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Every Shade in Between
Deepica Mutyala's lipstick hack video amassed a viral 10 million views. Now big beauty and venture are getting behind her company's inclusive product movement.
When Deepica Mutyala’s lipstick hack video unexpectedly amassed a viral 10 million views, the South Asian influencer found herself thrust into the center of conversations about inclusivity in the beauty industry.
For years, she had dreamed of starting her own brand that would address big beauty’s exclusionary product offerings, creating a network and solutions for underrepresented people that have consistently been left out of the beauty narrative. With a suddenly tremendous following, she seized the opportunity, immediately quitting her job at Birchbox to pursue building the community that would become Live Tinted—a brand of multicultural beauty products focused on closing the inclusion gap.
And now, the industry is getting behind her. Last week, Mutyala announced a large fundraising round, with participation from tycoons like Bobbi Brown, Payal Kadakia, Hayley Barna, and three venture capital firms. With a team stacked full of diverse, game-changing women in the industry, Deepica has arrived at the forefront of a critical shift towards approaching product development from an inclusive perspective. Today, she talks with Supermaker about her journey and mission to make beauty more cultured and kind.
Tell us a little about your background and what specifically led to your founding of Live Tinted.
I’m a Texas-native whose roots run deep for the city of Sugarland, but even deeper for all things makeup and skincare. Despite the lack of role models in the media who looked like me, my passion for exploring the beauty sphere is what propelled my career in the industry. I started my career on the business side of beauty with Birchbox, before launching my own YouTube channel in 2015. My foray into the YouTube space was a direct result of the earlier lack of inspiration and role models. I was determined to make it my mission to connect with other girls like me, who wanted to learn and to share what products worked for their skin tones; which for so long had fallen outside of the “standard” we would see in magazines and commercials. The second video I made, sharing how to color correct my under eye circles with red lipstick went viral, and I was blessed with the opportunity to become a beauty influencer full time. The responses to that video and the feedback from my online community told me that I wasn’t alone in feeling left out of the beauty narrative. Live Tinted was born out of my passion to create a dedicated platform where these issues could be openly discussed and the power of the collective could be leveraged to be a force for change. We are now a beauty brand, in addition to being a digital community, where the choices made as a brand are crowdsourced from our community. A vast majority mentioned dark spots, hyperpigmentation and dark circles as their beauty concern, and we catered our first product to their feedback.
You embrace the philosophy that “Inclusivity is Not a Trend.” Can you tell us how Live Tinted is working to support this? How is a consumer to differentiate between brands that are authentically living the mission and those simply paying lip service?
Inclusivity is built into the fabric of Live Tinted. It is our mission, and every decision we make—from the social media content we create to the product development, and everything beyond and in between—is with that in mind. Some of the things we do to live this mission every day include 1) Starting conversations and asking our community to share their experiences and opinions. This ensures that everyone has a voice. 2) Celebrating campaigns, products, and people who embrace inclusivity in ways that surpass the superficial. 3) Crowdsourcing feedback on our Huesticks and what our community wants to see in our next products. 4) Challenging brands and products as well as current issues that go against our mission. 5) Providing a platform to people from all walks of life who are doing things that align with our mission.
I think people are smart. It’s easy to sniff whether a brand is genuinely supporting the cause vs. trying to fill a marketing quota. Are they consistent? Are they living and supporting the mission even when it goes against the norm? Is it token representation? For example: 45 shades of foundation that contain 35 shades for lighter skin tones, or a campaign where the diversity is not equally distributed? It all goes back to intent.
You started your business with an influencer status. Can you tell us how that has posed challenges for you, and how it has worked in your favor?
Being an influencer equipped me an insider view into the industry, allowing me to become better informed and to speak from a place of practical knowledge when discussing issues of diversity and representation. This was especially true when we launched Live Tinted and the transition process for our evolution as a beauty brand. I feel like I’ve been able to try and test every single product that has launched in the beauty market by being an influencer so I’m able to understand where the gaps in the industry really are. I’ve also been able to meet the most incredible people and mentors who have become my support system including the legendary Bobbi Brown and indie brand founders Marianna Hewitt & Lauren Gores.
The challenge has been the struggle with growing Live Tinted while still continuing to do justice to my own digital community. I feel this consistent guilt like I’m not giving them enough. Being an entrepreneur comes with sleepless nights, and a lot of hard work, and I am here for all of it, but my heart remains rooted in building Live Tinted. I’m trying to find a balance to do it all. I’ve been much more particular with regards to brands I partner with to make sure they align with the Live Tinted mission. I’m honestly figuring it out everyday as I go.
You regularly show your family and often share heartfelt moments and conversations with your parents and siblings. How has family played a role in the success of launching your brand and where you are today?
I couldn’t have done this without my family. My parents didn’t understand my choice of career, and stood behind me anyway, through wanting to work in beauty [instead of being a doctor like my sister], starting a YouTube channel, moving from Texas to NYC to LA, the unpredictable schedules and lifestyle, and ultimately the choice to create something of my own for a larger purpose. My parents marveled and cried at my first TV appearance and they placed one of the very first orders for a set of Huesticks. I wish growing up I appreciated how amazing parents really are, but as I get older, I realize more and more that nothing is possible without a strong support system.
How many employees do you have now, and what big hires do you see yourself making in the near future?
We have a small team of 7, including me, some being full-time employees and some being part-time consultants. As Live Tinted grows, so will the team, in a multitude of areas. But for me, it all comes down to the critical pieces of the business that supports our customer experience—so ensuring that we are engaging with our community, creating the right kinds of opportunities to discuss topics important to them, focus on creating thoughtful and effective products, being operationally solid and sustainable, and going above and beyond to make their overall experience with the community and the brand positive and meaningful.
Are you eager for your brand to continue to expand internationally? Where do you see Live Tinted having the greatest impact?
Man oh man, am I? I get excited thinking about it everyday. I can’t wait to see Live Tinted go global and am very eager to make this happen! That said, we are a startup company, with a small startup team. And logistically, there’s a lot that needs to fall into place to make this possible. We’re definitely working on it and are so excited to take our mission and products worldwide.
Our biggest impact is in our collective power to challenge social and industry norms and demand change. We plan to deliver on that mission no matter how much we expand and grow, and it will continue to be our core mission throughout.
What are some of the obstacles you overcame in getting Live Tinted off the ground? Any big surprises?
Some of my lessons learned have been 1) Dream, but focus. It’s important to be able to see the bird’s eye perspective as well as be able to hone in on the tiniest details. My vision for my brand is aligned to my larger vision for the beauty space, and I have to take one step at a time to get there. 2) Team building. Nothing is possible without a team. I have been so used to doing everything myself as an influencer, but now it’s legit impossible to carry all of the weight and quite frankly there are people better suited to carry out certain aspects of the business. I’ve now accepted that my time is best spent on certain pieces of the business and recruiting the best talent is mission critical to reach our goals. 3) Self care. Learning to not put self-care on the back burner. Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, although can often be a lonely and scary if I’m being really honest. The trust I’ve earned from the Live Tinted community is heartwarming, and it weighs heavily on me at times. I never want to let them down. I’ve realized that unless I take care of myself, I won’t be able to give my best self to this company or to our community. Because of that, I’ve started to prioritize self-care. It’s kind of sad that it took this realization for me to do it, but I’m just glad that I am. It’s baby steps, but it’s a start.
What do you see for the future of Live Tinted? Are there additional product lines or exciting partnerships in the works?
So many things. We have big dreams and I plan to make them all reality. You can expect us to continue going global, build more products, and create tools to push the conversation around diversity and inclusion.
As far as partnerships, I’ve spent the summer focusing on structural aspects of the business. Fundraising and hiring being a big part of that. I’ve brought on female investors and advisors into the company that have served as mentors of mine. These are women that I admire both professionally and personally and I’m excited to have them be part of my support system during this journey. These women have built businesses in an array of industries across tech, beauty, fashion, retail, experiential marketing, and more. Women like Bobbi Brown, Payal Kadakia, Shilpa Shah, Allison Statter, Sherry Jhawar, Jaclyn Johnson, Hayley Barna to name a few. I feel fortunate that they believed in the Live Tinted mission [and me], enough to invest and work together to build and to grow as a company. This journey is exciting but it’s also scary. Having this support system means the world.
What does success look like for you as a founder and for Live Tinted as a brand?
To us, success means real change, not just one off decision making to check a box. Seeing more and more diversity represented on brand campaigns, product development, and hiring decisions has to happen in this industry. It’s important that brands get a diversity of perspectives in their company. To me, this isn’t about just building another beauty brand. It’s about making a real impact.
You recently announced that you successfully raised a round of seed funding from investors. Congratulations! What will the funds be used for?
Building the team, product innovation, & international!
Is there anything else you’d like our readers and your customers to know about you or Live Tinted?
The one thing that I hope everyone takes away from Live Tinted is that beauty is not meant to be confined within society’s boxes, and so our company has made it our business to change that. We encourage everyone who finds purpose in our mission to come join us in our efforts to change the status quo.