Call her whatever you want: The Empress of Fake Lashes. The Beauty Shaykhan of the Middle East. La Gourou de la Beauté de Dubai. Whatever you want. Huda Kattan would probably answer enthusiastically to any of the above, thank you. Just don’t call her lazy. Just don’t call her “status quo.” And whatever you do, just never accuse her of having no ambition because this woman has enough ambition to fill the Mediterranean Sea. She may even be too ambitious! She has been quoted as saying “I would like to be the next Estee Lauder.” Well, Estee Lauder has left some rather big shoes to fill, hasn’t she? You have to wonder if Huda really understands the magnitude of the bite she is taking out of the apple or whether she can in fact, pull off this lofty feat. My advice? Don’t bet against this girl just yet. She’s got something.
Who is Huda Kattan anyway? Huda Kattan is an American born Iraqi entrepreneur, currently living in Dubai, who started a beauty/cosmetics company called Huda Beauty circa 2010 with her two sisters Mona and Alya Kattan.
Huda Beauty started with her sisters making and selling eye lashes in a makeshift operation from their home in Dubai. Huda had moved to Dubai after an Arab client sought her expertise on makeup. She fell in love with the City and says she never wants to leave. It seems her father had also taught in Dubai so she had already had some connection to the city by the time she moved there for good. The decision to relocate there followed an identity crisis Huda had had after her first job imploded when she was just starting her career in America.
Huda Beauty, the company, quickly expanded after Sephora Dubai agreed to carry Huda’s line of false eye lashes in 2013. She started her collaboration in the Middle East because she had been unsuccessful in convincing American and European Sephoras (the latter she claimed simply ignored her when she came knocking) to carry the line of cils ostensibly because she did not have the celebrity platform of, say, Rihanna or Kyle Jenner to make it worth their while. Not to worry. Eventually they drank the cool aid and now Huda Beauty is the #2 brand of cosmetics in Europe.
To be fair, Huda had been a social media sensation before the Sephora Middle East collaboration. She had been wowing her fans with make-up tutorials on Youtube and Instagram and quite likely it was her social media persona that propelled her business which started in the Middle East and expanded to North Africa, then the US and Europe to its current position in the cosmetics industry. A recent article in USA today opined that Huda is “part of a growing vanguard of lines built around personalities, an expanding business model as more-established brands face slower sales.” (USA Today) Even now it is easy to see that this girl does indeed have quite a strong stage presence.
Though she admits to starting the brand without the “proper infrastructure” and had enormous distribution challenges in the beginning, Huda’s personity has propelled her so far up the beauty chain that today her beauty sheikhdom is said to be out-pacing competitors in some cases, or is neck to neck with brands such as MAC cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury and Fenty.
Since her modest beginning in 2010, the make up mogul has grown her company into a mastodon of “unicorn status” valued at $1.2 billion dollars (FYI, a company with unicorn status is said to be one whose valuation tops $1 billion dollars). Her personal net worth is estimated in the region of $610 million USD. Nearly all of this from selling fake eye lashes.
Huda has a cult following among her legends of fans in MENA, and across the globe. In London, you can find her products in Selfridges and Harrods. In Paris and the Middle East you can find it in Sephora. In the United States, wherever you look. Her products are also available in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Typical of her millennial generation, Huda has said that she wants to make a positive impact on women’s lives while at the same time paying attention to the environment and to the trending issue of “sustainability.” In an article about Ms Kattan in Entrepreneur Magazine the mogul indicated that she would like to “disrupt the industry and give more to consumers.” This for her seems to boil down to offering consumers “high quality, low price products” that are kind to the environment. Her goals seem perfectly aligned with the millennial set because as noted in the mentioned article, “Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey 80 % of Millennials believe business should make a positive impact on society and on the environment.”
A highly regarded tastemaker and influencer whose judgment is trusted by her fans and customers in the realm of beauty and cosmetics, Ms Kattan really seems to respect the respect she receives from her customers. She has said that she “prioritizes purpose over profits” which in part is the reason she turned down a $10 million dollar USD sponsorship of her brand last year. She has said that she wants women to know that “beauty has no boundaries.” This may be due to her upbringing and feeling different and “weird” when she was growing up. She said she found herself becoming interested in makeup during this difficult time. But she is not only thinking of beauty on a superficial level. Huda as said “we are not just a beauty brand. You know we are here to make the beauty space warm and fuzzy. We want people actually feel empowered because of beauty. (Euronews.com) In yet another interview in the Associated Press she expressed that “I think the idea of makeup as a form of self-expression will only grow even more.”
Has Huda faced criticism? Have there been missteps and bumps in the road to fame and fortune? Yes, as a brand and perhaps as an individual, she has apparently been accused of “racial insensitivity” and “colorism” in the past. For example, she got into trouble one time for allegedly encouraging women to lighten their labia. Here is what supposedly occurred according to the website:
“She posted a labia-lightening hack to her blog titled ‘Why Your Vagina Gets Dark and How To Lighten It.’ ‘The problem with vaginal skin is that it has the highest density of melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) than anywhere in the body. It’s an area where there can be a good amount of friction from walking and exercise,’ featured dermatologist Doris Day said, blatantly disregarding the fact the some women simply have darker skin tones.”
Notwithstanding these missteps, Huda seems determined to reach the very top of the beauty industry. And she is well on her way. Forbes ranked her number 36 on the List of America’s Richest Self-Made women. Forbes ranked her as one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2017. She has admitted that she doesn’t just want to have a company that lasts one generation. For her, it appears that what is left after she dies – aka her legacy – is so much more important to her than what she has already achieved. And then just when you think she couldn’t think any bigger, she says this: “There are some very influential companies in the world, like Apple, Google, Amazon, and to me, that is where I want us to be. So, I think that we still have so much work to do, and I don’t think that we are anywhere close to it.” (Entrepreneur)