Right here is probably where most people would list Adrienne Bailon Houghton's accomplishments. They’d wax poetic about her start in the girl group 3LW, her generation defining turn as Chanel in Disney’s The Cheetah Girls and her foray into reality TV alongside her best friend Julissa Bermudez in their hit show Empire Girls. All of those things are easy to pen about but far too simplistic when the true story lies in the fact that after two decades in the business, Adrienne Bailon Houghton is still herself. Unchanged by an industry that runs on the souls of young artists who want desperately to use their talents to change the world, to be part of something great, Bailon, who is now married to gospel great Israel Houghton (hence the name change), has been to the mountaintop of fame, down and back up again. She has never really left the public eye but still remains defined by nothing other than herself. A refreshing concept in a society painstakingly dependent on the opinion of others to make sense of our own identities. Now as the cohost of popular daytime talk show The Real, owner of jewelry line XIXI and vegan luxury loungewear and handbag company La Voûte, Adrienne Bailon Houghton has successfully beaten the odds of not only being a Latina in an industry that has famously only made room for just a few but, also, of being stuck in a past version of herself. Instead she is the authentically charming and age-defying homegirl we all love. Her latest venture with skincare brand Olay sees her using her influence to help female entrepreneurs in her beloved New York City—totally on brand. We caught up with Adrienne to talk confidence, business and skin.
Iman N. Milner: Who is Adrienne Bailon Houghton as a woman and as a businesswoman?
Adrienne Bailon Houghton: Just super grateful. I am super grateful that I get to live out my dreams, of course, but also very thankful for everything that brought me here. Even all the ups and downs. I’m grateful that I have an amazing family that loves me and supports me. But I am most grateful for the possibility that what I have done may influence or inspire someone else on their journey.
IM: As a woman who wears a lot of different hats, what most excites you about the entrepreneurship journey?
ABH: It gets a little crazy but what most excites me is the feeling that we get when it’s done and when it’s successful. Even the small wins are big ones for me. I know it sounds crazy but the first time we ordered the tape to wrap our boxes; seeing my tape on the box for me was like groundbreaking. Enjoying those little joys as you go along—that’s exciting. When you’re a passionate entrepreneur, it’s exciting to see something that you imagined in your mind that is now in someone’s hands. The idea of being able to wear my own things; the fact that I design things that I actually want, I love that.
IM: You are doing so many things at once, how do you balance it all?
ABH: By creating me time. I recognize that my mind is constantly going, if not for me, it’s about The Real or how I am coming through as a wife or a sister or a friend. As women, we really do tackle a lot in life and it can get overwhelming. It’s so important that we take time for ourselves and for me it’s all about self care. Skincare is always the way I give myself some extra love.
IM: Which is great because you are doing this collaboration with Olay. It’s such an iconic brand that we all know from seeing our mothers and loved ones use it, how does it feel to be part of making new history for them?
ABH: It’s a household name, right? I’ve grown up with it my whole life. Even though it’s been around for so long, I love that they’re doing so many cool new things. I can’t wait for you to ty the product, it is so good and it smells amazing. And it actually works. You actually see the firming. It’s just so refreshing when legacy brands do something current, you know? Like adding the collagen to this collection.
IM: So dope because we all hear about collagen and what it can do for our faces but using it on the body is a bit different.
ABH: Right! And it really works. I am obsessed with the Olay Firming Body Lotion that has collagen in it. We forget that we actually need to keep our skin firm and hydrated. When I talk about self care, I love that moment after the shower when I take the time to just moisturize my body from head to toe. And the part that I love most about this is that Olay is using the product to support women entrepreneurs in Washington Heights. Everyone knows, I’m a native New Yorker and I have a special place in my heart for The Heights so, anything I can do to support that area, I am happy to do it.
IM: You are always expressing so much pride in being a Latina and highlighting what it means to represent your culture in front of the camera. When it comes to being a Latina in business, how do you stay proud without alienating other cultures?
ABH: I think it’s all about authenticity. I am authentically very very Latina and I am very proud of that. Sometimes we see things and think it feels a little forced—I stay away from that. That makes the difference. Being who you are wholeheartedly, that’s going to shine through. When we hear “representation matters,” we only think about awards or roles and that’s important but when it comes to business, it’s just as important. How many bosses are we seeing that are Latinas? Who are we seeing that are business owners? Who are you seeing that are being successful and doing amazing things? In my first collection for my jewelry line XIXI was called Faith y Familia, it wasn’t directly for Latinas but everyone knows what ‘familia’ is. Everyone loves their ‘familia’. And there’s certain things, regardless of being Latina, that you feel, that you can relate to. For me, that was super important. That the collection included things that reminded me of the pieces I wore growing up and the things that were passed down to me from generation to generation.
IM: You’ve been in this business since your very formative years, the industry can be hard on the self esteem of women, how do you stay true to loving yourself on the good days and the bad days?
ABH: It’s been a journey and that’s the honest truth. And I think it’s ok to say that. There are days where you’re like “huh?!” And then there are other days that you feel like “yesss, I’m killing it”. That’s part of the journey in becoming fearless in your own skin. That’s another thing that I loved about this Olay partnership. The whole idea is that when you feel fearless in your own skin, you perform better in the world. Taking a moment to actually take in my own skin—like we were saying earlier, those moments fresh out of the shower—and love on myself, it’s so important. We all have body goals but I feel like you can’t even get there without being able to love your body no matter where you are on your journey. Treating our bodies with love and respect and being kind and gentle to ourselves is a huge part of that.