Huda Kattan, the gorgeous blogger-turned-businesswoman opens up to HELLO! about life in the industry, her latest drop and teaching her daughter about true beauty.
Ten years ago, she was a blogger working out of home when she unleashed the concept of big, fluffy, faux eyelashes to the world. Turning her passion into a business that is now valued at over a billion dollars, Huda Kattan is unstoppable! Her make-up brand, Huda Beauty, is used by millions of people around the world today.
A hallowed name in the world of beauty (she’s been called the Bill Gates of beauty influencers), the Dubai-based entrepreneur’s inspiring story has transformed how women approach business — and the confidence they gain from using her record-breaking products. HELLO! catches up with the beauty mogul just in time for the drop of her new collection and what life looks like for someone who has it all.
In Conversation With Huda Kattan
HELLO!: Huda, from beauty blogger selling faux lashes to building an empire worth billions, you’re now celebrating 10 years of your brand. How did it all begin?
Huda Kattan: “My passion for make-up and wanting everyone to feel beautiful led me to start my beauty blog in 2010. I created content that shared tips and tricks with beauty lovers, trialled the trends and refused to gatekeep amazing brands and products.
The response was overwhelming and is the reason, along with a US$6,000 loan from my sister, Alya, that I launched Huda Beauty in 2013. We started with a range of false eyelashes exclusive to Sephora, which was already a dream come true. Now, 10 years later, we have complete product lines and are always working on new, exciting and innovative projects!”
H!: Was it tough to set up and run a business in the UAE? What have been some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to face as a female entrepreneur?
HK: “When I started, there were few independent make-up brands, especially in the UAE, so the opportunity and gap in the market was open for me. Launching as the first brand on social media was scary for so many reasons! We couldn’t release products as fast as bigger brands, and we were still figuring out many things and processes. My main challenge was not being taken seriously as a female entrepreneur. In meetings, people would talk to my husband instead of me, even with the brand in my name! There have been so many hurdles, but I’m a risk taker and the risk paid off. (Laughs)”
H!: Do you need to get competitive, given you’re in an industry that is so?
HK: “There is always an element of competition in life; it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Yet comparison steals uniqueness, it steals creativity and it creates uncertainty; if you’re concerned about competing against other brands. That’s the beauty of beauty — each brand offers something different, and each product, even if in the same category, has a different purpose; there is always space in the industry for game-changers. I never really see competition; I see inspiration. I have always used my social platforms to talk about other brands and products — I don’t gatekeep and even now that I have my own brand, if I love a product from another brand — I’ll shout about it.”
H!: What’ve been some of your greatest career highlights so far?
HK: “My biggest highlight was definitely launching my lash line exclusively in Sephora and selling out immediately! It was a major ‘pinch me’ moment as it was the first time I felt I’d made it, and I had no idea it was just the beginning and would lead to what we have created now!”
H!: The world is excited for your latest drop, which is an homage to ’90s grunge — can you tell us about this new range?
HK: “The grunge aesthetic has inspired our new Pretty Grunge Palette collection, but I’m a glam girl, so we made grunge pretty! For me, grunge is all about the eye and our 18-well palette has innovative textures and highly pigmented shades and is so versatile — so you can be grunge, glam or both!”
H!: Tell us more about your early years and upbringing...
HK: “I grew up in Oklahoma and as an Iraqi American from an immigrant family, I often felt like I didn’t belong. I later worked in finance and got fired — this moment changed my destiny! I followed my passion for beauty and decided to challenge the conventional beauty standards that made me feel out of place — so that everyone would embrace their authentic beauty.”
H!: How, according to you, does make-up empower all women over the world, regardless of borders and cultures?
HK: “Make-up and beauty used to have stereotypical standards with stricter rules and guidelines to what beauty is. Our idea of beauty is so much deeper now; those old standards are fading away. We know beauty also comes from within; we’re celebrating our uniqueness and embracing who we are, and I hope this inspires positive change for younger generations. Social media and make-up are a big part of this change, they have the power to encourage inclusivity, imperfections, diverse body types and skin tones. For me, real beauty comes from being kind to yourself and others. When you’re true to yourself, that’s where true beauty shines.”
H!: We live in a superficial world, where beauty standards are at an all-time high. How do you protect or guide your daughter to navigate real from reel?
HK: “As a mom, it’s crucial for me to teach my daughter what true beauty means. It’s not just about looking good on the outside but also about feeling good on the inside. Beauty is about being authentic, embracing who you are, and seeing the beauty in your uniqueness. I want the brand to reflect this by challenging beauty standards and encouraging women to be themselves. I have conversations with my daughter about self-love, kindness and confidence, so she understands that they are the real essence of beauty.”
H!: What are some of your own beauty hacks?
HK: “Speed Baking and using baking to contour! These two techniques can sculpt your face in no time! When I don’t have time to bake properly with a loose powder, I use our Easy Bake and Snatch Pressed Powder instead. It instantly brightens and snatches, so I place it under my eye, cheekbones and along my jawline and I’m ready to face the day!”
H!: What makes you truly happy and what’s the biggest life lesson you can share?
HK: “My family makes me truly happy! The biggest life lesson I have learned and want to share is that you must make sacrifices to get to where you want to be — so take the risks and believe in yourself.”
H!: If you had time off, where would we find you and what would you be doing?
HK: “Time off for me is family time. I spend it with my husband [college sweetheart Christopher Goncalo, now COO of Huda Beauty] and daughter — this is so important to me as life can get a little wild, and they bring me balance. I always make time for them as they are my biggest supporters and my biggest inspiration — they’re the most important thing in my life.”
This interview is from HELLO! India’s January 2024 issue. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!