Makeup mogul Nikita Dragun’s advice to the trans community: ‘You don’t need to conform to anyone’s standards.’

·6-min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Nikita Dragun attends the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Nikita Dragun, pictured at the 2020 Grammy Awards, aims to empower transgender people with her beauty line. (Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

There’s no question that the world has fallen in love — or at least controversy-fueled fascination — with Nikita Dragun, and judging from her near 16 million followers across social media, it’s easy to understand why.

Since debuting her YouTube channel in 2013, Dragun, who came out as transgender in a tearful 2015 video titled “I am TRANSGENDER,” the makeup mogul has skyrocketed to fame and has used her platform to create a product line that speaks directly to the trans community.

The makeup line, Dragun Beauty, which launched in 2019 on Instagram and sold out in the first 24 hours, recently dropped its Pride Beauty pack, a collection of the company’s best-selling products — including the fan-favorite DragunEgg TRANSformation Kit and DragunFire Color Correctors. For a limited time, customers can purchase the pack, typically retailing at $105, for only $25. Happy Pride, indeed!

Of course, climbing the ranks of the beauty world as a trans woman wasn’t easy. Now reportedly with a net worth of over $3 million, the CEO reflects on her journey with Yahoo Life.

The idea of starting Dragun Beauty began, at first, as an attempt to cover her “five-o-clock” shadow. “I felt like no matter how much foundation or concealer you put on, it was just always coming through,” Dragun explains to Yahoo Life. “No makeup companies were addressing the issues that I needed as a trans woman. I always wanted to transform myself and so the idea behind the product was really just that: transformation.”

So, she created a unique color corrector and a highly sophisticated brightening powder, which didn’t take long for fans — transgender and cisgender alike — to see the emotional benefits of. That took the mogul by surprise.

“I always thought at the beginning that no one was going to buy my products except trans people,” she says. “It’s such a small niche community, but it's grown to be a cult product, even to cisgender people who’ve had [similar] problems, whether they’re a woman, if they’re doing drag or even if they’re just a guy doing regular glam. It was an educational moment at the beginning.”

Dragun Beauty's Pride Beauty pack comes in, you guessed it, a dragon's egg. (credit: Dragun Beauty)
Dragun Beauty's Pride Beauty pack comes in — you guessed it — a dragon's egg. (Photo credit: Dragun Beauty)

It was a full-circle moment for Dragun, who remembers watching her mom and sister’s makeup routine and acknowledging the power of expression from an early age.

“I looked at it so simply when I was a little boy in Virginia,” she says of falling in love with makeup. “I would see my mom or my sister go into the bathroom for hours and enter one way and appear out the most confident, Wonder Woman-esque, powerful femme fatale being. I was like, 'I want to go rub whatever lipstick or whatever powder or whatever they’re using on their face.' To me, I always looked at superheroes and fantasyland, so I was like, whatever they’re utilizing to be that confident, I want to do that. Because in my life I wasn’t as confident.”

It was after a few trial and errors — “I was rubbing it all over my face, figuring out how to use it” — that she started to transform into what she calls “the best version of myself.”

“Everyone should have that same feeling, whether you’re painting some crazy rainbow on your eye or are wearing ‘no makeup’ makeup,” she explains. “You want to have that feeling where you can just take on the world.”

The fact that Dragun is a trans CEO, by its very nature, shakes up the status quo and sets new standards and breaks boundaries. But for Dragun, the most important aspect of what she does is connecting to her fans and delivering them what she’s promised for so long.

“[We] as trans women utilize makeup for our own survival,” she says. “I just want to go out and about my day and have no one clock me, and have no one say, ‘Oh that’s a man in a wig’ or whatever. These products to me are so personal because they’ve always been my armor and my way of facing the world. I think to offer that and to show that to a whole range of people around the world who’ve been kind of looking for something like that or looking for an example, a community and safe space, is exciting.”

Of course, finding such tremendous success has been a sweet form of revenge to all the “naysayers” in Dragun’s life who’ve tried to push her down.

“Obviously, my whole life, people have doubted me, not only as a regular woman but also as a trans woman, to be at the helm of my own beauty brand and to be in the room with people three times my age, looking at me wondering how I’m doing it, asking me questions, or even still doubting me to this day,” she says, noting how empowering it is for customers “in the middle of nowhere with not as much access” to see someone like her thrive.

"Expression is to express how you feel and not set boundaries to yourself and feel like you don’t need to conform to anyone’s standards," she says. "Everyone has their own different form of expression. For me, my expression has always been loud, unapologetic, unfiltered and I’ve really been able to open up my life in a lot of ways to make mistakes. To learn, to grow in front of so many millions of people has been obviously really intimidating but I feel like I’ve always made that my promise since the beginning."

She adds, “I’m just a small-town girl from Virginia at the end of the day. I’ve been able to build this empire now, two years later, but more than that to have such a strong community of other people who’ve been able to see my journey and say, 'You know what? I can do that” or ‘This bitch had a color corrector and brightening powder and faced the whole world. What excuse do I have? I can do that as well.’”

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