Huda Kattan tells us how she made it to the Forbes list and how you can, too
The name “Huda” has become almost synonymous with the word “beauty.”
Which is perhaps unsurprising, given the fact that Huda Kattan remains one of the most recognizable names in the increasingly saturated beauty industry. Kattan has more than made a name for herself in the field — Kattan’s love of makeup extends far beyond her YouTube days, and she’s been stealing her sister’s makeup since she was in the single digits.
But her love of beauty has since persisted: from becoming a makeup artist to heading her own international beauty empire with millions of loyal customers, Kattan is a force to be reckoned with (if you dare).
Huda’s influence transcends beauty: she’s certainly caught the attention of both makeup enthusiasts and business moguls alike, and was most recently named one of America’s riches self-made women by Forbes.
But how’d she get here? While it’s easy to forget a time where Kattan wasn’t at the top of the beauty game, but she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. Kattan isn’t shy about her journey, which hasn’t always been the easiest. No magic solution or silver spoon led Kattan to her success. She’s worked hard for everything she has, and has made clear that it’s her humble beginnings, family values and strong foundation in business she has to thank for it.
As she reaches this major mmilestone in her career, Huda opens up to us about how makeup has changed her life, what her fave beauty brands are , the beauty hacks she lives by as well as how she’s gotten where she is today.
How does a woman from small-town make it so big in the media industry?
I am really competitive– not in a bad way, but I am very competitive with myself– so once I set a goal, there is no stopping me from reaching it.
I’ve always been extremely passionate and the type of person who loves sharing information! When I first started my career in beauty I was working as a makeup artist, which I absolutely loved but I still felt like something was missing. There was always something in me that made me feel like I wanted my voice to be heard.
I wanted to help other people learn from all the tricks that I found and I always wanted to acknowledge all of the incredible talent in the industry from makeup artists, photographers and models. I have always dreamed big and knew that if I just stayed laser-focused on a goal then I would be able to do whatever I set my mind to.
What challenges have you had to face along the way? You’ve come so far, tell us about your journey.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was being treated like we weren’t a serious brand. There was a lot of frustration when we first started out. We were having meetings with distributors and retailers and they all made out like we were just some girls with a hobby.
Luckily, my sisters and I have always had a really big vision for the company and we didn’t give up on it. We stayed really focus on what we wanted to achieve and eventually Sephora in Dubai Mall decided to stock our lashes and we sold out that same day. Before that, there was a lot of time spent convincing people that we were a serious brand.
You were recently named amongst America’s richest self-made women in Forbes: how does that feel? Did you think you’d ever be here?
It is pretty surreal and one of those ‘pinch me’ moments! It is really humbling, actually. We grew up quite poor so to be recognized alongside so many other incredible, self-made women who are leaving their mark on the world is really such a huge honor.
When did you first start getting into makeup? Was it before or after the age of YouTube? If before, how’d you learn?
I fell in love with beauty because of my older sister, Alya, when I was about 9 years old– so way before the time of YouTube! I used to watch her do her makeup and was always so mesmerized by it! She also taught me about using household ingredients as beauty products.
I have really dark knees and knuckles, and Alya was the one who taught me that I could lighten dark patches using lemon which I remember thinking was the most incredible thing.
When did you decide to take the leap from makeup artist to business woman? How did you manage to get business savvy enough to start your own company?
I knew that there was a demand for false eyelashes before they became really mainstream. When I worked as a makeup artist, I used to create my own lashes by customizing, shaving and stacking them together. People would always ask me where I got them from and that’s when we realised that there was a gap in the market.
My sister, Mona, is super entrepreneurial, so she suggested I start a lash line, and my older sister Alya leant me $6,000 to help me get started. I have a business degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and was active in a few different societies on campus that gave me a lot of experience when it came to starting the brand.
What advice do you have for women who are trying to stand out in an increasingly saturated industry? What are some things you’ve learned along the way?
Just be yourself. It sounds so cliché but there is so much power in the phrase, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Own your weirdness and be your most authentic self. I struggled, and still do, with my own criticisms of myself.
I was always my own worst enemy wondering, “What are people going to think of me? Will they think I am crazy?” so I needed to work on that and become comfortable with myself. I didn’t want to become a negative by-product of my own criticisms.
Sometimes the “negative” things about your personality can be your genius so I had to learn to lean into those areas and accept every part of myself. It’s certainly been a challenge so I wish I had known to ignore my own criticisms and not focus on what other people thought of me.
What were your go-to beauty brands before you founded Huda Beauty?
Even with Huda Beauty, I still swear by so many other brands! Skinceuticals is one of my ride-or-die brands – I literally use so many of their products! Some of my other favourite products come from Benefit, Caudalie, Mario Badescu, Kat Von D, Make Up Forever, Estee Lauder. There are so many!
How has makeup helped shape who you are today?
It has honestly given me so much confidence. I never felt pretty as a kid – my sister Mona was a pageant princess and was honestly the cutest thing you’ve ever seen – so makeup just really allowed me to learn to feel beautiful, and to see my beauty. I really believe that beauty comes from within and when you feel beautiful, you become beautiful, and makeup has really done that for me.
What do you say to people who think makeup is purely superficial?
Makeup can literally change how you feel about yourself. It’s not just about the exterior and looking a certain way – it is about how makeup can make you feel. Makeup has the power to make you feel confident in your own skin and embrace who you are 100%! Beauty can change the way a woman feels and that’s the most powerful thing!
What are your favorite Huda Beauty products for the Summer?
Being based in Dubai, I know how hard it can be to wear a lot of makeup in hot weather but our Easy Bake Loose Setting Powder is amazing for the summer as it helps to stop shininess.
We really wanted to create a baking powder that would make baking super simple for people who felt it wasn’t for them, and it really does just give the most amazing, airbrushed finish. Baking has literally transformed my makeup routine and my makeup literally doesn’t budge all day!
How do you respond to people who challenge you or your brand’s authenticity?
I think we ultimately built a community where our followers can feel comfortable and beautiful and they have a connection to the products we create. Beauty can sometimes feel a bit distant, unattainable and cold; and I really think that Huda Beauty has changed that.
Tell us more about the “elevator makeup challenge” you announced on IG recently.
I was recently in the elevator and tried to finish putting my eyeliner on before I got to the office, and it just sparked this idea of challenging others to do it! So, of course, I went first and I went from the parking garage to the 27th floor of our office building and managed to go FULL GLAM and even applied fake lashes!
Many of our followers are aspiring makeup artists and beauty entrepreneurs, and supporting artists has always been my mission, so giving a US$5,000 cash prize for training or charity just felt like the best way to celebrate this challenge, and give back to our community.
Any exciting new upcoming projects you’re working on?
I can’t reveal much but we are launching a fragrance later this year. It will be under a sister brand to Huda Beauty which is super exciting for us!
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