“I've always wanted to do exactly what I’m doing right now. My dad still trips out when he thinks about where I am because he remembers me telling him when I was 16 years old that I wanted to create my own beauty brand. He was like, ‘No, go study for the SATs.’ But my parents’ definition of the American dream is very different from mine. They are very traditional; everyone in my family is in the medical world. To me, the American dream was doing something uncharted and paving my own path.
My dream and path was to work at L’Oréal, become a brand manager, go to Harvard Business School to make my parents happy, then start my own brand. Instead I ended up at Birchbox, starting out as a marketer and eventually moving to the product development team. One day, when I was on set shooting something, a makeup artist used a red color corrector under my eyes. I went home, picked up a red lipstick, and filmed myself trying it. It was the second video I ever posted, and I didn’t expect it to get any kind of traction. But I remember being at my desk a few days later, getting notifications from Vogue India, Cosmo UK, Daily Mail, Refinery29… Somebody pinged me on Gchat saying, ‘Holy shit, you’re on Buzzfeed, you’re going viral!’ I had no idea what ‘viral’ meant, and that attention felt awkward at my day job. But then I got a call from the “Today” show to come do the trick on air, and I decided to use my 15 minutes of fame to build my dream career. I went straight to my CEO and quit my job—one of the co-founders is an investor in Live Tinted now, so it all came very full circle.
What made being an influencer easier is that I was a businesswoman first. For me, hate was just noise. I will say, in the first few years, I did anything I could to fit into what people wanted me to be. My thought process was, even if I’m being tokenized, even if I’m the only brown girl in the campaign, it’s still the lesser of two evils. There never even was a token brown girl when I was growing up. Plus, not knowing how I was going to pay my next bill was scary as hell! Every day I would email hundreds of contacts, pretending to be my own assistant, and for every hundred I sent, I got one reply. But brown girls were in my DMs every day with positive comments, so I kept going.
In my initial investor pitch decks for Live Tinted, I talked a lot about the in-between shades and spoke about colorism as a South Asian woman. But colorism is a massive issue for people around the globe—I love using the word tinted, because that’s what it is. We’re a tinted community, we all have pigments to our skin. When I saw other ethnicities chiming into the conversation, I realized that I could build a brand about a shared experience of being excluded from the beauty industry. Why did I even have a YouTube following? It was because brown girls wanted to see someone with their skin tone to know what products work for them. I grew up looking at Kim Kardashian and Tyra Banks, and neither of those people are my skin color or ethnic background. We asked our community what their number one beauty concern was, and overwhelmingly, everyone said hyperpigmentation and dark circles. It took me back to my viral video—the Huestick was a no-brainer for our first product.
I grew up looking at Kim Kardashian and Tyra Banks, and neither of those people are my skin color or ethnic background.
I got into beauty because I wanted to fit in. Sugarland actually has pretty good diversity, but the cool kids in Texas had blonde hair and blue eyes. I felt like if I could find ways to transform myself with beauty, then I would be a cool girl, you know? So I dyed my hair blonde. I got the blue contacts. Growing up, my mom used lighter foundation shades purposefully, and always had bleach cream on her counter. We’ve had some groundbreaking conversations about that stuff more recently. She was like, ‘I just didn’t know anything else. I was told that you would get farther in life if you had fair skin.’ It took 30 years, but now my identity and culture are the things I’m most proud of—I mean, I created a whole brand around them. How do I highlight my big Indian eyes more? How do I highlight my bold brows more? Things like that. It’s really interesting that the tool I used to fit in is now a tool I use to stand out.
I grew up just using Oil of Olay and St. Ives Apricot Scrub, and looking back now that I know about ingredients, that Oil of Olay is actually impressive. Especially for the price point. I still find myself going back to it. But… the St. Ives had to go. Now I double cleanse with the Tatcha Cleansing Oil and Ravanat’s rice cleanser. It’s an Ayurvedic Indian skincare brand—the cleanser has really small rice particles in it, and I’m obsessed. I also have a big thing of Cetaphil that I use. And after I cleanse my face I use a toner. SK-II is still my favorite. I love pitera and I’ve been using it for years.
Then I either use our new serum stick, Superhue [Ed note: it just launched today!] or a hydrating serum, because my two biggest skin concerns are hyperpigmentation and dryness. I have hereditary hyperpigmentation but also deal with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Every time I get acne, it’s a permanent situation. And let’s be real, when brands say that they’ve created a magical thing that makes hyperpigmentation go away, they’re lying. I didn’t want to mess around, so we have clinical trials, it’s gone through stability testing, we worked with a dermatologist… I’ve personally seen it fade hyperpigmentation around my chin. It has 5-percent niacinamide, 1-percent bakuchiol, and 1-percent vitamin C. And I like that the stick lasts really long and has a nice cooling effect when I apply it. I only do that three times a week, and on the other nights I use Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Really, that’s just a hydrating serum. Then I either use the Olay Active Hydrating Lotion or Dr. Jart’s Ceramidin Cream—so good. I love ceramides. Recently I’ve also been layering the Summer Fridays Oil on top of my moisturizer right before bed, and my skin feels really, really hydrated when I wake up.
I love self-care Sundays. Putting on a face mask and undereye patches, and just sitting there watching Netflix is fun. That’s the best part about living in Texas—I love to just stay home and binge watch something with a glass of wine. Dr. Jart’s sheet masks are some of my favorites; I think those are just incredible. I’ve been using the Blume Pore Clarifying Mask, which has niacinamide in it. My skin feels tighter and nourished afterward. I also love Aavrani’s turmeric mask. It’s a thicker mask, and the brightening effect is really beautiful. That being said, because of the amount I travel for work I need to go get the real thing done at a facialist. There’s a place called Artavi in the heights that I go to for Hydrafacials. It feels weirdly exciting to say that. I’m so used to saying, ‘I go to Joanna Vargas in New York and Shani Darden in LA’—now I go to a South Asian-founded spa here in Houston.
I’m so used to saying, ‘I go to Joanna Vargasin New York and Shani Darden in LA’—now I go to a South Asian-founded spa here in Houston.
I usually do a five product face. I count Hueguard, our mineral SPF, because it’s also a primer and leaves my skin really dewy. I tend to be either very ‘I’m embracing my dark circles,’ or ‘I’m doing a full face of foundation,’ but I do like the way Saie’s tinted moisturizer gives me a little bit of coverage. That’s one of my absolute favorites. I use shade 6. Then I use a Huestick on my cheeks, lips, and as eyeliner—I embrace the smudginess and love that imperfectly perfect line. My favorite shade is definitely Rise; orange is trending, and I love that it’s so universal but also feels so unique and true to us. But right now I’m wearing Found, this beautiful burnt brick color. Because I already have very bushy brows, I use Benefit Brow Setter to set and feather them. And I’ve been wearing the Ami Colé mascara every single day since it launched. I love Diarrha [N’diaye, Ami Colé founder] so much. Five products! That’s my day-to-day.
If I’m doing more of a face, I start with Shiseido SPF, which is less dewy, and their Synchro Foundation. Then I deal with my undereyes: I use the Origin Huestick to color correct, use Tarte Shape Tape concealer in Tan Sand, and then set it with MAC Studio Fix in C42. Still. Another oldie but goodie is the It Cosmetics Universal Brow Pencil. I just love that you don’t have to think about the color aspect of it. It keeps it simple. I am not a shimmer eyeshadow girl, and if I’m looking to use a powder shadow I go for Mented’s palette. That’s awesome because it has every neutral color I want. And if I want to do a powder blush too, I love the ones from Persona, especially the shade Terracotta. They’re really pigmented and look so good on my skin tone—I really appreciate the fact that they make colors that work for brown girls.
BROWS + HAIR
I thread my brows. In Houston, there’s this place called Aisha’s that I’ve been going to since I was 15 years old. But when I was in New York, I’d go into any place that said ‘threading’ and had a South Asian founder. Threading is such a part of South Asian culture that I knew it would be fine. Go to the OGs for that.
The reality is I’m not a big hair person. Every time I’m in New York, I see my girl Valerie Venessa. Once, right before I did “Good Morning America,” she chopped my bangs off for me and I was obsessed. Now she does my hair for events—hair is so personal, so I just stick to her. If I do style my hair myself, like I did today, I start with the Air Dry Foam from Ouai. Then I either go in with my Harry Josh straightener or Dry Bar curling wand. And I still travel with a torn-up Wet Brush. [Laughs]
I grew up always having frizzy hair and not knowing what to do with it. Now I use the Fekkai Brilliant Gloss shampoo and, because it doesn’t have sulfates, my hair actually dries pretty not-frizzy. I have a lot of random products in my shower… Oribe, JVN’s conditioner, the Fable and Mane Hair Mask. Actually, a product I really love that I really think people should know about is Fable and Mane’s hair oil. I grew up with my mom using raw coconut oil in my hair to nourish my scalp, and [Fable and Mane] came out with this really beautiful oil that you massage into your scalp just like that. I also sometimes use it on my body, even though I know you’re not supposed to. I just love oils.
BODY + NAILS
The Nécessaire Eucalyptus shower gel I love because it has such pretty packaging. There’s also this República exfoliating sugar scrub that I’ve been using a couple times a week to exfoliate my body in the shower. I have KP, and I’m excited to work on a product to fix that. And when I get out I love to use Summer Fridays Summer Skin lotion. It is so nourishing, and truly feels like a sensorial experience. My friend is developing her own deodorant so I’m testing one for her right now. It’s aluminum free, and… I’m trying to do it, but it’s an adjustment. Every time I go to her house, I’m like, ‘Tell me if I smell! I need to know.’ I usually just use the Dove spray. And I love the Supergoop sunscreen spray for my body.
I’ll tell you, Texas knows how to do fake nails. Way better than New York or LA.
My favorite hand cream is our Unity Balm. I use it on my cuticles and stuff to keep them nice and moisturized. But honestly, I’m a nail biter. The only way I don’t bite is if I get fake tips. I go to a place right across from me in Houston, called Dream Nails, and I’ll tell you, Texas knows how to do fake nails. Way better than New York or LA. I always get either copper or marigold, which are Live Tinted’s colors. Copper is the in-between metal, between gold and silver, and so many cultures have elements of copper in them. Copper itself has real benefits for skin. And marigold, first of all, is just such a beautiful, celebratory, bright, vibrant color. But I also learned through our community that cultures around the world use marigolds ceremoniously. We had all this marigold stuff for Diwali, and the next day, I saw Jessica Alba went to an event celebrating the Day of the Dead—the whole decor was marigolds! I want us to be a brand that stands for connectivity, because I think that it’s the little details that create an emotional connection.
FRAGRANCE + CANDLES
I’m very impressed by the Fenty fragrance. It’s my more nighttime, sexy vibe. My everyday scent is Jo Malone’s Nashi Blossom Cologne. I’ve been told multiple times that I smell good when I wear it. That’s the best compliment ever. It smells fresh and has a note of sophistication without being overbearing. I also like their Orange Peel Cologne. Aerin, the Mediterranean Honeysuckle one, is my vacation vibe. It’s very Hamptons or Palm Springs.
My vices are red wine and candles. Throughout the workday, I just keep them lit. I bought a bunch from Soho House recently, because every time I went into Soho House, I was obsessed with the way their bathrooms smell. It’s their own candle, Leather & Oud. I ended up with $500 in credit because I couldn’t use my membership during the pandemic, so I just stocked up. [Laughs] I also love this Lemon Loaf one from Nabela’s brand, Saara & Begum. It’s so beautiful—more sweet. I also like incense. I love lighting it. You have to get the Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa Agarbatti from authentic Indian stores, though. It reminds me of home.”
—as told to ITG
Deepica Mutyala photographed by Troy Montes in Houston, Texas on November 12, 2021