Urban Decay's Kristen Leanne talks tattoos, inspiration and learning to love herself

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Ava Welsing-Kitcher
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Cruelty-free beauty influencer Kristen Leanne has teamed up with Urban Decay – and you’ll want everything from her debut collection.

There’s no denying Urban Decay has graced us with some amazing collaborations of late, from Gwen Stefani to Ruby Rose. 

And for 2018, vlogger and cruelty-free beauty influencer Kristen Leanne has joined forces with the brand to launch her very own range of lipsticks and palettes packed with vibrant colours in the hopes of encouraging others to be more adventurous in their beauty routines.

It seems Urban Decay couldn’t have picked anyone better. Covered in tattoos (including a seriously cool and intricate kaleidoscopic neck design), with technicolour hair to boot, Kristen fits perfectly with the beauty brand’s bold aesthetic. 

Here, Stylist catches up with the beauty inspiration herself. 

Cruelty-free beauty influencer Kristen Leanne lifts the lid on her make-up line with Urban Decay

What inspired you to go cruelty-free?

“I’ve been cruelty-free for around five years. It all started when my husband Ryan and I got into fitness. We started watching documentaries on veganism and discovered just how much of the stuff we use every day is tested on animals, from tissues to cleaning products. I adore animals and basically have a menagerie at home.”

What five beauty products would you need if you were stuck on a desert island?

“I’d probably forgo the beauty products and grab sunscreen and some lip balm. Is there anyone else there? Do I need to impress anyone? I’d bring my Beauty Beam highlight palette in the hope of being spotted by a plane flying overhead!”

UD X Kristen Leanne Kaleidoscope Dream Eyeshadow Palette, £28

What’s your favourite video tutorial you’ve ever done?

“I always want to try and outdo myself, making each new one better than the last, but my favourite has to be the one that made Urban Decay discover me – I painted a rainbow across my face. My second favourite was my entry into the NYX Face Awards, where I turned myself into a zombie and created this makeover reality TV show and got my neighbours, friends and family to star in it. It was simply really fun to film, and that makes it one of my favourites. Also, the one where my husband and I wore matching make-up.”

What was the first Urban Decay product you ever bought?

“I distinctly remember buying a black eyeshadow [from another brand] and feeling so disappointed that it wasn’t pigmented enough, it was more of a dark grey. I saw an Urban Decay kiosk in a beauty shop and was so intrigued by it, everything on display just spoke to me. I picked up Blackout and thought ‘[This] is what black eyeshadow should look like.’ I threw the other one away, and Blackout became a gateway product into my obsession with Urban Decay. Five years ago, I couldn’t afford Urban Decay and could only pick one product to buy every once in a while – so to have my own collection is just surreal.”

Kristen Leanne joins forces with Urban Decay 

What is your favourite type of video to film?

“The hair colour transformation tutorials are so cool to film and so mesmerising to watch back, and I get really excited to use my Arctic Fox brand of dyes.”

How do you keep on top of changing your hair colour so frequently? Any tips?

“By using as little bleach as possible. Arctic Fox colours just sit in your hair without any bleach at all, and act like a coloured hair mask. I’m also quite strategic when it comes to picking my next hair colour – you can’t go from, say, red to blue without some damage. I try and fade a hair colour naturally using clarifying shampoo rather than a colour remover which can be really harsh, then put a similar colour on top. Right now my hair’s a greyish lavender, which used to be a bold blue.”

UD X Kristen Leanne Beauty Beam Highlight Palette, £22

What inspired the colours of your new collection with Urban Decay?

“I love a good rainbow. I tried to put the shades I love the most into the collection. I especially love the holographic duo Leo + Brixton eyeshadows in the Kaleidoscope Dream Eyeshadow Palette, £28, which transform anything you layer underneath them. The shade names are really personal to me: Leo and Brixton are my beloved pets, the black 13th Floor eyeshadow is my favourite Twilight Zone episode of all time, and TRM is a deep metallic navy blue named after my husband, The Ryan Morgan. Oh, and I just love Corona, a metallic soft bronze shade.”

The Kaleidoscope Dream palette is quite extraordinary – what would be your go-to look to create using it?

“Definitely a natural, nude upper eyelid, then bright colours along the lower lashline. It’s quick and easy, and a great introduction to colourful make-up for those who might be a little bit intimated to try it.”

How did you manage to create a ‘flattering’ grey lipstick shade?

“It has these tiny flecks of blue which make it multi-dimensional, and I was inspired by the way jellyfish pulse in the water. It transforms your lips into being the main focal point, which I love.”

Any tips for taking a killer Instagram pic?

“I take 3,000 and hope that at least one of them is good! I find that people respond best to, say, car selfies rather than professional shots. Once I pick a photo, I edit it within the Photos app to make it rotate slightly towards the screen as if you’re leaning in closer to whoever’s viewing it. I love the Details function on Facetune to bring out my eyebrow hairs, neck tattoo and hair. Lastly, I’ll use the Whiten tool to make a white background look less dull.”

How did you learn to embrace your individuality?

“My family struggled a lot financially when I was growing up, and I would be so embarrassed by my parents’ car that I’d get them to drop me off around the corner from school. I’d have just one pair of shoes to wear to school for the entire year, and I always got teased for what I wore. Over time, I tried to dress in a way I assumed would make people accept me, but they just found new things to bully me about. I realised that they were the problem, not me, so I decided to just live my life for myself, and found some inner happiness in expressing myself through my appearance. It becomes easier to accept yourself as you get older and learn more about yourself.”

What’s the inspiration behind your tattoos?

“I got my first tattoos when I was 16, and I was inspired by tattoo artists I knew who set themselves apart from everyone else with these amazing depictions. I just wanted art on my body that would last forever. At that age I couldn’t afford as many as I wanted, which I’m grateful for in hindsight – I wanted two syringes pointed towards my vajayjay when I was going through my emo phase. Tattoos also functioned as a subconscious promise to myself that I would have my own business one day; if someone wouldn’t hire me because of my neck tattoo (which took six hours and hurt like crazy) then I’d never have that problem if I was my own boss.” 

Images: Urban Decay / Instagram