This Latina-run clothing brand is a love letter to black and brown girls
Bella Dona LA is a Los Angeles based clothing company that does more than provide a sick aesthetic — it gives people a peek into what growing up black and brown in the 818 was really like. Before hoop earrings and halter tops got big on Instagram, they were poppin’ in the hood, and it’s time to give credit to where its due.
BFFs LaLa Romero and Natalia Dorado are some serious power women. They started the brand because they wanted to be a role model for black and brown girls who never got much proper representation in the media growing up.
I got the inside scoop as to what Bella Dona is all about. And as someone who grew up in a similar culture in Cali, I can confirm that Bella Dona is legit.
What is the reasoning behind the name Bella Dona LA?
We came across the name Bella Dona after doing some research on the plant belladonna. Back in the day, women used to poison men with this plant to get out of their marriages. Obviously we loved it. It suited us. It made sense. It rang a bell. So we fell in love. We always say, “put the power in womens’ plants.”
Does music inspire the brand?
Music is the third leg of the brand. It’s Natalia, LaLa, and music. If LaLa had a merch line for her music, it would be exactly like Bella Dona. Besides, we are more than just clothing. We work together on music videos. We host shows. We throw a monthly party called Scam and Jam. Everything we do is to create a space for black and brown girls, especially in an environment like Los Angeles. The music that most of us grew up on is very LA nightlife. It’s anything that you can bump in a low-rider. Freestyle, funk, oldies, west coast hip hop. Our brand and the music we’re inspired by is a lot of fun and has a nostalgic party vibe to it.
Were you guys ever teased for your culture growing up?
We both grew up in a very Latin-based neighborhood, so it wasn’t too strange for us to be who we were. At school, we had a place with our friends, and it wasn’t strange for us to practice our culture.
Los Angeles is primarily black and brown. But we were hyperaware that whenever we turned on the radio or tv, we never saw our culture rightfully represented in any of the main characters. We felt very misrepresented. It’s not great for confidence building in young girls. If you don’t see anything successful that looks like you in the media, it’s hard to dream big. When you are Mexican-American or any other minority, you’re constantly battling stereotypes from being multi-facetted. Like if you’re bilingual, it’s easier for outside cultures to put you in a box.
And as a whole, growing up in our neighborhood, we just get each other. Outsiders used to look down at us for our swap meet clothes. For our exaggerated hoop earrings, for our acrylics. Outside of the neighborhood, we’re ghetto. But inside? We are the beauty standard. Things got a little confusing in the music industry for us because people tried to latch onto what we always loved. Now it’s appropriation.
How do you feel about your culture becoming trendy for people who aren’t part of it?
Honestly, there needs to be a shift in fashion where black and brown girls are represented. Where the neighborhood is represented and given credit for its contribution to pop culture and to high fashion. Just credit where the trends originated. Like, if you never empower black and brown girls, confidence is never gonna grow. Black and brown girls look at the Jenners and wanna be like them, but they inspired the Kardashians and Jenners. Fashion needs to take some responsibility and shine bright lights on true innovators and creators as opposed to where it gets trickled down via stylist and put on a celebrity.
Could your clothes also be for people who aren’t Latino?
What we do isn’t for everyone. If you don’t literally and authentically connect with what we do, it’s not for you. But if you’re Filipina or anything else and genuinely relate to what we grew up with, then yes, it is for you. But if you just think it’s trendy and cute, then hell no. You need to live the culture to know what the meaning is behind each item that you put on. Our clothes have deeper meanings to them.
How did you learn to take so much pride in your culture?
We were always proud of our Mexican culture. We were always proud even when it wasn’t cool to be proud. We always loved mariachi music and didn’t care who gave us shit for it. We think the culture is fucking beautiful, and we hope other girls of other cultures can take pride in where they came from, too.
We come from a culture that is very, very rich in tradition and beauty. Like low-riders! They’re pieces of art and are often under-appreciated by people outside of our community. They should even be at The MET, in my opinion. We have nail art that supersedes anything. Our food, the women in our culture, it’s all so rich and so fly. Part of launching the brand was to show the world how we have always felt towards our culture.
Do you receive any backlash from people who have been making this type of clothing for a while but was never seen as trendy?
We haven’t received a lot of backlash, but we’ve had a lot of confusion come our way. Before us, nothing like this existed. We proved who we are, and now people love our brand. But before this blew up, nobody really got our vision. Our community is 99.9% of what Bella Dona is. You can’t find what we do for cheaper anywhere else. And tell anyone who tries to knock us off that this is our heart and soul, whether it’s the sayings we come up with or the girls we shoot. The community loves us, so we’ve gotten a lot of support. It’s like what we do is authentic and shows who we truly are. A lot of things on our website and brand are strictly relatable to the girls who grew up like us. You can never go wrong with sticking to who you are.
How has your brand made a name for itself?
We had so many independent moves. We were fueled by the people and the streets, and our name honestly got out 100% by word of mouth. I have my music and a good social media following. Nat has her own accessory line, and she has a big social media following too. We’re just two best friends who have separate demographics that we originally reached out to, and by combining us together, our brand’s name got really popular. We’ve created a sisterhood out of it. And the thing is, we don’t even send our products to influencers for product placements. Celebrities and influencers shop on our website and post pictures and tag us because they love it that much.
We’re just lucky and blessed to have so many people supporting us and be down with what we’re doing. And we just want to keep spreading the message of empowerment for women!
How is Bella Dona different from other brands?
Bella Dona is both unique and important to the community we’re from. We shoot real girls who wear our clothes and embrace their real bodies, no matter what size or shape they are. What they look like is perfect to us. We talk to our Instagram followers and shoot them, and some of them get modeling careers out of it because people see their pictures and like them. And that’s an awesome feeling to us! We can help girls kickstart their careers. We love unique beauties rather than the standard societal beauty. We love being friends with people who love our brand. We’re here for you if you’re here for us.