Huda Beauty founders organise Dubai beach clean-up

Huda and Mona Kattan invited followers to help tidy up a beach in Al Sufouh

Mona and Huda Kattan participated in a beach clean-up in Dubai. Photo: Wishful
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Sisters Huda and Mona Kattan, co-founders of make-up and perfume brand Huda Beauty, organised a beach clean-up in Dubai on Wednesday, to celebrate World Oceans Day.

The pair took over a beach in Al Sufouh for two hours, accompanied by friends, fans and followers to tidy rubbish from the sand.

Huda tells The National she was spurred by a recent event she hosted for her brand at a hotel in Dubai.

“Once it was over, the team were discussing how to better it. We got talking about how everyone is doing events, everything is so fancy, so can’t we do something special? The team came up with this idea [of beach cleaning] and I said: 'OK, you are going to regret saying that, as now nothing else sounds as good.'”

To put this into action, the team reached out to the UAE environmental and conservation organisation Goumbook for advice and know-how.

Attended by dozens of people, who braved the heat to clean one end of the beach, the event was rather unconventional by beach clean-up standards, with people handing out chilled coconut mocktails, while women dressed as mermaids cheered the crowd along.

Yet, by any metric, it was far removed from the slick image of the beauty industry.

Huda Beauty has drawn a huge following (52.9 million on Instagram alone) garnered largely by its founder's down-to-earth and inclusive approach.

Huda started her beauty blog in 2010 and launched her namesake beauty brand in 2013. Now, it seems, she is using her platform to deliver a wider message. The aim of the clean-up, she explains, was to do something that everyone can get involved in and that everyone will benefit from.

“It's amazing, it's genuine, it's important,” Kattan explains. “This is the real stuff.”

With volunteers wearing tees by Wishful, the cruelty-free skincare line Huda launched in 2020, the crowd cleared several rubbish sacks and seemingly endless cigarette butts.

Tatiana Antonelli, founder of Goumbook, was also at the event to spread awareness. Since 2009, the organisation has been outlining the importance of safeguarding the environment. Last year, Antonelli began doubling down on the hazard of cigarette butts, which can take up to 10 years to decompose, leaching arsenic, benzene and hydrogen cyanide into the soil and waterways.

Hearing Antonelli explain the need to keep cigarette butts off the beaches was an eye-opener, Huda explains. “Tatiana brought a lot of awareness. My husband and I had no idea. We always clean the beach, but leave the butts because I thought they disintegrated.”

This level of honesty is one reason for Huda's global appeal, with millions identifying with her openness about her own struggles and insecurities. Not having all the answers is very much part of that, she explains, and that it is not about being the expert, but rather about being involved.

Given her reach, Huda hopes that her staging a beach clean-up will inspire others to follow suit.

“I believe in the ripple effect in the creative industry, so I hope this brings more awareness and other beauty brands see this and think not just about fancy events, but the cool stuff. I think this is the cool stuff.”

Interestingly, for a woman who built her career on social media, today Huda has a different view of life online. “I think social media is a bit dangerous right now. The way it's being used, the algorithms, it’s hacking your dopamine cycle ... it really worries me.

“I have a 12-year-old daughter, but I don’t allow her to go on social media. She doesn’t even have a phone right now. She doesn’t think I am cool, she is embarrassed by me.

“I also have a screen limit for social platforms – an hour a day across all of them.” she adds. “I limit it because all we ever do is compare ourselves. We get our worth based on what we see on the internet. But it’s all rubbish.”

It's hard not to be charmed by the beauty mogul. Despite her success – Forbes magazine recently pegged her wealth at $400 million – she is all smiles, very chatty and disarmingly self-effacing. While she sits atop a growing beauty and skincare empire, she admits to days when she feels out of her depth.

“It still feels like it's day one, I am not going to lie. On the internet, we are supposed to make it look like everything is perfect, but the more you look like you have it together, the more you don’t.

“l am like that duck. All swan on the surface and underneath the feet are going crazy.”

Updated: June 12, 2023, 10:06 AM