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Aje Insider | Illustrious Babba Rivera

Introducing our latest Aje Muse, Babba Rivera - an NYC-based entrepreneurial multi-hyphenate engaged in the worlds of fashion, tech and beauty. Illustrious for her formidable career and cultivated fashion choices, Babba founded the clean haircare brand Ceremonia in 2020, with an ethos in homage to her Latinx heritage.

 

Having shifted her remote office to the Dominican Republic during New York’s winter months, Babba styled the collection of cascading botanical flora, butterfly-like silhouettes and hand-painted waterfall ombres, against the island’s tropical palms.

 

Captivated by the beauty of the natural world, let Babba Rivera’s idyllic take on Sequence transport you to paradise.

You’re an accomplished multi-hyphenate, how would you describe your career journey and how you spend your time recently?

 

What most people might not know is that I truly built my career in the tech industry. The fast-paced environment, the can-do attitude, and the general team vibe of a startup suited my personality type very well, and I think that’s when I realised I did not want a traditional fashion career. My passion for fashion and beauty has however always found its way into my professional life, from running fashion partnerships at Uber, to becoming friends with designers and influencers, to eventually build out my own following around my expressive way of dressing for someone with an office job, to today running my own beauty startup while also having a large audience on Instagram where I get to share my sense for fashion through the lens of my everyday life.

 

My beauty startup, Ceremonia, is in many ways the result of all the multifaceted life I’ve built up. I don’t fall into one single category, and Ceremonia is in many ways my life’s work as so much of me and my passions fit into this journey. The creative aspect of building a brand, the marketing and sales aspect of growing a brand, and not to mention the startup hustle and business mentality that it takes to make it successful.

 

You photographed Aje’s Sequence collection in the Dominican Republic - can you share with us a highlight memory from this trip?

 

My trip to the Dominican Republic is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made – to escape New York winter during the cold months that are January and February has been nothing short of a treat, and not to mention the fact that I was able to whisk away the entire family on this adventure and take advantage of remote work. My husband and I have been working as usual, while being able to enjoy the sun, the beach and lunch breaks at the pool with our 1-year-old.

 

Additionally, where were your favourite places to eat, see and play?

 

In the Dominican Republic, I’ve been staying in Cabarete and my absolute favourite spot there is Vagamundo. Their waffles are delicious! In NYC, I love my neighbourhood favourite in Brooklyn, Colonie.

 

 

“ My absolute favourite [dress] is the Frequency Butterfly Sleeve Dress, I see myself living in this all spring!”

The Bonjour Asymmetric Mini Dress and Aje X Local Supply The Square Sunglasses

The Bonjour Asymmetric Mini Dress and Aje X Local Supply The Square Sunglasses

Captivated by the idea that the smallest of actions can have monumental impacts, Aje designers Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris reflected on the notion that the beat of a butterfly's wings can have an ever-expanding ripple effect on the world at large. Can you reflect on one small moment or decision in your life that has had a ripple effect and positively changed your course?

 

I get so sentimental when thinking about my life journey through that lens, because there are so many small decisions we make every day that over time accumulate to enormous outcomes. I remember when I first met my now husband. I was not interested in a relationship whatsoever at the time, and was rather eager to live alone and not be bothered by love. Yet, I still made the decision to say yes to go on a date just to have fun. Needless to say, that date changed everything for me. From how I see myself, to how my career trajectory developed, to eventually making the decision to move to the USA, to buying our first home together, then our second home, having a baby, now expecting a second… It’s hard not to get emotional when thinking about life from that perspective! Life truly happens when we are busy trying to control a different outcome…

 

Elements of Sequence were inspired by mathematical sequences, which appear in natural phenomena. What naturally occuring phenomena excites you? What memories of experiencing a great natural phenomena do you have?

 

Few things are more mesmerising to me than just laying down on the grass and looking up to the sky, seeing how the clouds constantly move above us.

“ Never had I ever read a single success story or about a business woman that looked like me or came from a background similar to mine.”

Which pieces from Aje’s Summer 22 Sequence collection are you most drawn to? Where do you see yourself wearing these?

 

I love all of the pieces I got to select for this Aje Report. The quality is so luxurious, the colours are vibrant yet elegant, making these the perfect spring pieces to wear from office to brunch to beach. My absolute favourite [dress] is the Frequency Butterfly Sleeve Dress, I see myself living in this all spring!

 

 

How would you describe your personal style currently?

 

Right now, because of my growing belly bump, I am very focused on dressing around the belly. I either opt for tight pieces that will fit my figure, or crop tops to let the belly flow free so one can see the figure, or puffy dresses with lots of room, but then I like to opt for a shorter cut to ensure I get a leg moment. Dressing while pregnant is very different from normal. I’m learning bits by bits, and I think the key is to ensure there is some flattering part of your body that is accentuated with each look, whether it’s neck, legs, booty or else, I’m trying to follow this formula to ensure I don’t end up hiding under a tent-looking outfit for the rest of this pregnancy!

 

Where do you look to, or what actions do you take to feel creatively inspired?

 

The first step for me, when it comes to fueling my inspiration, is to find peace and quiet. I’ve realised that the most impactful thing I can do to feel creatively inspired is to do nothing. Lower the volume around me, take a few steps back and ideally let myself get to a place of boredom – suddenly the creativity comes creeping from within, with a fresh perspective on things.

 

"I like to keep a mix of vintage classics that never go out of style, with high-quality basics, and then top it off with expressive pieces that bring me joy. People are sometimes afraid of investing in something colourful out of fear of being tired of it, but I’ve found that those special pieces are the equivalent of art in my wardrobe."

What are your personal considerations for investing in fashion consciously and thoughtfully?

 

I like to keep a mix of vintage classics that never go out of style, with high-quality basics, and then top it off with expressive pieces that bring me joy. People are sometimes afraid of investing in something colourful out of fear of being tired of it, but I’ve found that those special pieces are the equivalent of art in my wardrobe. They bring me joy each time I put them on and they are the pieces that get the most compliments from people, too!

 

Do you find that you are drawn to different aesthetics based on where you’re living? How does your style evolve between cities?

 

Yes, 100%. I have many layers to my personality and I feel like I bring out different parts of it based on the occasion, time and place. Whenever I go to Sweden I end up dressing more minimalistic and practical, whereas in NY I am more expressive, and when I travel to sunny places I love to opt for hats and prints.

Tell us about the process of developing Ceremonia. What sparked the initial idea and how did your Latinx heritage inspire the brand's ethos?

 

Ceremonia was born out of two driving forces – on one hand, I was on this personal journey of swapping out old beauty rituals for clean ones. I was so amazed by the way my skin was able to completely transform after going clean, so I wanted to do the same with my hair. This is when I realised how extremely behind the hair care category is when it comes to high-performance clean products. As a customer, you have to basically pick between an all-natural approach from the natural, or a chemical-filled approach from your hair salon. This had me wondering: where are the modern brands adopting new clean standards, while still delivering results through science-backed ingredients and a beautiful brand you want to be part of?

 

Simultaneously, I was on a journey of identity and reflection. As I reflected on my own upbringing, I realised how incredibly ashamed I had been of my Latin heritage my entire life. I always thought of it as a disadvantage, because why wouldn’t I? Never had I ever read a single success story or about a business woman that looked like me or came from a background similar to mine. Never did I see my own culture or people represented in marketing or in the products I consumed, so subconsciously, I had developed a limiting belief around self-worth tied to my heritage. As I was now stepping into my own power, I started to question many of these beliefs, and it led me on a path of research. I found that not only is the Hispanic demographic in the US the largest and fastest growing minority (accounting for roughly 20% of the population), we are also the biggest spenders in beauty. When it comes to hair, we actually spend 46% more on hair care products than non-hispanics. And this made a lot of sense to me, especially as I grew up in a household where beauty rituals were considered a human right! My dad was also a hairdresser, and taught me a lot of practises for how to care for my hair. Yet, with all these data points speaking loud and clear I still witnessed a tremendous void in the beauty industry for Latinx representation.

 

This realisation ultimately served as the fuel I needed to start a new chapter in my life, to drive the change I wish to see in the industry. I felt an enormous sense of pride and responsibility to do so with the privilege that I’ve gained over the years of my career. If I don’t do this, who am I waiting for?

You’ve described Ceremonia as “hair wellness” - what small daily practises do you see as your personal touch points to achieving success and wellness?

 

I truly have a wellness approach to most things in my life. I don’t believe in quick-fixes, I am way more interested in understanding the root cause versus masking symptoms. This goes for diet, body movement, mindfulness, beauty rituals –and obviously hair. My favourite ritual is my weekly scalp remedy, where I practice a moment of self-care through beauty. I apply the Ceremonia Aceite de Moska (a scalp oil treatment) on my roots, I then massage it in with our Scalp Massager. I put on a spa band, put on a face mask, tap up a bath, listen to sound baths or now that I am pregnant, I like to tune into my HypnoBirthing affirmations and just practice being present.

 

What is the greatest lesson being a mother has taught you?

 

To protect your time. Prior to becoming a mother I would say yes to things without fully considering them, today I am much more mindful of how I spend my time and don’t feel guilty about it either. The great bonus of it all is that I’ve become extremely efficient as a result!

And lastly, what small daily practises do you see as your personal touch points to achieving success?

 

I take the time to eat a proper breakfast every morning. I don’t take shortcuts here, this is a daily ritual that is non-negotiable to me. Starting the day in the right way is so crucial to me, and fueling your body with the right energy is ultimately the investment you need in order to operate at your best.

Aje Insider: Babba Rivera

Photographer: Rebecca Alaniz

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