Los Angeles-based beauty influencer Deepica Mutyala, 30, got her big break in 2015 after releasing a YouTube video using red lipstick as an under-eye colour corrector. The tutorial, which gained more than 10 million views, marked a monumental moment for Mutyala as well as her South Asian community that's rarely represented in mainstream media. Shortly after, Mutyala started a digital platform called Live Tinted to celebrate diversity in beauty, and then extended the project into a product line in 2019. Her first launch, a multi-use colour corrector called Huestick, brought her viral moment full circle.
While Mutyala now proudly embraces her Indian culture on her platforms, she admits that it took her a long time to feel comfortable in her skin. That's why her latest Huestick shade, "Free," signifies much more than a berry hue — it marks a monumental shift in the way she approaches her business and her life. The following interview was told to Thatiana Diaz and edited for length and clarity.
Growing up in Sugar Land, Texas, I was surrounded by blonde hair and blue eyes, and I felt like I couldn't be myself as a child of Indian immigrants. I wanted to fit in so badly with all the "cool kids," so I hid who I was. I dyed my hair blonde and got blue contacts. I was scarred after a friend came over and asked to leave because they couldn't handle the smell of curry that my mom was cooking. It took a long time for that feeling of embarrassment to go away.
But growing up, I loved celebrating holidays like Holi, the spring festival of colour in India. We would go to the temple as a group and throw coloured water and powders at each other. For those few hours in the day, I felt like I was 100 percent myself. However, I remember going to school the next day and pretending like it didn't happen. I made sure the colour came off of my body and washed out of my hair to avoid my classmates making fun of me.
When I first entered the beauty industry, a prominent figure in the South Asian beauty space told me not to be "too Indian." That stuck with me because, with her success, I wondered: Is that how she did it? But in building my brand, I knew that I could not let that be my narrative. I want to prove the exact opposite. I did have some hesitation when I launched Live Tinted, wondering how much to lean into that part of who I was. But I wanted to show that you can embrace your culture and create a sense of community for others to do the same.
At that point, I felt like it was my purpose to change what I had gone through. I found power in my skin tone. It's what makes me, me. Launching my brand or making YouTube videos cooking with my mom wasn't to capitalize on my culture, which I have read about me online and it does hurt to see that. It's because I finally felt comfortable embracing my culture after growing up in a community and environment that didn't encourage me to do so. I felt free and liberated — like I could finally show off every part of who I am. Beauty started as a tool for me to fit in, and then it evolved into what I used to stand out.
Fast forward to releasing our newest berry shade of Huestick, called "Free." My first idea was to do a Mardi Gras theme for the launch party, because Mardi Gras is more culturally accepted in America. Then, I thought, If a brand with a South Asian founder is going to do a celebratory themed event, it has to be Holi. I remembered those moments of feeling embarrassed at a young age, and felt that this was my opportunity to say, "Hey, this is where I come from." The shade, which was sourced from the Live Tinted community, was also us saying, "We're finally free to come out into the world, embrace our skin tones, and wear these colours that darker skin tones have traditionally been afraid to wear."
I hope that girls growing up today don't have to wait until they're 30 years old to feel this comfortable in their skin. You should be proudly wearing your culture and shouting it from the rooftops. I'm now trying to wear my background on my sleeve, pour my heart out, and have it be something that people see. I don't want to focus on a billion-dollar evaluation for this brand — I want to focus on impacting a billion lives.
You can hope that financial success comes from that, but being a purpose-driven brand, it's more fulfilling when you write your own stories. This has always been far more than just a beauty brand. I stand by the formula, packaging, and design, but more importantly, I stand for the community and what it's done for the industry — and for the voices who have felt unheard for so long.
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