She’s an inspiring figure in the beauty industry, but perhaps the most admirable trait of the multi-faceted Rissa Mananquil-Trillo is her capability to turn challenges into opportunities. With her successful homegrown brand Happy Skin helping plenty of Filipinas feel beautiful, comfortable, and proud in their own skin, she continues to look ahead and find more ways to empower and lift others—and that includes standing in her own power and understanding her worth.   

Rissa Mananquil-Trillo

Cosmetic brands have been a-plenty in the retail scene.  Why did you think there was room for a new player back then?

In more than a decade of being a model and a beauty columnist, I had not been able to experience a single makeup brand that could take care of my skin and not leave it looking and feeling worse at the end of the day. From the questions I received through my column, I knew that I wasn’t alone. That is why Happy Skin is all about skin-caring makeup. Instead of waiting for someone to come up with a solution, I took a chance to fill a gap in the local cosmetics industry, and I am very proud to say that with Happy Skin, we were able to create skin-caring products that I could swear my life on.

Make-up has been touted as having transformative powers, as having gone beyond being an indulgence.  Your thoughts?

Happy Skin creates tangible products, but I will always be amazed by how it has changed and added value to our customers’ lives. When Filipinas use Happy Skin, they are able to experience the unique, transformative power of makeup. I have encountered brides-to-be shopping for the makeup they’ll wear on their special day, and beauty advisors sharing stories about customers bringing prescriptions from doctors or ob-gynes with Happy Skin as the recommended product. It’s really fulfilling to hear these personal stories of how the brand has made women feel prouder and happier in their skin.

The beauty industry seems like a competitive industry.  Is it fiercely so?

I’d like to think that women entrepreneurs genuinely celebrate each other’s wins. When one of us is able to get something done, that’s an accomplishment for all of us. There is an understanding that the hard work we put into breaking glass ceilings as entrepreneurs—which many of us do while being wives, moms, daughters, and sisters at the same time—isn’t only for us, but also for the generations who will succeed us.

How has life been for you, Rissa, who’s gone through some personal challenges and professional incarnations? 

It feels like I have nine lives: I’ve gone through experiences that should have kept me down and out, but I’ve always managed to get back up. And each time I do, I learn that I always have a choice to not be held back by the past. It’s difficult, but I’m proud of becoming more and more the kind of woman who is able to choose happiness over history, and growth over comfort.

Who is your style icon?

I have many whom I look up to, but when it comes to dressing up, the one who knows best what looks and feels great on you is always the person looking back at you from the mirror.

What’s your signature look?

Whether it’s a day in the office or a special night out, I am always after something that’s tailored and fits me well, even if a pair of jeans, a shirt, a suit, or a couture dress.

Rissa Mananquil-Trillo

What would you splurge on?

A vacation with my husband Paolo and our children.

What’s your self-care routine?

I make it a point to once in a while go offline and detox from social media. It’s both powerful and empowering to be able to filter out any noise that can cause you to go out of character or lose sight of the things that really matter to you. Going offline is the new luxury.

Every time I’m tired, I realize it’s because I haven’t been able to say no. I ask myself, is this really worth my time and person? I no longer say yes to anything that doesn’t feel like a complete yes to my life. Learn to say no, so the rare time you say yes, it becomes more powerful and meaningful. Saying yes to self-care isn’t about the work you lose. It’s about the life you gain.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid to be different. Be more afraid of being the same as everybody else. You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.

Rissa Mananquil-Trillo

What other dreams do you want to fulfill?

There’s still so much I dream of doing, but as they say, never discuss three things: your love life, your finances, and your next move.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #EachforEqual. What is your message to women who are fighting for equality in their respective fields? 

Believe that your voice matters. Speak, because when it’s quiet, it means there are so many others who are waiting and listening. You don’t know how many you can empower when you choose to speak up.