We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandra Diaz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sandra, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Throughout my career, I have had many leaps of faith that seem to take me to the next level in my craft and in my personal life. Being the first generation in my family to graduate from an Art College. From interning in NYC for Artist Representative Richard Solomon my junior of college without a cent to my name. To leaving my business card at a Chanel boutique and getting a call back to collaborate on a Life-Style Sketching Exclusive event. After living in Miami for 30 years I decided to take on a job as a Visual Designer at Amazon and leave my little pond. The biggest risk I have taken was filling my LLC founding my company FEARLESS YAYA and transition into a full-time business owner. Fearless Yaya is a Latina-owned business redefines simple stationery by empowering and celebrating authenticity within Latinx communities. I have been called Fearless by my friends and family and it’s a pillar of my brand to take the risk no matter how scared I might feel. Because Failure is simply redirection and a learning experience.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Let’s face it, the greeting card industry lacks representation. How many times have you been unable to find the perfect card for your loved one? … Yeah, me too. Fearless Yaya’s greeting cards are more than just stationery, they are products that celebrate the achievements, milestones, lifestyles, and holidays of our Latinx cultures. Somos diosas, and we are powerful and worthy of recognition and magnification.
Fearless Yaya is a latina-owned small business that empowers and honors women of color through high-quality art prints, one-of-a-kind greeting cards, and other exciting stationery products. My designs are created with the goal of providing cultural representation and pride so that mujeres poderosas, like you, can see themselves represented in the world. Sandra Diaz knows the importance of capturing a moment in time, which is why she’s never longer than an arm’s length away from her iPad Pro. She’s an illustrator at heart with a portfolio that features a vast array of luxury clients such as CHANEL, Guess, Saks Fifth Avenue New York, Estee Lauder, and many more. But it’s the fiery hustle in her soul that inspires her to help empower others by offering designs that focus on the representation of Latina women. And to understand her best, we suggest taking you back, all the way to the beginning.
As a little girl, Sandra felt immensely inspired by her surroundings. So it’s no surprise that you could always find her listing to one of her favorite musicians, Selena. As she’s belting out the lyrics (to Dreaming Of You, of course), little Sandra would close her eyes and imagine her idols, the people who looked just like her.
But during this time, her mother and grandmother were fighting to be free of the roles they were expected to perform. Something that is given to all women at birth. It’s the box you are required to put yourself into. It’s the expectation to be smaller.
All women can relate to this feeling because it looks all too familiar, like the unrealized dreams and goals of the women in her family. Sandra’s mother and grandmother were denied education. So Sandra felt the need to reach for higher, not only for herself and her family but for the countless other women who were told they couldn’t be more.
As a Latina and first-generation Colombian, Sandra felt immensely lucky that her family believed in her dreams and was willing to fight to make them happen. During her yearly voyage back to Colombia, she would soak in the culture and all the precious moments with her family. On each trip, she would spend time with her grandfather, who was one of the most influential people in her life. He saw her passions and would always encourage her to push her art a little further.
Recognizing her talent from a young age, her mother searched far and wide to find proper art lessons. Shortly thereafter, Sandra was enrolled in Arts Magnet School, where she found her foundation in art. She moved through her lessons and went on to be enrolled in Design and Architecture Senior High School. Her studies focused on fashion design and it was at this moment that she fell deeply in love with fashion illustration in particular. She was the first person in her immediate family to graduate high school.
Cultural norms were not the only battle her family had to face. With little to no money available, and when her mother was forced to quit her job to raise her family, her mom started making the most delicious, mouth-watering, Arepas to sell. This is where Sandra learned to hustle.
After high school, Sandra decided she would do whatever it takes to put herself through college. This meant juggling multiple jobs while studying hard and showing up to class. During this time she was employed in IT, worked at her local school library, and at Chillis. When a little bit of free time showed up in her schedule, she loved to spend every moment practicing on her Wacom tablet. She found comfort in knowing that she had found her calling.
Her junior year of college was one to remember. It was spent interning in New York City with Richard Solomon, the biggest illustration representative in the country. This became one of the most magical summers of her life. Some people say: don’t meet your heroes and Sandra proved them wrong. This enchanting season was spent meeting all the people in illustration she looked up to, hanging out in the Society of Illustrators, and spending hours getting lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
After years of hard work finally paid off, it was time to graduate. She grabbed her diploma and got a job for the Miami-Dade County Government as a designer and illustrator.
She was later accepted into an artist-in-residence program at Saks Fifth Avenue. This allowed her the opportunity to work at private events and create one-of-a-kind illustrations for VIP clients during their product launches. You may have seen one of her illustrations featured by fashion designers and media companies such as Marchesa, Rodarte, Adobe Aero, Fierce By Mitu, and Latina Approved.
The fashion and beauty industry go together hand in hand, and Sandra enjoys working with small beauty companies. By collaborating with videographers, influencers, and master stylists, she loves to create tutorials on the latest trends and marketing print for their businesses. She has been featured in both Modern Salon Magazine and Beauty Launchpad Magazine. Since her enthusiasm knows no borders, in the past she has helped other businesses launch internationally in places such as Brazil, Mexico, France, and the Netherlands.
But during this time she started to get the feeling that it was time to move onto the next chapter of her life. Like a fish who was outgrowing its bowl, she started to outgrow what Florida had to offer. After 30 years of living in this sunny state, it was time for a major change. So she took the jump out of her tank and started applying to her dream jobs. This was a leap of faith that paid off, as she was hired at one of the most well-known companies in the world.
At Amazon, she worked as a visual designer and collaborated to create merchandise for brands such as Amazon Studios, Amazon Handmade, TBS, Rick and Morty of Cartoon Network, as well as other popular personalities such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Hannah Hart. And as an art director for Amazon Prime Video Mexico, she was working to help launch Prime channels in Mexico such as HBO, TV Azteca, Starzplay, Paramount+, and more.
But shortly after, the imposter syndrome started to kick in. She felt as if she didn’t belong and didn’t deserve the life she was living. If this was supposed to be her perfect career, then why did she still feel this way? It seemed as if she was living a dual life. Part of her knew that this was her dream job and the other part knew that her soul was grasping at something different. So, as heartbreaking as it was, she realized this life was not for her.
It was because this all too familiar feeling was resurfacing. She felt trapped inside of the roles that she thought she had to exist within. The lie that she believed, the same as countless other women falsely believe, is that she had to prove herself to be worthy. She thought she had to live within these standards to be accepted and loved by herself, her family, and the world. She felt like she needed to fit into the box that was designed for her, which was to live the perfect life with the perfect job.
One morning she woke up and decided that enough was enough. It was time to start believing in her talents and she was going to live out her actual dream of being a full-time illustrator. Like a calming exhale of fresh air, she had a sense of clarity and was ready to realize her self-worth. But how to make the leap? The wisdom that came to her was to start small because the best way to do anything large, is just one bite-sized step at a time.
So she started to start sketching every day. With her iPad by her side and pencil in hand, her life started to change. She was finally living her fully authentic life and truth. And by using Adobe Aero, her sketches really did start coming to life. This augmented reality brought another dimension (literally) to her passions.
When you take the time to connect with yourself at a deeper level you can begin to connect with others in the same, authentic way. Sandra needed to go through this journey to make her aware of the unacceptable lack of Latina representation around her. So starting a business in 2020 just seemed to make sense. (Even while not much else in the world seemed to make any sense at the time.)
Fearless Yaya is a collection of Sandra’s passion for art, illustration, design, representation, and everything aesthetic melding together into one. It is here, just like an old familiar friend, to work alongside you and breathe life into your home decor. Fearless Yaya is inspired by other women, so they can extend this inspiration to you.
It’s a small business with a big goal. With a mission to empower women by celebrating every win and milestone, they are ready to fight alongside you to combat false beliefs like the “I Can’ts” and the “Not Enoughs”. By bringing visibility to the Latina community, Fearless Yaya honors women of color through culturally charged artistic designs. Because through representation, we can grow together.
From a young age, women start to build self-confidence from the experiences around them. And we know how important it is when people can see themselves in the products that they encounter every day. It takes one quick trip down the greeting card aisle to realize something is obviously missing.
But Fearless Yaya is more than just illustrations. Everything is created with love from start to finish. From the moment her pencil hits the iPad to the packaging of each order, these dreamy art pieces are delivered right to your door and add something so much more to your decor.
Art is deeper than just the tangible aspects, it’s your soul on the line. This vulnerability works its magic by allowing ourselves to experience an even greater understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. This is at the heart of our values.
Fearless Yaya is here to meet you wherever you’re at in your journey.
From first-generation graduates to established entrepreneurs, they love it all. Their ideal client is someone who loves to get just as excited as them, about the possibilities of a dream. That’s why Fearless Yaya offers illustrations that help celebrate and recognize every milestone you and your loved ones accomplish. Some designs are even customizable to help go the distance and honor the women in your life.
Fearless Yaya values the natural flow of life and trusts in the now. With thoughtfully placed colors, typefaces, and augmented reality, each piece is delicately designed in a way that works together in harmony. For Sandra, drawing is her form of meditation. These works of art create a sense of calm and empowerment.
And most importantly, Sandra is immensely grateful.
She couldn’t have done it alone. Running your own business is like what life was like before our phones were giving us turn-by-turn directions. You have a map in the glove compartment and you’re taking turns with whimsy because you know you will eventually end up at your destination. But, it always helps if someone is in the car with you.
From those early moments where her mother believed her passions were worth fighting for to every woman who currently finds herself on Fearless Yaya’s Etsy page, Sandra celebrates her support. She’s happy to meet you on this journey, because it’s so important that mujeres poderosas, like you, can see themselves represented in the world.
Sandra now lives in the Columbia Maryland/D.C. area with her incredibly supportive husband Jonathan Diaz and their two adorable fur babies, Camila and Jasmine. She enjoys being able to live her dream every day with her favorite people by her side. She hopes that her high-quality art prints, one-of-a-kind greeting cards, and other exciting stationery products empower women in a way that makes them feel represented, seen, and most importantly, supported. So hopefully one day, other women (and girls like little Sandra) will be able to realize and follow their dreams too, with the help of idols and art that look just like the person who they see in the mirror.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My best friend and I would take a trip down to my favorite town in Colombia called San Carlos. It’s about three hours away from my parent’s hometown of Medellin Colombia. It has over a dozen waterfalls and we would jump into each one and at night eat so many arepas and a bandeja paisa. San Carlos is a beautiful town filled with nature, hikes and the most incredible people you ever meet. I think I have convinced my husband that we will be retiring there when we are older.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Marisol Catchings of Azteca Negra (@aztecanegra) and Abu Fofanah (@abufofanah) for being my mentors this year without them I would not be where I am today!
Other: Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/Fearlessyaya