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Several YouTube beauty guru brands have shut down in recent years, and Nikita Dragun’s beauty brand Dragun Beauty is the latest to halt its operations.
With no products currently available for sale on its DTC site or Instagram, the brand is currently not active and its future is in question, according to one of its reported partners. After facing legal turmoil due to a controversial arrest incident in November, Dragun has embarked on a new venture with the announcement of her new paid OnlyFans account. The new social account debuted on Tuesday with a professionally produced commercial posted to her Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat accounts.
“As a partner in Dragun Beauty, I can confirm the business is generally on hiatus at the moment, and I’m not sure it will linger much longer unless it gets someone who’s willing to buy the brand to keep it from going insolvent,” said Jake Webb, president and co-founder of Slash Management and Dragun’s former talent manager. The management company parted ways with Dragun a year ago over “different overall values and standards for how we treat partners,” he said.
Dragun’s representative responded, stating, “Nikita parted ways with Slash Management due to mis-management,” and “Slash Management and Jake Webb are not shareholders in the company. Jake Webb is not part of the executive team, managing director, or partner in the company. Jake Webb is not involved in the operations of the company nor privy to its business operations.”
According to Webb, Slash Management “had negotiated a small stake” in the brand with Dragun’s previous management company Select Management Group. Select Management Group had been an equity partner in the brand alongside Dragun and a “now-defunct” beauty incubator, Follow Beauty, he said. Dragun’s representative stated that Follow Beauty “remains active.”
When Dragun Beauty launched to fanfare in 2019 as one of the first beauty brands created by a transgender founder, it saw quick sell-outs of newly debuted products. Dragun told Glossy at the time that she had been approached by both Sephora and Ulta Beauty about selling the brand’s products. The brand capitalized on Dragun’s large fan base, as she received early access to social shopping features such as Instagram live shopping when it was still in beta.
Dragun Beauty was created based on Dragun’s makeup artistry experience as a trans woman. Its products included color correctors inspired by those used by trans performers. Dragun described it as a “multi-million-dollar brand” in a 2020 interview with Glossy.
According to a source familiar with the brand, its revenue skyrocketed in the first three years, rising from $2 million in its first year to $5 million in its second, and then $25 million in its third. But in 2021, that number shrank to $1 million. Dragun’s representative disputed these numbers but declined to share any additional details, citing confidentiality.
“Ultimately, Dragun Beauty was driving sales, not from Nikita, but in spite of her, through traditional marketing strategies and omnichannel approaches. She kept pummeling the brand with crisis PR around her antics, which ultimately hurt our ability to scale with partners like Ulta Beauty and Urban Outfitters,” said Webb.
Retail partners still stocking some items from the brand are Beauty Bay and Morphe, which recently filed for bankruptcy after ending lucrative collabs with YouTubers James Charles and Jeffree Star over controversies. It is also available on Flip and Amazon, with most Amazon product listings showing between 1 and 5 items left in stock. The brand is “in active discussions with new retailers,” according to Dragun’s representative.
Dragun has faced her share of drama over the years. Most recently, her November 2022 arrest in Miami made headlines after police claimed she swung a water bottle at them after being “disorderly” at a hotel.
Known as one of the original YouTube beauty gurus, with over 3.5 million subscribers, Dragun has also built large fan bases on Instagram (8.9 million), TikTok (14.6 million) and Snapchat, where her 2020-2021 show “Nikita Unfiltered” received 30 million views. She also starred in the recent Netflix reality show “Hype House.”
This week’s announcement of her debut on OnlyFans received supportive comments and likes on Instagram from celebrities including Paris Hilton and Winnie Harlow.
Dragun has spoken out about her mental health struggles on social media, stating she was involuntarily hospitalized for eight days in November 2021.
The brand’s hiatus follows the shutdown of other YouTube beauty influencer brands in the past two years, including Tati Beauty and Makeup Geek. Dragun’s partner incubator, Follow Beauty, was also behind Eva Gutowski’s brand Coastal Citizen, which is currently unavailable for sale on a DTC site with similar design to that of Dragun Beauty.
The shutdowns of multiple influencer brands and collabs following controversies and drama have some in the beauty industry rethinking their approach to finding famous partners.
“While we were able to launch the brand off of Nikita’s license and IP, most of the sales were driven by our affiliate community we were able to build out through the brand ethos,” said Webb. “This should be a cautionary tale about investing in talent-driven brands too early in talent careers before said talent have demonstrated a consistency in their behavior, goals and mentality, in order to become the kind of partner who can scale a brand towards exit. The space is flooded with talent brands, and there’s not enough room or demand for them all.”
UPDATE 2/7/2023: A response by Nikita Dragun’s representative has been added, and the full list of retailers where the brand is available has been updated.