Not only is Kat beautiful, she’s also extremely humble, kind, hardworking and incredibly witty – an artist who stays true to herself and stands up for what she believes in. In this exclusive chat with Kat Von D, here’s what she has to say about beauty, her makeup line and her sources of inspiration.
What is your first memory of makeup and what inspired you to create Kat Von D Beauty?
My first memory of it was watching my mother get ready. To me, she looked like a beauty queen. She wasn’t a pageant model or anything like that, but she was just always very feminine. It wasn’t until I was twelve or so that my sister and I snuck into her makeup drawer and played around with her makeup. That was like my first time actually putting lipstick on, but we didn’t really know what we were doing back then. Little did I know that it would be such a pivotal moment later on in my life, to immerse myself so much in the beauty world. When I ended up launching my makeup line nine years ago, I named my first eyeshadow palette Galeano – which is my mum’s maiden name – to pay homage to my first experiences with makeup. She would use that eyeshadow palette all the time and she still does to this day.
How do you come up with the names of your products?
It depends. When it comes to eyeshadow palettes, they usually already have a theme behind them so it’s easy to tell a story through the names. Whereas for lipsticks, I kind of just tend to treat them like individuals. An individual colour can scream a certain name out to me or a sentiment. I’ve named shades after my favourite bands, songs, pets, friends, ex-lovers, elements of nature – just things that inspire me in general. I’ll look at a shade and it’s very descriptive of how it makes me feel. And of course, my Latin background plays a very huge part in how I name things as well, so there are a lot of Spanish names I use too.
What is the message you’re trying to send with your makeup?
With my makeup, it’s mainly to give people the tools to express themselves – I think that makes makeup fun! If you want to wear green lipstick, you can! We don’t have to take makeup so seriously, and it can show a different side of ourselves, not what society deems as the conventional standard of beauty. You have the freedom to be whoever you are and in whichever way you see fit. It’s definitely not selling anything else – I don’t believe that you should look or be like someone you’re not.
What is your favourite part of creating products?
One of my favourite things about the whole creative process is seeing the idea finally coming to life. It’s one thing to have a picture in your head – what I think something is going to look like. For example, when we first came up with the idea for the Studded Kiss Lipstick, I was wearing this bracelet that had black studs on it. My co-worker was sitting next to me and she was like “why not make a lipstick tube like your bracelet?”, and I thought that was such a great idea! So I sat down and I started drawing out different versions, some with lots of studs, some with simple big studs, square ones, round ones – I still have all of these sketches. Fast forward to one year later, to hold the actual finished product, it’s like wow, dreams really do come true!
How do you pick the shades for your products?
When I’m doing eyeshadow palettes, there’s pretty much an overarching story that’s being told, so that can dictate colour selections. But with lipsticks, I just look at shades that are missing within the spectrum and also play around with different finishes. For example, we already have a great black lipstick called Slayer, which I love. But we also created NaYeon, which is a gunmetal with a lovely sparkle, and it smells like crème brûlée! So it’s just coming up with different variations and ideas. I do believe that as a brand, it’s very easy to come up with products just to fill up the space and just over-saturate the industry, which is never my intention. I want to create things that are really needed and everything is made for a reason. Every product should be treated like a hero product.
If you could only choose to do either your lips or eyes, which would it be?
I always tend to do my eyeliner first, but I’m okay with just wearing a bold lip. So I think I would be happy with either as long as it was a tattoo liner or a red lipstick!
How do you manage your time schedule on a daily basis? What is a typical day like for you?
I think that it is always challenging for anybody that I know. It’s always the idea to balance your time between work and play. Thankfully I love what I do so I don’t necessarily ever feel like I need a vacation. When I’m travelling, I take my art supplies with me so I can at least have that creative outlet wherever I go. When I’m at home, I tend to get up pretty early and fill up my day, which is usually balanced between tattooing, creating the makeup line, playing my music, and lately I’ve been trying to learn how to paint, like oil paintings. That in itself is quite a process and is time-consuming as well, but it’s fun! I think if you invest the time into practicing something, you’re going to get good at it. To me, tattooing, painting, drawing, music, makeup, writing are all kind of the same in a way – they’re just different mediums of art and different ways to express yourself. As somebody who understands the importance of that, I want to be able to exercise all aspects as much as possible. I’m never ever bored, because there’s something to do all the time, so that’s exciting!
What makeup look do you usually go for on a daily basis?
I try to do my makeup differently every day to practice creativity. But if I had to choose one main go-to look, I would choose a nice bold red lip with a sleek cat eye. I tend to do my eyeliner pretty dramatic, and just a clean brow – that’s it, pretty simple!
Any beauty secrets to share?
To me, it’s important to exude confidence. That’s the sexiest attribute anyone can have and that comes from in here (Kat points to her heart). You could be having a bad makeup day or not be wearing any makeup, but if you feel strong and confident in yourself, then you’ll look good. I’m like everybody else – I have bad days where I don’t feel that great and it doesn’t matter how much makeup I wear, it’s going to show through. So it’s more about getting yourself a good head space. I’m very comfortable with not wearing makeup so it’s not a big deal to me, and there are days when I don’t see anybody but I put makeup on because it’s fun! That’s one of the best things about putting on makeup – the fun factor.
Which Kat Von D Beauty products are your personal favourite?
Tattoo liner – I love so much! But I also love the foundation because it has a nice matte finish, is very build-able, has full coverage and is able to withstand hot and humid weather, which I think you guys can really appreciate. We call it Lock-It Foundation for a reason. I also love my red lipstick!
What or who inspires you?
People who are courageous and stand up for what’s right inspire me. That comes in the form of activism and how we treat each other. Kind actions are more attractive than physical beauty – and that has been my stance on it since I was little. It also takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, so anyone who does that speaks volumes to me on an inspirational level. There are a lot of voices out there who tell us we’re not good enough. So for people who can transcend that and show up, that makes them really cool.
Who are your favourite bands or singers to listen to?
I love music so much. Beethoven has always been my favourite because I grew up playing classical music, and I love his story – he’s like a big hero to me. As far as modern-day music goes though, I love so many bands but I’ve been listening to a lot of IAMX recently. When I discovered them, I ended up buying every single album they ever made on iTunes and I made a playlist to listen to all of it. The singer (Chris Corner) who writes the music is so good. It’s more of an electronic music, but I love it. I ended up naming a lipstick called Mercy after one of his songs. He’s a really great vocalist and the music videos are awesome too – you should check it out!
What do you do to relax and what makes you happy?
I’m happy when I’m in my element. In the middle of a tattoo for example, it’s quite relaxing and meditative. I feel the same way when I’m playing the piano or drawing. Whenever I’m plugged into my artistic outlets, that’s when I’m the happiest. Oh, and when I’m with my cats too!
What’s been your proudest moment in the history of Kat Von D Beauty?
It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I’m super lucky to even be here and celebrating all of this. I never imagined that it would even get to this level. Ultimately, you can show me all the numbers and you can tell me how great the brand is doing, but it’s never quite comparable to when my dad tells me he’s proud of me – and he tells me he’s proud of me for different types of successes. I think he’s more proud of me when I do the right things for ethical reasons, like for the environment. To him, those are things he sees strengths in. I just want to be a good person and when I am able to use any of my platforms to share positivity, I think that’s when I can be the proudest.
What is your advice to aspiring makeup artists or entrepreneurs looking to start their own brand?
I’m not really good at giving advice, but I would say be true to your intentions. I think that anybody can want to be successful and make a bunch of money and have a bunch of followers, but those to me are not sincere intentions. Whether things sell or not, you do something because you love it. And that way when you are successful, it’s just like icing on the cake!