I basically represent EW wherever I can.
I write for the magazine, and online I do a lot of celebrity Q&As, interviews, break news, write recaps, etc. I also represent EW on shows like Wendy Williams, Access Hollywood, and The Today Show, talking about movies, TV, celebrity gossip and pop culture.
I am half Puerto Rican and half Dominican, which I think is the short way of saying I’m a little bit of everything. My mother’s family is originally from Spain and they are essentially White Europeans. Straight hair, Mediterranean features. My father’s side is very mixed. There’s Middle Eastern and there’s Haitian and African. So, one side of the family, there’s blonde, blue eyes, and straighter hair. On my dad’s side, there’s textured, courser hair and African-American features.
Culturally, I identify with my mom’s side a bit more. If people ask me what I am, I often just say Puerto Rican because I want to spare you the crazy story of my super-mixed background. I am my mother’s daughter in every single way. Though, I remember feeling almost as though I didn’t quite belong, aesthetically or visually, because, with my mom’s side, I was the darkest cousin. Everyone else is pretty white. No one ever talked about it. That was never, ever mentioned. But my mother is, for all intents and purposes, a White woman and the rest of her family is white and I’m Brown.
I’m not on the fairer side. I’m not as light as J-Lo or Eva Longoria and my hair is dark-brown. I don’t dye my hair and I’m not going to go blonde just because that’s what seen mostly on television.
I am my own version of Latina beauty and there are many shades and colors of that. I love all of my blonde Latinas, but for me, that’s not my kind of beauty. I want to be me.
I’m not hating on people who experiment with their look, but it’s really important for me to really be as natural as possible because I know that I didn’t see anyone that looked like me on television [growing up].
I was purely an eyeliner and lip-gloss girl until I started doing on-camera appearances. One of my mentors pulled me aside and said, “You know, your reporting is really good, and it is going to end up on air and you should represent the stories that you are sharing”. Basically, being able to speak about my stories and being able to report on television wasn’t the issue. It was the visual aspect.
I didn’t make beauty a priority.
My mentor told me to get my butt to a MAC store and get a tutorial. I booked myself an hour lesson and they taught me how to put on lashes, how to wear heavy foundation and how to contour your face for bright lighting. I never like to look overdone and being natural is a huge priority to me.
I always start out with a good primer. That’s because I want my skin to look fresh for the 16-hour day. I like wearing foundation. I feel like my skin is protected from the elements and I have a good base. I’m big on concealer. A lot of us working girls don’t get enough sleep. I try not to wear too many products, but I always try to wear at least two under eye concealers. I use an orange Laura Mercier under base, to kind of cancel out the blue and gray shadows and then I add a L’Oreal or Laura Mercier concealer on top of that that in order to brighten it.
I’ll set that with banana powder. I’m really big on lashes. I like to take my time curling my lashes. I have a Chanel palette that I use every single day where as a Brown girl, I’m able to use every single color and not look crazy.”
I learned on-camera makeup tips the hard way — you should only use matte bronzer, not sparkly bronzer because you will look like someone can fry a pork chop on your face. Never put lip-gloss on your top lip. Put a little bit on the bottom to make your lips look full.
I love highlighters. I have one by Makeup Forever and MAC that I love. I also like the YSL Touche Éclat Pen.
I am big on lipstick. My mother was a lipstick kind of girl. My grandmother was, too. They passed that down to me. I think lipstick can completely change your look and it’s something that you can switch from day to night.
With my hair, I’ve been using the same shampoo and conditioner for 10 years. I love the Neutrogena hair mask. Don’t sleep on drug store products. Moroccan oil is a godsend.
I think part of whatever success I’ve had has come from the fact that it’s been a very organic journey. I’m not afraid of hard work. I will always be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. I’m not afraid of putting in long hours.
I’ve always pushed myself to learn new skills. Even something as silly as learning how to do my own on-camera makeup has been really important because producers know that you’re not a diva.
I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for incredible women who have really looked after me. I hope to replicate that for other girls and women going forward. It’s really important for me to have lots of mentees and to be someone that girls feel they can talk to, even if it’s just sending me a tweet or a message on Facebook. I always try to respond because I know that I would have appreciated that.
I think beauty plays such an important part in women’s professional life because I may have worked all night, but I want to arrive at work looking fresh and ready to take on the day.
At one of my jobs, someone said to me, “I’ve never seen you in jeans, you’re always so dressed up”. I thought, A) that’s kind of rude to say. It wasn’t said in the nicest tone. So, that took me aback because I didn’t think they would have asked a White person that. And then B), I thought: good for me because that means I’ve always dressed for success. I don’t dress the way that you would expect me to. And my career is not going to be defined by what you think I’m capable of.
I’ve had different women at different workplaces come and say, “Oh, Nina, you look good”. And in my head, I’m thinking it’s because I woke up a little bit earlier and I put in the effort so that I appear like I am ready to take on everything. And I am.
I think the common perception is that Latinas wake up with a face full of bronzer and red lips. Like, we’re spicy and sexy. But, most of the Hispanic women that I know, including my mother and grandmother, had a very kind of wholesome approach to beauty. They were effortlessly glamorous. My mother had a very minimalist approach to beauty; my grandmother was the same way. Their beauty reflected their soul, dressed up with a little bit of lipstick.
I’d say my one bit of beauty advice to young women is to take care of yourself. And take good care of your brows. There’s no excuse for bad brows in 2015 and I will not apologize for that.