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Urban Decay’s Steve Kassajikian Chats Inclusive Beauty, Makeup, & More!

By newadmin / Published on Thursday, 11 Apr 2024 13:56 PM / No Comments / 95 views


When Steve Kassajikian first joined Urban Decay in 2008, his long-standing beauty career was just beginning. Today, he is the brand’s Head of Global Artistry, where he leads Urban’s visual direction, international launches, and makeup masterclasses—and even has time to makeover stars like Bebe Rexha, Tinashe, and Chloe Cherry. Over the years, the beauty industry has transformed—but with an emphasis on kindness, Steve’s remained just as enthusiastic as he was during his first job at the Macy’s makeup counter. We sat down to chat all things Urban Decay, witnessing makeup products go viral, and his favorite beauty trends for spring—and much more.

Let’s start from the beginning! How long have you been with Urban Decay?
I’ve been with Urban Decay for the past sixteen years—that’s almost half my life! In my role, I help guide and oversee the artistry direction for the brand. Myself, along with my artistry team, do all of our campaigns when it comes to the makeup. Also, I do PR and media on behalf of the brand working with editors like yourself, and I help launch the brand in different countries. I do support work with the US and international [regions] for different markets for appearances, [and] I help hold seminars and master classes. Basically whatever they need me to do [that’s] forward-facing, I do.

Steve Kassajikian, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artistsSteve Kassajikian, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artists

Steve Kassajikian (Courtesy of Urban Decay)

What drew you to work for Urban Decay—or vice versa?
After high school, I went to college for a year and decided that school wasn’t really my thing. So, I dropped out, my parents had a heart attack, and then I was like, “Let me get into beauty.” I started my beauty career at Macy’s at a makeup counter; I was working for Benefit [Cosmetics] at the time. Urban Decay at the time—in 2008—was launching in Macy’s, so I was recruited by one of the Urban Decay people at the time, and I also loved the brand. They were all about disrupting the makeup community and being outside the box and being rebellious, and they were always about makeup for girls and boys, which was not that common at the time! And they loved showcasing tattoos…I was in my era where I started to get a lot of tattoos, and it was a time where a lot of makeup companies didn’t want you showing your tattoos. They were all about tattoos and piercings! It was a brand that made me feel like I [could] be myself and I was still trying to discover who I was and come into my own.

Steve Kassajikian, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artistsSteve Kassajikian, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artists

Steve Kassajikian (Courtesy of Urban Decay)

What was the catalyst for you with makeup—why did it appeal to you?
Growing up, being a momma’s boy, I used to love watching her get ready and just seeing the transformation—not from an outer part, but her whole persona would change with the swipe of an eyeliner, a little mascara, and a lip. That’s what had me intrigued in beauty and makeup growing up. Whenever she was gone, I would sneak into her room and try on her makeup before she would get back home. That was my first introduction into playing with makeup.

That’s so special! Urban just launched its new Face Bond foundation range—can you tell me what they bring to the market?
I’m super excited [Face Bond] just came out. You’re going to love this foundation. It’s so good, and it’s what I have on now. It comes in forty shades, one through forty—1 being fair, and 40 being our deepest shade. Also, it has a sleek bottle packaging which was made to be travel-friendly and fit into your pocket. And then you have the dropper, which gives you the perfect amount of foundation every single time. You can apply this onto a brush, a sponge, or just directly onto the face. The unique thing about this product that’s going to make it different from anything else is it’s a 3-in-1. You have 3% niacinamide—so you’re getting a serum, 24 hour wear foundation, and a setting powder all in one. Its self-setting, so it doesn’t need to be set. It just gives the skin a very beautiful, natural matte finish, but because it has that serum base in it, it doesn’t make the skin look dry.

Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, foundationUrban Decay, makeup, beauty, foundation

Urban Decay’s Face Bond foundations (Courtesy of Urban Decay)

This foundation seems set to go viral—Urban’s liquid blushes are huge on TikTok, and the Naked eyeshadow palette is a cult-favorite. What’s it like when a product goes viral on social media, and how does it affect your work as an artist?
It’s really cool because it spotlights the product, sometimes not even new [ones]. Moondust [eyeshadow], for example…[shade] Space Cowboy took off all over TikTok two years ago, and it’s a product that’s been out for 10 years, but it’s so cool that it’s getting all the love and appreciation it deserves. It’s such an amazing product—there’s a three-dimensional, ultra-fine shimmer. Whenever those moments happen—like you said, the Hydromaniac blush was all over social as well—we [see] a huge lift in, obviously, sales. Moondust sold out everywhere. And the demand becomes so high, which is wonderful. It becomes a huge focus for the brand…marketing-wise, we want to promote these products more, because maybe they’re not something that we talk about that often. And it is something that I end up showcasing a lot more in my sessions and master classes and whenever I’m doing PR. But they’re super exciting moments! Any time one of our products goes viral, it just gets me so excited because I believe in our products so much. Whenever they have a moment to shine and other people get to experience it, I’m super giddy.

Steve Kassajikian, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artistsSteve Kassajikian, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artists

Steve Kassajikian (Courtesy of Urban Decay)

Love! Like you said, you’ve been with Urban for 16 years. How have you seen the brand change or grow to what it is now?
The makeup industry was so different when I first started in 2008. Urban Decay was still so small, even though they were out for 12 years. The brand has begun to really grow and establish itself in the industry without losing its core values, which I really appreciate. From day one, they were all about inclusivity [and] including everyone, whether it was age, race, gender. That’s stayed along  throughout the whole process of Urban Decay’s journey. Seeing it become more of a global phenomenon, especially when joining L’Oreal in 2012, really helped take the brand to the next level. Financially, we needed the backing of a larger company to achieve global takeover, which L’Oreal has been a great partner in doing. I love that Urban Decay has grown and become a brand for everyone, because back in the day it was so rebellious and so “out there” that a lot of people thought it was for the younger crowd. Now, I think [with] Naked bringing in such a different consumer to the brand, a lot of people will say the Naked palette was their gateway into Urban Decay and it’s what made them try other products and made them interested in trying the brand. It’s cool to see how they’ve grown and been able to be a brand for the masses, and also for those makeup junkies that just love makeup.

Steve Kassajikian, Bebe Rexha, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artistsSteve Kassajikian, Bebe Rexha, Urban Decay, makeup, beauty, makeup artists

Bebe Rexha, Steve Kassajikian (Courtesy of Urban Decay)

Let’s talk trends! What are some spring beauty looks we should be keeping our eye on right now?
A big one I’ve been seeing everywhere has been the coquette makeup trend, which is all about [a] romantic, flirty, monochromatic vibe. So, keeping the skin really beautiful and natural, but then using these really pink-y, rose hue shades for the eye and lip with a wispy lash. [It’s] almost like a romantic babydoll vibe, and  I love that look. And then, we’re seeing a lot of cheek blush moments, draping the temples or even contouring with blush, which is a fun, unique way of doing contour with a pigmented shade rather than your normal contour shade.

The 2010’s seem poised for a comeback, which we’re seeing in fashion already. Are there any 2010’s beauty trends you think are going to have a moment again, are having one right now, or that you hope don’t come back?
The skinny brow moment tried to come back for a minute, and I was like, “Please die. Please die.” The past few years, we’ve been in this zone of clean makeup, and I feel like the 2010’s trend of full glam and beauty is coming back. We’ve been seeing the “2016 makeup” trend coming back as well, but people want to wear makeup again, they want the full glam and the heavy eye. I’m starting to see a lot of that. I feel like nostalgia is having a huge moment from the 2000’s and the Y2K trends, especially in fashion. The makeup trends from that era [are] coming back, and people want to get back into wearing more makeup.

Finally, every time I’ve seen you, you’re so enthusiastic. Do you think kindness is your career superpower in the beauty world?
I do feel like it is a benefit, even though sometimes they say kindness can be a weakness. It’s a huge benefit. I love people, I’m very passionate, I love to connect and build that connection on a deeper level with a lot of people. That has been my pillar and guiding light to get to where I need to be, because I’ve been able to be myself [and] allow people to feel my genuine love and energy. [It] has allowed me to make these connections and be given these amazing opportunities that I never thought I’d have. I feel like that’s really important, because especially within this industry, it can get a little cutthroat. There can be a lot of personalities, or people that feel like maybe they’re too good or above someone else. What’s helped me is I’ve always wanted to stay humble and remember where I came from, and that every opportunity I get is a gift.

Additional reporting by Muriel Mizrahi.

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