Kathleen Fuentes, a.k.a Kathleen Lights, one of Youtube's "OG" beauty influencers, has built herself and her brand into an empire. Born and raised in Miami by Cuban immigrant parents, Fuentes has over four million subscribers currently, growing tremendously since beginning her career on Youtube in 2013. She said that mainly posting skincare and makeup product reviews led her to collaborate with major brands like ColourPop, Morphe, and Il Makiage.
Through her experience as a collaborator with other brands, Fuentes expressed how she truly fell in love with the product development process, inspiring her to create her own line of products. In 2019, she stepped away from her co-founded polish brand KL to take a more hands-on approach to each product offering. She then launched her independently-owned brand Lights Lacquer, to employ her fan-focused mindset to develop products she would use on herself.
Since Lights Lacquer's initial launch in 2019, the brand has become much more than its original selling point of 12-free, Vegan & Cruelty-free nail polish. The brand is now a one-stop shop for nails, unique accessories, and home and lifestyle products. Fuentes said she wants to keep expanding with the primary goal of creating products for her fans that are unique, safe, and quality driven.
Fuentes's connection with her loyal fans and subscribers has taken her to new heights through every endeavor. Her recent launch, the Zodiac Collector's Edition of polishes, was sold out in just five minutes. Humbled every day by the outpour of love they have shown her business, Fuentes says she owes all of her success to them.
How has growing up a Miami first-generation Cuban played a role in your approaches to beauty, business, and content creation?
Kathleen Fuentes: I take great pride in being a first-gen Cuban-American from Miami, and my Cuban culture and the 305 have both played a huge role in the development of my brand, Lights Lacquer, as well as my role as a creator, from a content creation perspective.
Additionally, my most recent capsule collection, Los Barrios, is an open letter to the “Magic City” of Miami. No matter the barrio, Miami’s culture, artistry, and lifestyle live on. Also inspired by my Cuban culture, I designed Libre- a collection inspired by the Ellis Island of the south: Miami’s very own Freedom Tower. Built in 1925, the freedom tower is a symbol of hope and freedom to Cubans who sought asylum from 1962-1974. The collection is inspired by freedom, remembrance, family, love, and hope.
A main selling point for Lights Lacquer polishes is the term ‘12-free,’ which means they are free of many of the toxins normally used in other nail brands. Why was it important to you to make this distinction and opt for Vegan and Cruelty-free?
Kathleen Fuentes: I love animals, truly so much, and I am extremely mindful of the products I use, so I wanted to make sure that my products embody the same qualities that I’d use on myself.
This is why I created Lights Lacquer to be a 12-free, Vegan & Cruelty-free nail polish. That means it's free of toxins like formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, and xylene. Lights Lacquer polishes are also free of parabens, fragrances, phthalates, animal ingredients, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate. I wanted to ensure that Lights Lacquer’s formula makes for a polish that is both safe and beautiful.
It’s obvious you have a great relationship with your subscribers/fans as you are constantly engaging with them through your personal and business accounts. Regular social media posts of inside looks, demos, and videos about your products and lifestyle are something we don’t see from other nail brands. Do you attribute that ‘openness’ to your company’s overwhelming success?
Kathleen Fuentes: Yes! Lights Lacquer would not be successful without my loyal fans and subscribers that I’ve developed and grown over the years.
Given that I got my start on Youtube and grew a beautiful relationship with my subscribers and fans, by simply giving them a behind-the-scenes peek at my life through beauty content, it was only natural that I’d take them along for my entrepreneurial journey. I think my fans truly love being a part of the process and feel more connected because we give them that experience of coming with me on the journey (it’s not always easy and they get to see that).
With almost 4.2 million subscribers on Youtube, 2.1 million followers on Instagram, and 580 thousand followers on TikTok, you have a very large following. How does it feel when something like your Zodiac Collector's Edition launch is sold out by your fans in five minutes? Is this something you have grown to expect from your followers, or is it still surreal?
Kathleen Fuentes: It’s still so surreal! I always say I don’t know how I got here- I just started by sharing my love of makeup with the world (I started doing videos on Youtube when my husband was stationed in Mississippi out of boredom), and it grew to this! When a product sells out like that, it just reinforces my reason for why I started, because I am passionate about developing products I love, which in turn I know my audience will love too!
It makes me so proud that we continue to develop products that our customers get so extremely excited about! I still get nostalgic thinking about the early days, I feel so humbled and get butterflies in my stomach when I think about the outpouring of support I’ve received from my audience- I will never, ever take that for granted.
You’ve said your recent collection of polishes, Los Barrios, is your love letter to Miami. How would you spend the perfect day in the Magic City? Would you end or start it at Space like the black holographic shade “Meet me at Space,” imagines?
Kathleen Fuentes: While I love a good night of drinks and dancing, my days at Space were short-lived! I am truly such a homebody- I love staying home, relaxing in my pool, spending time with my husband and dogs, and hosting friends and family over for pool parties and get-togethers. But, my ideal day in the magic city would include Cuban breakfast at Islas Canarias (my favorite croquetas in all of Miami), followed by an afternoon of getting my nails done at my favorite spot, Nail Witch Studios in Wynwood with Leslie Ayala- who has been doing my nails forever. Maybe stop in for ice cream at the legendary Azucar (Abuela Maria is the ultimate!), followed by cocktails and the best live music at Ball & Chain.
When you think about the future of Lights Lacquer, what do you see? Do you find your goals to be about furthering your business or influencer career?
Kathleen Fuentes: I am so proud to see how Lights Lacquer continues to evolve and I am excited for it to continue to grow. I have an incredible team that helps bring it to life every day and I’ll always continue to put my heart and soul into my business. It’s incredibly important to me, to ensure we are offering quality, value, and culture-driven products at the helm of our brand. It’s my goal to consistently bring quality, innovative and unique products that help make people feel beautiful, from the inside out.
At the same time, I love the process of content creation and sharing tidbits of my life, products I am passionate about, and of course, the struggles along the way. I know that when I speak openly about my anxiety, millions of people can relate and I think that’s special. While we are all different, at the core of all of us, we share so many similarities, struggles, and insecurities yet also share smiles and laughs through the connection that social media brings. If I can help strangers feel like they’re not alone, or bring a smile to them via Youtube, I’m all here for it. We are truly never alone and I am eternally grateful to share my journey with so many people that have supported me along the way.
Photography by: Courtesy Lights Lacquer