Nikita Dragun isn’t just the trans woman and creator behind Dragun Beauty, a cosmetic line specifically for the trans community and others. The Los Angeles-based YouTube and Instagram star turned CEO has shown the beauty industry that trans women don’t just dress and look cute — they can score big-time brand deals, and create unique business and marketing opportunities for cosmetics and make major companies like Victoria’s Secret recognize a trans woman’s true beauty.
How Nikita Dragun went from a closeted trans woman in high school to making brand deals with major cosmetic lines
Nikita Dragun was born in 1996 in Springfield, Virginia. During elementary school, she’d sometimes put on a dress and look cute. But when a teacher disapproved and called her parents, Dragun decided it was too risky for “boys” to put on a dress and look cute. “I knew I was different and there were certain things that I couldn’t show or I’d be bullied or teased,” she said.
By the time she reached high school, Dragun says, “I was just the most feminine gay guy [in high school], so I would dress in tight jeans, lashes, a little purse, etc. People just accepted me.” After high school, she says she was accepted to NYU on a full scholarship, but she didn’t go. Instead, she finally got the courage to put on a dress and look cute again, scored a fake ID, changed her name to Nicole, began hitting up Washington D.C. bars and realized just how well she passed as a woman.
In 2013, Nikita Dragun launched a YouTube channel for makeup tutorials and began getting small brand deals with makeup companies. Inspired by these brand deals, She decided to move to Los Angeles to get a degree in business and marketing for cosmetics at the Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM).
While in Los Angeles, she “decided to start taking Instagram and YouTube seriously” — her FIDM classes even studied some of her videos without realizing she was a student. In December 2015, Nikita Dragun came out as a trans woman in her most-watched video to date. “I started being honest and documented my journey,” including surgeries, she said. “It was really out of frustration. I wanted to transition, and I had all these questions, and couldn’t find answers anywhere online.”
How Nikita Dragun schooled Victoria’s Secret and launched her unique Los Angeles cosmetics business
In November 2018, when Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing officer Ed Razek said the company would never feature a trans woman or large-bodied models in its fashion shows because such women aren’t part of anyone’s fantasies, Nikita Dragun published a video of herself “selling the fantasy” as a Victoria’s Secret angel. Her self-made Victoria’s Secret ad quickly went viral:
dear Victoria’s Secret,
you said trans women can’t sell the “fantasy” so here i am as a TRANS WOMAN selling the FANTASY! ?? pic.twitter.com/rKQHp7SLNq
— Nikita Dragun (@NikitaDragun) December 5, 2018
Razek later apologized, and on August 1, 2019 Victoria’s Secret hired its first trans model, Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio. Dragun responded by saying that she didn’t think her video caused Victoria’s Secret to change, she just wanted to use her massive social media following to “make a difference and stand up for my community!” She also told her fans to give Victoria’s Secret a second chance.
After getting her degree in business and marketing for cosmetics, Dragun stayed in Los Angeles. Instead of following other beauty influencers and using her social media fame to promote brand deals for other cosmetic lines, she launched her own Dragun Beauty cosmetics line.
In March 2019, Dragun Beauty released its first two vegan, cruelty- and paraben-free products packaged in a purple “Dragun egg” whose design was based on the “cocoon-like” bandages from her facial feminization surgeries. Within 12 hours of launching, Dragun Beauty sold out its entire cosmetic line.
One of the first two products in the Dragun Beauty cosmetic line was a “DragunHeart TRANSformation Powder” to help conceal facial stubble, eye bags and hyper-pigmentation in trans women of color. Nikita Dragun later said that she feels most cosmetics lines exclude diverse women like her and are very “behind the times.”
Today, Nikita Dragun still lives in Los Angeles. Her personal Instagram has 5.8 million followers, her YouTube channel has over 2.61 million subscribers and her Twitter has 1.2 million followers — indications of the incredible influence Nikita Dragun has as a brand all her own.