(this post is really long…sorry!)
My blog has been a part of my daily life since the first day I moved to India. But I’ve realized that I haven’t been writing very much lately. According to a friend, this is a common affliction for bloggers around the one year mark. So to shake things up I’ve come up with an idea that gives me ‘a new project’ to start my motor running again. In a few weeks my new website will launch, which is still my blog but with extra bells and whistles that I couldn’t have easily added into my standard WordPress template.
The new website has been wonderfully designed by a professional and he has integrated my photo into the main design of the website. And this is where my story begins! I’m really nervous about my picture being so visible. Really nervous! I want to use a photograph that feels like “me” and hopefully projects a nice image. And so my journey began…from a calm and sane person, to a crazy person who ditches a young girl on the side of the road, has a total meltdown and requires an emergency cocktail. Because actually capturing that photo wasn’t so simple … or at least getting ready for it wasn’t.
In preparation for the shoot, I:
- Bought a new saree with the blouse designed by owner Shashi Singh from Sanskruti Silks (thanks, Shashi!)
- Scheduled time with my photographer buddy Hemanth Narayana who agreed to snap the photo in a studio in Jayanagar.
- Sorted out my hair and makeup with a very sweet friend-of-a-friend who owns a salon that I wanted to give some exposure to since I always planned to write about my experience (although sadly the story hasn’t worked out as I anticipated as you’ll see so I won’t be telling a soul – not even my friends – her name or the name/location of her salon out of respect. I’m sure she’d prefer that I don’t write about it all but it was such an interesting day for me, I can’t help it)
((Gentlemen, there is hair and makeup detail in the next paragraphs but then it gets better with foul language, street-side drama, and an emergency vodka shopping trip so try to suffer through 🙂 ))
I’ve had my hair and makeup done by professionals dozens upon dozens of times. I LOVE IT! And always feel better about how I look than I normal do once they’ve finished with me. And since I’m pretty inept at applying makeup, I’ve always relied on and trusted the person applying it to judge what’s best for my bone structure and skin type.
The day of the shoot arrived. I showed up early to the salon to ensure I stayed relaxed and calm because I tend to get a bit nervous at photo shoots when I’m in front of the camera. But from the first round of base/foundation that was applied to my face, my peaceful calm started to strip away bit by bit – oddly as it sounds, I think because I’m white. The colour of my face with the base makeup didn’t look at all natural but looked instead some colour I’ve never been before. I almost didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. It needed to be removed and luckily the second application was a vast improvement, although still not my actual shade but it was much better. In all fairness, I doubt that any salon has my ‘actual’ shade here, unless they are accustomed to dealing with foreigners on a daily basis. Next, instead of accentuating the ‘apples’ on my cheeks and colouring them a rosy pink (their natural colour when I blush), a really dark burgundy rouge was applied to my super white skin but only from mid-cheek back to my ear (nothing on my little apples!), brushed into my hairline and then up to my temple and again into the hairline (it actually stained the colour of my hair and my graphic designer is having to remove it hair by hair and from my skin in Photoshop because the hairline from my temples to my ears looks orange in the shots – ‘cuz red and yellow mixed together makes orange and that’s exactly what happened). I was also unintentionally given dark circles under my eyes because some dark grey eye shadow powder fell down below my bottom lashes while it was being applied and wasn’t cleaned up. The area was brushed later with loose powder, but unfortunately that didn’t cover it up or eliminate it.
When I had left my flat that morning, I pulled my hair back into a tight bun while it was still wet. My guess is that to avoid the process of wetting my hair and using rollers or a brush to set it properly, the owner used back combing and really firm holding hair spray to try to give it the needed volume for the hair style I wanted. In some ways it sort of worked but it also made working with it almost impossible and she couldn’t achieve the look I wanted. My short, fine, thin hair is the polar opposite to the lustrous, thick, strong, flowing hair that Indian women have. So instead of looking like the photo, I had what looked like a perfectly symmetrical little hair helmet, which wasn’t the look I was going for.
((Okay gentlemen, I’m done with the hair and makeup chatter!!))
I didn’t feel the way I normally do when I’ve been done up. In all honesty, the owner asked me step by step along the way if she should do this or do that but I’m not a makeup person. I literally own one eye shadow compact, one blush, one mascara, one eyeliner pencil and one face powder compact. That’s it. I know what I’m doing with PR, marketing and social media but not so much when it comes to applying makeup – I’m pretty much a dork. What the owner had done would probably have given great results on Indian skin and bone structure or on Indian hair but on me it wasn’t really working. So when I was left alone for a moment I messaged a good mate who’s an actor – who sits in hair and makeup tents all the time – and told him I was freaking out. He wanted to see how I looked so I sent a photo quickly across BBM. It took him 2 seconds to start freaking me out even more by saying that I was “overdone” (not sure if that’s an industry term or not, but I won’t soon forget it). He said that I shouldn’t go to the shoot like that, which wasn’t what I wanted to hear. But he was right. I didn’t really look like me…or at least not the “me” I wanted to project to people day in and day out when they visit my new blog.
And then my meltdown to ‘crazy person’ began…
My tipping point was when the owner of the salon, who I had contacted days in advance and who was supposed to come with me to the shoot, backed out in the end. She sent me out the door with a junior person from her salon and advised me not to allow her to put liquid eyeliner on me because she didn’t trust her for that and I should do it myself (and I still had one eye that didn’t have a perfect line so I knew I’d need a touch up at the shoot).
And that’s when I freaked out…
My driver Shiva and I were sat in the car on the way to the shoot with the junior salon worker. I was messaging with my friend via BBM who continued to insist that I find a Plan B or bail out of the shoot. Eventually I gave in. I called Hemanth and explained the situation. He calmed me right down and told me not to worry, just to come, that he had the “best guy in Bangalore” there and they would sort me out. Phewwww. Okay!
At that moment, I asked Shiva to pull the car over and told the girl from the salon that she should take an auto rickshaw and go back. That’s not the nicest thing I’ve ever done but seemed better than making her wait in the car while I spent a couple of hours at the shoot. Looking back now it’s funny but in the moment I just needed to de-stress as much as possible and having a stranger in the car who I didn’t trust to touch up my face was not helping my stress levels.
Peace and calm started to return to my world little by little. Although nervous and frazzled to bits, I was so pleased things were going to work out. I rested my head on the back of the seat, asked Shiva to put on some music and turned to look out the window where my lovely new saree was hanging from a hook. It only took a minute for it to hit me. Holy crap on a cracker! I just kicked out the person with the safety pins who was supposed to do my saree draping. She was there to get me dressed along with handle my touch-ups! OMG. I called the studio and Hemanth confirmed what I already knew, that no one there knew how to drape a saree. Shit!
I started cursing, freaking out and scaring Shiva a bit…
Then a light bulb luckily went off in my head and I told Shiva to keep an eye out for a salon so I could have the saree draped. We came up on BodyCraft on the high street in Jayanagar and in 10 minutes they had me perfectly draped and out the door, all for only Rs. 250 (about $5). Phewww again!
But looking in the mirror at the salon reminded me that I just didn’t look like ME. When I left BodyCraft I knew…mama needed a cocktail! We eventually spotted a wine shop and I asked Shiva to go in for me because a white lady in a black saree with an off-the-shoulder blouse in broad daylight buying booze hardly seemed appropriate! My little savior returned with a 180ml bottle of vodka at the rootin’ tootin’ price of Rs. 93 ($0.54), a plastic cup and a small bottle of 7up. I poured a 60ml shot into the cup, added 7up and downed it.
Two minutes later we were at the studio. The drink had done the trick and calmed my nerves. Robert Naorem (just Google him!) was like an angel. He and his team are the most sought after hair and makeup stylists in Bangalore and they are damn sweet to boot. As soon as they finished with the professional model they were working on, they kindly let me sit down in the chair. Although I didn’t have the photo of the hair style, I explained the look I wanted and between the three of them they had my face looking like “me” again in under 10 minutes. They brushed out my hair as much as possible, asked if I had a gold headband to better match my hair (woo hoo, it was the new one I bought specifically for the shoot) and they completely redid my hair.
The shoot was easy after that. Hemanth was fantastic and captured the images the designer needed for the website and the logo image for social media (square format for Twitter, Facebook and YouTube) – and even some extras ‘just for fun’ – and within an hour from the first snap I was out the door.
Looking back now it cracks me up but at the time it was stressful. It’s amazing how big a role hair and makeup and clothes play in how I feel about myself. Guess I’ll have to work on that some day. But that’s not my current project so I’m just gonna leave it on the back burner for now!