When Vanessa Mayuga-Santos quit the corporate world, she shifted her focus on being more present to her family. But by no means did she slow down. The former MTV VJ, model , and luxury brand manager is pursuing her passions as a co-owner of the clothing line, Stella by TALA, and as one of the purveyors of the curated online boutique, Seek the Uniq. Here, she talks about adopting #TheVainMama persona, her philosophy on beauty, her entrepreneurial endeavours, and what life is like offline.
1. Tell us a little bit about who Vanessa Mayuga-Santos is.
I am 37 years old – my age is something I don’t hide as it is a testament to the journey I have lived thus far. Right now, my most important role is being wife to my husband, Jopeng, and mother to my two young children, Stella (5 years old) and Cisco (3 years old). I’ve been through many phases that have brought me to where I am now.
I graduated from Ateneo in 1999 with a degree in Communications. After school, I dabbled in modeling and TV hosting. I was an MTV VJ in the days that was actually considered cool. Haha … I knew this was not the long-term career I envisioned for myself, so I moved to the Sales & Marketing team in 2000. I started from the bottom up: doing clerical work, selling ad spots on TV, to eventually becoming the Number 2 sales person in MTV Asia. For a while, I considered moving to the Regional Office in Singapore but I grew tired of all the parties and late nights this job entailed.
I then joined Luxasia (a regional distributor of cosmetics and fragrances) in 2002. I did brand management and launched brands such as Guerlain, YSL Beaute, Jurlique, among others, here in the Philippines. My job entailed everything from marketing to PR to business development. The 8 years I spent with Luxasia fostered my love for beauty and gave me invaluable retail experience.
2. Can you give us a peek into your entrepreneurial endeavors, what drives you, and what you’re like when you have the entrepreneur’s hat on?
In my entire career, I have always been driven by passion, never the profit. I’ve always believed that if you genuinely LOVE what you do, the rewards will come naturally.
In 2008, I got married and had my first child, Stella, a year later. I resigned and tried my hand at being a housewife. This first attempt wasn’t too successful as I was not ready for this new life. When Stella turned one in 2010, I went back to work as PR Manager for Louis Vuitton Philippines. While it was truly a dream job, balancing motherhood and a demanding career took its toll. I finally (and with no regrets) decided to leave corporate life in 2012 when my second child, Cisco, was born.
Luckily, little passion projects like the clothing line, Stella by TALA, came along to make the transition easier.
My first foray into being an entrepreneur was the Stella By TALA clothing line. I was lucky to have my cousin, Mavis, to guide me through the process. We both have the same approach to business (passion first always) and hopefully we will be inspired to come up with a new collection soon.
I am now primarily involved with heading the Beauty category of www.seektheuniq.com. The business has grown so much since 2013 and this is enough for me now. The whole point of my leaving the corporate world was to be more present for my kids, and taking on more now would defeat the purpose.
3. Let’s talk about your persona, The Vain Mama. Who is she and how has she changed over the years? What is The Vain Mama up to these days?
The whole The Vain Mama idea started out about the same time I was doing Stella by TALA. It was really just a fun outlet for me to do beauty reviews on social media. I was honestly so surprised with the response and that people actually cared about what I had to say. I really didn’t know where I wanted to take the whole thing. Was I going start a blog? I was still on the fence.
Enter www.seektheuniq.com. The founder, Mikka Padua, and I used to be colleagues in Luxasia. We first collaborated when she carried the Stella By TALA dresses on the site. (Both Seek and Stella were launched on the same day, April 13, 2013!) A few months later, Mikka invited me to come on board as a partner to head the new Beauty & Wellness category. Needless to say, things finally fell into place.
4. How would you define the word “vain” and why is it your chosen description for such a prominent persona?
I really don’t think The Vain Mama is prominent! Haha!
The term was coined as a joke by my cousin, Mavis Fuentebella, because I would always goad her to try all these new products. The basic idea was to remind women that even if you are married or a mother, you should still make it a point to take care of yourself. And to do it not for others, but for yourself.
5. How big a part of your life is beauty? What is your outlook or philosophy when it comes to beauty?
It’s funny because some people probably expect me to be decked out in full makeup everyday. This is totally not the case!! Beauty for me is just something fun and should simply make women feel good about themselves.
I believe in a holistic approach from eating right, exercising, using the proper skincare, giving yourself ME time, and, yes, getting dolled up on occasion.
6. Share some of your beauty tips with us: how do you choose and shop for your favorite beauty items? What is your criteria when recommending a beauty product?
I’ve always said that ‘Skincare is the cake and makeup is just the icing.’ Skincare for me is the most important investment in terms of beauty. There are so many choices out there what is important is finding what is right for you.
I love browsing the beauty floors of department stores when I travel. Sephora is my version of Disneyland. My main criteria in recommending or selecting a product to carry on www.seektheuniq.com is that it is of excellent quality (from the base ingredients to the packaging), it is priced reasonably, and that it will hopefully add some joy to your life.
7. Tell us about being a mummy! What do you like best about it? What do you find challenging?
I am definitely not a ‘Tiger Mom’ or anything like that. What is important for me is that both my kids grow up happy, knowing that they are loved unconditionally. That being said, the challenge of course is being able to discipline them as well so that they grow up with the proper values.
I feel so privileged that I get to spend as much time with my kids as I do, witnessing all the little milestones everyday. Time goes by so fast and I treasure every moment of being a mom.
8. What’s life for you offline? Tell us something about your day-to-day. What keeps you busy that does not go on social media?
This is a nice question, Grace. I just had a conversation with some friends about how real (or un-real) life on Instagram actually is.
My life is honestly very quiet right now. It may seem boring to some but it is just the way I like it. Everyday is about getting the kids to school, planning play dates, doing yoga, quiet date nights with my husband, and, occasionally, meeting up with good friends.
I rarely go out at night or attend events anymore, unless they are to support good friends.
9. Who inspires you? What keeps you motivated to pursue your passions?
Cliché as it may sound, it is definitely my family that inspires me. Having my daughter ask to help me ‘work’ makes me very proud and happy. I want both my kids to realize that life is about following your passions, whatever they may be.
Working with other entrepreneurs and giving them a platform to share their products is also something that makes me happy. I learn from them, and I’d like to think I also help them in my own way. I sometimes joke that I am a ‘secret consultant’ for some of my partners.
10. How do you balance your time between your work and your being wife and mummy?
Working with www.seektheuniq.com allows me to primarily work from home. I head to our headquarters and meet with suppliers a few times a month, but the rest is done online.
I generally work in the mornings when my husband is at the office and the kids are in school. By 12nn, I am on full mummy mode already.
11. On the other hand, how do you take care of yourself?
Travel is definitely the best way for me to re-charge. I love planning and taking trips with the whole family – it is something we all look forward to.
I do yoga 2 to 3 times a week to calm and center me. I make it a point to meet up with good friends regularly to decompress and have regular date nights with my husband.
It may sound funny, but bath time is my daily ME time. I spend way too much on bath products, but this is a small treat that makes me happy.
12. I always say that there’s a “Spoiled Mummy” in each of us. What do you think makes you, Vanessa Mayuga-Santos, a Spoiled Mummy?
I am a “Spoiled Mummy” because I have been truly blessed with the most amazing husband and life partner. He is the only one who understands me completely (even better than I do) and loves me flaws and all.
After 8 years of marriage, laughter and a genuine appreciation for the little things are what keep us together.