When Dubai-based makeup artist Huda Kattan began producing online beauty content six years ago, her goal was relatively modest: to become the biggest beauty blogger in the Middle East and launch a namesake brand there.
The beauty universe, it turns out, had grander plans for Kattan. Since launching Huda Beauty, the onetime finance exec has become one of the most popular global beauty influencers online, with more than 15 million followers on Instagram and an average of 123 million views per post in August, according to data from Tubular Labs. Kattan has capitalized on her explosive popularity with an eponymous product brand, which smashed sales records when it launched at Sephora in Dubai in 2013. But her influence extends far beyond that, as the brand’s launch in Sephora’s U.S. doors last year attests to.
“The world has become very flat,” says Kattan. “Women are trying products from all over the world. Global tips are constantly shared.” She pauses. “You do want to make it big. You do want world domination.”
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Statistics suggest those ambitions are not far-fetched. Kattan says 40 percent of her Instagram audience resides in the U.S., with the U.K., Brazil, Russia and Australia rounding out the top five home countries of her fans on the platform.
Kattan isn’t the only social media influencer with a range that far exceeds her local geography. Netherlands-based Nikkie De Jager, known as NikkieTutorials; New Zealander Shannon Harris, who uses the handle Shaaanxo, and the U.K.’s Zoella (real name Zoe Elizabeth Sugg) and Pixiwoo sisters Samantha Chapman and Nicola Haste are among a growing roster who’ve become global sensations with substantial followings and beauty company partnerships that transcend borders.
The aforementioned represent just the English-speaking lot. PearyPie in Thailand, Yuya in Mexico, TheKateClapp in Russia and Pony Makeup in Korea are leading international beauty luminaries, and they rarely utter an English word on YouTube.
“Beauty transgresses language. You can watch an amazing tutorial in Korean and, you may not be able to understand the language, but you can get the general gist of application and the content is still transformative for you,” says Moj Mahdara, chief executive officer of Beautycon. “Beauty is an international pastime.”
Social media, particularly YouTube and increasingly video on Facebook, is propelling digital beauty celebrities to a fame that isn’t limited to fan girls in a certain time zone. Brands are responding accordingly, treating some marquee influencers like global superstars. L’Oréal Paris reportedly signed Swiss style blogger Kristina Bazan to a seven-figure contract.
Toto HaBa, vice president of digital strategy at Benefit Cosmetics, predicts international influencers will become increasingly important. He says, “As bigger brands get into this space, they’re going to be looking for people with global scale as opposed to looking at 10 local people in 10 local markets. I [envision] international influencers with global appeal signing more deals, and these global influencers working more into offline advertising.”
In the past year, Too Faced has collaborated on product launches with U.S.-based Naomi Giannopoulos, aka Vegas Nay, and the Dutch-based NikkieTutorials. Brand cofounder Jerrod Blandino says beauty aficionados from America to Australia are so familiar with global personalities that De Jager’s country of origin didn’t factor in much in the decision to link with her. “Social media has such a global reach it almost doesn’t matter where you are,” he says.
In the face of the rise of international social media stars, old-school celebrity sponsorships are being reconsidered. “Unless you’re getting A-list names like Taylor Swift, Jessica Alba or Katy Perry—and they command extremely high rates—it is unusual to find someone who has a really successful TV show globally because TV is so much more localized,” says Claire Collins Maysh, general manger for the U.S. at the digital talent management firm Gleam Futures. “Digital talent do have that, and the very nature of what they are doing online makes them accessible to everyone.”
However, many beauty brands generally aren’t structured to manage global relationships. Retail complicates matters. To illustrate that point, Collins Maysh remarks that a Sephora tie-in with a U.K.-based influencer might be misplaced because Sephora doesn’t have U.K. locations. But such considerations are becoming less of a hindrance as brands enhance their e-commerce capabilities. Marcelo Camberos, ceo and cofounder of Ipsy, believes direct-to-consumer beauty businesses are due for a major push in international markets and, as that happens, brands will increasingly link their global influencer strategies straight to e-commerce results.
“You are going to see companies investing in becoming a direct-to-consumer platform and in partnerships to drive conversations that are happening on social media and sampling platforms like Ipsy directly to them so they can own the consumer information,” he says.
Markwins, traditionally restrained to bricksand-mortar, has done just that. In the U.K., where its brands such as Physicians Formula and Wet ‘n’ Wild don’t have a retail footprint, the company is charging forward with Amazon U.K. “We will build our own buzz,” says Brian Talbot, vice president of international marketing, elaborating, “Five years ago, we would have never done anything e-commerce-wise because we didn’t want to irritate the retailers, but now there are so many brands that have come from e-commerce to retail, which has opened up a path for us to build buzz and sales.”
Campaigns to build buzz on a global basis are impinged by the constructs of marketing organizations, but Stephanie Horbaczewski, president and chief executive officer of multichannel network StyleHaul, says many companies are reevaluating their internal constraints to allow for pollination across countries.
StyleHaul worked with Neutrogena on a campaign that ran in seven markets earlier this year and enlisted 13 influencers, including Fleur de Force (from the U.K.), Rayza (Brazil), Horia (France) and Dayeong (South Korea).
“Bringing money into a centralized function to activate a campaign against different products is really different for a big brand, and we are seeing [many] make an effort to do that,” says Horbaczewski.
To assist brands with creating global campaigns, the apparatus that supports digital talent is broadening. Influence Nation, an influencer agency, set up offices in New York, Miami, Vancouver, Toronto, São Paulo, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Manila; StyleHaul has offices in the U.S., the U.K. and Singapore, and has been spearheading initiatives in Brazil and China. “Those markets are behind the U.S., but they are starting to speed up and some of them are really starting to develop their own ecosystems,” says Horbaczewski.
She continues that there has been a huge uptick in interest in Middle Eastern beauty, and she’s keeping a close eye on trends in India. “It’s just a question of how easy it is to access vidoes for people in India,” says Horbaczewski. “Once that hurdle is crossed, it’s going to explode.”
If brands don’t infiltrate emerging social media markets, influencers with the potential to create their own lines could fill the vacuum. “In the next five or 10 years, we will have a Latin American brand that is started there that does really well and that is tied to the creators,” forecasts Camberos. Europe, where he argues brands haven’t done a decent job fostering the influencer ecosystem, is “overdue for the creation of smaller brands. Change is going to happen there because you can only ignore [it] for so long.”
The It List: Global Influencers
Rounding up the top 10 social media influencers by region.
Zoe Elizabeth Sugg
YouTube: 11.1 million subscribers
Instagram: 9.4 million followers
• U.K.-based Zoe Sugg started a blog in 2009, and her popularity is so huge that YouTube included her as one of its faces for a marketing campaign. She’s leveraged her digital fame to branch into products (Zoella Beauty sells at Superdrug and Feel Unique) and a series of young-adult books.
YouTube: 2.6 million subscribers
Instagram: 3.3 million followers
• One of France’s biggest YouTube personalities, Marie Lopez has partnered with Benefit and Maybelline, starred in France’s version of “Dancing with the Stars” and released a book called “#EnjoyMarie.” She got in a bit of hot water last year when she suggested a DIY face mask that contained cinnamon, which can cause irritation.
Samantha Chapman and Nicola Haste
YouTube: 2.1 million subscribers
Instagram: 1.34 million combined followers
• Sisters and makeup artists Samantha Chapman and Nicola Haste are the U.K.-based Pixiwoo, whose brush collection, Real Techniques is the fastest-growing brush line in the U.S. and number one in the U.K. They also spearhead a digital magazine and are publishing a book called “Face.”
YouTube: 6.7 million subscribers
Instagram: 4.5 million followers
• Marzia Bisognin’s YouTube channel covers beauty, fashion, travel and home decor. Although she has one of the biggest audiences for an Italian YouTuber, U.K.-based Bisognin speaks English to broaden her reach. Her fans are nicknamed marzipans.
Nikkie De Jager
YouTube: 5.3 million subscribers
Instagram: 5.4 million followers
•Inspired to create a makeup tutorial by the looks of Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag and Audrina Patridge on “The Hills,” Nikkie De Jager’s subscriber base on YouTube is twice the size of the viewership the MTV reality show registered. De Jager is the top beauty blogger in the Netherlands and her video “The Power of Makeup,” has been watched 32.7 million times.
YouTube: 2.96 million subscribers
Instagram: 806,000 followers
• In the nine years since Lindy Tsang uploaded her first YouTube video, the Chinese-Irish digital personality’s fans have watched her marry and have a child. Sometimes the transition has been difficult for Tsang, whose most-watched videos are from a few years ago. She has a makeup brush line, called Bubbi, introduced a palette with BH Cosmetics in September and is working on a book.
YouTube: 3.7 million subscribers
Instagram: 4.1 million followers
• By many measures, Bianca Heinicke is the most successful YouTuber in Germany, with humor-filled videos that occasionally verge on controversial.
YouTube: 4.8 million subscribers
Instagram: 4.6 million followers
• Russian influencer Ekaterina Trofimova demonstrates plenty of beauty know-how, featuring a large cross-channel selection of brands.
YouTube: 2.8 million subscribers
Instagram: 537,000 followers
• A personal trainer and image consultant as well as a beauty expert, Patry Jordan is a standout in Spain’s vlogger scene. Recognizing her elite status among European influencers, L’Oréal signed her as a brand ambassador. Her book, “Secretos de Chicas,” is also her Instagram handle and a tag line she uses in the YouTube account.
YouTube: 941,550 subscribers
Instagram: 501,000 followers
•London-based Patricia Bright combines fashion and beauty, and this year added motherhood to her repertoire. Since starting to incorporate family themes and motherhood into her content, StyleHaul reports her audience has grown by 25 percent.
YouTube: 15.96 million subscribers
Instagram: 6.7 million followers
• Mexico-based Yuya, who uses the handle lady16makeup, might be the biggest digital beauty influencer in the world. She topped an AdvertisingAge ranking of the YouTubers in the beauty and style category last year with estimated monthly earnings of over $41,000. This year, she joined the U.N. Sustainable Development Action Campaign to combat gender inequality. She’s also graced “Cosmopolitan” covers in Mexico and written a book titled “Las Confesiones de Yuya.”
Karen, Rafael and Lesslie Velasquez
YouTube: 3.97 million subscribers
Instagram: 822,000 followers (@platicapolinesia)
• Mexican siblings Karen, Rafael and Lesslie Velasquez have several social-media accounts under the umbrella Platica Polinesia, including Musas on YouTube. Karen and Lesslie figure most prominently on Musas, which covers DIY tips (a video on making a zombie Elsa costume has drawn more than 20 million views), novelty beauty products and techniques and food.
Bruna Santina Martins
YouTube: 2.1 million subscribers
Instagram: 2 million followers
• One of the most popular social-media personalities in Brazil, YouTube is a family affair for Bruna Santina Martins. Her mother, sister, sister-in-law and cousins are also notable YouTubers, and family members pop up on the Niina
Secrets channel often. Certainly, Martins focuses on beauty—she has videos about makeup palettes, braiding and bronzers —but she also opens up her life beyond beauty on her main channel and a more personal account.
YouTube: 2.8 million subscribers
Instagram: 4.9 million followers
• Brazilian stunner and U.S. resident Camila Coelho launched her Portuguese YouTube channel in 2010 and introduced one in English a year later. She also writes a popular namesake blog. A sought-after spokesperson, Coelho has inked many deals with brands both Brazilian (i.e., Natura) and otherwise (including Dove).
YouTube: 3.1 subscribers
Instagram: 3 million followers
• A native of Rio de Janeiro, trained makeup artist Bianca Andrade documents hairstyles, creates celebrity makeup tutorials and gives peeks into her life on her YouTube channel. She’s known for changing her hair color and displaying her different looks. The upbeat influencer has been linked to Nexxus.
YouTube: 2.2 subscribers
Instagram: 790,000 followers
• Lima-based Katy Esquivel’s YouTube channel is populated with a wide range of fashion, beauty and lifestyle content touching upon everything from eliminating frizz to accessorizing school uniforms. Street-style snaps showcasing her outfits occupy much of her Instagram feed. Esquivel stars in Spanish-language advertising for Toyota.
YouTube: 309,900 subscribers
Instagram: 2 million followers
• Although Camila Coutinho’s handle means “stupid girls” when translated from Portuguese to English, Brazilian Coutinho is anything but dumb. She’s parlayed a successful Instagram account that documents her enviable fashion sense, active social life and simple beauty looks (deep lipstick paired with black-rimmed eyes is a staple for her) into a thriving business, and has worked with brands including Pantene, Nivea, Coca-Cola, Jimmy Choo and Diane von Furstenberg.
YouTube: 2.2 million subscribers
Instagram: 1.1 million followers
• If it weren’t for her posts being in Spanish, fresh-faced beauty and Bogota resident Paula Galindo’s YouTube channel would appear remarkably similar to a channel from a top U.S.-based beauty influencer. Her video playlist includes numerous hauls, a comparison of high-end and mass cosmetics, and a look at her boyfriend doing her makeup.
Karla Celis Sanchez
YouTube: 1.6 million subscribers
Instagram: 459,000 followers
• Karla Celis Sanchez has a particular affinity for desserts, as well as beauty—a popular video of hers details how to make cake out of Kit Kats. On Instagram, the Tijuana-born influencer plumbs her life for content, showing her husband and one-year-old daughter. She has an English-language YouTube channel under the handle celiskarlaenglish with a smaller audience than her Spanish-language channel.
YouTube: 2.8 million subscribers
Instagram: 2.6 million followers
• São Paulo-based Taciele Alcolea’s digital subject matter crosses beauty, fashion, decor, music and travel. She often spotlights her husband, photographer Fernando Ferraz, and dogs Babalu and Kelvin, who boast canine Instagram accounts with over 180,000 and 260,000 followers, respectively. She is a cast member on a Sony Channel show that’s sort of a social-media version of “Big Brother” confining eight YouTubers in a house.
YouTube: 1.7 million subscribers
Instagram: 2.6 million followers
• South Korea’s most famous beauty influencer, Hye-Min Park is known for reproducing celebrity looks, as well as her dewy complexion and colorful hair. Her Instagram posts have an ethereal, youthful quality and often zero in on her flawless face and large eyes. She launched a highly successful makeup line, Pony Effect with Memebox, and has published four beauty books. A self-taught makeup artist, Park has handled makeup for Korean pop-star CL.
YouTube: 1.1 million subscribers
Instagram: 264,000 followers
• Soo-hye Park calls herself a pioneer of the “makeup-tainment” genre. In her YouTube videos, she transforms herself into Korean celebrities, including male pop stars, and movie characters such as Elsa from “Frozen” and Harley Quinn from “Suicide Squad.” She does it all with a huge helping of humor. Her videos generate an average of 2,000 comments, and she’s said to read every one of them. She has been on Korean television shows and released a makeup book. She’s also put out several products, including a box containing four of her favorite items with cosmetics purveyor Unpretty Rapstar. It’s been reported that Park, who revealed putting English subtitles in her videos tripled her audience outside of Korea, is learning English to connect with her international fans.
YouTube: 262,527 subscribers
Instagram: 1.4 million followers
• A renowned Thai makeup artist, Amata Chittasenee isn’t afraid to try makeup of all sorts (shiny green lipstick, no problem.) But she can also dish out beauty tips—she recommends light-colored contacts to enhance green eyeshadow, for instance—with the best of beauty vloggers. Chittasenee, who has worked backstage at London Fashion Week, has been associated with a slew of brands up and down the beauty spectrum, including Wet ‘n’ Wild, NYX, Too Faced, Etude House, Maybelline and Guerlain. In addition, she collaborated on a fashion collection with the brand Something Boudoir.
YouTube: 3.6 million subscribers
Instagram: 1.5 million followers
• The number-one beauty vlogger in Australia, Lauren Curtis describes her approach as personal and practical. Her two most popular YouTube videos, which have drawn more than 8 million views each, are no-frills tutorials on natural and prom makeup. Curtis, who comes across as earnest, humble and approachable, has emphasized she sees social media as a tool to help her boost the self-esteem of young women. The Perth resident has been the face of YouTube’s international campaign and has linked with Refinery 29 as part of its Here and Now content program enlisting YouTube personalities. Curtis starred in ads for Garnier skin care in Australia.
YouTube: 2.7 million subscribers
Instagram: 1.3 million followers
• New Zealander Shannon Harris began posting on YouTube six years ago when she had brown hair and never looked back. Now blonde, Harris’ videos cover key makeup trends (i.e., nontouring and dark lips), product reviews and offer clear how-to’s on everything from removing facial hair to achieving a stellar fake tan. After being criticized on Twitter for a picture revealing her makeup-free face, Zendaya came to Harris’ defense. She launched her own brand, XoBeauty, in 2013 to market makeup brushes and false eyelashes, and has collaborated with BH Cosmetics on an eyeshadow palette and ColourPop on an eyeshadow quad.
YouTube: 1.9 million subscribers
Instagram: 764,000 followers
• A burial coordinator at a crematorium before she embarked on a social-media career full-time, Chloe Morello trades in reliability on YouTube. She talks frankly about lip augmentation and is game for poking fun of the digital beauty phenomenon. One recent YouTube video jested about full-body contouring while simultaneously making the serious point that social-media imagery doesn’t always reflect real life. Also recently, she was simultaneously praised and slammed for putting on a hijab in a video timed with the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr. She partnered with Ciaté on an eyeshadow palette and is an ambassador for Priceline Pharmacy.
YouTube: 3 million subscribers
Instagram: 465,000 followers
• Chinese-Australian vlogger Wendy Huang cultivates a friendly, frank persona on YouTube. She serves up simple makeup tutorials and hacks, but isn’t afraid to plunge into sensitive subjects as well like armpit hair and birth control. She even did a video exploring how much she makes through YouTube. Huang’s list of brands partnerships includes Elizabeth Arden, Target and Colgate. She’s also the chief executive officer of online marketplace StyleAlley.
YouTube: 1 million subscribers
Instagram: 47,300 followers
• Tina Yong, an Australian of Vietnamese descent, spiritedly test drives a lot of wacky products in her videos, including pimple stickers, lipstick tattoos and peel-off eye shadows. And she throws a generous dose of tutorials and tips into the mix. Her Instagram feed reveals Yong’s stylish side with posed selfies presenting looks and outfits that appear carefully thought out. Off of social media, she’s a Sydney-based hairstylist and makeup artist who specializes in bridal beauty and Asian hair.
Da Sol Lee
YouTube: 738,950 subscribers
Instagram: 174,000 followers
• Korean beauty influencer Da Sol Lee will get you ready for virtually every occasion. Some of her most popular tutorials provide guidance on back-to-school makeup, Valentine’s Day makeup, concert makeup and fan meet-up makeup, which drew nearly
1.2 million views.
YouTube: 616,040 subscribers
Instagram: 18,400 followers
• Keren Legaspi is the biggest digital beauty content creator in the Philippines, and she’s amassed an international audience. Nearly half of her subscribers are from the U.S. Her first YouTube video demonstrated how to achieve Demi Lovato’s smoky eye look, but she’s since turned her attention primarily to tresses. The long-haired influencer has created more than 40 videos just on no-heat curls and waves. In her day job, Legaspi is a hairstylist and makeup artist.
YouTube: 1.4 million subscribers
Instagram: 15.1 million followers
• Oklahoma-born Huda Kattan is undoubtedly the social-media beauty queen of the Middle East—and she’s spreading her reign abroad. After studying with Joe Blasco in L.A., the United Arab Emirates-based makeup artist took to the Internet to blog in 2010 and built a rabid following for her tips, tricks and overall good nature. She’s got women around the world excited about shaving their faces, contouring their features and painting their lips with matte formulas. In 2013, she launched her namesake makeup brand with faux lashes in Dubai, and it entered the U.S. last year.
YouTube: 2 million subscribers
Instagram: 888,000 followers
• In a Middle East social-media scene dominated by Instagram, Dubai-based Hayla Ghazal is the rare influencer who’s made her mark mostly on YouTube.Her lighthearted video fare includes the comedic series, “A Teenage Girl’s Diary.” Although she’s experimented with English content, Ghazal has discovered there’s more demand for her videos in Arabic. The 21-year-old, who started on YouTube to break into the media business, opened the Hayla Couture bridal and evening gown boutique in 2013, and is a U.N. change ambassador for gender equality. StyleHaul reports engagement on Ghazal’s channel is five times greater than the average beauty channel in the UAE
YouTube: 332,263 subscribers
Instagram: 940,000 followers
• Self-described makeup addict Maya Ahmad excels at no-fuss videos that deliver straightforward makeup tutorials and product recommendations. The Lebanese influencer focuses primarily on prestige brands and has collaborated on a makeup brush with Glossy Makeup.
Instagram: 1.4 million followers
• Huda Kattan’s sister Mona Kattan is a force in her own right. She’s the managing partner of Huda Beauty and the salon The Dollhouse, and has amassed a large audience on Instagram. She has participated in videos from TRESemmé and Ponds. Like her sister, Iraqi-American Kattan resides in Dubai. She worked in investment banking prior to diving into beauty.
YouTube: 37,313 subscribers
Instagram: 4.8 million followers
• Joelle Mardinian’s Dubai-based beauty empire boasts a cosmetic surgery destination called Clinica Joelle, a nine-unit salon chain called Maison de Joelle, a product line called Joelle Paris and a deluge of Instagram admirers. It doesn’t get much more luxurious than Mardinian, who is often shown walking up a marble staircase draped in a silky gold dress at the start of her YouTube videos or traveling to lavish locales in her Instagram feed. A television presenter for the “Joelle” program on the channel MBC1, Mardinian’s been an ambassador for Pantene, Max Factor and Fresh Look.
Dalal Al Doub
YouTube: 395,763 subscribers
Instagram: 1.9 million followers
• Dalal Al Doub began blogging about makeup and fashion in 2012, and leapt onto YouTube a year later. Her impeccably edited Instagram posts depict Al Doub living a stylish life in Kuwait. In both Instagram and YouTube content, she shines at incorporating pops of color in her sophisticated beauty looks.
Instagram: 1.4 million followers
• Kuwaiti makeup artist Fouz Alfahad’s Instagram account is a parade of gorgeous selfies that never fail to include her luscious locks. She was tapped by Sephora Middle East to star in a social-media series called Sephora Beauty Pulse in which she explores its stores and products. In 2014, she signed a contract with the Kuwaiti YouTube channel TVBelMokhba for makeup tutorials, but largely sticks to Instagram and doesn’t produce YouTube videos under her own handle. She’s been linked to Pantene and L’Oréal Paris.
YouTube: 67,763 subscribers
Instagram: 2.2 million followers
• Kuwaiti makeup artist Sondos Alqattan’s digital content is full of dramatic eye looks and smooth, perfected complexions. She’s a big fan of Shiseido and Kat Von D, and has struck partnerships with the likes of Urban Decay and Clinique. Off of social media, Alqattan, a former bank branch manager, provides one-on-one makeup lessons and wedding-day makeup.
Sonia and Fyza Ali
Instagram: 504,000 followers
• Sonia and Fyza Ali are sisters who produce digital content. A model and muse for Fyza, Sonia bears a striking resemblance to Kim Kardashian West—and she often is captured in makeup that could be easily mistaken for the reality TV star. She’s also a self-professed specialist in makeovers for Middle Eastern women. Her makeup stash is decidedly high-end, and products from Dior, Tom Ford, Nars and Giorgio Armani are regularly showcased. Sonia and Fyza’s social-media presence is limited to Instagram. However, they’ve been beauty contributors to Style.com/Arabia.
YouTube: 54,316 subscribers
Instagram: 1.8 million followers
• Makeup artist Samer Khouzami, who is based in Beirut, is known as a master of contouring, but his Instagram account presents glamorous eye looks and full, sculpted brows as well. It’s an archive of sorts teeming with before-and-after images that illustrate just how impactful his makeup application can be. Khouzami has gone on tour across several countries with his makeup workshops, and Anastasia Beverly Hills has sponsored his classes. He markets his own SK line of makeup brushes.