Elizabeth De La Piedra is a Peruvian, Chicago-based photographer, as well as a goth, fan, entrepreneur, and mother to two cherubic baby boys. Her photography speaks to the modern woman. It’s both intimate and celebrates the female form, without coming from a place of artifice. Her authenticity and warmth as a person translates in every photograph she takes.

“Nothing bonds a bunch of girls together more than makeup,” she affirms. In a world that often tries to dictate that intelligence and beauty are mutually exclusive, this is refreshing to hear. Among her works is Alphabodies, a nude alphabet series done in collaboration with yoga and wellness instructor, Lydia Neubauer. Alphabodies rejects the censorship of women’s bodies in today’s political climate, instead championing them as something to be celebrated from “a place of love and awe,” and free from the stereotypical taboos enforced by society.

Rashida, another of her works, was exhibited in New York City late last year, and focuses on the story of California-based transgender woman, Rashida Renée. It’s a beautiful, personal snapshot into the life of Rashida, and an important body of work, providing a stage for narratives to be told that might not otherwise be heard.

Initially, we hit her up to find out what products line her beauty cabinet, and walked away with both a renewed sense of empowerment and firmer faith in humanity. Get to know the wise woman below. Thanks, Elizabeth!

How were you introduced to beauty?
Initially through my mother, and then my big sister. I remember always getting in their stuff, stealing it. It’s always been fun for me.

Talk us through your beauty routine?
Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser to cleanse, every day — I used to be lazy, but I can’t be about that anymore. Once a week, I do a clay mask by Aztec Secret — it’s my favorite, and the secret to plump skin, in my opinion. My everyday moisturiser is Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream with SPF 15, or Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer. I wear Glossier’s Invisible Shield sunscreen over either moisturiser, because I don’t step outside without at least SPF 35+ sun protection. For makeup, I use Glossier’s Stretch Concealer in Dark under my eyes, Glossier’s Boy Brow in Black, and Benefit’s They’re Real mascara in Black. Then I pop some Glossier Haloscope in Quartz on my cheekbones, Glossier’s Cloud Paint in Haze for some blush, NYX’s brown eyeliner on my lips, and Glossier’s Generation G lipstick in Crush. Sometimes I’ll do a wing with my Lancôme Grandiôse liquid liner in Black.

Is your weekday beauty routine any different to your weekend beauty routine?
If I go out (rare), I may be lazy and not want to wash my face, so I use my kids’ baby wipes to clean my face. They work great.

How has motherhood changed your perspective on beauty?
It makes me respect and enjoy the entire process more. The time I get to myself is a precious thing to me, and kind of rare with two little ones, so I savour every minute. My husband knows not to bug me when I carve out that time for myself. Sometimes, though, I get him in on the fun, and we will mask together.

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?
I have learned how much my identity as a human means to me. That might sound funny, but sometimes it can feel like you get lost in the routine and some preconceived “idea” of how you should be as a mum. I co-exist with my children. Like breathing, we need each other to live, but this is not the only thing that defines me. I’m a photographer, I’m a woman, I’m a goth, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a fan, and I’m a mother.

What do you think is the most important lesson you will teach your sons?
Love yourself, believe in yourself, you deserve everything you want in life if you are in the position to work for it. The room is always better with you in it.

Your photographic work, Rashida, speaks volumes about women and beauty. What did you learn about beauty from the project?
Nothing bonds a bunch of girls together more than makeup! We had so much fun hanging out, talking about all our favorite products, and making up inspirations. It’s actually why I ended up scanning Rashida’s disposed makeup wipes and tissues. For me, they’re beautiful mementos of the person she is, and, as art, they reinforce the universal nature and ceremony of beauty routines.

How would you describe the correlation between beauty and Alphabodies?
I think because Alphabodies is nude, as an expression that rejections common social concepts, it exists in a sphere that doesn’t acknowledge “beauty” in the way that advertising has restructured the concept. Beauty in reference to Alphabodies is really true to the nature of the word, and celebrates the female form from a place of love and awe.

Do you think the word ‘beautiful’ is still relevant when discussing women today?
It’s relevant in the sense that anything that impacts our psyche, as a society, is relevant. It can be used for or against women, and so I think the conversations we have surrounding the word will always be relevant. With the internet, it’s a different time. Now, more than ever, how we discuss things, and the authenticity of those emotions and feelings, has the potential to change things.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in a modern society?
I’m trying to be better and learn more about my neighbours and empathise with the person standing next to me. I surround myself with a lot of women who inspire and support me, and it’s important for me to do the same for them. More than ever, women are creating networks for us, by us, so I feel it’s never been a better or more exciting time to collaborate.

What are your thoughts on diet and exercise?
To each their own. I’ve incorporated working out in my life these last couple years and I love the results, and feeling stronger. It’s also some “me time,” which I appreciate.

How do you maintain such a fresh look while traveling?
Skyn Iceland ice masks! They’re so good for puffy eyes. If I’m on a long trip, I’ll clean my face with face wipes and use a deeply moisturizing treatment or serum like Glossier’s Super Bounce. That air conditioning is a killer.

Who do you look up to?
My mother and sisters.

What have you learned about beauty from the women in your life?
It’s fun and cute. We all do the natural look and enjoy a bright lip here and there.

What do you wear when you feel your most confident?

Do you ever get beauty treatments? If so, which ones?
My Korean spa has a 90-minute treatment that involves a head-to-toe body scrub, massage, collagen facial, and hair wash. It’s dreamy, and for me a once or twice a year thing.

Do you have a signature scent?
Narciso Rodriguez For Her. The black bottle, of course.

Words, Madeleine Woon. Photography, Mindy Koenigsfeld. With thanks to Elizabeth De La Piedra.