Welcome to Seven Minutes in Heaven, GO Magazine’s interview series that profiles a different queer babe each day, by asking them seven unique (and sometimes random) questions. Get to know the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the groundbreaking, fierce forces-of-nature in the queer community.
Rachel Winard started creating natural and organic skincare products because she was desperate for something that would help her agitated skin. After being diagnosed with lupus, Winard struggled to find products that would help with her autoimmune disease. She tried everything that was labeled organic or homeopathic — only to find that those companies were simply using marketing tactics and not creating healthy skincare products.
From that, Soapwalla was born. Not only does she make amazing soaps, Winard tackles homophobia and gender politics in the beauty industry. Of course, we had to interview her to get to know more about her life, perspectives and business. Tune in for today’s Seven Minutes in Heaven.
GO Magazine: Can you tell our readers a little more about Soapwalla and the genesis of the company?
Rachel Winard: Our mission is to create inclusive, safe, healthy, clean but effective skincare for everyone. I started making it myself about 15 years ago after being diagnosed with lupus. I went overnight from having perfectly healthy skin to highly reactive skin. I sort of set out on a mission to figure out how to live with all these things that were cropping up.
Before this, I was a stereotypical consumer where if there was a product, I assumed someone had vetted it and made sure it was okay. I quickly found out with my lowered immune system, particularly around skincare, especially as a queer person, a lot of things seemed like they weren’t for me. The marketing never seemed like it was geared towards me. There was a limited selection and whole stores I’d avoid going into. I’d try everything “organic, natural, sensitive” but discovered there was not much behind them besides the terms. They didn’t help my skin– they actually exacerbated the issues. I figured late one night that I would just have to make it. I don’t have this chemistry background. I had to teach myself herbology and aromatherapy. But it didn’t feel like work.
GO: What is the driving force behind your career/activism?
RW: Queer people are activists by nature. Our existence makes us think slightly differently. I’m a firm believer in businesses being political. We don’t shy away from that and I get my share of hate mail for it. Any platform, no matter how small, can be used to further everyones goals. We can all succeed if we support each other.
GO: Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged or depleted?
RW: I really need yoga. Not only to help reset my brain, but since I have autoimmune illness, physical movement really helps support my healing. I also box, which is the polar opposite. I need to do a physical activity everyday to keep myself sane and healthy. Just a walk in nature, the park, upstate to hike, going to the beach. It doesn’t have to be far but I definitely need fresh air.
GO: Why is it important for queer and trans folks to have access to wellness products that can be a part of self-care routines?
RW: I am really passionate about this. I want to make an entire paradigm shift in the personal care field. It’s so gendered in every possible way. But what I always say is, skin is skin. I get asked this a lot–about who is my target market. I always say: if you have skin, you can use our products. I don’t care how you identify, I can help you create a skincare regimen that helps support your largest organ and take care of your body.
Queer people don’t get medical treatment the way straight and cis people do — because of lack of access or homophobia in the medical system, which can shorten our live spans. Skincare isn’t that dire but it is a part of healthy and happy lifestyle experience. We deserve skincare that fits for us.
GO: Who are your queer role models?
RW: Lea DeLaria, she’s a badass. I love that she’s been out since, like, the early 90s. She’s never apologized for who she is and never hidden it or toned it down. As a kid, that was amazing to me. I came out the week after Ellen did in ’97. I remember her being this mythical creature I looked up to. She’s multi talented. She’s so authentic.
Also, RuPaul for the same reasons. They helped bring a whole new dialogue to a wider audience. Straight people are obsessed with drag culture. RuPaul has helped show how diverse queer identity can be. Not only in presentation but really helping to give a platform to queer folx of color.
And I just found out about this person Anne Lister. She was born in England in 1791, her parents were titled in the court, she traveled around the world and coal mined. She was super-duper lesbian and promiscuous and very out. People, of course, said she was eccentric. But she kept diaries of all her escapades. Someone just started to do a biography on her. But it’s difficult because she created her own secret code to write her diaries.
GO: How would you describe your Soapwalla‘s vibe in three words?
RW: Good clean fun.
GO: Where can people find you?
RW: soapwalla.com, for our list of retail partners all over the world. We do pop-ups around the city and are located in Brooklyn.