Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of mental illness.
Sue Mancini has blended ice cream and mental health awareness together with Sad Girl Creamery, a Latinx-owned and inspired ice cream pop-up shop.
The business is like no other with its vivid, retro-style Instagram posts featuring pints and diner-like glass bowls of chocotorta and strawberry tres leches ice cream sat on top of purple satin sheets. Mancini describes the flavors as “the full spectrum of Latinx culture,” as many are charmingly inspired by all kinds of Latinx legends and mainstays. Crowd-pullers include the Anything for Selenas treat, a blackberry buttermilk ice cream with mango jam and iridescent purple glitter inspired by the Tejano singer; and the Patito ice cream bar, made with Mexican vanilla ice cream, homemade strawberry jam and vanilla cake topped with a coat of dark chocolate and chocolate sprinkles, which is Mancini’s version of the Mexican snack cakes, gansitos, and the Plátanos y Azúcar! Azúcar! ice cream, made with plantains, piloncillo, cinnamon and rum ice cream inspired by singer Celia Cruz, the Afro-Latinx “Queen of Salsa.”
Born and raised in Houston by Uruguayan immigrants, Mancini’s business is an eclectic puzzle, pieced together with other aspects and people from her upbringing.
“A lot of that inspiration just comes from people I grew up with,” Mancini said. “Especially with my family being from an incredibly small country, I didn’t grow up with a lot of people from Uruguay and grew accustomed to being around people from a bunch of other Latin countries and eating their food and talking about things that they’ve experienced or their favorite foods.”
With all its uniqueness, Sad Girl Creamery was a long time in the making as Mancini has “always wanted” to make ice cream.
Shaun Chang, Mancini’s friend and former coworker, remembers meeting her and hearing about her creamery plans.
“Shortly after I met [Mancini], we were working on some cookies one day and she started telling me about her dream of opening her own ice cream shop,” Chang said. “It’s just been really amazing to see her go from having this thought to bringing it to reality the way she has now.”
Mancini had been nursing this passion for a while and had even gone to ice cream school to fully understand the science and chemistry behind dairy and how ice cream is made. At 23, she started making the sweet treat. She’s been slowly perfecting her skills and recipes for the past seven years. After making ice cream, then popsicles and pints, putting together a business plan, getting a logo designed and acquiring the proper machinery to make the desserts, Sad Girl Creamery was born.
Mancini’s partner, Diego de Gortari, also recalls the way that Mancini had nursed her passion for making ice cream.
“We’ve been together for over four years now, but she’s always really been into ice cream and wanting to make it,” de Gortari said. “[Mancini has] always been tinkering with ice cream recipes and developing an idea for a company, but now, people are loving what she’s doing and it’s really awesome to see that.”
However, despite the creamery being a lifelong dream of hers, Mancini didn’t start selling ice cream to people until the beginning of this year. Similarly, the “Sad Girl” element is a recent development—an idea that came to Mancini in the middle of the pandemic, after struggling with her own mental health.
“It felt like the window was being closed on my dreams,” Mancini said. “My mental health was definitely on my mind and watching the whole world suffer made me think about how everyone is going through [similar things] even though I’m having this personal experience.
Mancini says she’s had bipolar disorder since she was a teen. So, mental health consciousness has always been intertwined with her day-to-day. She treats the Sad Girl Creamery Instagram page as a way to promote her ice cream, but also as a tool to chip away at the stigma behind mental health issues and talking about them. Each post featuring Mancini’s softly-lit backgrounds and bright, homemade ice cream is juxtaposed by a caption in which she opens up about her own experiences and mental health journey, provides resources or researched informational posts about everything from the importance of establishing boundaries to breaking down the stigma around medication to the ways that one can give and receive validation.
“It just made sense to try and include something that would have longevity in the sense of helping others and making them feel better because it also makes me feel better to talk about [mental health], it’s cathartic,” Mancini said.
And the themes and topics Mancini chooses to post about aren’t always at random. In fact, Mancini describes the Sad Girl Creamery page like a diary of sorts that she shares to not only help herself but for others as well.
“A lot of the things I post about are happening in my life at that moment,” Mancini said. “I might have a situation with a friend where something happens with them and it’ll be on my mind for a while, so I’ll make a post about it and do research so I can read into things myself and find good practices.”
Mancini also uses Sad Girl Creamery to speak on the ways that her mental health journey has intersected with her Latinx identity and growing up in an immigrant household.
“Personally, in my family, we don’t really express feelings through words, that’s not a common practice,” Mancini said. “There’s trauma behind immigrant families and parents having to leave their homes. They go into survival mode and can’t afford to focus on their feelings, which creates this kind of cycle with their kids, as they weren’t given time to process.”
Nevertheless, with Sad Girl Creamery, Mancini is breaking through all these barriers, serving mental health awareness alongside ice cream. She’s creating a space where she can encourage others to talk about their hardship vulnerably and openly while indulging in the comfort of ice cream.
“There’s definitely a close human connection I’m making with people,” Mancini said. “I just hope I’m making people feel comforted and not alone in their situation, and I think the work is resonating. I feel like we all get each other.”
You can find information about Sad Girl Creamery’s pop-ups on Instagram and get its half-pints at Lokel’s Only, located at 635 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012. They’re open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.