Once upon a time, there was a girl named Mireya Palencia from Compton, who just wanted to express her love and pride for her Mexican culture in a new unique way. Her journey has been long, but Mireya has been able to transform one of her passions into a business. She will soon obtain her Masters as an English Graduate from California State University Dominguez Hills. This Latina business woman manages to balance school with her business and her passion for teaching Mexican folk dancing classes to young girls. In just a matter of a few months, Mireya has created her own Latina storybook tale. For the first time, Mireya is sharing her story and the face behind these viral charms.
It began when Mireya experimented with different hobbies to express her creative side. In the past she has made scarves and for a short time she was interested in painting, but nothing felt right. One day at her dance class, Mireya noticed one of the dance moms had brought miniature decor figurines of fairies that she had made. The dance mom explained to Mireya that there was a community on Youtube where people posted videos about how to make different clay charms. Mireya would go on Pinterest and make little Starbucks charms then tried out other little treats made of clay.
She began making clay charms to express her love for the fairytale-based television series, Once Upon a Time. Mireya created a small storybook keychain out of clay. One day in class, one of her classmates asked about where she bought the little charm. Although it was handmade and not store bought, he offered to purchase the charm on the spot for his girlfriend. Soon, the whole class was requesting little charms from Mireya.
“I was like the same way that book represents once upon a time I could find different little objects that could represent the Latino community.”
It can be difficult for Latino’s to express their love for their culture in a new way without looking tacky or weird. Her charms are a way for people to express their love for the Latin culture. People are able to pick from a range of her most well-known charm, a piece of pan dulce (sweet bread) called a concha to a paleta payaso (clown lollipop) to an elote (corn). “Food is culture. I get my inspiration through food.” The charms can come in a form of a pin, earrings, bracelets, and custom key chains. Mireya strives to create charms to look as realistic as possible going the extra mile to add the smallest of details. Every little concha has small crumb details scaled into the clay. The mango chile lollipop has the exact chile texture to the real thing while the little tamale charms use real corn husks, tying them like an actual tamale. I showed my friends some of her charms and they had to do a double take to realize the charms were not edible. Other than food, she creates loteria card charms for a bracelet or a key chain. She is currently planning future charm collections of new foods and snacks for her online store.
“I can’t go around wearing this sign that says, 'Hey you know I love my Mexican culture. I’m proud to be Latina' like I can’t, but wearing my charms and making them and sharing them with people does.”
Her success with Once Upon a Charm happened overnight. “Little did I know that something I created in 6 months was going to become this big. We were talking about it on our drive over here like it literally happened overnight. There was this one night I had like 600 followers and just one night out of nowhere like this person started following you and this person started following you and then next thing you know I had 3,000. Then next thing you know, it was like 15,000.” Once Upon a Charm currently has 30,902 followers on Instagram.
What is one key piece of advice she would give to future business owners or Latina women who want to purse something new? “Get away from the fear of not knowing and jump into the discovery.”
As a Latina who grew up with learning English as a second language, Mireya has persevered through a lot of obstacles, but her positivity has guided her into success. Her business is truly revolutionizing how Latina’s can be prideful of being a part of this community.
Check out the website here. IG account: @onceuponacharm