that thing that is different about you is going to be the best thing in you.”
-by Amy Chang
Photographed by author