Credit - Jasmine Archie for TIME
When Deepica Mutyala partnered her beauty brand with Mattel to launch the first ever South Asian CEO Barbie doll—made in Mutyala’s image—she wanted to make sure it was authentic. Growing up in Sugar Land, Texas, she’d had to navigate both colorism within her South Asian community and Western beauty standards outside of it. (She recalls wearing blue contact lenses and highlighting her hair blond when she was younger, in an attempt to fit in.) And so the doll not only pairs a “power red” pantsuit with Indian-style bangles and jhumkas—traditional South Asian earrings—but also has darker skin. “Whatever we can do to make people feel more seen,” says the 32-year-old entrepreneur.
That’s something of a mission statement for Mutyala, who went viral with a 2015 YouTube video showing how to use red lipstick to color-correct hyperpigmentation on darker skin tones. The video racked up nearly 11 million views and highlighted something beyond a useful makeup hack: most beauty products are not developed with people of color in mind and often do not meet their needs. To reach this huge market, she launched Live Tinted in 2018 as an online community, centering conversations around identity and culture. By 2019, Mutyala had taken members’ feedback to develop the innovative Huestick, an all-in-one color corrector, lipstick, eye shadow, and blush developed with people of color in mind. She raised $3 million from investors, including beauty mogul Bobbi Brown.
Live Tinted now plans to introduce a foundation product “by us, for us, created with intentionality.” Mutyala isn’t deterred by the fact she’s up against much bigger industry players. “I really feel like this community is rooting for me,” she says. “So I just keep going.”