The Nena way to beauty

Lorena Mondoñeda-Perez, aka Nena

Lorena Mondoñeda-Perez, aka Nena

By Veronica Velarde-Pulumbarit

Tagalog is slowly creeping into the American lexicon with brands like Dalaga boutique in Brooklyn, Maharlika restaurant in Manhattan, Katamisan cakes in Queens, and now Nena makeup in Chicago.

Nena Cosmetics, manufactured in the U.S. and Germany, are sold in the U.S., the Philippines, Dubai, Spain, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Singapore. They will soon be available online via

Nena is created by Lorena Nena Mondoñedo-Perez, a trained makeup artist and licensed esthetician. She has a Master’s in Skin Care Therapy at the Skin Care and Spa Institute in Illinois.

Nena went to the U.S. after finishing high school at the International School-Manila in 1985. She took up Business Management at the College of Saint Benedict in the US before working as an accountant for an upscale beauty company.

Describing herself as a tomboy when she first arrived in the U.S., Nena said she looked like a 12-year-old compared to her American college classmates.

To make herself look a little more mature, she began experimenting with cosmetics, and thus, a love affair with makeup began.

As she played around with different kinds of makeup, she also learned how to take better care of her skin.

She recalled how she didn’t even use any sunscreen when she played golf in the Philippines in her high school days as one of the country’s top junior golfers.

“I never covered or even put anything on my skin so I grew up with not very good skin,” Nena said.

Nena continued playing golf in the US, even getting sponsors as she competed in ladies golf tournaments. Her family, who owns a successful mining business in the Philippines, thought she would end up as a professional golfer. However, one day she just woke up and realized she was tired of golf.

She then tried being a deli shop owner even while she was still in college. Having come from a family of entrepreneurs, running a business almost came naturally to her. She did well in her first attempt at running a business.

“When I was in college I ran the deli shop and that was like my first feel of being an entrepreneur and doing business and all that. After I finished college, that wasn’t the line that I wanted to be in so I sold the deli shop and made money,” Nena said.

Even though Nena did not encounter financial troubles in the US, she still found life there a little difficult especially when she first arrived there.

“Life in the States is very difficult. You don’t have anybody to depend on. It’s you, yourself, and I,” she said. “We don’t have maids, we don’t have helpers, we don’t have drivers like you do in the Philippines.”

“It really made me an independent, strong person. Hard work and perseverance – these make the difference,” she added.

The Nena line of makeup products

The Nena line of makeup products

When the time came for her to realize her dream of owning a cosmetics company, she did not run into any major trouble.

She said the only hard part was convincing her father – whom she considers as her mentor – that she wanted to become a makeup artist.

Although she had her fears, she told her father, “Give me 10 years and I will be not just be a makeup artist but I will own my own company in this industry, owning my own line.”

Aside from taking up masteral studies to become a licensed esthetician, Nena worked as a makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics, saying it provides the best training for artists.

Nena said she wanted to create makeup that would be flattering to the skin-type of Asians and Latinas.

She said she didn’t have any difficulty breaking into the beauty industry in the US as she owned the only Filipino line of makeup.

In the first year, Nena Cosmetics earned $500,000 and the figure has doubled every year since. Nena Cosmetics has gone public and has agents across the U.S. doing investment roadshows.

“I think that I’m successful in some ways but I still have a lot to go. I want Nena to be all over South East Asia. I want Nena to go all the way to Europe to Africa, to other places so there’s still a lot of room for me to grow,” she said.

She explained that she hasn’t even officially launched Nena Cosmetics yet in the California market.

“California market, LA, San Francisco, San Diego is full of Filipinos. It’s Filipino town. So just that alone, that market is huge. We plan to do that before the end of the year,” she said.

She’s also thinking of branching out into the fashion industry saying “fashion and beauty go side by side.”

She’s also thinking of Nena accessories. “It goes on and on and there’s so much. But I want to focus because my mind as an entrepreneur goes haywire.”

Nena said she expects to face “lots of hurdles along the way, lots of trials. But if you know what you want and you go for it, that’s half of the battle. I think if you know and you persevere and that you will just keep on tracking and keep on going, you’re going to make it there.”

“Nena Cosmetics is all about enhancing the beautiful features of a woman,” Perez said, adding that, “just a little bit goes a long way.”

Veronica Velarde-Pulumbarit is now a senior correspondent for GMA News Online after working in the organization as a full-time editor for many years. She is a freelance writer for international news sites and public relations agencies.

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