She's a self-made international beauty businesswoman worth an estimated 490 million euros. Dubai-based Huda Kattan is also one of the world's leading social media influencers with an enviable Instagram following upwards of 37 million and over 3 million YouTube subscribers. Kattan spoke with Euronews’ Jane Witherspoon about empowerment, Generation Alpha and what inspired her to build a beauty empire.
Jane Witherspoon: Did you ever think that you would have this global beauty empire that is doing so well?
Huda Kattan: When you are starting out you do not really know exactly what you are getting into. You know that you feel very passionate, you feel very hopeful too that what you are doing is going to become something big. We set goals and then I think, ultimately, after we achieved them, we would have a new goal and so we just always kind of pushed forward.
Jane Witherspoon: Tell me your family story and how it all began for you?
Huda Kattan: My father and mother immigrated from Iraq and they moved to America to find better opportunities. My dad was a professor and we moved around a lot. It was a little bit of a hard time. I don’t remember my childhood necessarily being the most amazing or happy childhood because I think it was always a little bit of a struggle when my dad was studying and trying to make ends meet. Ultimately, I probably struggled with a few issues like fitting in. It was a very different environment. I definitely feel like it built my bases but it kind of made me very gritty. I feel like it was probably a struggle when I went through it but it made me a tough businesswoman. I feel like not that many things will ruffle my feathers anymore.
Jane Witherspoon: You're on Forbes list of most successful female entrepreneurs alongside the likes of Beyoncé and Oprah Winfrey. How does that feel?
Huda Kattan: I mean those are my two role models. So definitely, it was a huge honour to be a part of that list. It was very humbling because I think you work so hard and you do not always look for acknowledgement.
Jane Witherspoon: If you could give your younger self a little bit of advice, what would that be?
Huda Kattan: I think I would tell her that “you're never going to satisfy everyone” and I always think, “why focus on people who maybe don't love me and don’t think about what my opinion of them is” and I [then] say “what about the people who love me and what do they think about me.” It is hard. Why do we care so much about what people think? But that's just who we are as humans.
Jane Witherspoon: How important is it for you to be seen as a strong woman – who empowers other women - **as a lot of girls look up to you?**
Huda Kattan: Thank you. I take that very seriously actually. Even on social media, it’s a responsibility. You know when we started out in our business and we started to have success, I almost lost motivation because I started thinking about the purpose of why we do this. Am I really am doing this for my kids? My daughter and the people that are going to be surrounded like the next generation of not necessarily millennials but Gen Alpha. I'm really thinking about people like that. I really care about what world they're going to grow up in because social media - and I can tell you from being in- it has put so much pressure on us. We are inundated with content. We are inundated with stimulation constantly and I think about that a lot.
Jane Witherspoon: As a fellow working mum the challenges that come with that and the balancing can be quite tricky. Do you feel pressure?
Huda Kattan: I do. I always think about my daughter every step of the way. You know honestly I never wanted to be a mother, to be honest, and when I ended up having a child, I got very serious about it. I ask her often "do you want me to just be your mom? Do you want me to quit everything just be your mom? And she said ‘Nope! I want you to be Huda beauty" and I'm like “OK. I'm taking that very seriously”. I realize that she looks at what I do and thinks of women very differently than the way we thought about women growing up where ‘feminist’ was a bad word. She sees it as a positive word. She sees a very different world and I want it to be an amazing world where people are very in touch with themselves too
Jane Witherspoon: Family is obviously very important to you. How is it working with a sibling? Because I would fight with mine.
Huda Kattan: Oh we do. It's challenging because I think a lot of times you say things to your family you would never say to most people and so there are definitely boundaries that we cross. I think we've been doing it now together for a long time. So we've learned how to assimilate and work together. Everybody has a style and you need to learn it. There's gonna be times where you want to adjust to it and times where you don't but ultimately we are all working towards a goal and we're all trying to always push each other better inside-out.
Jane Witherspoon: How important has Dubai been as a city - in terms of being able to set up here - and how conducive do you think it is as a city to business?
Huda Kattan: Oh my gosh! I don't think that we would have achieved what we achieved in the US. Sheikh Mohammed and his vision, his ability to think limitlessly. That for me was so inspiring when I was starting out. I mean Dubai is a new place. The UAE is new. Its 40 years old. I mean tell me what country is this is amazing in 40 years. It's challenging when people first move here I think they need to find a way to assimilate. I never want to leave.
Jane Witherspoon: Do you ever pinch yourself?
Huda Kattan: I think every day I do a little bit. I'm very grateful for my teams so coming to work with my team is amazing. I have around me because that's very inspiring as well. Yeah, I think we do.
Jane Witherspoon: Who keeps you grounded or what keeps you grounded obviously family is a big part of that for you?
Huda Kattan: My daughter. She's very grounded, she's just very simple and wants to play with Barbies or make slime or make colourful rainbow spaghetti. So when I go home to her it fulfils my soul.
Jane Witherspoon: What does the future hold for Huda Kattan?
Huda Kattan: We are not just a beauty brand. You know we are here to make the beauty space warm and fuzzy, We want people actually feel empowered because of beauty.
Jane Witherspoon: Huda Kattan, thank you so much for speaking to us