Words by Nada Abdelrahim
Visuals by Felton Kizer
The Soul of Kween Cosmetics
Everything about Maria Contreras’ life revolves around makeup. For Contreras (also known as Kween by her friends) makeup is freedom and an escape from her reality.
Contreras was first influenced by the beauty brand MAC and dreamt of having her own makeup line in a brick and mortar store for a long time. At twenty-one, she’s already quit her corporate job and fulfills online orders for her own brand titled Kween Cosmetics. With her handmade products, using naturally found ingredients, Contreras’ brand has made waves all over social media. However, she admits that the journey was far from easy.
Contreras began working towards her goal of launching a cosmetic line while still at her day job. She would save every paycheck to put towards starting her business, spending only a little on herself. She initially planned to launch a cosmetic line that would include only lip gloss and highlighters, but as she did more research, she decided she didn’t want to create a makeup line halfway. She then began looking at more products to produce such as setting powders and brow pomades.
Her inspiration for the brand was to produce a line that she and other women would actually want to use. The best way to find out what the people want is to do an experiment, so she became the guinea pig. She would get samples and wear them to test out the products.
After a year and half, Kween Cosmetics was in full throttle. Like most little girls, her initial love for makeup was sparked by her mother. She would sneak and steal her lipsticks and mascaras in an attempt to play dress up. She eventually started to do makeup on herself and her friends in high school, which helped her discover that makeup was her lifelong passion.
Contreras knew that makeup was something she was becoming serious about. As a self-taught artist, she has learned all of her skills from YouTube tutorials (and trial and error on her willing friends).
Born and raised in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, she spent a lot of time with her grandparents during her childhood and was highly influenced by her Mexican and Aztec culture. These influences show up in her cosmetic line as well, specifically in the names of the products which are inspired by Aztec culture.
Contreras mentions that she grew up in a “traditional” home environment, but that her grandfather “never had toxic masculinity.” He taught her that she could always do what she put her mind to. So when she launched her makeup line, her grandfather was one of the main people to support and encourage her.
Family is not only important to her, but also a true staple in her success, as it was their belief in her that helped her get this far. When she does makeup for others and she sees how happy her clients are, it gives her such a positive sense of purpose.
Contreras wants all people to be confident in themselves, with or without makeup. She also is not here for the “makeup shaming” that sometimes presents itself towards women who enjoy wearing makeup often.
“Women shouldn’t feel ashamed about things that make them feel good about themselves.” The power of makeup, Contreras believes, is that you can do whatever you want with it.
As she continues to work on gaining exposure for her brand, Contreras’ advice to anyone wanting to make their dreams come true is: “Don’t wait on anybody, just do what you want to do and do it for yourself, don’t worry about others’ opinions. Do what you love and if you are going to do it, put 100% into it. Believe in yourself and don’t second guess, go right into it.”
Contreras hopes that young women know that to find success, you must work hard and not expect anything to come easily, but that “You are capable.”