“Can she do it all?” is a question that is leveled at so many working moms. “What can’t she do?” would be more appropriate in this case. Familiar with the challenges of pursuing a full-fledged career while caring for children, Natalie Alcala founded Fashion Mamas in 2014 in her hometown of Los Angeles as a network for similarly ambitious and creative moms to share their struggles and resources.
What started as a small, local support group ballooned into more than 600 members worldwide. Today, Fashion Mamas is a global network of professionals in fashion, art, beauty, design, and entertainment, and an incubator of sorts for independent mom-owned brands. Notable Fashion Mamas events include a breastfeeding awareness campaign, therapeutic cannabis training, and career summits featuring speakers like Rebecca Minkoff, Chriselle Lim, and Tamera Mowry-Housley.
As a fearless fashion maven, incisive journalist, and trailblazing advocate for creative entrepreneurs, Natalie is a multitasking mom we deeply admire. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we sat down with her to discuss how her Latin American heritage shapes her approach to motherhood and her recommendations for instilling cultural pride and encouraging curiosity in the younger generation.
CELEBRATING INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE HOME
How does your family celebrate your Latin heritage? Do you have any unique traditions?
Natalie: We have a Latin Power Hour, where we read books about our culture, eat our food, and purchase items that were made in Mexico. We love visiting Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles to say hello to all the wonderful small business owners there, and to support their creations.
How do you educate your children about their heritage?
Natalie: In addition to our Latin Power Hour, we always have a heart-to-heart chat. When I tuck my son in at night, I can hear how he's really feeling about the way life works. There's something about that intimate, quiet time that really makes him feel safest to express himself. Sometimes he'll ask me about the color of his skin, or the color of someone else's skin — he is very inquisitive and wants to know why we're all different. I explain to him that it's wonderful that this world has so many different people from a variety of backgrounds. The world would be so boring without it.
I tell him that his brown skin is not only beautiful, but it's powerful — it shows the world that he is part of the cultural fabric that makes up so much of our city, Los Angeles. The Latin community is a network of hard-working, business-savvy people who run many of our day-to-day essential establishments — both in front and behind the scenes.
NAVIGATING RACIAL AND GENDER STEREOTYPES
How does your culture influence your parenting style? Is there anything you learned from a maternal/paternal figure that you want to pass on to your children?
Natalie: I didn't grow up with a father, but I was constantly surrounded by strong women — my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother. Growing up, especially from what I saw in my uncles and cousins, and on TV, Latino men are encouraged to be strong and tough, and protectors of their family. Some of this I agree with, but I want my son to also know that it's OK to be soft, empathetic, and emotional. There is power in vulnerability. And on the flip side for my daughter, I show her that women can not only be sensitive, but they can be STRONG. But she doesn't need me to tell her that — she's a total firecracker all on her own!
LEARNING FROM AND SUPPORTING HER COMMUNITY
Natalie with Diego (left), her husband Vlad (second from left), and Rio (right). Photo courtesy of Cameron Jordan.
When you became a mother, in what ways did you lean on your family and friends for support?
Natalie: I was the first of my friends to become a mother, and my friends of all backgrounds were so supportive. I knew I wanted my support system to grow and any people as possible, which is why I launched Fashion Mamas in 2014. It helped me embrace this new chapter, and I'm so glad to see that it helped others realize that the party isn't over when you become a parent — in fact, it's only just begun.
What advice would you give other mothers who want to incorporate their heritage into their child's upbringing?
Natalie: I highly recommend planning a Cultural Power Hour with them! Once a month, spend an afternoon or weekend immersing yourselves in your culture's favorite things — food, music, literature, and entertainment. Bonus points if your Culture Power Hour includes a yummy dessert — that's always a winner with my kids!