I’m the co-founder of two fine jewelry brands, Amarilo and Haati Chai. I’m also first generation Bangladeshi American. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, where I currently reside with my husband, two children, and two fur babies. Navigating who I am as a Bangladeshi and who I am as an American has greatly influenced who I am today.
The women in my life have shaped me most. My nani, mom, aunts, sister are the ones who I have turned to during significant moments in my life and who have helped me come out the other side more confident in myself. They always provide me with a sense of home, and the elders have passed down stories and practices that have helped to define my understanding of the world — and who I am within it.
It was my nani who nurtured my love for jewelry. She lived with us growing up but would take an annual trip to Bangladesh and India to visit other family. She would ask us what gift we would like her to bring back and, as I got older, my answer was always jewelry. I would always want to know the story behind each of these pieces — how she acquired it, what it symbolized, how to properly wear it.
I had a school uniform, but we were allowed to choose our shoes and accessories. I was shy but would go all-out with my jewelry, and I loved sharing the cultural backstory behind each piece. When I was about 14, my nani asked me to sketch a design and, when she returned that summer, she had brought the design to life. Now, decades later, I have dedicated my career to sharing my culture through my own lens. It’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery and I hope it encourages others to connect with their own heritage.
In my native culture, beauty rituals play a big role in our lives. The women in my family sit down at least once a week and pamper one another with homemade masks and hair oiling. This practice extends past the physical appeal; it has always been a time to reconnect with one another. It’s also not just about receiving but about giving. Human touch and intimacy have such powerful benefits for us all.
As someone of the East-Indian diaspora, I was raised with an understanding of beauty as rooted in ancient beliefs — that beauty should be a practice of self-care. Something that goes deep, beyond the surface, and when practiced correctly can become a vessel for someone to connect intimately with their inner self. Every individual regardless of class, gender, race, complexion contains a power within. We need to see this valued in the way that beauty companies hire, the faces of campaigns, and the dialogue brands have both with their customers and internally with their teams.
During my early teens, in the hopes of “fitting in,” I was more invested in maintaining clear skin and a fair complexion. I distanced myself from time-honored rituals but, towards the end of high school, with increased self-awareness and confidence, I started to return to these rituals that I had always revered. To feel at peace and in harmony with myself, everything I do needs to respect the duality of my identity: both Bangladeshi and American.
"I was raised with an understanding of beauty as rooted in ancient beliefs — that beauty should be a practice of self-care. Something that goes deep, beyond the surface, and when practiced correctly can become a vessel for someone to connect intimately with their inner self. Every individual regardless of class, gender, race, complexion contains a power within."
I feel most beautiful when I give time to myself. When I allow myself time to reflect and rest, I feel most renewed. Journaling, long midday naps, a day at the beach — these are some of my favorite things to do. I wish I had understood years ago that everything is about balance. Balance begins with ourselves; to take care of others, we must first take care of our own wellbeing.
I have learned over the years that things will not always go as you expected them to, but everything does happen for a reason. Lean into the positives and embrace the ebb and flow. Right now, I’m working on living in the moment and letting go of constantly preparing myself for what’s next. I hope that I only continue to grow.
My best advice for life is, simply: if it doesn’t serve you, find what does.
STELLA SIMONA with the REGENERATION MIST, REFINING CLEANSER and RITUAL SERUM. Photographed by CAROLYNE LORÉE TESTON.