Meet Kristine Rodriguez from GRL Collective, a Brand for Girls that Give a F*ck

Kristine Rodriguez from GRL Collective smiling at the camera

GRL Collective has been taking the web by storm with its amazing designs and Latina-focused vibes. Donating a portion of its profits to notable non-profits like RAICES Texas and Black Lives Matter, this is a brand with a serious attitude that also does good. The biggest portion of its profits goes to The Sambhali Trust, an organization dedicated to funding education for girls in India.

Kristine found herself having to pivot her business to meet the large surge in sales after her Lucha graphic that showed solidarity with the #BLM movement went viral and gave her business more eyes than ever before. Since then, she has continued to grow her business and make waves in a socially conscious way.

Check out our interview with Kristine Rodriguez, Alpha Latina, and owner of GRL Collective.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

 How did you get started and what inspired you to start your business?

I started GRL Collective in 2017 after testifying against my abuser in a public trial & taking a 40- day life-changing trip to volunteer with a women and girls empowerment program in India. I was hand-making earrings to raise money to pay for my airfare for this trip and realized that I could continue making the earrings to sell and send a portion of the proceeds back to India to support the education of the girls who had changed my life.

We know a part of your proceeds gives back to young girls. How much of this impact drives your business decisions?

I would say it impacts it tremendously. We have to make sure we're being super mindful of our margins, our costs, etc. so that we end months and years being profitable. If we do not turn a profit we can't donate and it defeats our purpose.

Source: GRL Collective

You went viral and that's how your business really took off. Was your business prepared? Were you mentally prepared for this?

I honestly don't know if there's any way to fully prepare for the virality of the internet and how quickly it can change your life. When you're a super tiny business, you usually don't have the capital to prepare for a giant surge in sales, which was the case we were in. Being an entrepreneur is all about thinking quickly and pivoting when needed and that's what we did! We garnered sales by offering made-to-order since we couldn't afford to stock inventory otherwise and we over-communicated wait times to our existing and new customers.

Mentally, it was hard. I felt like my baby (GRL Collective) was growing at a steady pace then all of a sudden it went from a 2-year-old to an 18-year-old overnight. It made me anxious to have all these new eyes on us when all they had known us for was the Lucha image and nothing else. Social media can be so beautiful and it can be so ugly, and struggling with anxiety made me afraid of the ugly now that we were growing. The community we had grown to at that point felt so intimate and safe and it took a bit to recalibrate and feel that intimacy with a bigger community but we did it. I was able to gain my footing again and move forward while being able to create more change with a bigger and even more engaged community!

Source: GRL Collective

What are some challenges you faced that you didn’t expect as an entrepreneur?

Learning to be more confident in me and in my business. I have always been the behind-the-scenes person, coming from working in the music industry that was all I ever knew before becoming an entrepreneur. I quickly realized that the kind of brand I wanted to build required me to be the storyteller. The more I shared and the more vulnerable I was, the more that other women felt seen and could relate, and that's all it took for me to push my shyness aside and dive right in to be the face of my brand. I love having a personal connection with our grls, as we continue growing, I don't want that to EVER change.


This interview is part of Luz Media’s Alpha Latina: Small Business Saturday series. This series highlights the accomplishments of Alpha Latinas making a difference in their communities through their businesses. Interested in being featured? Email us.

an image of a pile of books

This article is part of a series developed in partnership with Project Pulso.

Latino history is vital to the American narrative - there is no America without Latino contributions. Despite this, Latino storytelling and history are increasingly being sidelined in educational institutions. The issue deepens when we look at the emerging trend of book banning.

What is the Modern Book Ban?

Book banning is the act of removing books from reading lists, libraries, or bookstores based on content disagreements. Often done with the pretense of safeguarding children, the majority of these challenges come from parents and library patrons. However, elected officials, school boards, and even librarians can also be champions of imposed ignorance - after all, they know knowledge is power.

Recently, the ALA reported an "unprecedented volume" of book challenges. This is alarming for multiple reasons:

  • Censorship: Book banning is fundamentally a form of censorship. Although the First Amendment protects against government censorship, private individuals or organizations face limited restraint. This makes book banning a primary example of legal censorship in the U.S.
  • Democracy at Risk: At the core of democracy is the free exchange of ideas. By constraining this, we challenge the principles on which the U.S. was built. Censorship often paves the way to tyranny, allowing a small group to dominate the narrative.
  • Stagnation: Book bans impede societal progression by avoiding challenges to prevailing beliefs. To quote English writer George Orwell from his eerily prescient dystopian novel “1984”: “The best books are those that tell you what you know already.” Do we aspire to a society that shuns diverse thought? Book bans lead fully in that direction.
Marginalization: Such bans further alienate underrepresented communities. With Latinos already underrepresented in literature, these bans exacerbate the problem.

Latino Representation: The Understated Crisis

Despite making up a significant portion of the K-12 public school population, Latino students are presented with textbooks that overlook or barely touch upon key topics in Latino history. Out of the books published for young readers, only 5% concern or are authored by Latinos. This void extends beyond just fictional narratives.

Recent bans in states like Texas and Florida are erasing the already sparse representation Latinos have. Essential books reflecting Latino experiences, such as My Name is María Isabel, are disappearing from shelves. Project Pulso underlines this issue in their post:

Even beyond Latino literature, there's a broader attack against critical theory. This crusade aims to stifle discussions on racism, sexism, and systemic inequality. In a single year, 2,539 books faced bans, according to PEN America. A startling number of these pertained to LGBTQ themes, protagonists of color, race, and racism.

A Spotlight on Banned Latina Authors

Amidst the unsettling rise in book bans across the U.S., Latina authors have found themselves at the epicenter of this censorship storm. These authors not only highlight the complexities of Latino heritage but also bridge gaps in understanding, weaving tales that resonate across boundaries. Many invaluable works by Latina authors have been banned, including:

  • “The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende: Spanning generations, this saga chronicles the lives of the Trueba family in Chile, accentuating the mystical powers of its female characters. Challenges against it cite reasons like its "pornographic" nature and alleged attacks on Catholicism.
  • “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros: Through vignettes, this novel paints the life of Esperanza Cordero, a young Chicana in Chicago. Bans have been enforced based on claims that it instigates skepticism against "American values."
  • “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez: Set against the backdrop of 1930s Texas, this novel delves into the love between a Mexican American girl and a Black teen. Challenged for its graphic nature, it's deemed "sexually explicit" and has earned a place on the Top 10 Most Banned Books list.
  • “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo: The narrative revolves around 15-year-old Xiomara, who channels familial tension into her poetry. Accusations against it range from being "anti-Christian" to violating religious safeguards.
  • “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” by Julia Alvarez: This novel charts the journey of the Garcia sisters, uprooted from their Dominican heritage, as they grapple with a starkly contrasting life in New York, touching on themes of identity, family, and culture.
  • “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel: This enchanting novel narrates the intriguing history of the De La Garza family in Mexico, where love, tradition, and magic blend seamlessly. It delves deep into themes of forbidden love, family obligations, and the transformative power of food.
  • “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolf Anaya: Set in New Mexico; this narrative introduces us to Antonio Marez and Ultima, a healer. As Antonio steps into manhood, Ultima becomes his guiding light, illuminating his path through childhood bigotry, familial crises, and the mysteries of spirituality.

The increasing trend of book banning, especially of Latino literature, is a pressing concern. Not only does it threaten our democratic principles and societal growth, but it also amplifies the marginalization of already underrepresented communities. Our society's richness lies in its diversity, and by stifling these voices, we risk losing an integral part of our narrative. It's time to reassess and recognize the value of all stories, regardless of their origin.