Here’s what we know about controversial makeup YouTuber Nikita Dragun

In the beauty blogger community, Nikita Dragun is a household name. Since starting her YouTube channel in 2013, the makeup mogul has amassed more than 3.6 million followers, plus launched her own makeup line and collaborated with major brands like Morphe.

However, like any young influencer, Dragun isn’t without her fair share of controversies. Keep reading to learn more about Nikita Dragun, from her life growing up in Virginia to her recent controversial tweets.

Who is Nikita Dragun?

Beauty blogger Nikita Dragun — aka Nikita Nguyen — was born on Jan. 31, 1996, in Belgium. She grew up in Virginia with her mom, dad and three siblings: Allegrah, Taliah and Vin.

As a “feminine gay guy” growing up in Virginia, Dragun said that it was often difficult to be her true self. Even in preschool, she knew she wasn’t like the other boys — but still, she had to tone it down for fear of torment.

“I wanted to put on a dress and look cute … but one day a teacher came over and asked why I was dressing up like this and then she called my parents … I knew I was different and there were certain things that I couldn’t show or I’d be bullied or teased,” she told Forbes.

In high school, things were a bit better for Dragun. She went to school dressed “in tight jeans, lashes, a little purse, etc.” and she said that “people just accepted me.”

As a senior, Dragun was accepted to New York University with a full scholarship. However, she decided to stay put in Virginia and attend community college to figure her life out. After a year, she transferred to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) to earn a degree in business and marketing for cosmetics. It was when she moved to L.A. to attend FIDM that she started to really explore (and embrace) her identity as a trans woman.

Dragun came out as transgender in 2015.

In an emotional 10-minute video posted to YouTube on Dec. 28, 2015, Dragun officially came out to the world as a transgender woman.

“Growing up, I legitimately did not know that I was a boy,” she said in the video. “I would dream as a woman and I would dream … I just remember constantly feeling that something wasn’t right even at that early age.”

In her interview with Forbes, Dragun explained that she first started exploring her identity as a student at community college. While she was still in Virginia, she got a fake I.D., changed her name to Nicole and went to clubs dressed as a woman. She also started posting as a transgender woman on her social media accounts around the same time.

It wasn’t until she moved to L.A. that Dragun says she really found herself, though. In her coming out video, she explained that she felt freer in L.A., away from everyone she knew. Plus, she met a bunch of LGBTQIA+ individuals who helped her accept and embrace who she really is and who helped her learn more about transitioning.

“For about half a year, I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was transgender,” she told Forbes. “Then, I started being honest and documented my journey. It was really out of frustration. I wanted to transition, and I had all these questions, and couldn’t find answers anywhere online.”

Dragun hasn’t been shy about sharing her transition process. She’s documented her plastic surgeries in several YouTube videos, largely for “educational purposes.” (In other words, Dragun wants to help young transgender people questioning their identities and thinking about transitioning.)

“Surgery has been a huge part of my transition and it has become an addiction of mine,” Dragun admitted in one of her videos before revealing that she has gotten several procedures done, including a brow bone shave, a jaw shave, a nose job and a boob job. She also underwent hormone replacement therapy, which she said was the hardest part of the journey. “It’s a psychological change as well as a physical change,” she explained.

Dragun is half-Mexican and half-Vietnamese.

Dragun comes from a mixed-race background. Her mom is Mexican, while her dad is Vietnamese. In a YouTube video, it was revealed that he even served in the Vietnamese army for several years.

Dragun is proud of her heritage on both sides of her family. However, she’s come over fire over the years for “Blackfishing,” a term popularized by writer Wanna Thompson to describe the “alarming” action of celebrities darkening their skin via makeup and filters.

Dragun has been accused several times of Blackfishing.

In March 2017, Dragun was accused of Blackfishing after she appeared in an ad campaign for Jeffree Star Cosmetics wearing a metallic bronze pigment much darker than her actual skin tone.

In response to all the vitriol online, Dragun took to Twitter to defend herself, noting that since she’s half Mexican and half Southeast Asian, she “normally [gets] extremely tan.”

Nikita Dragun Jeffree Star Tweet
Credit: Twitter/Seventeen

At the time of the backlash, Dragun also gave a statement to Seventeen saying that she was “disappointed” by the accusations of Blackfishing.

“It’s very unfortunate that a section of the community is choosing to interpret and liken my image in Jeffree Star’s campaign to blackface,” she wrote in an email to Seventeen. “This campaign is so exciting and so disruptive; I’m proud to be featured in it as a Transgender Woman of Mixed Race (my mother being Mexican and my father Vietnamese). I’m disappointed that anyone would choose to critique the creative design of this incredibly inclusive campaign, rather than celebrate the diversity in it.”

In 2019, Dragun was called out yet again — this time for cultural appropriation. The influencer donned box braids, which are a symbolic part of African culture.

Instead of apologizing for adopting elements of a culture and race that isn’t her own into her style, Dragun wrote on Instagram that she had worn the box braids to “show my love and appreciation for all the gorgeous Black women in my life.” Most people didn’t accept this as a valid argument.

“My culture isn’t ur [aesthetic],” one person wrote on her post.

Most recently, Dragun got dragged on Twitter for a comment she made poking fun at her own past controversies.

Nikita Dragun what race is nikita gonna be today tweet
Credit: Twitter

“What race is Nikita gonna be today?” Dragun asked her followers in the now-deleted tweet. The beauty blogger appeared to be making fun of herself; however, the joke was made in very poor taste, and fellow influencers were quick to call her out on it.

“This s*** is not funny,” beauty blogger and discrimination activist Nyma Tang tweeted. James Charles, fellow beauty blogger and one of Dragun’s closest pals, even liked Tang’s reply.

If you think that Dragun apologized this time around, you’re sadly mistaken. Instead, she said that she is “really tired of having to defend myself on every post” in regards to her race.”

“I know it’s a joke to comment on my race but I’m really tired of having to defend myself on every post,” she wrote. “‘She’s hispanic today’ I’m hispanic everyday. My mom is mexican. My dad is asian. I’m mixed. The end. Bye.”

“Growing up mixed i was never enough or fully accepted,” she continued. “I don’t have to pick a side. I am not incomplete of my races. I do not lack anything. I am proud of ALL of me.”

Dragun very publicly ended her friendship with Jeffree Star during Dramageddon.

Back in 2018, pretty much everyone in the beauty world got swept up in an intense online feud now dubbed Dramageddon 1.0. It largely centered around Jeffree Star and Laura Lee, but other bloggers like Manny Guttierez and Gabriel Zamora also got involved.

So how does Dragun fit in? Well, on Aug. 18, 2018, Zamora tweeted a photo of himself alongside Lee, Guttierez and Dragun with the caption, “B**** is bitter because without him we’re doing better,” referring to, of course, Star. (Not long before the tweet, Star had come under fire for using racial slurs.) Zamora then directly attacked Star when he responded to one of his fans and said, “Imagine stanning a racist? I could never.”

These tweets confirmed what people had speculated for a while: Star and Dragun were no longer friends. However, Dragun didn’t get off scot free during Dramageddon: Amid all the chaos, several people dug up some of her old controversial tweets and photos, which resulted in an apology.

Dragun launched her own beauty line — a historic feat.

In March 2019, Dragun launched her own beauty line called Dragun Beauty. According to Dragun, it’s “the first trans-owned makeup brand for trans people,” which is a huge accomplishment and step forward in the beauty industry.

Upon its initial launch, Dragun Beauty sold out of every product within 24 hours.

If you enjoyed this story, check out the many controversies of another influencer: Tony Lopez.

More from In The Know:

Here’s what you need to know about the drama going down between beauty YouTubers

7 beauty products this beauty editor absolutely loved in October

9 cozy loungewear pieces under $25 that look way too luxe to be from Marshalls

Shop our favorite beauty products from In The Know Beauty on TikTok