From cosmetics to fragrance and a reality show on Facebook, Huda and Mona Kattan are an unstoppable force
Huda Kattan is the face of one of the world’s fastest-growing beauty brands, Huda Beauty. “I wouldn’t be here without my family,” she says of the billion-dollar empire. The makeup artist turned-entrepreneur is talking about her Dubai-based, American Iraqi sisters Mona and Alya Kattan and her American-Colombian husband, Christopher Goncalo. “I’m the eyes. Mona is the heart and brain. Alya is the legs – she keeps us going. Chris is the muscle who has helped the company become profitable.”
Quintessentially Arab, Huda, like her sisters, has almond-shaped eyes framed by long black hair that falls in waves around her face. On the set of her first Vogue Arabia cover shoot, her seven-year-old daughter, Nour, sits next to her, appearing mesmerized by her mother’s glamorous aura. “She prepped for this shoot all last night,” says Huda, focusing her attention on her daughter. “Eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and going to bed early. She took it very seriously.”
Mona, the youngest of the three sisters, arrives to set. She was the initial driving force behind Huda’s move into beauty, encouraging her to consider makeup artistry as a profession. Huda launched her blog, Huda Beauty, in 2010, expanding into faux eyelashes in 2013 with help from Mona and a US $6 000 investment from Alya. The company took off, selling out its debut collection in Sephora almost immediately. With the business growing at a remarkable rate over the past five years – an online reach of 50 million combined followers, products stocked in more than 1 500 stores worldwide, and the reality series Huda Boss on Facebook Watch primed for a second season – the family functions as a well oiled team. Even the youngest member, Nour, receives credit. “She inspires me so much,” says Huda of her daughter. “She’s changed the brand. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be thinking without limit.”
Mona Kattan: What does beauty mean to you?
Huda Kattan: Beauty is expressing yourself any way you want. It can make you feel powerful, boundless. Beauty is support. The ability to feel strong. Most people don’t love themselves. I struggled with that. I’m just getting to a place where I feel more comfortable about myself.
HUDA: How would you describe our family?
MONA: Super passionate. Very loving, but very demanding. Very supportive, but very dysfunctional. We push each other to do our best.
HUDA: Can a sister relationship work in business?
MONA: We are 100% making it work – even though we are so different. We are like yin and yang. We complement each other. We’ve spent our whole lives together. We are very different when it comes to personality, but when it comes to goals, values, and our work ethic, we are very similar and both have huge aspirations. We want to build this incredible dream team and break industry records. We are so passionate. Nothing is better than working with your sister or your family.
HUDA: We want to be this generation’s Estée Lauder. I love Estée Lauder. Founders with vision are the ones who change the industry. They change the world. We have a long way to go, but I want to respect that. We’re hiring all the right people to do it. We have an amazing team
MONA: Was it always a smooth ride for you?
HUDA: Up until six months ago, I was always stressed out. Last year, I didn’t love my job. I could see why independent brands sell. We started the brand out of passion, with a vision. I’m not here for the money – I’m here for my own need to create. I feel like I’m back in that place again. With a team we trust, I got so much of my life back.
MONA: What’s one thing people don’t know about us?
HUDA: In the beginning, we struggled so much to make money. There were so many times we didn’t know if we were going to make it, if we even had a future. We didn’t have the opportunity to allow for failure. Some brands can have one product do well while one doesn’t. We couldn’t. If there was a failure, we would have gone bankrupt. In order to do the rose gold palette, I didn’t draw a salary for a few months. Nobody knew what was on the line for that launch. It did so well. It changed the industry.
MONA: Appreciation is very important to us. We start almost every morning with a gratitude session. We journal together and we talk about what we want to achieve. It’s a really spiritual time.
HUDA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given me?
MONA: Your biggest challenge is patience. I taught you the popular Arabic saying, “خيــرة وفيهــا تأخيــرة كل ,“meaning, every delay has a blessing. I think it really helped you. Every time you get frustrated, remember to be patient. God has better plans. Although, the best piece of advice you’ve given me is the opposite: don’t be so patient. I’m a bit too calm and maybe not as aggressive as I should be
HUDA: Shall we offer a clue about our new launches?
MONA: Our next collection for Kayali will launch in October or November. We’re working on the storytelling. Fragrance is a very emotional purchase; people need to feel the connection. I’m educating myself – I fall asleep reading about perfume.
HUDA: I’m really excited about launching our new skincare line. It changed my skin. It’s one product. It’s super simple. Everybody can use it, no matter who they are. We are starting with one formula this year, launching around November or December. By 2020, it will be a whole collection. We are also working on our foundation. It will look different – a little lighter. I have a lot of plans to diversify the business without taking my eye off Huda Beauty.
Originally published in the May 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia