Think make-up is superficial? Allow these real-life beauty superstars to change your mind
"Wearing make-up makes me happier and confident around people"
Five trailblazers are using makeup to celebrate their individuality. Whether layered to airbrushed perfection or barely-there dewiness, make-up is a handy form of self-expression. ELLE meets five people who wield this unique power of the brush.
5 beauty trailblazers
Every girl can relate to Priyanka Paul’s experiences with judgy comments about her make-up choices. It ranges from boys saying she looks better without eyeliner and relatives remarking on how she looks disrespectful in red lipstick, to friends who can’t comprehend why she sometimes goes barefaced to parties. “My usual response is, ‘Who asked you?’” says Paul. “Of course, I love looking good and wearing make-up. But it’s my choice if I want to be an oily-faced, make-up-free loudmouth or a loudmouth with the fiercest highlighter and eyeliner.”
The media student and illustrator is taking the conversation forward with artwork (look it up on @artwhoring) that questions conventional beauty standards and calls out the hateful connotations attached to a full face of make-up. “I refuse to believe that there’s anything I can do with my appearance that would pain another individual in any way. So, I go ahead with whatever I want, and whoever wants to be mad, can be mad.”
On Paul: Sequined georgette shirt, Sameer Madan. Metal glasses, Paul’s own
“It’s make-up, it’s supposed to be fun. Why is it still assigned to one gender?” says Zeeshan Ali, whose face is just as likely to feature glitter lips and glowing highlights, as it is a basic natural look. It’s been a process of self-discovery for Ali, who started with wearing BB cream and concealer while he was at fashion school and graduated to full-blown SFX make-up within four years. With positive encouragement from his family and friends, Ali now constantly pushes the envelope with bold, boundary-bending looks that he regularly shares on Instagram (@zeesh.ali).
His manga- and sci-fi inspired guises also include beautiful costumes that he designs to amplify the drama. “As an artist, I enjoy blurring gender roles and creating non-stereotypical characters. Why should I blend in when I can stand out, make my voice heard and change the world? Make-up, in that sense, is very empowering.”
On Ali: Chanderi dress, Saaksha & Kinni. Velvet bodysuit, Lulu & Sky. Polyblend pants, Lola By Suman B
Over the past four years, Aashna Shroff has perfected the Instagram face. Her everyday routine is a true labour of love that includes primer, foundation, concealer, powder, brow pencil, highlighter...and it goes on. But when she decided to do a YouTube tutorial on this last year, she was nervous about revealing her acne scars on camera for the first time. “Dealing with acne (in my teens) was an experience of near-depression and low self-esteem. I spent so many nights sobbing and trying to find a solution for my skin,” says Shroff.
On the bright side, she came out of it with a lot of knowledge about products that really work. While most of her followers turned out to be empathetic and encouraging, she did get hate for her troubled complexion and beauty habits. “It’s taken me time to get comfortable in my skin and ignore the haters,” she says. “And wearing make-up sure makes me a lot more happier and confident around people.”
On Shroff: Polyester top, Lulu & Sky. Satin dress, Deme By Gabriella. Silver-plated brass earrings, DE’ANMA
Prarthana Jagan hated make-up the first time she put it on at the age of 11. “I had just been diagnosed with vitiligo, and was so conscious about drawing attention to myself that I would slather thick concealer all over my face and smear kajal to cover the affected brow. As a result, I looked like a potato through most of my teenage years,” she says. She continued to grudgingly wear make-up everywhere—even to school—but it was after a few instances of bullying, that she took to YouTube to learn the right techniques. By 18, she was a pro.
Though, she admits, it still took a serious illness for her to really accept herself and become confident. “I wasn’t looked at differently at the hospital because I had vitiligo, I was just another patient. This made me realise that the people who bullied me would do it whether I wore make-up or not—I couldn’t let it define me.” Now her relationship with make-up is one of enjoyment and interest. It isn’t something she hides behind.
On Jagan: Lurex top, Rina Dhaka. Lycra and organza top, Lulu & Sky. Bronze and gold-plated earrings, Eurumme at Minerali
Toshada Uma takes pride in not looking like everyone else. She’s 4’8” with a blonde buzz and skin that’s highlighted to dewy freshness. Sometimes she’ll do thick brows and pink eyeshadow with graphic eyeliner just to go grocery shopping, or wear glossy blue lipstick with frosty eyeshadow, which makes us rethink our tired notions of beauty. She even wears customised wigs to accessorise these looks, which will soon be up for sale on her online store. “Make-up is a powerful tool of expression and a key component of my overall aesthetic,” she says.
It’s this authenticity that has won her a legion of followers (52,000) on Instagram, who nudged her to start beauty blogging as well. “The compliments triumph the strange stares and unsolicited comments I receive. There will always be people who dislike how I present myself, but that doesn’t matter as long as I’m happy and feeling good.”
On Uma: Viscose dress, Koovs.com. Metal bralette, The Source. PVC jacket, Deme By Gabriella
Photographs: Tenzing Dakpa
Styling: Sujala Newar
Hair and makeup: Claire Marrinan
Art direction: Reshma Rajiwdekar
Assisted by: Trisha Chawla (beauty), Vedika Chotirmall (styling)