Three years ago, Lexus Fernandez had just finished her sophomore year at Roger Williams University – majoring in political science and visual arts – and had big plans for the summer and future ahead of her. At the time, starting a skincare brand wasn’t among them – nor was relearning the use of the left side of her brain.
At 20 years old, with no warning, Fernandez suffered a major brain aneurysm that robbed her of her language and math skills, and damaged her sense of time and memory.
“It took a lot from me,” Fernandez says, including her ability to return to school or keep her job.
Worst of all, it stripped her of her confidence. She lost her hair and returned home from the hospital covered in scars and bruises. When she was finally able to get into the shower on her own again, the same products that had once nourished her skin now turned against her, covering her in rashes.
Armed with books on herbalism, aromatherapy, and herbal remedies, and working out of her kitchen, Fernandez began crafting soaps and oils to help heal her skin. “Because the aneurysm flooded on the left side of my brain, the right side – where the creativity, the art lives – was heightened,” says Fernandez, who took the time she now had in abundance to experiment with natural ingredients and derive products that worked wonders on her skin.
Her products worked so well, in fact, that Fernandez wanted to find a way to share them with everyone. “I had no education in business, I had no net worth, I had no money,” Fernandez says, thinking back on how quickly she’d watched her savings account dwindle in the months after her brain aneurysm. “By the time the New Year came, I seemingly had nothing.”
Fernandez had come a long way in a matter of months, regaining her ability to walk, speak, write, and even drive. She brought her new soaps, branded Soulita, to small pop-up events and eventually began creating other products like dry masks, essential oils, and body butters.
“Soulita gave me purpose again,” Fernandez says. “It gave me something to believe in.”
At its core, Soulita isn’t just about having “these nice, green products help you on the outside, but also on the inside.” She adds, “Even at your lowest, you can still find ambition.”
Just as Fernandez was getting Soulita off the ground, she heard about Brooklyn-based actor and model Evan Delpeche on social media through mutual friends. She reached out about modeling for a new beard oil she was launching, and while he wasn’t available for that project, the two reconnected later while Delpeche was in Providence for work, and they instantly clicked. “As soon as we started working together, we were like, ‘This could work,’” Lexus said. “That’s the foundation of our relationship, because we saw how well we work together.”
Delpeche eagerly offered suggestions for how to grow Soulita using his background in fashion marketing. Though he never envisioned entering the world of skin care, Delpeche describes his partnership with Fernandez as one of the best things to ever happen to him and an opportunity to work on something bigger than themselves.
With a new website and image they collaborated on, the brand took off, and can be found in retail spaces like Green Line Apothecary and Plant City, and now their own temporary storefront on Westminster Street. Soulita has expanded so much that Fernandez and Delpeche recently bought warehouse space in Olneyville, where they look forward to hiring a team to work in the laboratory they’re building out, as well as a photography studio to market new products.
Once completed, the couple hopes to open their space up once a month for networking events and to provide free professional headshots to neighbors. “We have to give back to the community before we give out to the world,” Fernandez says. “While we’re creating our base and our warehouse here, we’re also looking for ways to revitalize our community.”
This includes neighborhood cleanups, and most recently, a small college scholarship to a graduating senior from Fernandez’s alma mater, Mount Pleasant High School, where she delivered a commencement speech to students about the importance of perseverance.
While Soulita wasn’t part of her original career plans, Fernandez says she’s grateful for where life’s curveballs have led her.
“The same thing that almost killed me is also what saved me.”
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