The meeting was on a warm Saturday afternoon, I don’t work on Saturday’s, but you look forward to some get-togethers, and this was definitely one of them. The person in question was Bangalore-based makeup artist Anurita Chandrappa. We have had brief conversations over the telephone, where she clarified who she was, and what she did. I could also sense an urgency in her voice, urgency writers’ understand. When I went through her work, what stood out for me was the simplicity, the eye for detail, and the class her work exuded—in the form of brides, models, fashion bloggers and more. “So, makeup can be this subtle too, huh?” my inner voice spoke. I say this because I write extensively about wedding photography and the makeup the brides have on them sometimes feels like Kim K—just too much to handle! But, Chandrappa’s work is poles apart. From the get-go, I knew that she was the black sheep, in fact, she was no sheep!
A week after that, I was sitting amidst the cold interiors of Infinitea, Indiranagar waiting for her to arrive. She chose this place because she loves the food they serve, and the tea is to die for—something we both agreed upon. She stepped in just 10 minutes after I found a space inside the teahouse. Chandrappa entered with a cool vibe, something that perfectly matched her attire. A slender profile, her hair rested on her shoulders. Her eyes watery, from a visit to her ophthalmologist. But, still, she did not complain.
For a makeup artist, she had no signs of makeup on, odd I thought (but she did, I later found out that it’s what they call the ‘no makeup, makeup’). Since we both were famished we decide to eat first and then take things ahead. While I ordered the Darjeeling tea, she opted for the Matcha Green Tea, for which she did not even refer to the menu. “This is what I order every time I am here, also, should we get the Spinach Hand Made Pies they are awesome,” she said looking at me. I nodded. With lunch out-of-the-way and a fresh hot pot of tea to keep me company, I listened to her journey with keen interest.
Five minutes into the conversation, I got to know that she was not always a makeup artist, instead, she was burning all-nighters as a publicist in firms like Weber Shandwick and Aim High Consulting. “PR was something I really liked. Even while I was in college (CMS) I was part of a student organisation called AIESEC—a nonprofit organisation that facilitates international internships. I was handling communications for them. This is how I caught the ‘passion’ for PR. After that, I pursued it for about four years, and this is when I felt like I wanted to do something of my own,” she recollects.
She remembers calling her father and telling him that she is calling it quits, for a second he thought she was talking about a job change. But, that was not what she had in mind. Frankly, she had no idea what was on the cards, she just needed a little time and support, which she got from her parents. What followed after that were a series of trials and errors, she even got into planning weddings for a while with a close friend, they almost roped one project, but for some reason, it fell out. She also realised that planning a wedding was too stressful for her. “It’s somebody’s big day, if something goes wrong I would not be able to live with it,” enthuses Chandrappa.
The idea of makeup, however, did not come until she sat with her BBF’s (Roma Ganesh) mother over lunch. Knowing Anurita’s situation she asked her why hasn’t she considered makeup as a career option yet? “When you girls go out, you are the one who’s gung-ho about dressing everyone up, you always help them with their makeup… put liners for them, so? What’s stopping you?”—were her exact words. Chandrappa might have laughed it off then, but she was not able to sleep over it for almost two months. This is when she called her father for the second time and told him about her revelation. “My dad thought I wanted to open a beauty parlour! (laughs) I said no. I want to do a course in makeup and I think I might be good at it, and I think I am going to enjoy it very much,” she states with an abrupt laugh. And with a bit of research and luck, she came across the London College of Make-up. Also, out of their six chains, one was in Dubai, and it was a two-month course. She had found her match! So with her limited knowledge of makeup which she had mimicked from her elder sister from the time she was a pea, she journeyed 2,703 kilometres to uncharted territories—a voyage that would change her life forever.
“Looking back, I still don’t understand the transition, but it was just the phase I was in. Also, I knew by the end of four years that I was not built for this whole PR game, there was no creative freedom to do what I wanted. I needed something I was not getting—freedom! So this is why I went to Dubai, did my course, and I am glad I found my calling,” she remakes with a shine in her eyes.
London College of Makeup was situated in Dubai Knowledge Village—a community of various universities—it was literally a knowledge village, as she tells us. Her class consisted of 35 women from the world over—right from a girl who was 18, to a woman who was 46—all there to learn the same thing. “I was 26 when I went there, and the fact that there was someone who was 46 who was eager to learn, showed me that it was never too late for anything,” she adds. “It was just amazing to see how all our journeys came here.”
There were times when Chandrappa would sit in her apartment, and think about this spiral. She could not believe that something like this might happen. “If someone would have told me a year back that I would be in a foreign land doing a course in makeup, I would have said, get the hell outta here,” she ponders fondly.
The college was also the perfect platform for her to learn the things that she has learnt—the techniques, the fact that makeup is art—the point that a bare face is her canvas, and the brushes and colours are the medium, only that a face is an ever-changing on!
Let us head back to where we started, and talk about her style, and how she believes in minimalism. To add some perspective she strongly thinks that makeup can do wonders, and fill a woman with confidence. “She would have cried the previous night, her eyes would have sunken, but you will not know her story, because the makeup has covered it up, in that way, it’s such a powerful tool.” Chandrappa points out. She also feels that most makeup artists lose their creative train at this point because they try to make them look like a completely different person, but that’s not how it should be, they should look like the best version of themselves, not a newer version of them, she briefs. “The bride might like it today, but ten to twenty years from now, when she goes back to her wedding pictures, she is going to be like who’s that, trust me she will!”
And here is where the hurdle in the makeup industry lie. “People don’t have the right amount of knowledge about makeup, the awareness of what to put on your face, is key.” she highlights, things like cleansing, toning and moisturising (CTM) is imperative, which is not there. Further, professionals here are just teaching each other to paint each other’s face, “Just cake it,” you know?” She states with a serious composure. Adding, “We need to know that Indians have yellow (skin) tones, and we have a lot of shade to begin with, also the fact that makeup looks different on dark and white skin. It’s not so in your face when you see loud makeup on white folks, but for us, something like that would be over-the-top. We need to understand that our skin type does not allow for such loud makeup.” Not to forget the obsession people have with white skin. Luckily, her clients have never told her to make them look fair; she hopes that the day never comes because she would not know what to say to them. “I have also observed that the obsession for fairness is smudging away, because my brides constantly ask me this one question, “I am looking lighter?” And I say no, it’s because you are not used to seeing yourself like this.”
And she has all this clarity, in just in a year, which is hard to believe. This reminded her of her first actual bridal client—a lady called Priyanka. “I went to her house in Sanjaynagar to give her a trial. I think she had seen some pictures of my work on Facebook and Instagram. And just with that reference she contacted me and asked if I could give her a trial. I am telling you this because I am really glad that she gave me that chance (it rarely happens with novices, you know?),” she remembers. The bride had a Christian wedding in the morning and a Punjabi reception in the evening. She had to create two different looks at her first gig. And Chandrappa was happy with how each look turned out, exactly how she had imagined Priyanka to look, weirdly enough; the bride has similar visions playing in her head too. Game, set, match!
But even talented people never go unpunished. One such oops moment of hers occurred with a bride name Pooja, “Such a sweetheart she was. So, when I was working with her, there was this one particular brush, which I think I had used on her hair, but I used the same one on her cheeks too. Interesting, the light (during the shoot) did not catch it, nor did the photographer figure it out, and the moment she stepped out her cousin was like “What is that?” And I looked at her and I went, “What is that, what did I do?” The fact was I could not notice it with the bright light on. Lucky for me the bride laughed it off!”
Like other creative jobs, makeup art too is a rigmarole, you sweat, your cry, you cut corners, like other creative forms, it doesn’t come cheap (contrary to people’s beliefs), and it also has the risk of being forgotten, but still she ignores all of them, because a smile for her clients is all it takes for her to look forward to a new day. “The fact that I can make the bride smile on her most important day is just something, you know? It’s just this feeling; I can’t even explain it to you. That smile on her face is my motivation, to be honest. And it makes me feel good because I had a part to play in her happiness,” Anurita Chandrappa signs off.
And what does the future hold for her? Good things and heaps of success are obvious, but a makeup school of her own is somewhere in the distant future, and a lot of smiling faces, Chandrappa’s ultimate drug!
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