HKYantoYan caught up with makeup artists to the stars Ojas Rajani while she was in Hong Kong for the “Brushes, Blushes and Blending” workshop, which was hosted by Sonia Samtani, founder of Sonia Samtani Consulting. The workshop consisted of personalised makeup tips, tricks and tools to achieve a look that was suitable and appropriate for each individual. 

Thanks for meeting with us again, Ojas. First things first: has the industry changed? And how has it changed in the last 20 years?

I think it’s changed for the better. Things have become more professional. The outlook towards makeup has changed definitely to a great extent. Let me give you an example: if you look at Shilpa Shetty’s movies in the early years and her movies now, there is such a great transition in her look; her makeup, styling has changed for the better because people started understanding makeup in a better way. Earlier everyone was very scared of makeup artists. I remember when I used to do bridal makeup about 15 years ago, people were shocked and they thought it was strange. We were more popular in films and Bollywood than in bridal makeup. I remember early on, there was a Muslim lady who I did bridal makeup for. And people thought she had put war paint on her face, and they didn’t want that. I think if I see the pictures now, she looks like a bride from today. People are more open to suggestions now.

You’re always travelling, but how do you keep up? What drives you?

I think I’ve always been a workaholic. I enjoy what I do. I’m a Virgo, so I think Virgos are go-getters, and they love to make the most of everything. I guess that’s where it comes from. We tend to discipline our days. I may be travelling and working for a month non-stop but then I’m taking a short break for myself in June. That’s my me-time. I take one holiday in a year, come what may. But I’m also a shopaholic, so whenever I’m abroad, I tend to make the most of it. I love to take the time to just look around. I don’t just mean blindly shopping, but window shopping, just looking at things, getting ideas, maybe for household items and home décor. That’s my second passion. I’m doing that for somebody soon. I love doing home décor. As a child, I was fascinated when people did their homes, and did different things. All these things please me, I find peace in it.

You’re quite the creative type.

Yes, very creative from young. I used to do clothes as well. I worked in costume design for some time. I love all these things. When I look back, I don’t regret anything because it’s made me who I am today. It gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I’m not sure if you know this already, but I used to be a chartered accountant. I’ve graduated as a chartered account, thanks to my dad, he was an accountant. That’s the time my dad realised what my passion was. After the first six months of working in an office, my boss told him that I wasn’t made for a desk job. Even there, I would interfere with the receptionist; I’d ask her why she had done her hair in a certain way, why she was wearing such a boring sari. They were all so annoyed with me; I’d come to work as a chartered accountant but I spent more time poking my nose in their business, asking them about their hair and makeup. That’s when they told my dad that maybe I didn’t belong there, and maybe he should do something with it. My dad gave me a week and told me to figure out what I wanted to do. And I started working with Mischief, and that’s when my mum thought that she needed to pack me off and send me abroad to her sister in Miami, USA. So that’s where I went, and my whole life changed, and it changed for the better.

My parents made us financially independent from when we were young. I never had to ask my parents for money for clothes and shoes. My sister and I were always financially independent. She’s just one year older to me, so we had the same friends and we’d go for parties together. It used to be so much. Our parents were proud of us because we used to be able to look after our education and our own expenditure. We never expected them to do too much for us. When you succeed in life, parents will accept you with a big smile. Every parent wants their child to be happy doing whatever it is their doing.

Keys to Success: Brushes, Blushes, & Blends
Keys to Success: Brushes, Blushes, & Blends

How do you look after your own skin and hair while travelling and working?

I try and sleep. At destination weddings, I don’t attend too many of the functions. In my Bombay office, the phone is constantly ringing, I’m meeting clients. But when you’re out of town, you’re away from everything. Once I’m done doing the hair and makeup for the bride for one event, and she leaves, that’s my free time to de-stress. I also have to plan the next look, prep the makeup for the next event, keep the hair extensions ready, maybe drape a sari and keep it ready. There’s lots to plan. I may not be doing just the makeup for the bride; I may be doing makeup for the mother, sister, mother-in-law as well. There’s so many things to do. If I’m not rested well then I also become grumpy and a bit tired. And my back kills me throughout. And you’re so jetlagged. It’s not always easy. It looks glamorous but travelling so much and is not always easy.

Let’s switch gears. Makeup trends for this year. I’m seeing a lot of brights and neons. What’s your advice on how to be on trend this year? How can we achieve that look?

I love this question. I think people should not just follow trends because it’s the “in” things to do. You have to see what you can carry. Every designer has so much variety in stores, makeup studios have the same. But just because you’re wearing a certain colour or style, it doesn’t mean that it works for you. I’m sure actresses also don’t just blindly follow fashion. You have to go with your persona and your character, and also with your job. If you work in a bank and wear neon nail polish, they’ll throw you out of the job. That has to be taken into consideration. You have to enjoy what you do but also have the confidence and panache to carry it off. It’s not about lathering your face with so much makeup, green and blue eyeliner, and colouring your hair. You can still look trendy and chic by wearing a white shirt and jeans and carrying a handbag. Maybe do your hair up in a nice pony tail, wear a little gloss on your lips and a cheek tint. Of course, you need to look appropriate for the event that you’re going for. If you’re going to a pool party, you’ll dress accordingly, if you’re going to work, you will dress appropriately for that too.

Regarding fashion trends, people have generally become more experimental with clothes and makeup. Sales of makeup in all the boutiques have just shot up over the past few years. Every mediocre or middle-class person also wants to experiment with a little bit of makeup. Even if they don’t know how to use it, they’ll try their best. There’s so many cheaper brands where you get lovely nail colours, lip colours, eye pencils. Just putting a bit of green or blue eyeliner can still make you look fashionable, pretty and young.

Let me tell you about India. People always say that in Bangkok and Hong Kong, the ladies dress up more. But in India, the ladies who work in the bank also put little lipstick, use some kajal, their saris are neatly pleated. So they have a sense of fashion too, but it’s appropriate for their workplace. Everyone can look neat and presentable. I always feel that while looking presentable, you can also look great. By looking great, you perform better at work.

More than hair and makeup, I think grooming is very important. No matter what industry you work in, you have to look presentable.

As we’re in Hong Kong, I’m sure you’ve experienced the heat and humidity. What are your three skincare tips?

I always advise to anyone that the minute you get out of the shower, you should rub ice cubes on your face. That cools you down. Even if you’re wearing a bit of powder or lipstick, it stays put and doesn’t become too oily or shiny. You’re makeup doesn’t run. Normally in the rain and humidity that happens. It keeps your makeup intact.

Carry blotting tissues with you. They work like a miracle. For those who are working, a quick tap on the nose and the cheeks will help you to look set.

Nowadays you get those two-in-one or three-in-one lip tint, cheek tint and eyeliner. What better way than that? Even if you’re driving or travelling on the MTR, you still have few minutes to touch up. And there you’re looking great, like a million bucks.

Most importantly, keep yourself hydrated. If you’re not hydrated nothing will work for you.

Students learn their makeup from the expert
Ladies learn makeup tips from the expert

How about three makeup tips?

I think for summer, less is definitely more. I would always stay away from concealers and heavy foundations. That will clog your pores and will complicate your skin. Try and just use powdered foundation if you really need it. Or just a little bit of translucent powder. You also get misty foundation sprays. It gives an airbrushed look and doesn’t look so cakey or too much for the day or night.

Try and use waterproof eyeliner. The minute you leave your house if it starts running, you look like a raccoon. Either use a gel eyeliner or a kajal eye pencil which is waterproof. They last all day long.

Avoid using lip gloss. It will start to bleed and will look horrible for the rest of the day. You get long wear lipsticks nowadays that last for up to 12 hours. Or use lip tint.

How about makeup and hair tips for people who are travelling for the summer or heading to a destination wedding?

Carry palettes. You get lovely eye shadow and lip colour palettes nowadays, and they always have the right colours that you need. You don’t necessarily need an array of 40 colours, you may only need a black and a brown. I hate people matching their outfit with the eye shadow. It looks too much. Maybe carry a jewel green eyeliner pencil or a blue one. Or just a black or brown eye shadow. You can create makeup magic with just the bare minimum.

How do we go about achieving the looks we see on the catwalk and in magazines? Would you advise following these looks?

Like I said, you just can’t follow fashion blindly. You have to see your own face, skin tone, bone structure. Many brides come to me and expect to be transformed into Aishwarya Rai. And you have to give them a reality check. They expect me to come in with a fairy godmother’s wand and transform them, but it doesn’t always work. I always meet with my brides first and give them tips for diet and skincare in the run up to their wedding. They need to do at least 40 per cent, and we can do the balance and make them look great. So, don’t blindly follow the fashion trends. What you can carry off with more confidence will turn out much better than simply trying to copy a celebrity.

Any advice for aspiring makeup artists?

Blend, blend, blend! Your foundation, your blusher, your eye makeup. You shouldn’t be able to tell where one colour starts and the other ends. It should be like a work of art. That’s step one.

Check out our previous interview with Ojas Rajani here


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