Controversial tattoo artist Kat Von D almost destroyed her beauty brand. Without her, it's thriving.

Controversial tattoo artist Kat Von D almost destroyed her beauty brand. Without her, it's thriving.
Kat Von D led her former beauty brand for 11 years.Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images
  • Kat Von D sold her shares of her namesake beauty brand in 2020.
  • KVD Beauty is now thriving, proving that Von D's absence has greatly benefited the brand.
  • Now the brand can actually become inclusive, sustainable, and trustworthy for beauty fans.

There was a time when Kat Von D and her namesake beauty brand ruled the makeup world, from Sephora shelves to YouTube videos.

More recently, however, the company and its tattoo-artist founder have essentially become taboo in the beauty industry. Influencers stopped reviewing Kat Von D products after a slew of scandals, and consumers claimed to boycott the brand in response to Von D's feuds and controversies.

The tattoo artist ended up selling her shares of her beauty brand to Kendo in January 2020. At the time, Von D said she could no longer raise her child and manage her multiple business ventures "at the maximum capacity" while still being a part of the company. She clarified in her Instagram post that the company would rebrand and call itself KVD Vegan Beauty going forward.
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More than one year later - and despite its rocky past - KVD Beauty seems to be making a comeback. And it's no coincidence that this is occurring now that Von D is out of the picture.

Kat Von D's controversial history negatively affected her company

She first entered the beauty industry in 2008 as part of a deal with Sephora. They originally agreed to collaborate on a limited-edition makeup collection, but later released a permanent line that she led for 11 years.

The company was initially successful, and was once described by Kendo as one of its top-selling brands.
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kat von d

But only a few years after forming, the Kat Von D company began to face backlash - most notably for giving lipsticks offensive and controversial names, like "Celebutard" in 2013 and "Underage Red" in 2015.

After Sephora pulled the first shade, Von D reportedly responded to the backlash on Twitter, writing: "At the end of the day, it's just a f---ing lipstick." And in response to criticism surrounding the latter lipstick, Von D stood by its name and said she "refused" to apologize, change it, or "sacrifice" her "integrity and creative freedom."
Controversial tattoo artist Kat Von D almost destroyed her beauty brand. Without her, it's thriving.
Kat Von D stands next to an "Underage Red" display in London on October 5, 2016.Jack Taylor/Stringer/Getty Images
Not long after that, Von D's personal controversies began to intertwine with her brand.
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First, she had a major falling-out with Jeffree Star in 2016, which led fans to take sides and support only one makeup mogul or the other.

She then faced one of her biggest controversies to date in 2018 after saying she wouldn't vaccinate her then-unborn child. Though Von D has since said she's "not an anti-vaxxer at all," the vaccine backlash led to more outrage, including the recirculation of claims that Von D and her husband Leafar Seyer are anti-Semitic.

Some people argued at the time that criticism against Von D's stance on vaccinations was hypocritical when the same was not shared in response to past claims of her being anti-Semitic.
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Such controversies led many consumers to stop purchasing items from the tattoo artist's brand. Some even replaced their favorite Kat Von D products with ones from other brands.

Many beauty fans also called on influencers to do the same.

When YouTubers and Instagram creators were seen publicly using Kat Von D products, they were often shamed. Redditors even created a blacklist of influencers who seemingly supported the brand.
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KVD Beauty can now be the brand that beauty fans want it to be

In early March, KVD Beauty relaunched for a second time with an updated brand name, sleek aesthetic, and a new product called the Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Foundation Balm.

The foundation captured the attention of the online beauty community and quickly became a fan favorite. TikTok users can't get enough of it, and the foundation is constantly sold out.

The reaction to the foundation is arguably unlike any the brand has seen in years.
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Controversial tattoo artist Kat Von D almost destroyed her beauty brand. Without her, it's thriving.
Most shades of the Good Apple foundation at Sephora are sold out at the time of writing.Sephora

The success of KVD Beauty's newest product is partially the result of viral videos about the foundation - a factor that likely wouldn't have been possible while Von D was at the helm of the brand.

Von D has been outspoken against influencers in the past, even suggesting in 2020 that they were one of the reasons why she left the beauty industry."I don't think half of those influencers are on-brand," she told Racked in 2017. "We don't repost them. I don't really relate to them. I'd rather pick people with smaller follower counts that I actually admire and that are cool and that are different, you know?"
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Some influencers were equally bothered by Von D. Many of them phased her beauty products out of their social-media posts in past years as her controversies piled up, with some making dedicated videos to denouncing her brand.

Now, however, many influencers and beauty fans feel comfortable openly supporting the brand again. Not only is the brand gaining tons of free press via its viral videos, but it's returning that support by reposting fan photos and influencer videos on Instagram - something Von D said she wouldn't do.

Even Lil Nas X wore KVD Beauty products in his recent music video, which has been viewed nearly 95 million times at the time of writing.
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A post shared by KVD BEAUTY (@kvdbeauty)

The Good Apple foundation is also innovative. Before leaving the brand, Von D seemed to be losing interest in makeup. Her company continued to ride the success of its famous eyeliner and contour palettes, while Von D seemingly prioritized her vegan shoe line and album recording.

Now, however, it seems that KVD Beauty is ready to move past Von D's decade-old products and create more unique items.

That's not to mention that the foundation is sold in a wide variety of shades and packaged in fully recyclable material - proving that the brand serious about its promises to be sustainable and fight for equity and inclusivity.
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While Von D is credited with creating one of the first long-lasting matte lipsticks, her brand followed more trends than created new ones in her final years with the company. And though she did release expansive shade ranges for various products, inclusivity was not a staple of the company. Instead, the brand was actually criticized for sharing racist social-media posts in the past.

The tattoo artist was also focused on making her products entirely vegan in 2016 but waited until 2019 to launch sustainable packaging.

A post shared by KVD BEAUTY (@kvdbeauty)

It should be noted that Von D did accomplish some great things while leading the brand. She often made donations to various animal-rights organizations through makeup sales, and she's been applauded for creating a space within the beauty community that caters to people with unconventional styles.
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Still, Von D's philanthropic efforts were, overall, few and far between - and certainly not enough to salvage her reputation. And while her edgy eyeliners and atypical lipstick shades seemingly welcomed consumers left out by the rest of the beauty world, those same shoppers were often the ones who were hurt the most by her controversies and brand scandals.

The difference between KVD Beauty today and in years past is clear. The brand's makeup can now speak for itself without a problematic founder overshadowing its accomplishments.
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