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Lorena Mondoñedo-Perez: The Nena way to beauty

Tagalog is slowly creeping into the American lexicon with brands like Dalaga boutique in Brooklyn, Maharlika restaurant in Manhattan, Katamisan cakes in Queens, and now Nena makeup in Chicago.

Nena Cosmetics, manufactured in the US and Germany, are sold in the US, the Philippines, Dubai, Spain, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Singapore. They will soon be available online via

Nena is created by Lorena Nena Mondoñedo-Perez, a trained makeup artist and licensed esthetician. She has a Master’s in Skin Care Therapy at the Skin Care and Spa Institute in Illinois.

Nena went to the US after finishing high school at the International School-Manila in 1985. She took up Business Management at the College of Saint Benedict in the US before working as an accountant for an upscale beauty company.

Describing herself as a tomboy when she first arrived in the US, Nena said she looked like a 12-year-old compared to her American college classmates.

To make herself look a little more mature, she began experimenting with cosmetics, and thus, a love affair with makeup began.

As she played around with different kinds of makeup, she also learned how to take better care of her skin.

She recalled how she didn’t even use any sunscreen when she played golf in the Philippines in her high school days as one of the country’s top junior golfers.

“I never covered or even put anything on my skin so I grew up with not very good skin,” Nena said.

Nena continued playing golf in the US, even getting sponsors as she competed in ladies golf tournaments. Her family, who owns a successful mining business in the Philippines, thought she would end up as a professional golfer. However, one day she just woke up and realized she was tired of golf.

She then tried being a deli shop owner even while she was still in college. Having come from a family of entrepreneurs, running a business almost came naturally to her. She did well in her first attempt at running a business.

“When I was in college I ran the deli shop and that was like my first feel of being an entrepreneur and doing business and all that. After I finished college, that wasn’t the line that I wanted to be in so I sold the deli shop and made money,” Nena said.

Even though Nena did not encounter financial troubles in the US, she still found life there a little difficult especially when she first arrived there.

“Life in the States is very difficult. You don’t have anybody to depend on. It’s you, yourself, and I,” she said. “We don’t have maids, we don’t have helpers, we don’t have drivers like you do in the Philippines.”

“It really made me an independent, strong person. Hard work and perseverance – these make the difference,” she added. -- The FilAm