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Kathleen Lights, the Cuban-American Creator Behind Nail Polish, Lights Lacquer

kalthleen lights lights laquer
Photo: Courtesy of the brand; Artwork: Joy Adaeze

With her bubbly personality and must-have makeup recommendations, 31-year-old content creator Kathleen Fuentes is a breath of fresh air for your Instagram feed. Her decade-long career in beauty started with her YouTube channel—Kathleen Lights—back in 2013. 

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Fuentes has since amassed over 4 million followers on the platform, sprinkling her love of all things beauty throughout her creative ventures. One such project includes her vegan, cruelty-free nail polish brand, Lights Lacquer, which boasts over 300,000 followers on Instagram.  

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As a beauty blogger who mostly focused on reviews of different skincare and makeup products, nail polish might seem somewhat out of her wheelhouse. But the pivot was intentional: rather than develop makeup, which was already the focus of her channel, Fuentes turned to her lifelong passion for nail polish. 

“I’ve always loved nail polish and when I was younger I would talk about how my dream job would be to name nail polishes,” she said. “I’ve always been so unhappy with how other polishes fail to deliver in terms of chip resistance and longevity.” She got the idea to create Lights Lacquer after complaining to her mom about these very issues, who suggested she just make her own nail polish. 

lights laquer
Photo Credit: Brand

The brand officially opened in 2019. As an animal lover, Fuentes formulated the Lights Lacquer’s polishes to be vegan and cruelty-free, as well as 12-free, meaning they lack harmful toxins and other damaging ingredients like parabens, fragrances, and phthalates. Their latest product launch is the Cabin Fever collection, inspired by the coziness of a cabin retreat on a snowy night. The collection features six winter-time polishes and nail art tattoos.  

“The Cabin Fever collection was inspired by the warmth and coziness of being indoors during the cooler months. I wanted to capture that in a palette that was both comforting and vibrant,” Fuentes said. The colors include an iridescent peachy pearl, a cheery red, a sparkly muted green, a warm cacao, a smoky gray, and a glittery campfire-like bronze. 

“The creation process, from conception to launch, involved meticulous planning, color selection, and ensuring the quality matched our brand’s standards,” Fuentes said, noting her favorite shade was the laurel green polish, named ”I Smell Snow!” 

Each shade is curated by Fuentes, who draws on her background in makeup and color theory while also incorporating storytelling and nostalgic references. The gray in the collection, for example, is named “Hopper,” after the beloved Stranger Things character who was often pictured smoking throughout the show. 

As a Miami native and Cuban-American entrepreneur, Fuentes also loves sprinkling her Latine heritage and culture into Lights Lacquer. As such, the “Bearly Frio” and “Un Poco Cocoa” shades in the Cabin Fever collection have Spanglish names. Fuentes will also include her family in content and proudly uses Spanglish throughout her videos. 

“Being a Latina is such a big part of who I am,” she said. “I love bringing my culture to my online community and into my products because I am extremely proud of my culture — After all, it’s a part of who I am today.”

lights laquer
Photo Credit: Brand

Both of Fuentes’ parents were born in Cuba and emmigrated to the U.S. as minors, fleeing the government on the island. Their journey left a deep impact on Fuentes, who draws strength from her family’s own resilience. 

“The hardships, risks, and sacrifices my family made to come to the U.S. are not something I ever take for granted. It’s why I work so hard and take risks myself because I know my parents and grandparents endured much more than I will ever understand—and it’s what keeps me motivated to persevere,” she said. “There are truly no limits to what we have the ability to achieve, and I know this because of the example my parents set for me. Their stories and resilience have greatly influenced my perspective on life and work ethic.”

Fuentes’ parents are very supportive of her career in entrepreneurship and content creation. “Because of the hardships they endured, they truly just wanted me to follow my heart and be happy,” she said. “They’ve never doubted or tried to steer me in any other direction.”

As for the future, Fuentes hopes to continue expanding Lights Lacquer to eventually launch luxury hand creams. “I am always so grateful that I get to share my journey with our customers, and I am humbled every day by the outpour of love and support they’ve shown my business,” she said. “It’s my goal to consistently bring quality, innovative, and unique products that help make people feel beautiful, from the inside out.”

Melissa Santoyo

Melissa Santoyo is a freelance journalist with beauty, business, and news reporting experience across the local, national, and international levels. She has bylines in POPSUGAR, El Diario Perfil, Washingtonian, Prague Morning, and Inc. Her skills as a bilingual writer have recently concentrated her work on stories of interest to Latinx audiences. Melissa is also a visual artist, graphic designer, and amateur screen printer in her spare time.

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2 COMMENTS

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    Appreciate it

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