Rea Ann Silva, 1961 -
Professional makeup artist and single mom Rea Ann Silva created the original Beautyblender sponge out of necessity. As one of the first professional makeup artists to work on TV shows in high definition, she needed a tool that would quickly allow her to apply makeup and make it look natural. Having worked with entertainers like Regina King, Kerry Washington, and Macy Gray, Silva created a beauty tool that can now be found everywhere.
Rea Ann Silva with actor Kerry Washington, 2000
Making it in the beauty industry as a Latina was not easy. Some directors refused to hire Silva because of her race. Silva turned this adversity into an advantage and made a name for herself as an expert makeup artist who focused on entertainers of color.
Although women have traditionally purchased beauty products, men have dominated the industry, especially at the top. Silva created the Beautyblender sponge while working on the set of the TV show Girlfriends, which debuted in 2000. It was one of the first TV shows shot in high definition, so Silva needed a tool that would help her apply makeup during takes and that would look flawless after hours on set.
Silva’s work ethic comes from her family background and her personal desire to succeed. Her mother worked as a waitress and her father as a mechanic. They taught her the value of working hard to get ahead. Silva embodied this principle as she took on double and triple shifts to earn the money she needed to raise her growing family and to get her business off the ground.
After creating the iconic egg-shaped sponge, Silva next faced the challenge of mass production. Her sponges had become so popular that people often stole them from set. She first began cutting sponges in her home, but eventually moved production to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where the products are made today by her predominantly African American and Latinx workforce.
Silva recently expanded the company’s offerings to include 40 shades of foundation. In the past, foundation offerings for people of color were limited. The popularity of companies like Rihanna’s Fenty speaks to the need to provide more color options. Silva embraces this opportunity, noting “I always try to do the most and not the least. . . . Being Latina, we are a very colorful people. We are not afraid of color. We embrace color. And we celebrate color.”