Women with GRITT
February 05, 2021
by Rose Garnett

Women With GRITT: Pia Loyola On Macabalm, Entering The Entertainment Industry At Just 14 Years Of Age & Why Raising Kids Takes A Village

by Rose Garnett

“When you’re creating something from the ground up and are so heavily involved in everything, it can be hard to stick with it when challenges pop up. But you’ve got to give yourself the room to grow and evolve and learn how to be flexible, even if it means changing your own ideas.”

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

Pia Loyola is no stranger to the spotlight. With over 700,000 Instagram followers watching her every move and a career spanning almost 23 years, the 37-year-old has undoubtedly built a small empire. The textbook definition of a triple threat (model, actor and now, beauty brand founder), it’s Loyola’s sheer determination, gritt and dedication that has landed her in such a fortunate position.

With a win at the Dolly Cover Girl Competition in 1998 her meal ticket into the big time, Loyola’s first limelight lesson came earlier in her life than most. “I was in year eight,” she recalls, almost in disbelief. “I was such a tall, lanky and shy 14-year-old but I guess they saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. I’ve learnt that you have to trust that people know what they’re talking about. That’s how I’ve gotten this far.” 

But what is most refreshing about Loyola is not her humility or intelligence (which she has in spades) but rather her resilience and undeterred attitude no matter what is thrown at her. Entering the challenge that is motherhood at 19 years old and managing to balance her budding career (you’ll likely recognise her from her role as Kat Chapman on hit Aussie soap opera, Home And Away) with caring for her son, Loyola is a model for just getting on with it. So, when it came to being an entrepreneur, you can imagine that her skill set was pretty much perfect. 

In this interview, Loyola speaks to Gritty Pretty about founding Macabalm, the power in saying no, learning to be flexible and why raising kids takes a village.

Hi Pia! Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Before we jump into all things acting, motherhood and Macabalm we’d love to know a bit more about you. So, where did you grow up?

Thank you for having me! I was born in Chile and lived there until I was four years old. My family migrated to Australia then and I was brought up in Melbourne. My family was (and still is) super important to me — both immediate and extended. My favourite memories of my childhood are all around us being together for Christmases or birthdays. As far back as I can remember, it was always all the cousins and aunties and uncles with lots of music and lots of food. 

We really did subscribe to that notion that it takes a village. That’s how we’ve all been raised and that’s how we raise our kids as well. Family is at the centre of everything I do.

How incredible to have such fond childhood memories that not only shaped you but have also shaped how you parent as well. Are you still connected to your Chilean heritage?

Definitely. I mean, I’ve only been back there once — in 2011 — but there is definitely something to be said about a connection or a spiritual bond to the land in which you were born. I even feel it when I speak my native language; when I speak Spanish to my family. There is just something about that experience that is so grounding. Hopefully I’ll be able to take my boys back there once the world opens up again.

 

Speaking of the world opening up, many would be surprised to know that your first job was actually in Vanuatu, modelling. How did this come about?

It was! I started modelling when I was 14 which, when I say it out loud, sounds ridiculously early. I won the Dolly Cover Girl Competition and that propelled me into the industry. Because of that experience, my first job was actually a modelling gig, shooting a Myer catalogue in Vanuatu. Again, a ridiculous place to say you started your career, but hey, I’m not complaining!

Starting from such a young age would have been both exciting and quite daunting we’d imagine. How did this experience benefit you moving into your acting career?

It taught me so much. It taught me professionalism, responsibility, maturity, resilience — and those life skills have served me really well. While the entertainment industry is amazing, it’s definitely not all glamorous. You’ve got to be prepared to hear a lot of no’s and receive a lot of rejection. I think modelling helped me create the ‘thick skin’ that everyone talks about and it’s that resilience that I’ve worked really hard to pass onto my boys.

Speaking of your boys, you have two gorgeous sons. How do you juggle being a successful actor and now, entrepreneur, with motherhood?

Look, it isn’t easy. I try my best but there are times when you just have to drop everything to be there and I have no issues doing that. The people that have worked with me for years in my team know that my family will always come first and there are no questions about that. 

There have definitely been times over my career where big opportunities have come around and I’ve had to say no because my boys have needed me. And whilst that can be challenging, I am happy to sacrifice anything if it’s for the benefit of my kids. They’re my absolute priority.

It also probably helps that they’re a little older now too. Were they involved at all in the creation of Macabalm?

They were the whole inspiration behind it, actually. The idea I had was just to create a multi-purpose and multi-use balm that works on both myself and my children. I felt that it was missing in my arsenal of beauty products so I thought why not create it myself. Especially through my own journey of being with my kids — whether it was breastfeeding, or nappy rash or cuts and bruises — I was always after a natural remedy that wasn’t full of nasties and wasn’t full of chemicals. That’s definitely what put the wheels in motion for this new product.

You’ve also mentioned that you were really passionate about making Macabalm a meticulously researched product. Where did your passion for ingredients come from?

Transparency in beauty products is the most important thing to me. I think everyone is a lot more aware of what they’re putting on their skin now and I think it’s also important when it comes to our children. I just wanted people to be able to turn the tube around and recognise all of the ingredients. No nasty surprises, just a really good product that you know is safe. 

I also think it came down to us wanting to be all Australian made and owned. So as soon as I started looking for powerful, healing and impactful Australian skin ingredients I couldn’t stop. It’s unbelievable how much richness we have here. Macadamias, for example, are literally a skin superfood and we’ve been taking them for granted. They’re native to Northern New South Wales and are packed with properties that repair and restore the skin on a cellular level. Kakadu Plum is another incredible Australian superfood packed rich with antioxidants that helps to repair and protect the skin. Once I’d found all that out, I couldn’t wait to start formulating.

 

That all seems quite straightforward on paper, but we’re sure there was a lot of work and research that went into actually creating your product. How long did it take between your initial idea and seeing the final product in your hand?

It took approximately four years. Not four full years in a lab like a mad scientist but definitely four years since I came up with the initial concept. There were also points where I let it go for a while. Particularly when we’d get stumped on sustainability and packaging. It was paramount that our packaging was environmentally conscious in a circular way where you can recycle it, it comes from recycled materials and it has that traceability back to where it came from. Having that circular mindset was really important to me, but it was also one of the biggest challenges I faced. 

It’s great to know that, although we may assume so, not everything is smooth sailing when it comes to launching a business. What other advice would you give young entrepreneurs who are fresh to the field?

I would say, don’t give up. I know it sounds like a bit of a blanket thing to say but it’s such an important thing to remind yourself when challenges pop up — and they will pop up. Especially when you are creating something from the ground up and are so heavily involved in everything, there are going to be times where you’ll have to reconsider or reconfigure but you just have to stay with it. Keep trying, learn to problem solve, learn how to be efficient, learn to think outside of the box and just be flexible with your own ideas as well. Giving yourself the room to grow and evolve and not being rigid is just so important.

And, of course, we couldn’t let you go without asking you about your own beauty regime. So, what are the top three beauty products that make your life easier?

I mean, obviously my Macabalm is number one. I also really love my essential oils. Particularly Frankincense for my breakouts and Lavender to help with any inflammation. And then my last product would be the La Mer The Moisturising Soft Cream. It’s so beautiful and I’m not too big into serums so I find that this helps to hydrate, smooth and perfect my skin simultaneously.

Amazing! Thank you so much for chatting to us today, Pia.

Pia Loyola is no stranger to the spotlight. With over 700,000 Instagram followers watching her every move and a career spanning almost 23 years, the 37-year-old has undoubtedly built a small empire. The textbook definition of a triple threat (model, actor and now, beauty brand founder), it’s Loyola’s sheer determination, gritt and dedication that has landed her in such a fortunate position.

With a win at the Dolly Cover Girl Competition in 1998 her meal ticket into the big time, Loyola’s first limelight lesson came earlier in her life than most. “I was in year eight,” she recalls, almost in disbelief. “I was such a tall, lanky and shy 14-year-old but I guess they saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. I’ve learnt that you have to trust that people know what they’re talking about. That’s how I’ve gotten this far.” 

But what is most refreshing about Loyola is not her humility or intelligence (which she has in spades) but rather her resilience and undeterred attitude no matter what is thrown at her. Entering the challenge that is motherhood at 19 years old and managing to balance her budding career (you’ll likely recognise her from her role as Kat Chapman on hit Aussie soap opera, Home And Away) with caring for her son, Loyola is a model for just getting on with it. So, when it came to being an entrepreneur, you can imagine that her skill set was pretty much perfect. 

In this interview, Loyola speaks to Gritty Pretty about founding Macabalm, the power in saying no, learning to be flexible and why raising kids takes a village.

Hi Pia! Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Before we jump into all things acting, motherhood and Macabalm we’d love to know a bit more about you. So, where did you grow up?

Thank you for having me! I was born in Chile and lived there until I was four years old. My family migrated to Australia then and I was brought up in Melbourne. My family was (and still is) super important to me — both immediate and extended. My favourite memories of my childhood are all around us being together for Christmases or birthdays. As far back as I can remember, it was always all the cousins and aunties and uncles with lots of music and lots of food. 

We really did subscribe to that notion that it takes a village. That’s how we’ve all been raised and that’s how we raise our kids as well. Family is at the centre of everything I do.

How incredible to have such fond childhood memories that not only shaped you but have also shaped how you parent as well. Are you still connected to your Chilean heritage?

Definitely. I mean, I’ve only been back there once — in 2011 — but there is definitely something to be said about a connection or a spiritual bond to the land in which you were born. I even feel it when I speak my native language; when I speak Spanish to my family. There is just something about that experience that is so grounding. Hopefully I’ll be able to take my boys back there once the world opens up again.

 

Speaking of the world opening up, many would be surprised to know that your first job was actually in Vanuatu, modelling. How did this come about?

It was! I started modelling when I was 14 which, when I say it out loud, sounds ridiculously early. I won the Dolly Cover Girl Competition and that propelled me into the industry. Because of that experience, my first job was actually a modelling gig, shooting a Myer catalogue in Vanuatu. Again, a ridiculous place to say you started your career, but hey, I’m not complaining!

Starting from such a young age would have been both exciting and quite daunting we’d imagine. How did this experience benefit you moving into your acting career?

It taught me so much. It taught me professionalism, responsibility, maturity, resilience — and those life skills have served me really well. While the entertainment industry is amazing, it’s definitely not all glamorous. You’ve got to be prepared to hear a lot of no’s and receive a lot of rejection. I think modelling helped me create the ‘thick skin’ that everyone talks about and it’s that resilience that I’ve worked really hard to pass onto my boys.

Speaking of your boys, you have two gorgeous sons. How do you juggle being a successful actor and now, entrepreneur, with motherhood?

Look, it isn’t easy. I try my best but there are times when you just have to drop everything to be there and I have no issues doing that. The people that have worked with me for years in my team know that my family will always come first and there are no questions about that. 

There have definitely been times over my career where big opportunities have come around and I’ve had to say no because my boys have needed me. And whilst that can be challenging, I am happy to sacrifice anything if it’s for the benefit of my kids. They’re my absolute priority.

It also probably helps that they’re a little older now too. Were they involved at all in the creation of Macabalm?

They were the whole inspiration behind it, actually. The idea I had was just to create a multi-purpose and multi-use balm that works on both myself and my children. I felt that it was missing in my arsenal of beauty products so I thought why not create it myself. Especially through my own journey of being with my kids — whether it was breastfeeding, or nappy rash or cuts and bruises — I was always after a natural remedy that wasn’t full of nasties and wasn’t full of chemicals. That’s definitely what put the wheels in motion for this new product.

You’ve also mentioned that you were really passionate about making Macabalm a meticulously researched product. Where did your passion for ingredients come from?

Transparency in beauty products is the most important thing to me. I think everyone is a lot more aware of what they’re putting on their skin now and I think it’s also important when it comes to our children. I just wanted people to be able to turn the tube around and recognise all of the ingredients. No nasty surprises, just a really good product that you know is safe. 

I also think it came down to us wanting to be all Australian made and owned. So as soon as I started looking for powerful, healing and impactful Australian skin ingredients I couldn’t stop. It’s unbelievable how much richness we have here. Macadamias, for example, are literally a skin superfood and we’ve been taking them for granted. They’re native to Northern New South Wales and are packed with properties that repair and restore the skin on a cellular level. Kakadu Plum is another incredible Australian superfood packed rich with antioxidants that helps to repair and protect the skin. Once I’d found all that out, I couldn’t wait to start formulating.

 

That all seems quite straightforward on paper, but we’re sure there was a lot of work and research that went into actually creating your product. How long did it take between your initial idea and seeing the final product in your hand?

It took approximately four years. Not four full years in a lab like a mad scientist but definitely four years since I came up with the initial concept. There were also points where I let it go for a while. Particularly when we’d get stumped on sustainability and packaging. It was paramount that our packaging was environmentally conscious in a circular way where you can recycle it, it comes from recycled materials and it has that traceability back to where it came from. Having that circular mindset was really important to me, but it was also one of the biggest challenges I faced. 

It’s great to know that, although we may assume so, not everything is smooth sailing when it comes to launching a business. What other advice would you give young entrepreneurs who are fresh to the field?

I would say, don’t give up. I know it sounds like a bit of a blanket thing to say but it’s such an important thing to remind yourself when challenges pop up — and they will pop up. Especially when you are creating something from the ground up and are so heavily involved in everything, there are going to be times where you’ll have to reconsider or reconfigure but you just have to stay with it. Keep trying, learn to problem solve, learn how to be efficient, learn to think outside of the box and just be flexible with your own ideas as well. Giving yourself the room to grow and evolve and not being rigid is just so important.

And, of course, we couldn’t let you go without asking you about your own beauty regime. So, what are the top three beauty products that make your life easier?

I mean, obviously my Macabalm is number one. I also really love my essential oils. Particularly Frankincense for my breakouts and Lavender to help with any inflammation. And then my last product would be the La Mer The Moisturising Soft Cream. It’s so beautiful and I’m not too big into serums so I find that this helps to hydrate, smooth and perfect my skin simultaneously.

Amazing! Thank you so much for chatting to us today, Pia.

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