Beauty is big business. In Forbes’ recent list of “America’s Richest Self-Made Women,” seven out of 60 made their fortunes in cosmetics and skincare. One of them is Dubai-based makeup mogul Huda Kattan.
The 34-year-old businesswoman, who founded cosmetics brand Huda Beauty in 2013, ranked number 37, joining the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg and 20-year-old Kylie Jenner — whose estimated $900 million fortune also comes from a beauty empire (one that makes her more than twice as wealthy as big sister Kim Kardashian West).
For Huda, the US-born daughter of Iraqi immigrants, it started with a blog.
“I noticed there were no bloggers that looked like me… nobody that I could look (up) to,” Huda tells CNN. Disillusioned with her job in finance, Huda quit to become a makeup artist, and in 2010 she launched her own website with makeup tutorials, skincare routines and beauty hacks.
Her commercial breakthrough came in 2013, when she teamed up with sisters Mona and Alya — who act as Huda Beauty’s global president and chief Instagram officer, respectively — to create a line of false eyelashes. They flew off shelves and caught the eye of Kim Kardashian herself.
But Huda feels Instagram was the turning point. “It was the catalyst that changed everything,” she says. “It changed the dynamics in which people not only communicate but are inspired as well.”
The phenomenon of beauty blogging and vlogging is worldwide, with the number of YouTube views on beauty-related content jumping from 4 billion in 2010 to 104 billion in 2017, according to the latest data gathered by a video advertising technology company Pixability.
Huda is an early example of this new generation of “influencers.” As Olivia Phillips, the digital editor of Grazia Middle East, explains, not only has she introduced cult beauty products but she has also been an inspiration to the region’s businesswomen and young girls alike.
When Asghar started blogging on Instagram, she had a mere 15 followers, all family and friends. Her first post was a picture of her smiling with bronzed cheekbones, glossy lips, thick eyebrows and intensely dark eyes.
Most of her makeup styles require a minimum of eight products and take at least 30 minutes to apply, she says.
But this doesn’t faze her audience, which has grown to 217,000. “The local ladies have got a lot of money and they believe in makeup,” she says. “I feel like I’m in the right area, hitting the right targets.”
The Kattan sisters echo the sentiment: the commitment to makeup in the Middle East is quite something. “It’s in our DNA,” says Mona. “We’re excessive. We’re never like ‘that’s too much.’ We’re like ‘add a bit more.’ And that’s with everything we do: beauty, makeup, food, fashion, everything.”