Kat Von D has eyes on you. Between running a makeup empire, tattooing at her famous L.A. shop, and tickling the ivories (yeah, she studies classical piano, too), the multi-hyphenate has found you and your bad-ass makeup look in a deep dive on Instagram. Never mind that you only have a few hundred followers. She’s bookmarking your shit.
“Sometimes I’ll go on Instagram and see that one obscure girl who has, like 300 followers and she used my makeup in a certain way that’s not conventional and it reaffirms that I need to keep doing what I’m doing the way that I do it,” she reveals. Because for Kat Von D, it’s not about the fandom, the moguldom, celebrity status, or even about collecting the most likes. It’s about fostering an online dialogue between other goth queens and makeup lovers on the fringe, a connection that’s just as inspiring for the woman behind the mega-cult brand as it is for the masses—game recognize game. And sure, while it’s safe to say she’s not looking through every follower’s page—that’d be 6.2 million of ’em on her personal handle, @thekatvond, and 3.5 at @katvondbeauty, more than Pat McGrath, Charlotte Tilbury, and Hung Vanngo combined—girl knows how to use the explore tab, too.
The latest manifestation of this symbiosis is her freshly launched duo of fragrances, Saint + Sinner, aimed at representing the duplicity in us all. Made to be worn alone or layered together, Saint channels a grounding love, with notes of jasmine, caramel and vanilla, while Sinner represents empowerment with notes of cinnamon, sandalwood, and mandarin. If the scents sound familiar that’s because they are: Kat Von D had originally introduced them back in 2009 as a limited edition collection. Since, legions of unknowing future collaborators have weighed in on its comeback, campaigning via social media for their return by sharing personal stories about the scents’ impact on their lives.
When women submitted comments online, sharing that they wore her scent at their weddings or that one fragrance gave flashbacks to graduation day, Von D got it. After all, scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. Finally, nearly a decade later, both scents have relaunched, thanks in large part to fan tweets, Facebook comments and Instagram posts on social media.
And for the record, Kat Von D isn’t so fond of word “fans” to describe her followers and fellow artists on Instagram. Like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” can feel silly coming from the mouth of some full-blown adults, the label doesn’t quite explain the relationship she has with the rest of us online. “I don’t really like that word because I don’t see them as fans. The idea of ‘fans’ separates you and puts you on a different plane. It’s more different types of friends; to me, the exchange is the same. This interaction has always been really important in a lot of ways.”
“Growing up,” she continues, “I was such an outsider I wasn’t unpopular and people liked me, but I was the weird kid that drew and I never felt like I belonged. Now with social media you have an array of people that are like minded and I’m always like where the fuck were you when I was in eighth grade, you know? So that’s where I felt like OK, you’re a reflection of everything I love and that inspires me. I can write an obscure lyric and you finish it. I think that’s the coolest part of social media.”
Kat’s connection to her millions of loyal social media friends didn’t just help drive the Saint + Sinner relaunch, but it manifests in all aspects of her business — including with recent release of Lolita Eyeshadow + Blush, based on the best-selling lipstick shade. (The cosmetics creator has also dropped hints on Instagram about the making of upcoming Lolita palette, so those who gave the shade its cult following can go totally monochromatic with the hue.) The makeup mogul also found all four of her Artistry Collective members—makeup artists-in-residence at the brand—via social media and like us, discovers makeup inspo deep in her Insta feed. (Just last week, she replicated an asymmetrical, but compositionally balanced eye look by @vforvoid. “I have no idea why she doesn’t have more followers, but hopefully she does now,” Von D says.)
“Followers have always inspired me in general, not just in how they do their makeup, but them as beings,” she explains. After long admiring Ashley Sherengo’s unique way of swatching lip color on Instagram (where she’s known as @lipstickkitty), Von D reached out to give props where props were due. “We ended up becoming friends,” she says. “We’re both crazy cat ladies and she has a kitty named Zero. We launched this Everlasting Liquid Lipstick that’s a beautiful cement dove grey [in January]. I looked at that shade and thought of Zero, so I named the shade after her cat. It’s kind of a joke for one. It’s not like other people even know that, but to me it’s special and I think that’s important.”
Which brings us to another important aspect of Von D’s interactive approach with social media. For as much as Von D nurtures the follower-friend connection online and embraces a collaborative spirit, she stresses that she’s very much guided by her own aesthetic. So no, you won’t find her trolling Instagram, looking for the most popular thing to to reproduce in hopes of another best-seller, thank you very much.
“Especially in the beauty world, there are a lot of trends that I might not necessarily be in line with, so even if there’s a demand for it, I’m not going to listen to that demand,” she says. “It’s important to me to protect what the message is. I’m not trying to sell a ‘new you.’ Fuck that. If anything, I want the opposite of that. I listen with an empathetic heart but it doesn’t dictate what I do.” She touches back on her scent relaunch. “Of course I’m bringing it back for you, but I’m bringing it back for me too,” she says.
Of course, part of that elusive Kat Von D magic shows that what’s good for Von D, causes major hysteria for the gander. Take two upcoming launches, that she’s been rather hush hush about—until today (and are are destined to sell out). The first is a Saint + Sinner Palette, which Von D recently teased on Instagram. It boasts a breakthrough eyeshadow formula, inspired by light streaming through stained glass windows in London’s Westminster Cathedral (you know, the place where William and Kate got married).
“I was with my dad and we were looking at the stained glass window and I was like, ‘Man, how do I capture a shade with light coming through?’” To emulate the translucent hues that pour through stained glass, Von D developed a new type of eyeshadow, designed to work something like a color-switch lipgloss or, “what we call topcoat eyeshadows,” she says of the formula that’s designed to be applied with a flat brush on top of another color. “Even if there’s no actual light coming through, you achieve that look as a whole,” she says. The palette’s, created in the shape of a gothic cathedral window, follows the sinner-saint duality, and uses rich mattes and shimmers in shades of warm pumpkin, squash colors and metallic, tarnished golds. You guys, she’s psyched for this launch. “I can’t wait for you to see it,” she beams.
The second upcoming launch is even more under wraps—so much so that Von D questions whether she will get in trouble to spilling the tea. But she’s just too excited not to talk about a soon-to-be collection representing with the one and only Divine, a drag queen famous for her standout roles in films like Hairspray and Pink Flamingos. So far, Von D has only hinted at such a collab online, by posting a simple image of Divine, accompanied by a simple, “forever my muse” tag.
“I’m a huge Divine fan and John Waters, of course. I just want to tell the story because I think the whole purpose of that collab is to keep Divine’s spirit alive,” Von D shares. “To me, even the name Divine alone is so great, especially when you are an outsider and your’e not considered normal or beautiful.”
Her connection to and love for Divine isn’t much different than from that of her like-minded friends online, with whom she so intimately interacts. “To me I still see that beauty, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god you were cool back then anyway, but you’re even cooler because you’re a pioneer of that,” she says. “You did it so fearlessly when there was no one else doing that and you didn’t care and you still did it—and to me, that spirit is so admirable and something to celebrate.”
Touché, Kat, touché.