Besame Cosmetics founder Gabriela Hernandez
Besame Cosmetics founder Gabriela Hernandez

profile / alumni / photography-and-imaging
November 19, 2019

A New Coat: Meet Besame Cosmetics Founder Gabriela Hernandez

ArtCenter: What’s the most unique thing you’ve created?
Gabriela Hernandez (BFA 99 Photography) President, Besame Cosmetics:
All of our products are historically based. We research makeup and formulas manufactured from different eras and bring them back for people to enjoy now.

Collaborating with Disney on the Sleeping Beauty Collection was a lot of fun. We worked with their Archives to create makeup shades that matched the original ink colors used to paint the film cells. I learned a lot of really interesting information about how these women worked to color the cells, and how they came up with the colors.

AC: What are you working on right now?
GH: As we go into the 2020s, I’m finishing a collection that celebrates the 1920s — as a kind of throwback type that brings back the products and colors of that era. I also like to do things tied to powerful women — I recently did a collection for Marvel inspired by Agent Carter. I’m doing a Lucille Ball collection that will launch next year, so I’m working with CBS and Lucille’s daughter and granddaughter.

Portrait of Besame Cosmetics founder Gabriela Hernandez

Collaborating with Disney on the Sleeping Beauty Collection was a lot of fun. We worked with their Archives to create makeup shades that matched the original ink colors used to paint the film cells.

Gabriela Hernandez
Besame Cosmetics Sleeping Beauty Collection
Besame Cosmetics Sleeping Beauty Collection

AC: How did you get into cosmetics?
GH: I was a photographer working on advertising campaigns and product photography. When Photoshop came along, this kind of work dwindled quite a bit, so I went into art direction and design. I owned a freelance practice where I got involved in developing cosmetics.

As a side project, I decided to make one item from a collection I designed: a little, tiny lipstick, Besame Red. There weren’t minis on the market at the time, and I was reproducing a vintage lipstick from an era when women carried small purses. I put it on a small website, and mostly by word of mouth, people started to buy it. One product became two and so on.

AC: How do you define success?
GH: Being content with what you’re doing every day.

AC: Do you have any superstitions?
GH: The usual ones: black cats, ladders, breaking a mirror. I cringe if any of the mirrors in our compacts are broken.

AC: What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
GH: Being without a ruler is mind-boggling to me because everything I do involves measurements. I have rulers everywhere, several of them, in cubbies, by my computer, measuring tape in my purse…

AC: What’s the first site you look at when you open your computer in the morning?
GH: I listen to NPR; I like news, updates, intelligent content in the morning. I usually check my email or WhatsApp — I manufacture things all over the world, and that’s how we communicate.

AC: Where do you go (online or offline) when you’re taking a break?
GH: I like watching old movies. I wrote a book on the history of makeup and I advise films and TV shows on how to create the looks and lighting for different time periods, so I’m always watching old movies.

AC: What do you do to detox from media and screens?
GH: I like to take long walks to clear my head and let my mind wander. I get so much input from all over, every single day; to detox, I need to stop the input, or at least, put a pause on it.

Besame Cosmetics red lipstick
Besame Cosmetics red lipstick

AC: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day who would it be?
GH: I’m curious about so many different things, so someone who works in an industry very different from mine, like the head of a TV studio, media company or a factory. Or another type of professional like a psychiatrist — it would be interesting to see how they approach their day.

AC: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
GH: Being invisible. Since I’m curious, I’d like to be in places where I’m not supposed to be.

AC: What book is on your bedside table?
GH: The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, a memoir by Frederica Sagor Maas. She was a screenwriter for most of the major studios in the 1920s. It’s a very enlightening read about a woman working in the entertainment industry during that time, and how things have changed, or stayed the same, for women in entertainment. If you’re interested in historic Hollywood, I highly recommend it.

AC: Describe a moment in your childhood when you first identified as a designer.
GH: I think I was born wanting to find some kind of self-expression by drawing, sculpting or painting. Growing up in Buenos Aires, art wasn’t something you pursued as a career — it was considered more of a hobby. My family encouraged me to go into law or something that was more economically feasible, and I did study law in Argentina. When I moved back to the U.S. as an adult, I decided to pursue the arts.

AC: What’s your most irrational or rational fear?
GH: At ArtCenter, you’re trained to reach for perfection. It took me years to learn this can be detrimental; you can’t run a profitable business if you’re never satisfied enough to release a product. It can paralyze a company to reach for a level of perfection that’s always fleeting. We almost went out of business because we were seeking this perfection. You learn to be OK with a level of performance, always improve but always move forward.

AC: What’s your most prized possession?
GH: My mind. I moved so much when I was young, and each time I’d lose some of my things. I guess I’m not very attached to physical items, not that I don’t value them. What you have in your head, no one can take that from you. All you learn and everything you experiences are treasures; if you collect those they’re worth more than anything.

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AC: Where is your happy place?
GH: Getting lost in my work. When I’m feeling creative and making something, it’s very satisfying for me. I don’t need to eat or drink anything; I’m in a different place.

AC: How would your closest friend describe you?
GH: I think determined, persistent and probably serious and introspective. I’m not too much of a party person; I never was. I’ve always wanted to have my mind on something productive.

AC: What’s your best piece of advice for an ArtCenter student who’s interested in following your career path?
GH: Study what interests you but keep your options open. Look to see how you can use your talents in different ways. The way we design is always changing; as an artist or a creative, you have so much latitude to go into so many different fields. Everything you learn is useful one way or another — use your creativity to adapt and solve problems.