Huda Kattan on her beauty empire and celebrating all forms of beauty

It’s been 10 years since Huda Kattan launched her eponymous beauty brand. The make-up artist and ‘OG Beauty Blogger’ explains to Zaneta Cheng why everyone is beautiful and how her brand’s mission is to continue building on these values

When Huda Kattan decided to develop a set of faux lashes from her kitchen counter, using a US$6,000 loan from her sister, it was almost unfathomable that the make-up artist and former financial recruiter would go on to build a billion-dollar empire. Nevertheless, Huda Beauty and its products have been on every YouTube-watching girl, tween and adult’s lists since Kattan launched her first set of lashes exclusively at Sephora. The brand’s global reach and success have mirrored Kattan’s own following, garnered from years as a make-up blogger, dispensing advice and dishing out reviews of beauty products on the market.

These days, Kattan has over 3,000 stores in 45 countries as well as Wishful, a skincare brand she started in 2020, and Kayali, a fragrance brand created in 2018. The entrepreneur has overcome hurdles and not only works on her businesses but also pushes for better representation of all types of beauty, such as petitioning for transparency when campaigns edit or Photoshop images or videos. The Oklahoma-born daughter of Iraqi parents is now based in Dubai, where she has also started HB Investments, a venture-capital firm that works with founders and start-ups to build their companies into brands that she hopes will “create a positive global impact”.

What sets Huda Beauty apart from other beauty brands?

I started as a make-up artist, became a beauty blogger and, since starting that community, I’ve always remained very close to it. I know what our community wants, I listen to their feedback, and I always aim to inspire them in the same way they inspire me. As well as this close relationship, we always identify gaps in the market to create products that have a purpose. We always encourage authenticity in the industry and the breaking of traditional beauty standards – I believe that’s the key to our success!

I’ve read that it was your sisters who persuaded you to start your blog Huda Beauty. Do you think you would be where you are today if they didn’t do this?

Probably not! When I started, blogs were our first source of reviews and content. If you had any questions, doubts or interest in a subject or product, you’d go straight to your favourite blogger. Since my blog was about reviewing beauty products, sharing tips and tricks, and beauty hacks, it quickly grew into a community that gave me the passion and purpose to launch Huda Beauty.

How has your Iraqi background and its mix with your American upbringing influenced the way you’ve shaped your brand?

I’ve had the privilege to be exposed to many different cultures and traditions; it’s helped me tremendously with Huda Beauty. I draw inspiration from them and integrate them into my brand identity. It’s taught me that there is no right way to do your beauty routine, and there are no rules – we are all beautifully different.

Self-expression is everything. It’s a change that has been enhanced with the rise in popularity of storytelling through social media platforms, as well as relatable content being popularised. It’s all about embracing your individuality and uniqueness and breaking free from those old beauty standards. I hope and believe we’ll start to see even more inclusivity and diversity in beauty, which will be reflected through product ranges, colours and formulations.

What made you decide to launch your brand with false eyelashes?

Working as a make-up artist, I could never find the right lashes as the options for lashes at the time were pretty limited. So, I would create and customise lashes to suit my clients. I realised there was a huge gap in the market, and my sisters pushed me to start my own false- lash line with Huda Beauty. It was a natural step to start with them and kick-start the brand.

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Your sisters Mona and Alya work with you on the brand as business partner and social-media manager, respectively. Has that impacted your relationship with one another and how is it to work together to build a brand that now boasts 53 million followers without spending money on advertising?

My sisters are the reason I am who I am today; they are my support system. We always make a point to celebrate and uplift each other’s successes and dreams. This is what our community is about; we want an environment where everyone will feel supported, empowered, loved and appreciated.

Our platforms are a result of hard work, an amazing community and an exceptional team. My sisters played an integral role in helping build our presence on Instagram, establishing a solid foundation for the brand. At the time, there was a notable absence of beauty accounts that celebrated all forms of beauty, and we filled that void. We became the go-to for beauty trends and engaging with entertaining videos. We always listen to our community, and our account doesn’t just promote Huda Beauty; it’s a safe space appreciating other brands, cultures, values, backgrounds and techniques.

In 2021, you started a petition for beauty brands to disclose whether they had retouched or edited their images or videos. Why is this important to you?

Instead of celebrating all types of beauty, we’re often exposed to unrealistic expectations and ideals. After seeing the effect on mental health and self-esteem that Photoshop and filters are having, it’s time that we start being as authentic as possible. We should celebrate individualism and not push everyone to conform to a specific and unattainable beauty standard.

How has the company changed since it first started and what remains at the heart of Huda Beauty regardless of change?

We have undergone the most incredible transformation in the last 10 years. We’ve come so far and still have so far to go! We’ve expanded our product range and have a full make-up line, with new products being developed. We have Wishful, our skincare line, which was always a dream of mine. It’s so hard to believe it’s real sometimes. At Huda Beauty, we want to create a space where everyone is celebrated. We want the concept of beauty standards to empower people to celebrate their uniqueness.

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