Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.
For a woman who's always on the go, finding time to attract and inject positivity into the most tedious tasks can be challenging. But for Mary Kay Philippines' General Manager Sobee Dueñas Choa, a busy schedule and a pile of responsibilities don't stop her from channelling optimism and using it as a tool to encourage and empower those around her, even in the toughest of times. Read on as she shares her journey in building legacies, seeing motivational mantras come to life, and navigating her many roles as a superwoman.
Fill in the blank: I am a woman, a marketer and ___________.
"...a legacy builder.
To break things down, first as a woman, it’s the same for all of us — we are daughters, we are wives, we are sisters, we are friends, we are also mums. There are many roles we play.
Next, I think I’m one of the very few people who actually practice the course that they took in college. Mine was Asian Studies and Marketing and I ended up in a regional marketing role. And I can even say that Marketing is my first love. At the end of the day, I believe that no matter what product you’re trying to market, you’re also marketing yourself and your skills and the impression you leave in the world. Which leads me to be a legacy builder.
No matter which company you’re in, I think we all wonder what, once we’re gone, would we leave in order to make the world a better place?"
How and when did you realise that marketing is the ‘thing’ for you?
"Marketing wasn’t actually the first thing I took. It was Accounting because my dad recommended it. I only lasted one term. So I looked at what’s interesting to me because, at the end of the day, you have to look at where your heart is. It should be something that doesn’t make you pull yourself up from bed but rather ignite that fire in your belly. And so I looked at Marketing as an all-encompassing industry. It’s about understanding what people want, what consumers need, how you're going to communicate with them — and that’s what made me decide to pursue Marketing. I also thought that there’s a world outside of the Philippines and I want to explore that so I also took Asian Studies."
What’s the best thing about working in beauty? What’s the most challenging?
"The best thing is that I’ve been in this industry for decades — and I’d like to think that I don’t look my age given that there’s access to a lot of good products and technology. But on a more serious note, I think when you’re younger and you think about beauty, you see it as something superficial. But after being in this industry, I realised that beauty goes beyond that. There are ‘physical’ products that are dedicated to the aesthetic or getting a presentable appearance. But at the end of the day, people use skincare and makeup to feel better. When you look good, you feel good. With all the means at our disposal now, anyone can be beautiful as long as you make an effort. It’s always about this sense of self-worth and self-respect. You don’t have to go out there looking like Miss Universe. You just want to look the best you that you can be. There’s that outer aspect but there’s also that inner aspect because it’s up to you to define your personal representation of what beauty is."
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and the best advice you’ve given someone?
"In terms of the best advice I’ve been given, it actually comes from my mum. My mum is a retired nurse and housewife and I remember telling her that I have so much on my plate. Before I moved back here I was juggling two jobs at the same time — I still had my regional marketing role and every two weeks I was in Manila managing the business in the Philippines. I kept wondering, 'How am I going to do this?' And so my mum just looked at me and said, 'Walang hindi kaya (Nothing’s impossible).' I was like, 'Knowing that you’ve birthed me and all the things you’ve done for me, as a superwoman in your own spirit, I believe you.'
As for the best advice I’ve given to anyone that I’ve seen come into action is probably towards my team here in Manila. In 2015, the situation here isn’t exactly the most positive. There were many challenges that were making the business decline. And I told them, 'We need to have a positive mindset. If we believe we can, then we can. But we have to work together.' And of course, as a leader, I had to firmly believe in that. So we created a mantra at the time: 'Higher, smarter, stronger, together, we can!' And it became like our battle cry.
I believe in positive vibes, positive energy. And it’s haloed where we are now because of that mantra. It’s our fourth year living and breathing these words and we’re on a positive space right now and we aim to continue doing that."
Can you tell us your five Clozette essentials?
"On a daily basis, what I do first is to always start and end my day with a grateful heart. During mornings, I pray, set affirmations and expectations for the day. And at the end of it, I do Bible readings and share my day-to-day positivity with my husband. I also think about what I want to do and accomplish throughout the week and this month. I believe if you expect things, they come to you — and it works wonders. How things go is all in our mind and how we set our intentions. Out of the five, those are my top two: how you begin and how you end your day.
Then of course, in this industry, there are products. And if there are two products any girl should not live without, one, it’s SPF. You should have amazing sun protection — a broad-spectrum sunscreen — to deal with UVA, UVB, and other ageing factors. Second is lipstick. If you have no time, just swipe it on and it immediately brightens your face.
And the last one on my list would be a positive mindset. Like attracts like. So we should all have this positivity, this enthusiasm, this strong faith to stay grounded."
What’s next for you and Mary Kay in Southeast Asia?
"We have big dreams for this company. We’re celebrating 20 years next year and I envision that in the next 20 years, we’ll be bigger than where we are now. We are looking at sales and looking at the people we’re working with but more than that, I’d like to measure our success with all the lives we are able to touch. As our founder loved to say, 'There are so many lives out there. Our work is never going to be over. We can just keep on reaching and growing.'"
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
For more stories on inspiring women, read more of our I Am Her features here.