Champion Surfer Tia Blanco and Her Sister Launch Vegan Beauty Line
"I am a Goddess," and "I am Gleaming" and "I am Beautiful"... repeat these daily as you slather on your moisturizer or face wash or vitamin C serum created by champion surfer Tia Blanco and her sister Aja, each item in their new vegan beauty line named with an affirmation, to remind you and me and all women to feel beautiful, confident and self-assured.
The sisters, Tia, 23, and Aja Blanco, 27, launched the first few products of their natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare line, Dear Self two years ago, a passion project that they are now expanding to include every possible skincare product you might need for beautiful skin–including moisturizers to vitamin C serum, and makeup remover–and each one is made from chemical-free, all-natural ingredients, assembled in the USA. All the packaging for Dear Self will be earth-friendly as well, from the biodegradable boxes to the recyclable glass jars that allow you to be your most beautiful without filling the world's oceans with more discarded plastic.
Tia first won fame as a talented surfer on the International Women's Circuit, then expanded her following on Instagram as a dedicated vegan, since age 16. She gave up meat and dairy after watching Glass Walls, the short documentary narrated by Sir Paul McCartney. Tia won first place five years ago at the International Surfing Association (ISA) Open Women's World Surfing Championship in Popoyo, Nicaragua, then successfully defended the title by winning gold again at Playa Jacó, Costa Rica. This year the competitive surf season was cut short by the pandemic but Tia is about to unveil a new project, a surf show on a major TV network, but the details are too secret to talk about yet.
Tia and Aja will be launching Dear Self as a full line (rather than just a few products) later this year and the sisters are eager to share their approach and inspiration, and how hard the journey has been. So much of it has to do with confidence and helping other women build themselves up. It's surprising to hear of a world-class athlete talk about how she has to self-script and envision success before every major surf competition. Yet it's also reassuring which is the point of Dear Self: We all need a little reminding, and boosting, in the mirror each day.
Here, Tia and Aja sat down with The Beet to talk about what inspired them and the journey from athlete (Tia) and software engineer (Aja), to entrepreneurs.
The Beet: What has it been like to launch a beauty line, on top of your "day" job?
Tia: There have been a lot of ups and downs, and it's been quite a rollercoaster, but we are so passionate about beauty and the skincare and beauty industry. We had to learn about the beauty and skincare industry as we went. We had to start from square one, since we had no real mentor for learning, like learning about the FDA regulations and all of that.
The Beet: How did Dear Self start?
Tia: Surfing is my number one priority. I train and surf every single day, but my sister and I have always wanted to launch a skincare line centered around self-love. We are pretty busy with our careers, Aja is a software engineer, but one day we let go of all the excuses holding us back, and it was just time for us to go for it.
Aja: We are really working on creating a complete skincare line. We don't have a face wash available for our customers, yet. Tia and I both have super sensitive skin types, so we are working on one that works for both of us. We found a vegan collagen serum, an eye serum and moisturizer that we love. The moisturizer, "I am Gleaming" is a fan favorite. And we will also be introducing bath bombs that we are really excited about.
The Beet: Where will Dear Self be sold and when will it be officially launched?
Tia: We are starting with e-commerce plus a few smaller boutiques and spas but we are also working on getting into major retail stores like Sephora, Ulta and Whole Foods. We've approved the samples, so as soon as the line is complete with our manufacturer, in the US, specifically California, which we are really excited about.
Aja: As a software engineer I am working on our website. So we're getting close.
The Beet: How has your surfing career informed your skincare line?
Tia: There are a lot of layers that go with your self, and the motives behind the brand, but one of them being a natural skincare line. Being in the water all the time since I was basically three years old has shown me how the sun can damage your skin, and ever since I can remember I have been interested in skincare, and I could go to Whole Foods and spend hours in their beauty aisle, and geek out on it.
Aja: Since I have sensitive skin I have tried everything out there. We both have sensitive skin and our customers say they also have sensitive skin. I have more of a combination skin type and Tia has dry skin. but we both get reactions from fragrances and products
The Beet: So you decided to make it vegan, natural and do no animal testing?
Tia: You'd be surprised how many lines appear to be natural but still test on animals. A lot of companies sell their products in China and they require testing on animals there, so we want to be vegan and cruelty-free which is what sets Dear Self apart. The vegan collagen is made in a lab and it has no animal collagen.
The Beet: Is the packaging eco-friendly?
Another motive behind our skincare is we do our best to be as eco-friendly as possible. The mailer boxes are made out of recycled material and are biodegradable. The skincare bottles are made out of glass instead of plastic, but shipping glass can be scary so we found plastic-free bubble wrap that looks like beehives.
The Beet: Why call the line Dear Self?
Tia: Self-love and self-care are both essential to women. The whole idea behind it is that our skincare routine every day is supposed to be a time you dedicate to yourself and self-love. Aja and I found that we can be critical and critique yourself whether its acne, wrinkles or whatever we see in the mirror, so we wanted to make a line that encourages people to see themselves in a new light
Aja: The names are: I am beautiful, I am glowing, I am a goddess and we encourage our clients to feel that affirmation and feel inner beauty and self beauty.
Our mission is to encourage our customers to practice self-love and we wanted to redirect their thinking patterns when they look in the mirror and that's how we came up with affirmations. Social media can make us doubt ourselves.
The Beet: As an athlete do you deal with doubt? And how do you overcome self-doubt?
Tia: I've been competing for a long time since I was 13 years old and there are so many ups and downs that come with competitive surfing. I can't tell you how many times I've gone home to my family and said 'I want to quit. I'm over this.' Luckily I have such a supportive family who lifts me up.
When I look back I realize how much your outlook and mental attitude lifts you up and allows you to succeed, I tap into myself and tap into that mindset. You have to back yourself and have a positive mental attitude you can do it.
Your attitude makes a difference. That's true in skincare or at work or in school.
I have a sports psychologist I work with before my events. We do a lot of visualization for everything that is going to happen during my day. putting on my jersey attaching my leash and sitting out on my first wave, visualizing success.
It's a big problem. Miley Cyrus.
The Beet: When did you go vegan and why?
Tia: Initially, I went vegan when I was 16 years old after I saw Glass Walls. I remember baling my eyes out that night and feeling helpless, frustrated at the world and thinking I couldn't save every animal in those slaughterhouses. I watched Forks of Knives and Earthlings and I initially went vegan because of the animals. For me, it's about the animals, and its a lifestyle, not a diet.
Once I made the connection that the food on my plate didn't come from a happy farm or a happy cow I made the switch. Both our parents raised us vegetarian and my mom was raised in Philipines and she was vegetarian and we have never had red meat in our entire lives. But first I had to make sure I could be an athlete on this diet.
Aja: I went vegan seven years ago and I did it for health reasons. I had asthma, and I don't have it anymore. So it worked.
Tia: Our full season for the year has been called off but I have a TV show that is launching highlights my competitive career. I was able to compete and I could forget about life in quarantine. filmed already. Waiting on a premiere date. It's a network show, coming soon. But I can't talk about it. It's so gnarley. But I can't say anything about it yet. But I'll let you know when I can!
Until then, repeat every morning in the mirror: I am a Goddess. Because you are one.