December Issue 2013
Interview: Natasha Khalid
“It’s raining brides at Natasha Salon,” reads the caption on a stream of photographs on makeup artist Natasha Khalid’s immensely popular Facebook page. But it isn’t until one steps into the busy salon that one really gets a sense of those words, as decked-up brides rush to get last minute lipstick touch-ups and final spritzes of hairspray.
In a span of just one year, Natasha has become a household name and the makeup artist of choice for many brides-to-be. Her Facebook page currently boasts 275,000 fans and she has done makeup for a wide range of celebrities including Sonya Jehan, Humaima Malik, Sanam Saeed, Mahira Khan and Faryal Makhdoom, amongst countless others. In 2012, Natasha and her mother Hina Durrani — also a makeup artist and hairstylist — were nominated for a Lux Style Award in the Best Emerging Talent Category (Hair and Makeup). Other than bridals, Natasha is also known for her spunky editorial looks, ‘glamformations’ and beauty shoots while her sister, Sabrina, an accomplished hairdresser in her own right, does those much sought after fish-tail braids and detailed up-dos that the salon is also famous for.
In contrast to the stoic, old-school glamour vibe that comes across from photo shoots of the makeup artist gracing various fashion magazines, in person Natasha appears very down to earth, with a casual and carefree manner; her conversation is occasionally punctured with good-natured humour. You get a sense that Natasha isn’t someone who takes herself too seriously. And yet, the passion, ambition and serious work ethic that drive her success is also hard to miss. After all, no one achieves the kind of success Natasha Salon has seen in such a short span of time without those fundamental ingredients. Not even if they happen to be Madam Noor Jehan’s granddaughter.
Madam’s presence is apparent in the salon, with large, sepia-toned photographs of her in the reception area.
The very busy makeup artist took some time out to speak to Newsline about her work, influences and, inevitably, her grandmother, while getting ready for a night out (“Very few people actually see me doing my own makeup.”). Hundreds of products by makeup brands like NARS, Urban Decay and Chanel are strewn about her work table, which Natasha confesses, is only a small portion of her entire collection, and the walls of her studio are plastered with high-fashion magazine cut-outs.
Hina, her mother, is also present in the room, giving last-minute touches to a bride. She mentions Natasha’s childhood passion: “She was obsessed with cosmetics. She would break my mother-in-law’s makeup cases, play and make pastes out of makeup! She would even practice on our maids.” To which Natasha interjects, “Yeah, and it used to be scary makeup, not pretty at all. Very similar to the ‘Beautiful Creatures’ shoot I did recently. Whenever they meet me today, they say it’s great that I made a career out of it and that their ‘sacrifices’ were not in vain.”
The two sides of Natasha — the serious professional and the avant-garde experimenter — are reflected in her work.
How and why did you decide to enter this field?
I had been passionate about makeup since I was about 11 years old. I was constantly taking different courses to learn more. When I moved to London, I took an extensive professional makeup course at the Jemma Kidd Makeup School. I also trained under David Horne, the previous head of MAC UK and Germany, who is currently a trainer at Illamasqua. After my training was complete, I worked at MAC in Dubai as a makeup artist and freelanced for cosmetic companies such as Bobbi Brown, Illamasqua, YSL, Gucci, Lancome, the Body Shop, Bourjois and Mikiyaji.
I came to Karachi two years back, and along with my sister and mother, opened Natasha Salon just over a year ago. I enjoy the control I have in doing everything myself and this way, the quality of my work doesn’t suffer.
What is the House of Noor?
House of Noor is a company my sister and I came up with when I was still in Dubai. It’s the umbrella under which everything my sister, mum and I ever do that is glamour or fashion-related comes, including Natasha Salon. We’ve also thought of a makeup and accessories line.
The company is inspired by my late grandmother. She is, in effect, the ‘head’ of the House of Noor.
Did you know your grandmother well? How has she influenced your work?
Yes, very well. I was nine or 10 when she was recording Tarannum — a programme my mother was compering — in which she was singing her classics. I would go with my mum just to watch her. Among my earliest memories were those of my grandmother taking out her jewellery or putting on her saris — there was such a glamorous aspect to it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it had to be something connected to that world. I wanted to be like her.
When I was about 13, I would go out and buy around a hundred nail polishes — much to my mother’s irritation, who would yell at me to return them. But I still remember when my nani actually bought a hundred more for me, at triple the price, and then told me to go and buy some more! She was always very encouraging. Even when she was quite unwell and in hospital, I would bring her makeup and she would tell me to try different looks on her. She loved makeup herself, and she loved dressing up.
You have mentioned before that she is your style icon.
Yes, for my entire family — my cousins, aunts and my mother. No matter what kind of a style we have, it is inspired by her in some way . You may not see us copy exactly what she did, but you tend to feel she’s around.
We’re the kind of family who will wear lipstick even if we’re just stepping out to get groceries. We’ve always seen her and all the other women in our family do that, so it’s very normal for us to dress up even for ordinary occasions.
And how would you describe her style?
Larger than life. That’s what I loved about her. She was a singer, an actress and a larger-than-life personality herself. Her makeup tended to be very loud, with lots of contouring. I can’t imagine that look on anyone, except her — the style icon.
I have jewellery from her collection that she wore when she was younger, which I can still pull off today because that’s how cool she was. She had these big necklaces with tiger heads and chains and metallic handbags… she was much more experimental than even my mother and aunts.
Do you draw inspiration from that era?
I put my grandmother in the same bracket as other classic beauties such as Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. I am very influenced by that look; my personal style is derived from it. I like women who really make some form of an impact and turn heads when they enter a room. I like hair and eyes that make a statement. And I like the 50s and 60s era with thick eyebrows, big eyes, voluminous hair and and a winged eyeliner.
How would you describe your signature look on clients?
My signature look is ‘glamorous.’ If it was left to me, everyone who walked out of the salon would look like a movie star. I think our signature look could also be the ultra glossy, glowing skin we do — what I call my ‘100 Watt Skin.’ I think before we came in, a lot of people were mostly just doing ultra-matte looks. Our clientele also tends to like the big eyes, lighter lips, or lips that ‘pop’.
Were there any makeup artists who inspired you when you were growing up?
Yes, majorly. Kevin Aucoin was the biggest influence, I think he was a genius. My mother bought me his books when I initially showed interest in makeup, which I think was her way of encouraging me. David Horne, who I worked under, is also an amazing makeup artist. Then there’e Francois Nars, Alex Box, Kabuki, Pat McGrath, Charlotte Tillsbury, Gucci Westman and Lisa Eldridge.
What kind of shoots do you enjoy doing?
More than bridal and party makeup, I enjoy doing editorial shoots because that is the space in which no one can come between me and my vision. For bridal and party looks, I have to give the client what they want, and makeup can be very subjective. So I may think something looks nice, but my client may not. But with shoots, I have full control. I can create these unrealistic fantasies — which is actually why I got into this business. I love all shoots, as long as we’re doing something different and I hold the creative reins. I don’t like doing the same old smokey-eyes-and-pale-lips. If you see our shoots, you’ll notice that we like to push the envelope a little bit.
We try to think outside of the box and show that we are just as good as any international makeup artist or photographer. Kind of like what we did in the ‘Beautiful Creatures’ shoot, for example. But 90% of the people who see it will say, “Yeh churailaian kyun banaye hain aap ne? Aap ne toh shakal kharab kardi.” On my Facebook page, this one man wrote, “Astagfirullah, loag mar rahe hain aur aap loag churailain bana rahay hain.” I had to delete him; why was he on a women’s salon page, anyway?
No one seems to be open to anything new. When we came here, people asked why we do hairdos instead of the blow-dries everyone else does. It’s now one of our most popular services in the salon. So I think people slowly become more receptive, as you educate them and offer something different.
Which is your most memorable shoot to date?
‘Beautiful Creatures’ is my most recent one, so it’s fresh in my memory and close to my heart. My mother did the hair and I did the makeup, and we also came up with the concept. Nadir Feroz Khan, who I work with a lot and is like family, did the photography. So it was a great team effort and I’m really proud of it.
But, like any creative person, I’m never really satisfied and am always thinking about my next project, about something bigger and better — maybe I’ll do something on an airplane, or underwater…
Which models do you like working with the most?
Amna Ilyas is my favourite, and we have a great rapport. I can make her look like a desi girl, a European model, an alien… She’s very versatile, gets the concepts and is good at delivering. Another one from the new crop of models that I really like is Amna Babar. She has a beautiful bone structure and knows exactly what to do in front of the camera.
What I also love about these two girls is that they have great personalities and there is no diva-like attitude. They’re good fun and know how to get the job done… And the rest of them are going to hate me for just taking their names!
Thoughts on other makeup artists in Pakistan?
They’re all doing good work, but I do feel that everyone could push the boundaries a bit more. It would be even better if we all took it up a notch and did crazier shoots, and also more beauty shoots.
We are trying to introduce newer things and anytime something new is introduced, I think people are drawn towards it.
What would you say to someone who is clueless about makeup?
Learn, learn, learn. I conduct makeup classes as well, although not as much as I’d like to as I don’t always get the time. Makeup is such an amazing tool that women have. Men just have to live with their faces. Sadly, they can’t do much with it. But every woman has the chance to just change things up a bit. Even something basic like getting the right concealer or the right shade of red lipstick can make a difference. And have fun with it. The good thing about makeup is that it’s not permanent and you can wash it off if you don’t like it.
So, my tip to anyone who is clueless about makeup is: stop being clueless!
Name your top five products.
MAC Mineralise Skin Finish. I work with that a lot, and it comes in many different shades. I also love Chanel Pro Lumeire Foundations, Nars Orgasm Blush, Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliners and LorÃ©al Telescopic Mascara. These are my personal top five, although I have a million others I want to mention. I can’t ever have enough of makeup.
This interview was originally published in Newsline’s December 2013 issue under the headline, “The Beautiful and Glammed.”