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How this former Sephora exec found her greatest success at 67

Margarita Arriagada launched Valdé Beauty in 2020 after nearly a decade as the retailer’s chief merchant. Here’s what she learned about finding purpose, confidence and fulfillment at any age.
Margarita Arriagada, founder of Valde Beauty.
Margarita Arriagada brought brands like Stila, Tom Ford and Kat Von D to Sephora as the retailer's chief merchant. In 2020, she founded the luxury lip brand Valde Beauty.Courtesy of Vald? Beauty

In an industry where age has historically been perceived as a disadvantage, Sephora’s former chief merchant – Margarita Arriagada – is shattering norms and proving there’s no age limit on finding success.

After spending nearly a decade bringing some of the most iconic beauty lines to Sephora, such as Kat Von D and Stila Cosmetics, the Peruvian native decided to start her own sustainable, luxury lipstick brand at the age of 67. Founded in 2020, Valde Beauty, a refillable lipstick line, features nine shades housed in custom “armored” cases.

“Morning Joe” reporter Daniela Pierre-Bravo recently spoke to the beauty veteran about her journey from climbing the corporate ladder to becoming an entrepreneur later in life.

“Did you ever see this kind of success for yourself after the age of 50?” Pierre-Bravo asked. “Honestly, no,” Arriagada responded. “I see success differently than most people do, so I am just stepping into my success.”

Some might consider Arriagada’s storied career at Sephora as a pinnacle of professional achievement, but she felt there was a major element missing.

“Life is very much about purpose and understanding the gifts that you have,” she said. “When I left Sephora, I think people thought I would retire, but the reality is I had a ton of energy and a strong point of view that we should exercise our potential to the fullest, and I felt that I still had a lot to contribute.”

The brand itself was directly inspired by her mother – Carolina Valdelomar – who passed away in 2014 after battling dementia. A single mother who immigrated with her three children to the U.S., Arriagada recalled the way her mother defiantly wore lipstick. “It was her armor, it gave her confidence,” she said. “And at the end of her life … she didn't recognize us, but the reality was that every time I took out the lipstick to apply to her, she would perk up ready for application.”

“She would kiss the mirror because she saw a beautiful woman, and I thought to myself, how is it possible that she could not remember me?” Arriagada added. “She never forgot how lipstick made her feel.”

With that in mind, she set out create a product that felt personal and emotional instead of commercial, one that would not only honor her mother but all women.

Ultimately, her path to realizing that dream took years of introspection and a decision to uplift her cultural duality. “I did not embrace who I really was until I left the corporate world because I had to blend in,” she told Pierre-Bravo. “I was certainly a voice to influence the lack of diversity that we had in the industry and within the brand community … but it wasn't until I left that I allowed myself permission to be who I am.”

That career pivot included rebuilding her sense of self-worth and the courage to assert it. “I really I didn't have confidence,” she said. “I am a little bit of a mother lion, I will go to the end of the world for anyone else but me. I internalized a lot of pain because I did not feel recognized for my worth. Don't get me wrong, I was successful, but it's because I crawled my way to what I delivered.”

While at Sephora, Arriagada made it her mission to introduce diverse brands that could expand options specifically for women of color. “I pursued someone like a Kat Von D because there weren't brands that were knocking on our door – there was nothing to choose from in general for women of color,” she recalled. “I think the landscape has changed a lot in the last 10 years – you can see the harvest coming – so I want to be there to be able to amplify, support and make up for lost time.”

To that end, Valde Beauty launched its first annual Latinx beauty entrepreneur grant – an extension of the Valde NFT Collective – to help founders raise funds, receive mentoring and create a more inclusive space in the industry.

The sense of purpose behind the latest initiative comes full circle for Arriagada, who advised younger women to make the most of their long runway and utilize their full potential, beyond a means to an end. “Do not allow yourself to be defined by a role,” she said. “I know women and friends in big roles and they will not step away because it is frightening to be completely on your own.”

“The reality is, we've been brought into this world for a purpose and the primary role that we have in our life is to exercise that purpose,” she added. “I think we have a responsibility to each other as women of color … We have to bring other women along and I'm determined to do that.”