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Conscious Beauty Spotlight: María Del Río

by Burt’s Bees | 10 min read

We loved working with photographer María Del Río so much that we wanted to pick her brain about, well, everything. Read on for her thoughts on beauty, photography, the workplace and motherhood.  


Let’s start at the beginning—could you tell us about where you grew up? 

María: I was born in Mexico and immigrated to the States when I was four. Culturally, I feel like it informed so much of who I am, my art, and the creative energy that flows through me. 

When we moved to the States, we stopped in California for about a year and then moved to Santa Fe after that. (“We” is my mom—who was a single mom at the time—and my older brother and me.) And it's a really special place to grow up. Whenever I go back, I just feel there's this magic there.

 

You tell a story on your website about how your first camera didn’t even work, but it helped you imagine the photos you would eventually take. How did you get from that broken camera to where you are today? 

That was a good of jumping off point for my career, because it was just like, "Make it work with no money and no tools." But even when I took classes at the community college, after I finally did get a working camera, I felt really out of place. There were no women, there were no people of color, there were no young people. I kind of paused after that, I felt so put off by it. 

"There were no women, there were no people of color, there were no young people."

When I moved out to Santa Cruz to go to college, I picked it up again. I really wanted to do photography, but I felt a lot of pressure, because I was the first in the family going to college. And I felt like if I studied art, it was kind of a cop out. Now I wish I had just put all that aside, listened to myself and been like, "That's what I want. And the degree is for me and not for anybody else."

I ended up studying Latin American and Latino Studies, but I still did photography in college all the time. I made friends with a janitor and he would let me into the dark room.

I started interning with a surf and skate photographer named Patrick Trefz. He's super talented and was incredible to work for. I'd come in for work and he'd be like, "The surf is good. The sky is beautiful. Shut everything down. We're leaving." It shook me up a little bit and taught me how to let go and not be so regimented or academic, or technical with my photography. At the same time, I worked in social work with homeless youth at shelters, and with foster teen girls. I still volunteer with foster youth, and I was in the child welfare system a little bit as a child, so these are all things that are really important to me. When I'm on these big shoots and something goes wrong, I'm like, "This is not a crisis, y'all. This is fun. We're making art. Don't stress."

When I'm on these big shoots and something goes wrong, I'm like, "This is not a crisis, y'all. This is fun. We're making art. Don't stress."

L-R: Maria on the set of our shoot, and just a few of the photos she captured

Can you describe your photography style?

I definitely lean toward the feminine. Even if I'm shooting men, something about feminine energy and image is really special and important to me. I prefer more graphic and minimal scenes, backgrounds, colors, lines. I really love the interaction between light and shadow, the dialogue between light and dark. 

What does your beauty routine look like?

I have the driest skin—I always say it's from growing up in the desert. So, everything has to be super, super, super moisturizing. I do an oil first, then I do a lotion, some sort of really thick cream. And usually at night I do an overnight heavy cream. And then so much sunscreen. I'm Latina, and really prone to hyperpigmentation—if I go in the sun, I'll just get a giant dark spot. But I love being in the sun, so I just wear so much sunscreen. 

And then in terms of makeup, I usually do a little bit of foundation, a little bit of concealer. And then I always brush my brows up, and sometimes I wear a mascara and eyeliner, and sometimes I don't.

Burt's Bees is the only lip balm I've used for at least 10 years. I will not buy another brand. I will not touch another brand. I cannot be without it. I use the cuticle cream before bed at night. And since our shoot, I started using the cream eyeshadow almost every day. I'll just dab a little bit on. 

"Burt's Bees is the only lip balm I've used for at least 10 years. I will not buy another brand."

How did your beauty routine evolve through pregnancy and parenthood?

I wasn't hyper-conscious about purchasing things that were cleaner until I got pregnant. That's really stuck with me, because I'm more aware of what I'm putting on my skin. Sometimes I read beauty products with a disclaimer, "Not recommended while nursing or pregnant." And I think, "Ugh, well then probably not recommended ever." 

What's your favorite thing about being a mom?

Everything! I really didn't know if I wanted to have kids, mostly because I love my career so much, I travel a lot for work and I work long days. And I don't know many women photographers who have babies and who are really successful.

Maria with her family. Photo by Julian Tongol.

"Everything was shattered in terms of what I thought motherhood would be. It's just been so much fun."

In movies, I feel like you always see the image of the postpartum mom and she's frazzled and stressed out. Then I started seeing my friends having kids and doing it so gracefully, and being so inspiring and badass as mothers. And I realized that image that was completely fed to me, and isn't real. Everything was shattered in terms of what I thought motherhood would be. It's just been so much fun.

My boyfriend is so supportive and so hands-on. Sometimes I'm gone for 12 hours on shoot days, and if I didn't have a supportive partner, I would be that breaking down, stressful mom that you see often in imagery. There are a lot of factors that go into it being a really beautiful, positive experience, and a lot of that is support. I'm so grateful that, for me, it's been an incredible, magical experience.

How do you feel about having role models, or being a role model?

I think it's absolutely important to have role models that reflect us. I was like a lot of teenage girls and was super into magazines, I would I tear out the photos and put them on my walls. And every time I looked at the photo credit, it was a male. There were no female names in the industry. Definitely couldn't find any women of color. And that really impacted me. A lot of times it really made me feel like, "Oh, is this for me? Am I not supposed to be in this space?" I'm just constantly seeking out these different voices now.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out more Conscious Beauty Spotlights below.

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