How KathleenLights Overcame Age Bias To Launch Her Own Company

Photo: Courtesy of Lights Lacquer.

When Kathleen Fuentes, a.k.a KathleenLights, debuted her nail polish line in 2016, it had been three years since she started a YouTube beauty channel that quickly grew to 4 million subscribers. She was ready to take on an entrepreneurial role, her loyal subscribers were excited to support her venture, and the polish shades sold out almost immediately.

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But after three years and multiple collections, fans began to suspect that something was wrong. Rumors swirled that the vlogger's eponymous brand was shutting down, and Fuentes frequently uploaded thinly veiled Instagram Stories, singing lyrics like "Don't Mess With My Man," switching out the word "man" with "brand."

Then, this past March, Fuentes took to YouTube to confirm that she was indeed publicly splitting from her nail brand after three years. "There have been a lot of questions and concerns about KL Polish, things I have been reading for the past few weeks… The rumors are true. KL Polish is ending, but I don’t want you guys to worry," she said, before explaining her departure from the company. "I started to quickly feel like I was losing control of my own brand… I felt like I needed to start protecting myself and protecting my audience. I knew the only choice I had was to walk away from KL Polish."

In the same video, Fuentes shares that she wasn't the only owner of KL Polish and claimed that many of the brand decisions — from packaging to shipping — were being made without her input. While Fuentes didn't go into further detail, she did share the root of her frustration: "I started to feel like certain people saw me as this little girl."

That was all the motivation the 27-year-old entrepreneur needed to start fresh and not lose sight of her vision. Just eight months since announcing the end of KL Polish, Fuentes is now releasing Lights Lacquer, a vegan, cruelty-free nail polish brand that's all hers. "Being a young entrepreneur comes with its challenges," she tells us. "People assume because you are young, you don't know what you're doing or that you aren't thinking of the long-term success of a business. I think it's important to remind young entrepreneurs that being prepared to face age discrimination will ultimately lead to success."

Her first collection, GRL PWR, is something Fuentes says she has "put [her] heart and soul into." Each of the six shade names are meant to reflect female empowerment, including the women, like her own mother, Rosie, who inspired her to take the leap.

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It was also important to the YouTuber that her new line reflected her culture. "I made sure my Cuban roots are represented by naming one of my favorite colors of this launch ‘Jefa’, a creamy sage green inspired by the strong women in my life," she says. ('Jefa' means female boss in Spanish.)

With her company and brand decisions now on her terms, Fuentes hopes this collection will inspire others who have experienced failure and ageism, and help her reconnect with fans who have supported her from the beginning. "For me, it's always been about beauty and connecting with people and my culture, while making a difference in their lives," she says. "I hope people feel empowered, inspired, and proud when they wear it."

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