The founder and namesake of Manna Kadar Cosmetics was born in Paris and raised in a dicey L.A. neighborhood. Her Chinese “Tiger Mom” and grandmother stressed education and planning a future. “Fun wasn’t on the curriculum,” says Kadar, 35. While in high school, she bought a cosmetics store in Brea Mall with money saved from birthdays and other special occasions. As a USC student, she expanded to six stores, then sold them to pursue a career in finance. In 2011, she opened her Irvine cosmetics company and now sells through Birchbox and Ipsy. Her next project? Motherhood.
What inspired you to do what you do?
After I left corporate finance in 2008, I bought a tanning salon in Laguna Niguel. My “aha” moment came when
people kept asking me about my makeup—everything from product recommendations to tips and tricks. I did not carry cosmetics at the tanning salon and realized it was time to finally pursue an endeavor that I had only dreamed of in the past.
When did you start wearing makeup?
I snuck makeup when I was in seventh and eighth grades. I would go to school, put it all on, then take it all off by the time I got home. I was probably not wearing the most flattering colors or products.
How much does hard work matter in what you do?
Hard work certainly is a huge factor in success. However, I find strategy, problem resolution, and thinking outside of the box are what have contributed to the success of the company. I used to work seven days a week and as many hours a day as I could fit in. As I transition to this new chapter in my life, I am trying to work smarter
and more efficiently. I used to work about 80 hours a week, and I am down to about 50 hours.
Describe the philosophy behind your company.
It’s founded on the principle of keeping beauty simplified. I believe in products that are multitasking, performance-based, and innovative. This allows women to put on a full face of makeup in seven minutes or less. I believe women walk taller and more confidently throughout the day when they wear makeup.
Everyone talks about “effortless beauty.” What does this mean to you?
It’s quick and easy; it’s what every woman can do with some very basic tools. If you were to look at what I use on a daily basis, it amounts to very few items. It’s how to minimize the amount of product you put on to really accentuate what looks best on you.
What three things do you think a woman should wear on her face every day?
Color brings so much life to a woman’s face. I would say don’t leave home without applying blush, lipgloss or lipstick, and mascara.
You’re about to have your first child, a daughter. Would you prefer her to be smart or beautiful?
I would choose for her to be smart because she can always find a way to make herself more attractive. But in this world, sometimes you have to be both. I think there’s more pressure being female in life. You have the responsibility of being attractive, being smart, and then carrying on a successful career and having a family if you choose. That’s lots of responsibility.
What is beauty to you?
It’s finding that best version of yourself, that point where you feel comfortable in your own skin. And it could require not one ounce of makeup.