We can all agree beauty comes from within. However, that inner beauty is much more fun to flaunt when you also feel good about how you present yourself on the outside. 

Cuban beauty influencer, entrepreneur, and all-around badass Jefa Kathleen Fuentes (aka Kathleen Lights) believes beauty is about reclaiming your power. In fact, she thinks it is about proudly showing off your fierce femininity with unapologetic confidence. 

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At its core, that’s what Lights Lacquer is all about. This Miami-based, cruelty-free nail polish brand is about creating your color story and embracing your unique beauty. And the Latina behind the brand knows a thing or two about owning her beauty. 

Fuentes is a Cuban American born to immigrant parents. She has built a loyal social media following with a combined reach of over 7.5 million across channels. 

From YouTube fame to founding her own brand

Kathleen Fuentes was propelled to fame in 2013 when she launched her YouTube channel. Today she has over 4.1 million subscribers. A proud Latina and Miami native, Fuentes truly taps into her pride for her Cuban culture and Latina roots as she grows her business, shares her beauty expertise and spreads inspiration with her millions of followers. 

Then, in 2019, Fuentes launched Lights Lacquer, an ethical and performance-focused product. Lights Lacquer embodies its pillars of Artistry, Nostalgia, Heritage, and Unique Color Curation. 

“I spend my days brainstorming nail collections, discovering beauty brands, and testing and trying new products while sharing them with my audience,” Fuentes told FIERCE. “I’m a proud Cubana, and I love sprinkling my culture into everything I do.”

Through Lights Lacquer, Fuentes and her team of female creative beauty experts offer clients vegan, and cruelty-free products. They include polish, press-on nails, jelly lip balms, and nail care treatments

In other words, they’re products you can feel good about because they are good for you and the planet.

The brand also offers a fun and unique variety of apparel, accessories, home and lifestyle items. They also draw inspiration from Fuentes’s Cuban culture and eclectic Miami roots.

Think of Lights Lacquer as a curated collection of color products. Fuentes carefully chose and designed each one of them using her expertise in color theory and beauty. Each Lights Lacquer shade is meant to be as unique as the person wearing it. 

Fuentes launched her brand because she fell in love with reviewing makeup and beauty products. Furthermore, she knew she could create something unique and better than the traditional options in the nail care industry. 

“I’ve always loved nail polish. And when I was younger, I would talk about how my dream job would be to name nail polishes,” she told FIERCE. “One day, I was sitting in my kitchen doing my nails and complaining to my mom about the nail polishes I used. With every other brand, there was always something I didn’t like. [My mom] said, ‘Why don’t you create your own nail polish?’ So, I did.” 

And the rest is history. 

Fuentes then tapped into her online platform, followers, and personal experiences to review beauty brands. She was able to dive into the product development process and create something she knew would deliver quality and glamour.

Navigating the obstacles as a young Latina entrepreneur

Although she was already well-established as a beauty guru, Fuentes experienced her share of obstacles throughout her entrepreneurial journey, especially as a young Latina entrepreneur. 

“When I started, I was much younger. And I think sometimes people assume because you are young, you don’t know what you’re doing or that you aren’t thinking of the long-term success of a business,” she explained. 

In addition to others doubting her skills or business prowess, she also experienced the logistical challenges of launching a product development business. 

But she never wavered from her vision or her mission 

“There are obstacles from the product development process to supply chain issues,” Fuentes explained. “At the end of it all, my goal is to ensure my customers receive a product I am proud of.” 

The Latina entrepreneur always saw these challenges as opportunities rather than just obstacles. “It’s all a part of starting a business,” she explains. 

“There will be challenges, but they will also come with many opportunities to grow,” she shared. 

For any other Latina entrepreneurs considering launching their own project or business, she adds, “Do your research, come up with a plan, study your audience, and find a unique way to bring your culture and authenticity into your brand.” 

“Be flexible and open to change. Not every business plan is set in stone, so be ready to adjust as you are on your journey.  Lastly, being an entrepreneur is time-consuming, so make sure you prioritize your well-being by doing things that bring you joy and spark creativity.”

Latina life lessons translate to professional success

Luckily, life lessons and determination inherited as a Cuban American helped carry her through any roadblocks. Fuentes credits the perseverance she learned as a Latina as her superpower. 

“So many of our families immigrated here from other countries, and as a First-Gen Cuban American, I know firsthand the struggles our families went through to get here and to provide, so I think because our ancestors had no choice but to keep going, it’s definitely helped me implement that mindset into my journey.” 

Being a Latina not only taught Fuentes essential skills that helped her launch her business and propel her brand forward but it’s also ingrained into every product she creates. 

“Being a Latina is such a big part of who I am, and I love bringing my culture to my online community and into my products because I am extremely proud of my culture. After all, it’s a part of who I am today.”

Fuentes’s ability to tap into that part of her identity is a major reason for her success 

“Keep it real, in business and in life!” she urges. “In fact, being honest and authentic is my #1 priority, and it always has been that way, and I believe it has been the key to my success.”

And it seems another key to her success is humility and her appreciation for where she comes from and who helped her get there. 

In the case of Lights Lacquer, Fuentes credits much of her ability to grow her business to her loyal fan following. 

“Truly, Lights Lacquer would not be successful without the community I’ve developed and grown over the years. My online audience has been so supportive and loyal through my entrepreneurial journey, and I truly would not be here without them,” she gushed. “I am always so grateful that I get to share this experience with our customers, and I am overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support they’ve shown my business. I owe it all to them.”