The Middle Eastern American entrepreneur and global Insta star on inclusivity, her biggest inspiration and make-up as an important tool for self-esteem
Huda Kattan has more Instagram followers than you can shake a stick at. 30 million to be precise. Originally a make-up artist and blogger, it was Kattan’s discontent with products already out there that inspired her to start her own line. “I was never satisfied with the style and quality of lashes that were on the market,” she says. So, with the encouragement of her sister Mona, Kattan decided to make her own. Her empire has since grown to include shimmery jewel-toned eyeshadow palettes, lipsticks, perfumes, foundations, contouring kits and more. You name it - she’s already selling it.
Her ultimate goal? Inclusivity. “Our goal at Huda Beauty is to inspire anyone and everyone to create their own idea of beautiful with all of the products we offer,” says Kattan. It's an ethos that has done her extremely well - Huda Beauty was valued at more than $1 billion by Forbes earlier this year.
Kattan stands as a testament to the limitless power of believing in yourself and your brand, and of course, the transformative power of makeup itself. Her bio says it all - ‘PROVING DREAMERS CAN MAKE IT 🙏🏽.’
How did your upbringing and dual heritage influence your relationship with beauty and make-up?
Huda Kattan: Being from the Middle East paired with my upbringing in the United States had pretty polarising effects on the way I perceive beauty. Women from Dubai will go to the salon twice a week, whether that’s to get their nails done, brows shaped, or hair blow-dried. For them, a full face of make-up every day is completely normal. While growing up in the States, I used make-up as more of a creative outlet to help build my confidence since I often felt like an outsider in my own skin. Being a Middle Eastern girl in America with a name no one could pronounce was not easy, so I turned to make-up and cosmetics as a way to deal with my insecurities, thus creating my long-term relationship with beauty. The power of cosmetics and the effect they can have on one’s happiness and confidence is very real.
What is your earliest beauty-related memory?
Huda Kattan: My little sister Mona performed in beauty pageants as a child, which were a huge thing where we grew up in the Southern states of America. I always found it inspiring to watch her get all dolled up, so, subconsciously, this is when I started loving make-up.
What was the first item of make-up you bought?
Huda Kattan: The first item of make-up I ever bought and experimented with was a Revlon lipstick in a brick brownish colour, 90s style. I’m not sure if it looked good on me or not, but I loved it since it was a trend at the time.
When did you realize that you could make a career out of your passion for beauty?
Huda Kattan: It all really started to take off with the false lashes, which I have obsessively worn since I was a teenager. They’re part of my daily beauty routine! As a make-up artist, I was never satisfied with the style and quality of lashes that were on the market, so I would stack and customize them myself to suit the shape of a client’s eye. I received multiple enquiries about these customized lashes on my social media accounts, so my sister Mona suggested that I go ahead and start my own line. I designed my own range, and after many long nights and complicated business pitches we finally launched in Sephora at the Dubai Mall. I thank my two sisters for encouraging me - without them, Huda Beauty may never have existed.
Social media has played a big role in your career. What would you say have been the effects of social media on the beauty industry?
Huda Kattan: My company was borne out of social media so it’s everything to us. We never use it to leverage our brand, but we have certainly grown as a company alongside it. The three things that we value most are product, social media and content. Social media has bought brands and consumers closer together than ever before.
What are the biggest issues the beauty industry is facing right now?
Huda Kattan: Many brands still struggle with inclusion and authenticity, not just through their message and marketing but also in their actual products. Our goal at Huda Beauty is to inspire anyone and everyone to create their own idea of beautiful with all of the products we offer. We value our community in a way which most beauty brands struggle to do, and we believe that honesty is the best policy while communicating with them.
Who is your biggest beauty inspiration?
Huda Kattan: My greatest beauty inspiration is my younger sister, Mona. She has always been my constant source of creative inspiration and still is today, and she keeps me so honest and grounded each and every day. Mona really is my muse, my icon, sometimes my guinea pig but ultimately, one of my biggest cheerleaders.
What beauty products are in your bag right now?
Huda Kattan: That’s funny you ask since people are always surprised when they hear my answer: I actually don’t carry a make-up bag! The only product I ever have with me at all times is my Huda Beauty Lip Contour Pencil in Trendsetter. I can go all day without retouching my make-up.
How do you stay creatively inspired?
Huda Kattan: When everyone else is asleep and the world is silent and dark, I am at my most inspired. I often get the best ideas for product development and will end up with swatches all over my body from new products I’ve been working on. I also derive inspiration from random situations - whether it’s walking through a store, scrolling through Instagram, experiencing a certain emotion, encountering one of my team members – I collect everything in my head and put it all down in my sketchbook. The explore page on Instagram is also great, since we discover so many new artists, influencers and brands!
What is the future of make-up?
Huda Kattan: The future of make-up is whatever we want it to be. As a brand, we can only do our best to inspire our followers to imagine the unthinkable and then try to deliver it to them. We won’t launch anything unless our community is craving it and my team is excited by it!