Not all of us are meant to be in the spotlight: the glamorous world of lights, camera and action. But, a few of us, dreamy folks, have an itch to become that person who changes how others are perceived. Deepica Mutyala is no different. As a badass blogger and entrepreneur with some serious convictions about the beauty industry, she wants to create a platform for South Asian women, one lipstick shade at a time.
Deepica Mutyala (@Deepica) is your typical South Asian gal with extraordinary superpowers. In her case, these superpowers include resting on-camera face, the real-deal attitude and ability to get 1,000s of fans excited about their skin. A beauty lover turned blogger turned entrepreneur, Deepica is on a mission to change the way South Asian women [and the rest of the world] interact with beauty.
Indian at heart, Texan by birth, New Yorker with hustle
Deepica was born in Sugarland, Texas. A place filled with non-Indian descents, she remembers being called “coconut” during her high school days. “I was that Indian girl who hung out with no Indians in school; very much brown on the outside and white on the inside.” Yet, her upbringing in a South Asian family was nothing less than the stereotype of what you usually hear: a family full of doctors.
Deepica’s dad is the youngest of seven brothers and she counts 40 first cousins (!!!), all of whom have gone on to become successful doctors, except for one who attended Harvard and Deepica, who decided to take the non-traditional route. She studied Marketing at University of Texas, Austin and had always dreamed of moving to New York, working in the corporate side of beauty and eventually creating her own line of products specially focusing on“desi” skin types.
“Living in Texas, I always knew I was meant to do something different than what was being done around me.”
Her first gig in the beauty sphere was during a college case competition. A capstone project in shade matching for different skin types (an idea that has become so increasingly popular today) landed her an internship at L’Oréal. Here, as a national brand manager, she learned the ins and outs of how different departments work together. But devastated from not getting a full-time role, she found herself in the oh-so-glam offices of Victoria’s Secret in Ohio!
As an analyst at VS, “I had a lot of free time so I started a blog on Tumblr and would stay in on Friday nights to do makeup on my friends.” Fun fact: She was blogging for Clinique by 2011. This was a response to an inkling of being in the limelight, though to her, it was impossible because of two reasons: (1) you didn’t see many women of color in beauty and (2) popularity usually came with acting. This pushed her to enter the beauty industry head on, quit VS and eventually end up at Birchbox!
“There is a small market segment that makes up for 1 billion people and includes some of the highest household income earners in the U.S. yet no one in beauty is talking to them.”
At 22 years old, Deepica quit VS within 9 months, when she stepped upon an online fashion subscription service, ShoeDazzle. Inspired by their business model, she called up her cousin at Harvard to potentially start a similar company for beauty. Three days later, they realized that it already existed. Hello, Birchbox and their Series A funding of $10M! As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” In this case, Deepica joined the incredible female founders and caught herself playing multiple roles at Birchbox, from organizing the sample closet to account management to influencer marketing. All in all, figuring out how much $$$ influencers were raking in with brand deals and that there was no South Asian beauty blogger she personally could point out who was challenging brands to think about her specific skin needs.
So, on a very special New Year’s Eve day in 2015, Deepica decided to record her first video on how to contour. Shot on her iPhone with zero video recording experience, she recalls, “I had no idea what I was doing!” But, it was her second video on how to cover dark circles (a serious skin concern for most South Asian women) that went viral and ultimately, gave her an opportunity to make her first-ever TV appearance on the Today Show. “This was something I wanted to do for Birchbox for a while so I filmed it vertically on my iPhone and overnight, views went from 10s to 100s to 1,000s to now 10 Million! At 4M views, I got the best email ever: an invite to do a 3-minute segment on the Today Show.” This would also become the day Deepica gave her 2 weeks’ notice to Birchbox and started representing herself as a serious entrepreneur.
The Business of Beauty
Although many bloggers do make absurd amounts of money through brand deals, they struggle in the beginning to build an authentic following. Quitting a secure full time job and entering the world of unknown wasn’t easy so to prepare for the beautiful chaos that was about to ensue, Deepica went home for some peace. “I didn’t tell my parents that I had quit my job at Birchbox but through the Indian grape vine (of course), they found out. My dad told me to come into his room and handed me a check. I was so confused but he went on to say, ‘Don’t think of this as giving my daughter some money, think of it as me investing in someone I believe in.’ It was this moment that made me realize how much I wanted to make them proud.”
Today, Deepica’s following includes 18-34 years old college students and working professionals, mostly of the South Asian descent. She gets emails and direct messages from young Indian girls for having created a path that didn’t exist when Deepica was growing up. Hence, she takes it upon herself to act as a brand and follow some guidelines as a brand would usually do. For example, “The way I see social media is very different than how my friends perceive it. I can’t tag them in my posts. I struggle because I know the most popular Instagram accounts are your Pinterest mood boards with the perfect lighting, color scheme and product placement. But, for me, filters feel fake. I want my page to be more of a best friend giving you advice on beauty.”
The Challenges + Learnings
Being her own publicist, PR rep, marketer, agent and sometimes lawyer, Deepica has gained valuable insights while building her brand. Here are some tips from the source herself:
- There is power in saying no. Don’t get sucked into every brand deal.
- Be cautious of the comments you read. There are many trolls out there but if you’re nice to them, they will respond back with kindness.
- When negotiating with brands, come with hard facts to show that clear opportunities exist and that they are missing out on them.
- As her first manager advised her, “Don’t overcharge brands in the beginning. Make them realize the ROI after having worked with you and they will come back.” Repeat business is everything!
Having taken New York by a storm (she even lived near Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the City apartment on Perry St), Deepica currently resides in sunny Los Angeles. Want to chat with her or send her some beauty-lovin’? Contact us here and we’ll put you in touch.
Photo courtesy of Deepica Mutyala.