Even if you haven’t touched a pair of false lashes since your junior prom, chances are you’ve probably still heard of Lilly Lashes. That’s because they’re as much of a regular on the red carpet as Kim Kardashian these days, and as visible in your Insta feed as any beauty influencer you can think of. That’s no coincidence: Kardashian, along with other celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Kylie Jenner, and Shay Mitchell, are constantly sporting the brand’s mink lashes. But that raises the question: What is Lilly Lashes doing that other lashes aren’t?
Founder Lilly Ghalichi, the Texas-born daughter of immigrants, didn’t mean to dominate an industry. In fact, she was more into the law than lashes. “My whole life, I thought I wanted to be this big litigator—until I actually became an attorney,” she tells Glamour. But the buttoned-up environment felt like a total contradiction to who she was. “As a female who’s into fashion and makeup, it was very difficult to have to go to work every day and be told by the partners of my firm that I needed to wear less makeup, or that I needed to dress a little bit…not modestly, but toned down,” recalls Ghalichi.
She left the law firm after three months to begin a now-defunct swimwear line, which caught the attention of producers at Bravo’s hit reality show, Shahs of Sunset. Lilly joined the show, where she could be her glammed-up, over-the-top self, in its second season in 2012—which is when the lightbulb went off. Well, technically, it happened when she spent hours in hair and makeup for the show.
“Lashes alone would take 30 to 45 minutes,” says Ghalichi. That’s because at the time, there were only two options for falsies: human hair, which gave a natural look (a little too much so for Ghalichi) or synthetic, which is the kind most people reserve for Halloween. So she and her makeup artist went the DIY route for Ghalichi to get the dramatic—but not comically large—lashes she wanted. “We would get human hair and glue on three and four different strips,” she explains. “So we had to put the strip on, let it dry, put another strip on, let it dry, put a third strip on, let it dry, cut out the strip, and put those pieces in. I thought there had to be a better way.”
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So Ghalichi took matters into her own hands—literally. She glued sets of human-hair lashes together, tracked down a lash supplier, and sent her handiwork to them, asking if they could recreate it on a large scale. The supplier agreed to recreate them in mink, so they’d be less flimsy, and Ghalichi was down. The one problem: The supplier had a minimum quantity for orders, meaning Ghalichi had to purchase at least 100 pairs of her new lashes.
Ghalichi went all-in and purchased the required 100 sets. She had a blog at the time, and quickly wrote a post putting those spare lashes up for grabs to anyone who wanted them. “I got a sandwich and came back to hundreds of emails from girls wanting to buy the lashes,” says Ghalichi. “It was at that moment I knew that there were so many girls like me who wanted glamorous lashes, and there just wasn’t anything out there for them to buy.” A few months later, in 2013, Lilly Lashes was born.
While it sounds like an entrepreneur’s dream—come up with idea, execute it well, succeed almost instantly—that wasn’t exactly the case for Ghalichi. “It took me four years until I established a well-oiled machine,” she says. She initially struggled with input from people around her, who encouraged her to keep it natural. But Ghalichi, true to her nature, wanted to go big or go home. So she created the brand’s 3D Lashes. “We were stacking so many strips to make our one style, it was three-dimensional,” says Ghalichi. But her friends, family, and even makeup artists she worked with told her, “You know, these are just too much. I know you like them, I know a couple other girls like them, but you should make more everyday, wearable styles.”
She launched her six 3D Lash styles anyway, and they sold out within a matter of hours. That was her first aha moment—and one that taught her to trust her gut. “I let that noise, as I like to call it, affect me,” she says. “One of my biggest hurdles was learning to overcome the noise and trust my intuition and what I want to do.”
And it paid off big. One of Ghalichi’s closest friends, celebrity makeup artist Ariel Tejada, used the 3D Lashes in Miami when doing Kylie Jenner‘s makeup. “I’ll never forget,” says Ghalichi. “He left her house and texted me: ‘Hey, here’s Kylie’s address, she wants to know if you can send her more of Miami.'” Ghalichi, a self-professed Kylie Jenner fangirl, freaked out. And that was only the beginning.
Soon after, you could find celebrities, from Jenner to Jennifer Lopez, wearing her 3D Lashes. “J.Lo’s people reached out and said, ‘Jennifer doesn’t want to wear anything besides the style Tease for her Vegas residency. Can you send us 90 pairs to last her the next three months?'” she recalls. “That was all thanks to Mary Phillips, who had done her makeup and used the lashes.”
In fact, Ghalichi has her network of loyal makeup artists—whom she befriended behind the scenes at shoots for her swimwear line and during her stint on Shahs of Sunset—to credit for her brand’s huge celebrity following. “I got very lucky that I’m friends with so many celebrity makeup artists,” she says. “They were naturally and organically using the lashes on celebrities, which made the celebrities fall in love with them.” Plus, she debuted her show-stopping, they’re-definitely-not-real lashes at a time when unapologetic glamour, or whatever you’d call the opposite of no-makeup makeup, hit a high. “In the past, you didn’t want anyone to know you were wearing false lashes, you didn’t want anyone to know you were wearing hair extensions—and suddenly that reversed to where it became glamorous to have the made-up look,” she explains. Lilly Lashes was made for that demographic.
Ghalichi also takes a lot of pride in the quality of her lashes. “Our lashes will last 25 to 30 wears,” she says, which accounts for the relatively steep price of $30. (Once you do the math, though, it works out to about $1 per wear.) “Our lashes will be the best quality you can find so they’ll look the most natural on your eyes.” She’s confident in her quality in part because she serves as the brand’s guinea pig. “I design all the styles that we’ve launched, test them out, and wear them, so all the products we’ve released, I have worn and loved multiple times just in the sample making,” she explains.
Ghalichi’s best guess as to what’s made Lilly Lashes such a runaway success is that it reimagined lash designs—and, in doing so, set itself apart from other false-eyelash brands. “I think things that are disruptive in any industry will always create the biggest impact, like the Beautyblender,” she says. “A sponge has been around for years, but they did something innovative with the sponge that just took off.”
Ghalichi, who’s now six-and-a-half months pregnant with her first child, isn’t resting on her laurels, though. She has a few big developments in store, the first of which is finally giving her friends’ advice a shot and creating more natural designs. “I have two zones: no makeup and heavy glam,” she says with a laugh. “So I’m working right now to expand beyond what I wear, and you’ll see a natural collection of 3D Lashes coming out.”
She’s also working to make the line more inclusive by offering lashes for a range of eye shapes. In fact, Ghalichi has hired women of different ethnicities for the sole job of testing new lashes. “It’s not one size fits all,” she explains. “People have round eyes, almond eyes, hooded eyes—and lashes are going to look different on each.”
What’s most surprising is that considering Ghalichi’s affection for all things glamorous and excessive, you’d think that she grew up with it. But it was anything but. “I was born to two immigrant parents,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of money growing up at all, and five of us lived in a two-bedroom house.” That context makes Lilly Lashes’ rise to fame even more magical, and serves as a testament to her work ethic.
“I thought growing up in a certain income level or a certain demographic, I could only go so far—I wasn’t as privileged as maybe a trust-fund person or went to private school—but my business has shown me that that’s not true at all,” she says. “You can go as far as you want to work.”