A world of extremes, a double-edged sword… the internet can be described in several ways, especially when one zooms their lens over the realm of social media. With every public figure now just a few taps away, somehow, somewhere along the line, the world’s biggest personalities became household names. While the seemingly close proximity has made us more familiar than ever with our idols, it’s also made A-listers fair game to trolls, an army of watchers who waste no time in sharing opinions—most often negative—under each post.
With millions of followers hanging onto their every selfie, live chat or reel, Insta-famous stars seem to have it all—until they don’t. Behind the ever-climbing likes and shares is often a mountain of negative messages from faceless followers, which often go ignored. But in beauty mogul Huda Kattan’s case last month, it was time to pause and turn the spotlight on the bullies for once.
On December 3, 2022, the much-loved makeup artist, beauty blogger, and entrepreneur took to her personal Instagram page to share a series of festive snapshots that saw her dressed in a body-skimming red lace bodysuit, matching rose-tinted sunglasses, and nude wedges. The series, as expected, earned Kattan hundreds of likes and comments of approval, but some were quick to share judgements that were, in fact, baseless. In a bold move, Kattan compiled some of the most hurtful comments to create a video which she shared online just days later, calling out her trolls.
“I was really disappointed the other day when I posted a photo that I liked a lot and I got SOOO many really judgmental comments,” Kattan wrote in a candid moment. “I usually let things like this slide, but I thought it was important to talk about it. Nothing is more important than the way you feel about yourself! Luckily, I’m grown enough to not let these things affect me, but my younger self would have been crushed!” Her decision to speak out, of course, marks an important milestone for anyone who has felt targeted online, and represents a moment of taking her power back. Below, Vogue Arabia chats with the beauty mogul on her experiences with the best—and the worst—aspects of living in the limelight.
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Recently, you shared a post on Instagram where you clapped back at bullies – what led you to this decision?
Honestly I was just really frustrated because there have been so many times where people have said so many negative things about me, so many untrue things about me, and I never really say anything. I just let people say what they want to say and I don’t want to engage with them, but this was like my page. And people were saying things on my actual page. And people were like “You’re naked! You’re nude!” and I was like, “I’m fully clothed.” They were just saying incorrect things, and I felt like I wanted to defend myself because I was very frustrated. I was like, “People will say things about you all the time. But when they’re untrue, and on your actual page, that’s not okay. I have to defend myself at least on my own page.” And so yes, I wanted to clap back at them. People will say things like, “Oh you photoshopped your images” and I’m like, “I haven’t photoshopped in over a year.” And I’ve been really doing a lot of work against that, so I was really frustrated with the comments. So when people said, “You’re nude,” I was like, “I’m literally wearing a full bodysuit. A lot of people who are wearing this outfit are not wearing a full bodysuit. But I’m actually going the extra mile to do that, and to not photoshop images to sometimes cover up my curves. I just felt very misunderstood there. I don’t always do that. But on my own page, I’m certainly going to do that. At the end of the day, I’ve had many people try to attack me at different times, trying to get attention, and I don’t always feel like I need to talk to everybody. We’ve had different things happen in the past and I think, “Look, if someone’s just trying to get my attention, whatever. But if it’s happening on my page, I feel like I need to defend myself.” And that’s why I did that.
As a major social media public personality, how do you maintain your mental health in face of trolls?
It’s really hard, of course, because people can be really mean. People can be very judgemental. How would you feel if someone spoke to you knew, or someone you loved, like that? How would you feel if someone spoke to you like that? people often don’t want to think about things like that. they want to criticize in some very unfair and ridiculous ways, some of which don’t even always make sense. and i think sometimes I have to remember that people are just saying it to upset you, and maybe it’s more about something that they have going on with them versus you. And of course there are times when I try to just disconnect completely, and I do. It’s hard because I love my community so much and I hate disconnecting from them, but sometimes it’s something I just have to do for my own mental health. I feel like it’s the only thing that keeps me strong sometimes, is—not disconnecting from my community—but reconnecting with myself, so that I can be stronger for my community. But it’s hard because you do have people on the internet who don’t care what you’re doing, literally all they want to do is bring you down. and that is hard to deal with. You just can’t fight, you can’t even try to fight, with people like that. It’s not worth it. For example, even when I clapped back, and I didn’t go and attack people, I didn’t go and say anything mean, I didn’t talk about anyone specifically. I blurred out their names when I did refer to them. I’m not trying to pick a fight, I’ just trying to defend myself.
What is the message you hope to share with your followers via your content when it comes to loving oneself?
That’s really important because I feel like as an influencer, it’s my responsibility to be an example for people. And in a world where things are kind of measured by how many likes you got or how many followers you have, it’s more important for me to talk about self-love, to talk about vulnerability, to talk about some issues that people face. And I feel like I’ve been talking about it more and more over the years, and I plan on talking about it even more over the next year. I want to go way harder on talking about those honest moments because I feel like people need to hear it.
It’s not even really like I want talk about it. I feel like my community needs to hear it. And, sometimes we don’t talk about some of those things because they’re not fun to talk about. It’s not fun to talk about, oh, I’m having a difficult time in my life right now. Or I’m struggling with motivation, or I’m struggling with confidence. I’m struggling with loving myself. But it’s really important. The message I would want share with my followers is that you’re not alone. There are so many people out there who are struggling with the same things. Even people who have a lot of followers, people who we think they have it figured out. They don’t have it figured. And I want them to not be so hard on themselves, and to remember that sometimes we’re so hard on ourselves. We feel like we have to have it all figured out. We feel like we have to be so far, and that’s just not true. We never really pat ourselves on the back and say, “Wow, it’s actually pretty amazing to do what you’re doing.” I think that’s an important message that I would want share with them.
What was the most inspiring response your recent candid video received?
There were a few really great comments. There was a lot of support. There were obviously also some people not saying some great things still, but there were some people who actually appreciated me standing up for myself and thought it was inspiring. It’s hard to stand up for yourself, especially on the internet because you just never know how things are going to go. I think standing up for yourself just shows that you are not afraid to hide anything and you’re not afraid of what they’re going to say, and you’re here to defend yourself. I’m happy I did that.
As a mom, what’s one piece of advice you’d like to share with other parents in relation to social media and the pressure it puts on the youth to look perfect?
This might be a little controversial coming from me, but I don’t let my daughter on TikTok. And I would recommend that parents don’t allow their children on social media too. I know this is controversial because I’m on social media and I have a daughter, but I don’t let her on. There was a point where I was like, no, no, no.
I want her to be exposed to it because I want her to understand the world that we live in, and not be too fragile and too protected in a way that she’s not strong enough to face the world. But then I realized these algorithms are just way too smart, too clever for anybody. It doesn’t matter how old you are, they’re too smart for adults, never mind children. They can be really dangerous, and the pressures that they put on people is just unrealistic, especially when you add in all the filters.
It’s just been too much for me to want to allow myself to be so exposed to it. I have to take many breaks often from social all the time, like on a weekly basis. I take breaks. I think many people will go super hard and then take breaks. I’ve actually recently started doing something where I will not allow myself to be on my phone at all in bed. I will not touch the phone in bed, except to put my alarm clock on. I’m actually debating just getting a classic old school alarm clock, and I will not go to my phone in bed because I really think it’s okay to have certain moments where you allow yourself some breaks and some boundaries, it’s actually really important.
I was actually shooting a video today, I was saying that I feel like we don’t connect to ourselves enough and we’re all constantly connected, and I feel like, um, you know, we need to connect with ourselves more. And I, that’s one thing I would really advise parents. I would say don’t let your kids on social media, let them be really strong in who they are before, and let them understand the dangers before they start to go on social platforms. I think they need to understand fully what is real, what is not the algorithms, how they start to know you, and they’ll give you more of what you click on. I think that those things are really important for parents to know, and I think it’s actually dangerous for parents just to allow their children on social media without monitoring it and having some of those conversations.
Lastly, what’s the message you’d like to share with anyone who feels tempted to share negative messages online?
I think we’ve all been tempted, right? We’ve all been in the position where we feel like, “Oh, that’s not really right” and “Oh, I’m annoyed. I want say something.” Everybody has at some point felt this, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how positive you are. At some point you have felt like you saw something on social media and you wanted to say something. But saying it doesn’t make it better, and it doesn’t make you better. In fact, I really strongly believe in the opposite. Our bodies absorb things more than we realize, and I really do think that when you spew out negativity, judgment, criticism… negative criticism… I really do think it affects you.
Even from one comment, I think those things. One comment become two comments, three comments. And so I would say, be careful because you might be really putting yourself in a position where you might not like who you become. You might become a negative person. So I would strongly advise people to refrain from leaving negative comments online. You don’t have to leave a comment at the end of the day. You don’t have to like a photo. You can keep moving, you know? We don’t always have to be vocal. I think it’s so amazing how people have become so empowered through social media, but that empowerment has gone to no end to where people want criticize others for things that don’t need criticism.
I could just be having a great day, and people might be like, “Ew.” I’ve seen it before. I’ve experienced it before. And it’s like, why? Why do you have a problem with me being happy? You just have to think about what you want to become. Do you want be somebody who’s also happy? Do you want to be somebody who’s living the life that they want to live? That’s something that you really need to be actively working towards. And you might be working against it if you leave negative comments online.