Huda Kattan believes that the beauty industry is sexist

News Agencies

As part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of her cosmetics brand, Huda Beauty, she has taken over a Paris building not far from the Eiffel Tower, and turned almost everything inside hot pink.

There are make-up stations loaded with her products, neon signs and glamorous people everywhere.

Fans waiting on the street scream when she arrives. Inside, the invited influencers and make-up professionals chant her name as she climbs the stairs: “Hu-da, Hu-da, Hu-da.”

People queue to take a selfie with her – some even burst into tears when she hugs them.

Throughout it all, Kattan’s smile never falters.

Kattan is one of the people on this year’s BBC 100 Women list, which celebrates 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world.

She has a cosmetics business worth more than $1bn, which is the biggest make-up brand on Instagram, with more than 50 million followers.

But she sharply criticises both the beauty industry and social media.

“I think the beauty industry is sexist,” she says. “It objectifies women a lot of times. It really can boil women down to just their appearance.”

She says that as a woman “who likes to glam”, she knows how frustrating it is to be judged by her appearance.

But she accepts that judging others too quickly is a common failing – and that it is something she herself needs to work on.

When she first became a businesswoman, she found that some in the industry would not take her seriously.

“I struggled so bad,” she says.

“Oftentimes we’d be in a meeting and instead of making eye contact with me they would make eye contact with my husband and completely ignore me.”

“Don’t talk to me, talk to her,” her husband would say – but they would just continue addressing him, says Kattan.

She fumes about the slow progress of the beauty industry where inclusivity and representation is concerned.

Kattan grew up the daughter of immigrants who moved from Iraq to Tennessee and says she was always made to feel that she was unattractive.

She says it’s a priority for her to sell products in deeper shades, and foundations that match a wide range of skin tones.

But while she accepts the industry as a whole may be moving in the right direction, she says it’s going at “snail’s pace”.

“I’ve been in the labs with the manufacturers and I’ve said to them, ‘I need a richer skin tone product’. And I’ve seen them literally put black pigment in, [but] people’s skins are made of many different tones.

“I think there is still a lack of understanding. And it really comes down fundamentally to the manufacturer, even some brands.

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