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Huda Kattan on NFT endorsements: 'People underestimate' celebrity influence

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Huda Beauty Founder Huda Kattan sits down with Yahoo Finance Live's Dave Briggs at VeeCon to discuss the crypto market's volatility and community, NFTs, leveraging social media advertising, becoming a founder, and her own personal journey in the beauty space.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: The Web3 world, consisting of crypto and the NFT marketplace, as well as the Metaverse, is largely male dominated these days. Research shows that women make up fewer than 15% of the crypto space. Founder of the billion dollar cosmetics company Huda Beauty, as well as Wishful Skincare, Huda Kattan is among the powerhouses attempting to change that dynamic. I had the chance to sit down with the influencer and entrepreneur at Gary Vaynerchuk's NFT conference, VCON, to talk about the volatility she often warns of in this industry.

HUDA KATTAN: As much as I've made money, I've lost a lot of money. And it's very easy to be like, oh, my God, buy this lipstick. Buy this thing. There's no real downfall. If you don't like it, you don't like it. You lost $20. If you invest in an NFT project, you become a part of the community. You invest so much time. And that doesn't go well, that is your wealth. That is your livelihood. It's very different. People-- I think people underestimate their influence and the fact that people want to live like them, right? You buy into this project because you want to be like a celebrity. You want to live this life. Well, sometimes, that's all that people have. And they could lose everything. And I think that's something that we need to think about.

DAVE BRIGGS: Should they be warning people more of the downside?

HUDA KATTAN: Absolutely. We all should be. If you're in the space, it's so easy to be like, oh, my God, I made this much money. It's so great. It's not easy to talk about the mistakes that you make, but it's really, really important.

DAVE BRIGGS: The third thing you said that caught my attention was that passion needs to be an essential element. So many people go into it simply to make money, get in and out. How essential is being passionate?

HUDA KATTAN: If you really care about a project, you are able to be patient. If you don't care about a project, you're going to be really hurt when the market goes up and down. So I think if you are somebody who brings the passion, who brings all of that, you're adding also so much value to that community, you help. You help the ecosystem. So I mean, to me, passion is essential. I know not everybody will feel that way.

But I do believe that when you have passion, you bring so much more to that community. More than just the value of buying the NFTs, the community is so important for NFTs, you know? Like, people go there, sometimes, to be a part of this. They want to hear the GMs, the GNs. They want to feel like they can be a part of an ecosystem that gives them confidence and love and understands them. So that passion is really essential for that.

DAVE BRIGGS: Yourself, Eva Longoria, Mila Kunis, all have one common goal, which is to increase the ratio. If you look around here at VCON, it's probably 50, if not 100, men to one. Only 2% of the money from VCs is going towards female startups. Why are women not here and not in the industry as a whole?

HUDA KATTAN: I was a little disappointed to see the turnout of women here. I'm not going to lie. And I think with all-- a lot of the events right now, like, I think women feel very uncomfortable in the space still. And, you know, I had hoped to see more women, but I just think it's not-- I am a strong woman. I am a very comfortable woman. I have a lot of personality. I am-- I have very rarely been uncomfortable in any situation. And I am intimidated in this space. So I can't imagine how other women must feel. And I think that if we, as a community, as an industry, if the NFT space does not make a conscious effort to get women here, it is always going to be like this. So I think it needs to be a very conscious effort. I mean, I know Gary did try by inviting people like myself. Unfortunately, it's still not there.

DAVE BRIGGS: It is not.

HUDA KATTAN: It's still not there now.

DAVE BRIGGS: One of the things that fascinates me about your business is, you've built it essentially with no advertising. A billion dollar company--

HUDA KATTAN: No money.

DAVE BRIGGS: --with essentially no advertising. How was that done?

HUDA KATTAN: I mean, we were very early adopters of the social media days, you know? And I think that we understood the algorithm. We were growth hacking. We definitely are scrappy. And I think that's what's so cool about the space. I believe so much-- I see the NFT space right now. It reminds me so much of the beauty space, you know, where, like, everybody was coming into it. VCs, all these companies were coming into it, trying to make money very quickly. And when I talked to the founders, it's like the story, I'm like, oh, my God, your story reminds me of my story. It's like the same thing. Their product is the NFT. Their community is their NFT holders. It's very much reminiscent. And I think that you're going to see a very interesting shift within the industry of NFTs, where it just changes very, very quickly.

DAVE BRIGGS: The root of your story is pinned on your Twitter account, which is failure, in a matter of speaking, 2008. What did you learn from that? How did it drive you?

HUDA KATTAN: So I was fired during the recession in 2008. I spent my whole entire life investing in my CV, working, trying to get to be polished and what would be perfect for a professional company. I realized that I don't think everybody needs to fit into a box. And I certainly did not fit into any boxes. I was trying to, and it was not working. And my boss at the time actually told me. He was like-- which was really rude. But he was like, what are you doing here? Why aren't you in beauty or fashion? And I was, like, so mad at him. And I felt like I need to prove something by being this polished person, but then I realized I just-- I am who I am.

Even now in the beauty space, right, I'm talking about NFTs. I'm talking about financial information. It would be so normal for me to just want to stick to beauty. And the more that we evolve as people, we want to see different facets to everyone. Nobody is one side of themselves. We're so complicated, we're so complex, and that's beautiful. And that's what I think I've learned from that experience, is that, like, you know, I have so many different elements of who I am. And as I've gone on this journey, I'm becoming more and more of who I am.

DAVE BRIGGS: What's the best business advice you've either been given or you would give to someone who wants to do a startup today?

HUDA KATTAN: I would advise people-- and I've said this to a few of my friends who want to start their businesses. People think that in order to start a business, you need to have it all figured out. You need to have the fancy presentation, the fancy packaging, all these things. And I just couldn't agree-- I couldn't disagree with that more. I didn't have any money when I first started out.

You know, I remember the last packaging-- actually, the last packaging, I still have-- is a selfie I took of myself because I have no money. I didn't have money to hire a photographer. You know, everything was really scrappy. And I think the element of, like, just being able to get things done, not waiting for it to be perfect, I think that's so important. A lot of times, we want everything to be-- we have this fear, this image of how things are supposed to be perfect. And we're never that version of ourselves. And it's like, why? Just start. Somebody out there wants what you're selling. You know what I mean?

DAVE BRIGGS: Is that a message you would preach to young girls who idolize you, teenagers that idolize you? It is a tough time. Girls are going through eating disorders. Makeup is a $500 billion industry for a reason. We are consumed with the way we look. What is your message to those young girls that look up to you?

HUDA KATTAN: I had a really hard time with my own journey with beauty because I actually didn't realize it, but I got into beauty because I felt really ugly. You know, and I thought makeup was going to make me feel better. And it's so funny. I've been through this journey, and I'm lucky because I had my brand that helped me get through this. Like, it was a very-- it's a personal brand. And I've had a lot of therapy. A lot of-- my life coach, she works with me. And I realized that, like, I was trying to cover up something within myself.

I didn't know it was me that was wearing the-- the makeup was not wearing me. I was wearing the makeup. But I didn't understand that. And I almost had to strip everything back. And not until I did was I like, well, this woman deserves to be loved. Like, I remember we were shooting something, and I was, like, not wearing makeup. We weren't going to Photoshop the-- it was the launch of our skincare, Wishful. And I was like, our products really work. I don't want to wear makeup. I don't want to Photoshop the images. I want to show that it works. And I got in front of the camera.

Such-- I'm so good at taking photos. I am so good at taking photos. I can work my angles. I lost all my confidence. And I remember looking at the photos, and I was like-- I felt so vulnerable and so exposed. And I looked at the photos, and I was like, this woman deserves to be loved. She has worked her butt off. And I think the element of stripping everything back really helped me. But we are in a very visual world. And we're constantly bombarded with images telling us that we're not good enough, that you're supposed to look this way. It's really important to remember that things need-- that things are, like, sold that way to us, you know? And I think that we need to redefine beauty for ourselves. Our mission at Huda Beauty is to [BLEEP] the beauty standards.

DAVE BRIGGS: I love it.

HUDA KATTAN: Because we've all been, like, told a story.


HUDA KATTAN: Yeah, we're going to do it.

DAVE BRIGGS: Highly recommend that.

HUDA KATTAN: We're going to do a merch job. We're going to do the merch job. You heard it here. But we all have been told a certain standard of beauty is what we're supposed to do. And even I've been sold that. I'm trying to unsell that to myself. It's really, really, really hard. And I think we're supposed to, like, we need to embrace what beauty means to us. But it's really hard for social media. As amazing as social media is, it's also really unhealthy as well.

DAVE BRIGGS: I'll be honest, I went into this thinking, companies like Huda Beauty cause-- teenagers cover up and hide themselves in makeup. What I learned is they're actually empowering young women. And Huda's story is an inspiration. And she's causing girls to find themselves and come out and not hide. I was floored by all that.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, she was--

DAVE BRIGGS: She was an inspiration.

SEANA SMITH: She was so refreshing to listen to. And I think she had so many good bites of advice that people can take, whether you're a female or a male. Just be yourself, be confident, and also, don't feel like you need to fit in a box. I think so many people, when they're trying to look for jobs or trying to succeed in the workforce, they think they need to be, like, a certain person. And that's certainly not true. And look, she was able to find herself. And now she is extremely successful. So, great interview.

DAVE BRIGGS: Inspiration. Thank you.