Lady Meche: The beauty line helping sex workers

Lady Meche is a company that offers makeup and skincare and its profits are for sex workers in La Merced

Lady Meche: The beauty line helping sex workers
Natalia Martínez, Karina López, Paulina Flores, and professor María Elena García created Lady Meche - Photo: Ivan Stephens/EL UNIVERSAL
English 05/01/2020 13:03 Mexico City Patricia Ramírez Actualizada 13:03
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Natalia Martínez, Karina López, Paulina Flores, and professor María Elena García created Lady Meche, a makeup line that helps victims of sexual exploitation. Natalia Martínez explains that these women “are victims of sexual exploitation who grew up in poor and sexist homes. They come from places where it is normal for girls to marry. Without work experience or education, they lack options to carry a different life.”

Photo: Ivan Stephens/EL UNIVERSAL

Lady Meche is a company that offers makeup and skincare made using natural ingredients and its profits are for sex workers in La Merced, a famous market located in Mexico City, who have an active participation in the creation of products, which represents an alternative and a circular economy that benefits all those involved.

Back in 2014, when Natalia, Karina, and Paulina were in university, they created a brand as part of a school project but a few years later it became a brand: Alba Malva, a name that makes reference to the feminist movement.

Some of the products offered by the brand include a lip balm, handmade with natural ingredients sourced from the Tehuantepec Isthmus, in Oaxaca, as well as other products such as moisturizer, soap, oils, and face masks.



A post shared by Lady Meche (@lady_meche) on



A post shared by Lady Meche (@lady_meche) on

Helping sex workers

For six months, the women offered a free manicure service to sex workers, this way, they created a bond and the women trusted them with their stories. During their time offering manicures, the founders of Lady Meche learned about sexual commerce, human trafficking, and child exploitation, drug trafficking, theft, and extortion.

Natalia explains that sex workers face violence every day. They are often verbally attacked, harassed by men who photograph or videotape them and are also stigmatized by vendors and merchants. Women often say they have no other choice, especially since the majority are single mothers who are providing education, health, food, and shelter for their children.

This pushed the three students to create Lady Meche and help sex workers. Natalia explains that the project is not about banning prostitution “but we also don’t want sexual commerce to be established as a job. We don’t consider it a failure if they decide to keep working. What we want is to help them and offer them a safe alternative for when they are older.”

Furthermore, Lady Meche has support from Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), which put them in contact with financial advisors and marketing and design experts. Unfortunately, the brand hasn’t reached the desired results as they have faced issues to purchase materials to produce the beauty line. Also, they lack the necessary resources to hire experts and produce the makeup line.

“Our goal has always been to be able to establish out lab in the La Merced neighborhood to be in touch with women but we need more financing to be able to refurbish a space that fulfills the specific quality and hygiene requirements,” Natalia said.

Dignity and punishment

There are no exact numbers in regards to prostitution at La Merced or numbers that differentiate it from human trafficking. The majority of clients ignore if women decided to be a sex worker or if she is the victim of sexual exploitation.

According to NGO Brigada Callejera, it is estimated that there are around 3,500 women who are part of sexual commerce in the area. Although this means that they are not being exploited by a third party, they are extorted by organized crime.

In Mexico City, lawmaker Temístocles Villanueva presented a bill to reform the Unpaid Work Law, which includes shoeshiners, musicians, photographers, newspaper sellers, and sex workers. Villanueva told EL UNIVERSAL that his bill “looks to do something about the inequality faced by sex workers. Also, it looks to create a better relationship with the different authorities.”

Nevertheless, several groups have rejected the bill and protested outside the local Congress on November 12, 2019. The workers reject tax collection since they make around MXN $150 per day, paying for the use of public space, and being banned from working in certain areas. They are also demanding working rights such as social security.

Villanueva later announced that after 7 months of dialogue, the bill won’t include the payment for using public space for sex workers; nevertheless, other initiatives include tax collection.

Despite the political debate surrounding sex work, the founders of Lady Meche say that “the majority of women working with us don’t have a political opinion in regards to it. They mistrust. We have noticed disappointment, they think that the laws won’t work because they are always the victims of violence.” But no matter what, the women behind Lady Meche will keep on working to help sex workers in Mexico City.



A post shared by Lady Meche (@lady_meche) on

You can shop the products through their online store and at bazaars.


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