Nine years ago, 26-year-old Kat Von D walked into the Sephora corporate office for a meeting that would change the landscape of traditional cosmetics, and her career, forever. She was just coming off the second season of her own TLC reality show, LA Ink. Kat let the TLC cameras in to film the day-to-day action of her own tattoo shop, which gave her a lot of momentum as a known artist in and outside of the tattoo community. Her fierce cat eyes, red lips and distinctive style captured the attention of one of the world’s largest beauty retailers.
“When Sephora first approached me nine years ago about creating a makeup line, it was definitely a surprise!” says Kat Von D, now 34. “Growing up as an ‘outsider’ in a lot of ways, I wasn’t necessarily used to people interested in my personal approach to makeup. However, after our first creative meeting, it was pretty obvious that we had a special opportunity to create something that hadn’t been done before, and to me, that was extremely exciting!”
Author, reality TV star, beauty brand owner, musician, influencer and animal advocate, Kat spreads her creativity across several categories, internationally. Her company, Kat Von D Beauty, is making waves as one of the fastest-growing, most unique brands in the industry due to Kat’s tenacious ability to stay true to herself.
Born in Nuevo León, Mexico, Kat and her family moved to California when she was 4 years old. She started playing piano at a young age and developed her artistic abilities that she carries with her to this day. “I wouldn’t want to live in a world without music. I’d take my piano over all the lipstick in the world. Any day,” Kat says.
After getting her first tattoo at age 14, Kat’s love for tattoo artistry grew into a career when she dropped out of school to become a tattoo artist at 16. “I am ever so grateful for my rough-around- the-edges upbringing. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it,” she reflects.
Never shying from paving her own path, Kat’s distinctive beauty style began early on. A keynote speaker at The Makeup Show LA last year, Kat told a roomful of beauty lovers and fans that she used black eyeliner as lip liner when she was a teenager.
“The do-it-yourself community has always been a place where I can relate and now, with the impact of social media, it’s a beautiful thing to witness in the world today,” Kat says. “People are really exercising their creativity in ways that blow my mind.”
Her early interest for creating the looks she wanted in an unconventional way turned into Kat’s feminine goth sig- nature makeup style, which is the driving force behind her beauty brand and has differentiated her from the competition.
“I’ve never been a fan of following trends, to be quite honest. I really just create things that I want to make,” says Kat, who did just that with the creation of her vegan and cruelty-free makeup line.
Kat Von D Beauty launched in 2008 with a few SKUs and over the years, has blossomed into a full cosmetics line, offering her signature “Lock-It” Founda- tion, Concealer Crème, Powder, Tattoo Liner, makeup brushes, contour palettes, eye shadow contour palettes, eye shadow primers, Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks, eye shadows and more. From brows to cat eyes, the brand has created new catego- ries and amped up traditional contouring with its large variety of long-lasting, bold products. Kat incorporated her love of tat- toos into her line, from the tattoo-esque packaging to the face products that are full-coverage enough to cover the most vibrant tattoos. The Tattoo Liner embod- ies the precision of a real tattoo needle, with the color payoff and all.
“There’s not one part of my brand that I don’t have my finger on and I’m always thinking about what we can do next! Not a lot of people know, but I’m completely involved in everything from concepts, art direction, formula test- ing, shade naming and artwork layout on both packaging and component, to running social media and everything in between,” she explains. “Thankfully, I have an awesome team that really backs me up when it comes to my vision for the brand.”
When Kat is not inspiring her millions of fans on Instagram and Twitter, she is busy creating, running her empires and staying true to her art. “I tend to stay super busy, and I like it, but it makes it easy when you love what you do,” says Kat. “As of late, I’ve been doing so much traveling since Kat Von D Beauty has gone global. When I’m not living the airport/hotel life, I tend to have a pretty packed schedule. Wake up early. Work out. Piano practice. Vocal warm ups and songwriting.
Last September, Kat Von D Beauty expanded into the UK, a move that Kat describes as a huge win for her person- ally and professionally. “It has been a dream of mine to make Kat Von D Beauty accessible to everyone worldwide, but this process takes careful timing because each market is so different,” explains Kat. “Every region is different in its own way. So although it’s taken some time to finally launch in some countries, I’m happy to take it at a slower pace, that way we do things right.”
“Our first international launch was Australia, which was amazing! Being able to fly out to Australia for the first time and meet long time fans face to face was a dream! Now we’re available at Sephora globally and [as of] last fall [it is] available at Ion in Singapore and Debenhams in the UK.”Painting, drawing or working on artwork, and of course, maintaining a tattooing schedule at my shop.”
The brand recently teamed up with the well-known Too Faced Cosmetics to produce a product line collaboration for their fans, which has been a trending subject in the makeup industry since last summer. A personal friend of Too Faced cofounder and chief creative offi- cer, Jerrod Blandino, it was a natural fit for Kat. Called the “Better Together” collection, it combines the brands’ edgy and feminine styles.
“I think Too Faced is the yin to my yang,” laughs Kat. “When you look at Kat Von D Beauty and Too Faced and put them together, they look like complete opposites, but there are tons of similari- ties. I don’t want to say that Kat Von D isn’t feminine, because it is; it’s just a different type of feminine. There’s a lot of pink going on in the Too Faced world, and there’s a lot of black in Kat Von D Beauty. We both celebrate femininity in our own ways—there are many forms of self-expression—and I think together, we’re definitely better.”
The highly anticipated line launched in December 2016.
2015’s winner of PETA’s youth division, peta2’s Best Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Company title, Kat Von D Beauty is no stranger to advocating animal rights. For- mulating vegan and cruelty-free products was a top priority of Kat’s when conceiving her brand. “Having been a vegetarian for a good chunk of my life, taking the step into veganism about five years ago was a life-changer for me. A lot of people think being vegan only has to do with what kind of food you eat, but in all honesty, it’s a complete lifestyle,” she adds.
“After coming to certain realizations, it was obvious to me that I needed to make some changes in some of the formulations of existing beauty products in my line. Of course, Kat Von D Beauty has never (and will never) test on animals, but it was important to me to take it one step further, in order to make the entire line 100-percent vegan. Reformulating wasn’t just about being environmentally conscious or compassionate toward animals, it was just as important to send out a message to the consumer and to other brands as well. Raising awareness is key. Especially in a time where our brilliant technologies make it easy to!” she says.
Making bold moves like this has set the young brand owner and her products apart. In September 2016, Kat Von D Beauty released a limited edition Ever- lasting Liquid Lipstick shade called Proj- ect Chimps, benefiting the namesake’s animal sanctuary dedicated to rescuing chimps from testing labs. The project was a success and quickly sold out.
Giving back is one of Kat’s many priori- ties, thus she spends a good amount of time traveling for her brand appearances and meeting fans around the world. Her loyal fans draw inspiration from Kat and her brand on a daily basis, as the Kat Von D Beauty Instagram page is a gallery of vision, alone. “Inspiration is something I definitely have no shortage of,” Kat shares. “My biggest fear in life is that I won’t physically be able to create everything I have ideas for before I die! As for inspiration for my makeup line, I find muses in my surroundings, whether it’s architecture, elements of nature, heartbreak, music, literature or my cats.”
From finding success at a young age, to maintaining it so well, Kat has had her share of experience as a businesswoman. “I find it so vital to keep your original intention close,” says Kat to anyone look- ing to start their own business. “If your purpose is to create something for the betterment of others, it becomes far more fulfilling. Any other successes that come with it become icing on the cake!”
One perfect cat eye at a time, Kat Von D Beauty’s empire is an unstoppable force that has left a permanent tattoo on the beauty industry.