Huda Kattan on Bossing Up and the Power of Inclusivity

The beauty mogul opens up about her million-dollar business

With Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty grabbing headlines and sales across the globe, the beauty industry has come a long way. But despite a saturated market, Huda Beauty has always managed to stay on top.

Since launching in 2013, the brand has grown from a single line of false eyelashes to selling multiple eyeshadow palettes, liquid lipstick and lip liners, highlighters, a super-inclusive range of foundations and concealers, and the brand’s now-infamous baking powders. And thanks to Huda Kattan’s cult-like social media presence, with an Instagram account boasting an impressive 33 million followers, and 2.5 YouTube subscribers, almost every product that gets released is quick to sell out.

Now, with the launch of her first fragrance Kayali, Kattan—along with her sister Mona—has solidified the brand’s position in the top tier of the beauty industry. We caught up with the beauty mogul to chat about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry, and whether inclusivity is here to stay.

On your show, we saw that the idea of launching KAYALI stems from your sister Mona’s perfume obsession. What was it like to work family on this project?
Mona introduced me to layering a few years ago, which is huge in Middle Eastern tradition, and it inspired me to play with different notes and scents. She brought so much passion and enthusiasm to the project so it was a really enjoyable product to make together!

Having only released makeup products in the past, what was so different about launching a fragrance?
I actually did not want to do a fragrance in the beginning. I struggled to understand how you sell or market it. We really had to change our approach on social media. There was a lot more education on fragrance than what we’ve ever needed to do for other products we’ve launched as they are so visual, so it was definitely a learning curve.

Do you see this new wave of inclusivity as a passing trend? Or do you think the beauty industry has fundamentally changed?
I definitely think the industry has shifted. It is more than just a passing phase, it is something that is here to stay. Consumers are savvy and are demanding products that suit more than just the majority. I really believe that the world is moving towards being more inclusive of everyone which is really amazing.

Despite the fact that the beauty industry’s is so female-focused, there aren’t many women in top positions. What was your experience like as a CEO?
I was often treated unfairly when I first started the business. One of the biggest misconceptions we faced when the brand was first starting out was that we weren’t serious. Distributors and retailers thought 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.

You’ve spoken about having initially pursued a traditional career path before transitioning to the beauty industry. Do you feel that background was helpful?
A lot of what I have learned about finance and business has actually been on the job. I sit in high-level meetings with our investors and our finance teams and if I don’t know what they’re saying, I Google it. Ultimately having a formal background is a safe option and it means you have something to fall back on, but your university degree will only take you so far if you don’t have passion or enthusiasm for the industry you are in.

What would you say is your ultimate mission with Huda Beauty?
Ultimately, we are on a mission to change perceptions of beauty and make a difference to the face of the industry. Our team is really focused on creating products that will change the beauty world for the better.

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