Nikita Dragun Talks Creating the First Trans-Owned Beauty Brand

Nikita Dragun Talks Creating the First Trans-Owned Beauty Brand

With more than four million Instagram followers and over two million subscribers on YouTube, Nikita Dragun is one of the top influencers in the beauty industry. For brands, getting a product in Nikita’s hands is money in the bank, making it surprising that unlike other influencers, she has opted not to turn collaborate with an established brand on a product for some quick cash. Instead, the influencer invested in her own company, Dragun Beauty, which launched last month.

Rather than go the traditional route of liquid lipsticks or an eyeshadow palette, Dragun instead developed base products she felt were missing from the market — ones that spoke to her as a consumer. The DragunFire Skin Perfecting Potion, an orange color corrector, and the DragunHeart Face TRANSforming Powder, a duo of brightening powders — which can be purchased in a set that arrives in a very on brand purple DragunEgg — were both inspired by the way Dragun, a trans woman, has long used makeup to feminize her face. Not only is Dragun Beauty the first major beauty brand created by a trans woman, with its launch it chose to cater to queer makeup enthusiasts, creating gender-affirming products meant to enhance their natural beauty — for trans women specifically, the color correcter can be used to cancel out facial hair while the brightening powders help create a more rounded, feminine face shape.

The launch was a hit, with both products selling out almost instantly. Dragun was shook — in her own words, “wig disintegrated.” Ahead of Dragun Beauty’s first online restock on April 17, Out spoke with Dragun about creating the first trans-owned beauty brand, how queer people have come to dominate the industry, and what it’s like to live her businesswoman fantasy.

As an influencer, I’m sure you've had plenty of opportunities to collab with established makeup lines. So why did you decide to hold out and start your own line?

I've literally been approached by every brand imaginable. I obviously am super humbled by it. I think it's incredible that I have the opportunity to do that, but I just felt like every time I was approached, it was always me kind of slapping my name onto something, as opposed to me really being in there creating it. With these products in mind, I think a lot of brands weren't necessarily down to venture out into something more different. They want a lash, they want a lipstick, they want an eyeshadow, something that they know is going to sell.

And [the Dragun Beauty products were] such a strong idea in my mind and I knew that I didn't want to take a small little percentage of my big idea [and] promote another brand when it's my vision, and I had to put my big girl panties on.

How long had you known that you wanted to launch with these specific products?

I started out probably a little bit over a year ago. I know a lot of people say it takes years and years [to develop makeup]. So, I think in terms of the make-up world it was actually pretty quick, but it still was a year in development.

I always wanted the color corrector. It just was such a staple in my routine and I knew that no one had ever focused on it. Obviously it's not like you're going to reinvent the makeup already out there, everything's been done, but I felt like the messaging and how I became such a connoisseur of color correctors, that I knew what to mix. And I was making it myself on my own so I really wanted to get into the lab and actually make a real dope formula that I truly wanted.

The idea behind the [DragunHeart Face TRANSforming Powder] was all about feminizing my face. How can I create that photo-filtered fantasy on my face? Because I'm definitely a catfish, I definitely look one way with make-up and a complete different way without makeup and I'm like, "Baby girl, just remember how I look with makeup. Alright, whatever. I can get to that fantasy."

What was it like to take a step behind the scenes and be part of that process?

I love business, I love numbers. I've just always wanted to be a really strong business woman. It was a different learning curve for sure and I think being so young and also coming in with this fantasy that some people might expect of me being extra or me being too young to be taken serious. When I was in these meetings and with developers or product people, they have a perceived notion of me posting these half naked selfies on Instagram. Then when I come into the room and ask for my percentages and I ask for prices and make some really strong business woman kinds of moves, it takes them by surprise for sure.

To me that's the most exciting part, the business side. It's definitely different from all the glam. It's not just sparkles and butterflies and rainbows.

There's also powerful in you being a trans woman owning her own company, and to my knowledge this is the first fully trans owned and run beauty company. What is the significance of that?

In this new day and age, I want to see representation, I want to see inclusion and I don't want it to be just about checking off a box. I've seen so many companies just move towards the status quo, checking the box for having a trans model. I had the idea that this was a line for trans people, this was something that I wanted for myself three years ago when I started my transition That's the whole idea behind it. It's my baby, it's a gift.

I wanted something for my sisters, my brothers, but also a good trans owned beauty brand for trans people and all people. That's a really powerful statement to make. As we know, trans people constantly shut in their face, are constantly told no, are constantly invalidated.

So I wanted to keep that as a strong brand message and as I said, although it’s been really scary to take on the reign and be at the helm of a beauty brand, I just really was like, “You know what? If no one else is fucking doing it, then I'm going to do it myself.” And I think that's always the mentality I've had. I love breaking down barriers, I love taking down doors, because it just makes it easier for everyone else.

Obviously my life wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but if I could make it easier for one person, that is the change that I wanted to see. That someone from Indonesia or someone from the Philippines or someone from South Africa or all around the globe could see that as a trans woman, I'm owning a beauty line and if they're maybe trans they have cosmetics specifically for them that can help them transform into their fantasy.

We're at this moment right now where trans people are more visible than ever, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we are structurally placed into positions of power. Was creating and running your own brand an important precedent for you to set?

It definitely sets a precedent to see a trans woman in that role and that level of power. Of course trans people are struggling and fighting, but at the same time we're powerful people. We're people just like anyone else and if anything, we're more powerful, having to go though this two fucking lifestyles bitch. I don't know another person that can claim that.

It would just be so unfortunate if I had this huge platform with five million people watching me, and all I did was post selfies. I really wanted to make a powerful statement and it truly has made so much more waves than I could have ever imagined. And I'm just honored and it's definitely a fire, I do feel like Khaleesi taking over Westeros right now, I'm not going to lie. I'm coming for the Iron Throne.

Many of top influencers in the beauty industry are all queer people: you, Jeffree Star, James Charles. Why do you think this consumer base that’s largely made up of cis woman are looking to queer people, not only for advice but also entertainment?

If I'm just going to be real about it, I think people have just gotten so fucking bored with the inauthenticity that has been spewed out over the years, especially in the beauty industry. For so long we were taught a specific look and a specific beauty was the way to go, but people want more, people want different, people want something that they've never seen before. And by having this instant connection no matter where you are around the world, literally being able to go on to YouTube or Instagram, open your phone and being able to see a completely different lifestyle, it's such an education for so many people around the world and it's something that you don't see. It's something that's really not spotlighted heavily in terms of traditional media. 

People are going to look to social media to get involved into my life. About me transitioning or about me speaking out, and I really think it's about that. People are in a sense bored and want to see something different and it's amazing that they're being more educated, more open, and just changing.

I'm very optimistic. I know a lot of people are like, “The world's evil, the world's on fire, everyone's going to die.” But I truly see such a change. I'm like, “Queer people are taking over and also we're just bomb as fuck."

You made a video in response to Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek’s comments about trans women that went viral. What was the response to that like?

I made that out of that place of, “You really think I can't fucking sell this fantasy as a trans woman? You think a plus size woman can't sell this fantasy?” It just destroyed my hopes and dreams. Victoria's Secret stood for something, in my mind it was a pinnacle of femininity. As a little boy at the time, I was watching the shows, in my transition I've always wanted to achieve that level of sexiness.

So, to have those statements being made, I could have gone off on Twitter, I could have popped off. But then I was like you know what? I'm going to let my actions speak louder than my mother f-ing words and I'm going to show you. And a lot of people got it confused too, because some of the comments were like, “Why would you ever think you'd be hired as a Victoria's Secret Angel? Victoria's Secret should have the right to hire who they want.” And that's fine. I truly agree with that. If they want to be behind the times, if they want to be discriminatory and say all these crazy things that's fine. And if they don't want to hire trans models, cool, great, because there's twenty million other amazing brands that we can invest in that are cheaper, that fit your boobs better and that are way nicer than Victoria's Secret.

But my problem was [with Razek] saying those statements, thinking that that's okay. And shutting the door in front of the face of hundreds of thousands of people.

I definitely got the craziest response I've ever gotten, and I will say that was probably the first time in my entire career I went completely viral. It was amazing 'cause it started a movement and that was the big push for me to create Dragun Beauty. I noticed that so many people have never seen a trans woman in that light. Some people really didn't think that a trans woman could sell this fantasy. So I said, "Okay. If y'all think I could just put on a couple angel wings, wait until you see me drop this egg honey, on the market.” And it's been amazing, but I think that was probably the most surreal moment of my entire life, it was incredible.

How do you see the Dragun Beauty products being used in people's daily routines?

I wanted to create something that I noticed was missing out of pretty much everyone's routine. These are kind of like the beauty secrets that the industry has been hiding forever. I learned such amazing things from growing up in the scene, from the underground girls, the working girls, the show girls, the drag queens. They taught me so much in terms of feminizing my face and I look at [these products] as the book ends to the makeup routine. The color corrector is almost the primer to the primer, so it's that step that you do before everything, and it's just going to cancel out all those blue and grey undertones — the hickeys, the bruises, the dark circles, for me the five o'clock shadow around the whole jawline.

After the full routine is pretty much done — setting the face, everything — [the face powder] is a beautiful, really fine milled silky, silky powder that literally adds that Facetune effect to your face, and makes you look like you have a spotlight on you at all times.

What was it like to sell out the first launch?

Insane. Wig flown off, wig in orbit, wig disintegrated, full-on died. I think that I was very outrageous in terms of how many eggs I actually ordered, I [thought they would] last us for a long time.” I've never sold a makeup product myself. I've never done a collaboration, so I don't really know how much I can really sell, so to see such an amount of people and that response. To be honest me and my whole team, we were all floored and it was a jaw drop moment, tears, laugher, more crying. It was such an emotional moment because I have been working so hard on this and it was just such an emotional moment. Of course the hormones don't help, I'm on so much estrogen, so I'm all over the place.

I truly felt like the world was ready and timing is everything. It's amazing to see my dream come to life and the fact that people can get these in their hands and someone in the middle of nowhere, Kansas or wherever, can have their own dragon egg, it's really exciting and it makes me so happy.

What's next for Dragun Beauty?

Definitely a restock. I've been working hard on getting these eggs, honey. I'm like over here like, “Oh hold on. I need to get impregnated or something. I need to lay some more eggs, honey."

I do want a full line eventually, but for now I do want to focus on the different products. I want products that really aren't seen in the industry and products that can tailor towards transformation, that can work for someone transitioning or someone wanting to feminize their face. I want to continue to create different things that as a beauty lover I've always wanted.

What kind of impact do you hope that Dragun Beauty has on the beauty industry as a whole?

I want to see someone like me, I want to see representation. I want to see inclusivity and again, not just checking off the box just to check off the box. I want to see people not being boring and actually wanting to invest themselves into something creative, not just to make money.

If we can say one thing about you Nikita, it's that you are not boring.

I don't know if anyone has ever, I swear on everything, called me boring before in my whole life. I've been called fucking wild, stupid, whatever. I've been called everything, but I've never been called boring.

Dragun Beauty will restock Wednesday April 17 at 12pm PST.

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