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Rissa Mananquil-Trillo: On Makeup and Leadership

Rissa Mananquil-Trillo: On Makeup and Leadership


We know more than anyone about what the kids today are capable of. But big words like “nation building” and “youth leader” aren’t terms that exist in a vacuum. It’s important to take cues, and hopefully learn from the leaders of the past and today. While they admittedly are going to live in the world we shape in the future, we are currently living in the world that they’ve built.

That’s why we sat down with one of the budding leaders in the country right now, Rissa Mananquil-Trillo. Not only is she the co-founder and brand owner, she’s also a beauty columnist, a wife, and a mother to two kids.

Can you briefly explain your current occupation and the many other activities or advocacies you are part of?

I am the co-founder and chief brand officer of homegrown skin-caring beauty brand Happy Skin, which was launched in 2013 as a makeup-meets-skincare cosmetics brand that wonderfully celebrates Filipina beauty — the first one of its kind in the Philippines! In the span of only five years, doors opened for Happy Skin to be part of other categories in the beauty industry, and today, I am both proud and happy to say that, in addition to makeup, we also have nailcare and skincare lines that fulfill the Happy Skin promise of caring for the skin effortlessly.

Happy Skin has become an avenue for me to encourage my advocacies of embracing Filipina beauty and celebrating local talent and products. At the start, introducing a homegrown beauty brand in an environment where “local” was not yet embraced by consumers who preferred “imported” was a challenge. But from day one, we aspired to be a global Pinoy brand — proudly homegrown with Filipino minds behind it and committed to offering world-class quality.

Today, I am proud to see that there is a growing love for local, and I believe Happy Skin helped contribute to this change in culture and mindset. By encouraging local products, we also hope that Filipinas are moved to celebrate who they are. This is why, as a proud morena, I have always been committed to making Happy Skin truly accessible, suitable, and flattering for a wide range of Filipina skin tones.

I also feel very strongly about the importance of education. Out of gratitude for the work I am able to do through Happy Skin, I have been committing a portion of my personal earnings to provide a full scholarship for a student in my alma mater, Ateneo de Manila University. Education is a very powerful tool that helps secure one’s future. No matter your background and no matter how difficult life gets, no one can ever take your education away from you. Partnered with the right mindset and values, education can help change the world for the better.

How did you get into this line of work? What is something you’ve always aspired for growing up?

I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak. Even when I was young, I would make all sorts of things — woven bracelets, food, and even short stories, poems, comics, and newspapers —and sell them to neighbors, family members, and friends. Perhaps my innate interest for business was developed in this specific industry, because as a model and beauty columnist for 15 years, the beauty industry has always been a part of my life.

But through all that time and in spite of having every imaginable makeup brand on my face and having access to so many beauty solutions, I still had not come across a single makeup line that could take care of the skin and also embrace Filipina beauty. So I thought, Why not create one? As a proud Pinay who is passionate about beauty, it became my dream to create my own makeup line. Not just the kind that attaches my name on the packaging, but the kind that allows me to be hands-on with creating, formulating, and testing everything from the start. With Happy Skin, I really wanted to be able to create products I can swear my life on, and with a lot of hard work, that’s what we have today. Each one of Happy Skin’s beauty solutions and innovations in the market are high-quality, easy-to-use, and non-intimidating, fulfilling women’s dreams of delivering happiness.

What do you suggest to the youth of today who wish to be entrepreneurs themselves or who desire to be a part of an advocacy?

For Happy Skin, social media and the internet have always been our strongest marketing tools. Digital presence has been such a great equalizer for all kinds of brands, and it is also a crucial tool to remaining relevant in the fast-changing retail landscape. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to always find ways to weave your brand in the organic social media experience, and to maximize using social media as a tool to connect with your consumers. Personally, being in touch with women through our social media accounts has given me priceless insights.

Starting your own business and fighting for what you believe in — this will never come easy. That’s why passion is key even before you get started.

Starting your own business and fighting for what you believe in — this will never come easy. That’s why passion is key even before you get started. When you’re passionate about what you do or what you’re about to do, giving up does not become an option for you. So pursue with passion whatever you choose to do. No matter the result, you’ll never look back with regret if you decide with your heart and what you’re passionate about.

What is the difference between today’s young leaders from the ones before?

Because technology has made the world we live in so fast-paced, I think this generation of leaders are some of the most agile we’ve ever seen. These days, you see leaders who are not only hardworking — a very important trait that was taught and upheld by the leaders who have come before us — they are also always willing to learn, adapt, and innovate. I believe it’s very important to approach entrepreneurship — and life in general — with this kind of student mentality. And perhaps because we are now in an era of 24/7 communication, I believe leaders today also put a high value on authenticity. Authentic character is something we are always looking for within ourselves and in the people we work with.

. . .I believe leaders today also put a high value on authenticity. Authentic character is something we are always looking for within ourselves and in the people we work with.

Despite the country’s turbulent political and economic climate, do you still remain hopeful for the future? What does this country need moving forward?

Yes, of course. If there’s one thing that our history has done for us Filipinos, it has made us innately resilient. When you partner this natural grit with the honing of our many natural skills, like innovation, diligence, and resourcefulness, there is no limit to what we can do. We just have to embrace and believe in that ourselves.

In an interview with Northern Living, you mentioned that Happy Skin was a response to bullies. How did you deal with negative comments when you were younger?

The comments affected me, but not to the point that it was destroying my life and I couldn’t function daily. I guess after receiving so many labels about how I looked, what I did was not only to accept those names and labels — I also chose to transcend them. I used what was meant to be negative to help create something that uplifts not only me, but also other people who may be going through what I did. The ridicule I went through for being a morena never defined me, and I am grateful that I am now part of a brand that has the power to encourage women to truly love the natural color of their skin, whatever that may be.

What are your thoughts on trends in retail when it comes to the social media era? What changed and what hasn’t?

I think what changed is that it is now necessary to be omni-channel. Before, you could set up a brick-and-mortar store and already make your mark. Today, the younger generation is always on their mobile phones, so it’s crucial that your store and brand’s retail experience is complemented by an online experience – the impression and experience of your products needs to be consistent throughout.

What hasn’t changed is the importance of coming up with an amazing product that fulfills and serves an actual need that exists. No matter how much the business landscape changes with technology, this entrepreneurial foundation of creating a high-quality product and always serving and putting your customers at the forefront will never change.

What is success to you personally?

Success cannot be measured by profits alone. The best measure of success is if you are able to answer “yes” to the question of, “Am I helping solve the big problems of the world?”

Do you ascribe to the idea of being called a “girl boss”? How can women overcome barriers that you yourself transcended when you delved into business?

With or without a label, the truth is that there is so much women can do. We can really be more than what is expected of us, and our roles definitely go beyond the home. I have been privileged to be surrounded by so many amazing women growing up, so I never thought that I would not be able to accomplish something because I was “just a woman.”

With or without a label, the truth is that there is so much women can do.

If anything, what being a woman in business has taught me is that we need to be supportive of fellow women leaders and entrepreneurs, because women can be very harsh on themselves. We can be our own biggest critics, but it is important to keep on pressing on. Women can see that there is no limit what they can do, because they see other women who have come before them actually paving the way.

At the end of the interview, Rissa also added a word of advice to young leaders and entrepreneurs. She said, “never compromise your values and know how to give back. Those are much more golden. At the end of the day, all you have is your name and your integrity, so take care of it like a treasure.”

Many of these young leaders remain unrecognized for their tireless efforts. That’s why PHINMA created the Ramon V. del Rosario – Siklab Awards. The award is inspired by Ramon V. del Rosario – one of the founders of PHINMA, a renowned entrepreneur and a nation builder. Moreover, it is also inspired by leaders such as Rissa and the spark that they help ignite in today’s youth.

If you know anyone who deserves to be recognized, nominate them today:

Send in your nominations here. Check this site for the full mechanics.

You may also download the nomination form here. Email your forms to [email protected] or send to:

De La Salle University
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration
2401 Taft Ave., Manila
0922 Philippines

Deadline for nominations will be on October 31, 2018.
Visit their Facebook page for more information.



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