A Success Story: Huda Beauty

A Success Story: Huda Beauty

April 09, 2016
Mariam Nihal

Mariam Nihal
Saudi Gazette

In a quest to answer all those burning questions: who is Huda Beauty? Is she really just as nice off camera? Why is she all the rage?  Saudi Gazette recently sat down for an interview with the woman behind it all, Huda Kattan.

As far as who she is, lets face it, even your husband knows. The big obsession is with none other than the region’s number one make-up artist and blogger, which doesn’t mean she is not an international favorite too. 

Huda’s look is probably the most imitated, thanks to her Arab features and make up techniques that can help every woman. 

Arabs and Asians flock in huge numbers to meet her on the street and in stores, wherever she is.
And lets face it, there is more to that pretty face and look that everyone is trying to emulate. 

First, Kattan is an entrepreneur. Along with her sisters, Alya and Mona, Kattan works with her husband, who is also part of the social media frenzy now. 

Her brand, Huda Beauty, is primarily famous for its eyelashes that, according to Huda, are a vital beauty rule. 

Then came nail art and henna tattoos that were an instant rage. 

This year she introduced lip contour shades, soon available at Sephora and online. 

“I always thought I would be a great business woman, but I just didn’t know how. Like I watched a lot of Oprah and that’s who I wanted to be,” Kattan says. 

Humble, and adamantly so, she steers away from any hint of praise about her success. 

Thanking her team, she admits she has a problem with being hands-on on every detail, which is also a boss trait.

“I am a perfectionist, I have been told. I keep doing SWOT analysis every few months,” she says.

“I am a beauty lover. Like hardcore. I started around the age of nine. My sister Alya used to play with products, DIY at home kind of tips. I wasn’t the pretty one by the way. But being surrounded by such beautiful girls - Mona and Alya - I was obsessed with beauty. I loved them and admired them.” 

Huda’s love for beauty resonated with the glitz and glamour found particularly in fashion magazines. 

“We didn’t grow up with a lot of money. My mom was pretty conservative. I did my own hair, not at the salon, or, like, stole Alya’s make up.  But by the time I was fourteen, I was doing her make up. So it really was being obsessed with it and there weren’t any youtube channels to learn from either, it was a long time ago,” she says.

Born and raised in the USA, post high school, she moved back to UAE from the States. 

“This is when the obsession was real. I spent hours in my room doing my make up,” she says.

Nine months later she moved back. Now when you make fun of girls buying all those beauty and skincare products, think again, because for Huda that became the research and development phase of her career. 

“I used to go to Sephora, Nordstrom and Lush every single day. Yeah, pretty lame. But when people show me products, it is like I have tried everything.
So it is really easy for me to tell you what I like and don’t. I actually want to get my doctorate in beauty, wherever that is. I mean we look at beauty differently. It’s about your skin cells, DNA structure in your hair, like its really exciting for us. I am a geek like that,” she says.

So how did she make it? With a short pause, she dwells on the answer: “I took us a while to make it. To say yes we made and impact. Yes, we made a difference to the beauty community. I still don’t think we are there yet.” 
I interrupt to remind her that she has made an impact in the Middle East. 
“Yes, in the Middle East. Which is awesome because we are here. We have to do more internationally,” she insists. At this point, I accept defeat and allow her to downplay her success.

“So back from the USA, I reached a point when I wasn’t really happy and quite depressed that we had not achieved anything. I was going through a funny time in life. I was still doing make up and watching tutorials. And one night at dinner, my parents were like ‘go ahead do a video.’”
This was a surprise for Huda, who had completed her finance degree and started working in Dubai. 

“I didn’t know there was an opportunity in this field and to be honest no matter how hard I tried, everyone told me I should be in the fashion and beauty industry.” 

So Huda made the move she had hoped to do for a long time. 

“I came back November 2009 from LA and in 2010, I launched by blog. I realised people don’t just make it over night. It is hard to work a lot and see people not respond or care.  Initially, it was like ‘her make up is nice, so what?’ but I kept going. Two years later, my sister was like ‘why don’t you launch lashes? People love yours.’ I told her I got mine in weird places, I cut them up, make my own. Plus I don’t know how I feel about charging people, I like giving away stuff for free.” 

Which she isn’t lying about. Have you seen the goody bags at her make-up masterclass? Fast forward to 2011, and the Kattan sisters got together and decided it was going to be a team effort. She worked on her lashes, every little detail from material to manufacturing and set up her meeting with Sephora.  

“Alya said she would make a small investment and I was like okay. And I said the only way it is going to happen is if I can launch it in Sephora. Now of course we met with a lot of discouraging people who thought my brand was too new or they didn’t like it until we met these two girls. They introduced us to Sephora who were really nice but very tough. And I was really just selling it because I love the brand. Finally on the launch date we ended up breaking all records on the first day. It was incredible. But my focus is on beating the record we set for ourselves,” she says.

This may come as a surprise, but the best thing about Huda is her ability to not live in the moment. 

She is a woman who is not afraid to ask for what she wants and does not hold back nor let the present hold her back.

“I don’t. A lot of people may say ‘what is Huda Beauty really doing?’ We are always working, always planning. It is important to stay future orientated. I am very tough though and have zero tolerance for people who don’t commit and keep their word.” 

So when it comes to that question, about ‘how she really is in person’, she is as affable as she is on your phone screen. 

She doesn’t need a filter; filters need her. 

Beauty and brains, Huda captures it all with the madness in between.

April 09, 2016