Ankush Bahuguna On Beauty, Breaking Gender Norms And Juggling Between Genres

Ankush Bahuguna

Emerging from a childhood shadowed by self-doubt and navigating through the complexities of his early career choices, Ankush Bahuguna’s journey is quite inspiring. A year into pursuing architecture, he found solace in expressing himself through writing. It was amidst this transition that he discovered his passion for creating content. “Leaving behind a professional degree and a stable job took immense belief and faith for me. But in doing so, I found a space where my creative potential could truly flourish. It wasn’t about breaking norms; it was about embracing the artist within and finding my voice in a world that resonated with my passion.”

Ankush has worked his way to become one of the biggest names in the Indian beauty and comedy content creation spaces with over a million followers on social media. ELLE India spoke with him about his journey, the challenges he faced along the way, his views on breaking gender norms and his plans for the future:

ELLE: Your journey began in architecture, but you transitioned into content creation. What inspired this shift?

Ankush Bahuguna (AB): Belief inspired this shift. The belief that I had what it takes to be an entertainer and that I’d find my way through. I spent my entire childhood doubting my worth and not acting upon what I wanted to do in life. I only got into an architecture school because I didn’t dare to say it to myself that I wanted to be an artist. So, when college was over, I took a leap of faith with an internship at a media website. A year into that job, I featured in comedy videos and short films as an actor when something clicked with the audience. People seemed to love my jokes and my comic timing, so content creation seemed like a step in the right direction.

I think, for me, a boy from a middle-class family, to feel confident enough to leave behind a professional degree and a well-paying job to pursue content creation took a lot of belief and faith. But I’m glad I did because I don’t think there’s any other profession in the world that could encapsulate my full potential as a creative person.

ELLE: Being an Indian male beauty content creator, how do you navigate breaking gender norms in the beauty industry?

AB: Quite honestly, I’m not the first man to be doing this and I’m also not the only one. I never started any of this to be the torchbearer of breaking gender norms and I’m aware of my cisgender privilege. I know that the thing I get so much support for, a lot of queer, trans, non-binary folks get abused and harassed for–and I wish that changes. Everybody, regardless of their gender or identity, should be accepted for the way they dress and express.

I look up to artists like Sushant Divgikar who, in my opinion, have not only been breaking but have also been destroying gender norms for many years. They normalised makeup for someone like me. I do what I do because of my passion for makeup skincare and beauty. If because of that, my work also adds to that conversation, I couldn’t be happier. If I’m making men feel more confident about wanting to wear makeup, I’m glad to be a part of that change.

ELLE: How has the perception of men wearing makeup changed during your time as a content creator?

AB: It’s hard to say how much the ‘perception of men’s makeup’ has changed. Sometimes, I look around and see so many more male beauty creators around and it feels like change is right around the corner but then we hear of heart-breaking incidents like 16-year-old Pranshu, a very talented beauty creator who took his own life succumbing to all the hate he got online, and I feel there’s a very long way to go.

There’s some change, but is there enough progress to celebrate this? Probably not. If we were to look outside our bubble one would realize it is still not okay for men to express themselves the way they want.

ELLE: Beyond makeup, you also create comedy content. How do you balance and merge these different genres of content creation to engage your audience effectively?

AB: I love that I can juggle so many different genres of content–comedy, beauty, lifestyle, acting. I’m also exploring fashion and travel comedy now. It’s thrilling to break away from these moulds of being known as a ‘comedy’ creator or a ‘beauty creator’ and just show people that any creator is simply a creator, and we can do more things than one. The only balance I work towards is making sure I regularly make all kinds of content because there’s a different audience for everything.

Everybody thinks content creation is a creative profession, which it is. But it’s equally about discipline and consistency–even on days when you think nobody’s watching your content. As far as engaging my audience is concerned, I think just something as simple as keeping them up to date with where I’m at, physically and mentally, makes sure they’re connected with me. People who relate to you will always engage with your content. So, I chase connection, not engagement.

ELLE: What role do you think social media influencers play in challenging societal perceptions, especially regarding gender norms and beauty standards?

AB: Whether or not we like to admit, social media influencers are dinner table conversations now. They’re becoming pop culture references, they’re driving conversations, and they are altering behaviour on social media. So when it comes to breaking gender norms and beauty standards, I see a lot of potential.

If creators work towards it, they can collectively bring about a big change, if not individually. One may argue that that change would be limited to a certain niche group in society, but even a small change matters. So if creators choose to bring about a change, I see no reason why they can’t.

ELLE: What’s next for your career? Are there specific milestones or areas you’re keen on exploring further?

AB: I moved to Mumbai five months ago and I’m currently training as an actor and spending a lot of time auditioning. A good role in a film or a show would be a milestone for me. Acting was always Plan A and I’m finally at a place in life where I can give this dream my all. Along the way, I also realized how grateful I am to the audience I’ve built, and I’d never let that go. This is something I’ve built on my own, by my own rules. I’m hoping to become a mainstream actor but am also very happy and proud to be a creator.

ELLE: What would you like to say to your younger audiences who also want to step into the content creation space?

AB: Just know that it’s unpredictable and your following isn’t a measure of how good or bad your content is. Your content may be spectacular, but it may take you years to reach a certain milestone. Sometimes that could be frustrating but know that there’s an audience out there waiting to discover you, so keep at it.

Also, it always helps to be financially independent. So if you’re just starting, don’t quit your job yet. Have a job on the side that helps you pay your bills, until you reach a point where you can sustain your lifestyle on the money you make as a content creator.

Beauty Writer

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