While I was in Dubai, I had the immense pleasure of meeting the charming and brilliant MAC Senior Artist Vimi Joshi. Originally from India, Vimi has been working in the Middle East for the past 15 years. She very graciously sat down with me to talk about regional beauty, and things an American could learn about makeup from women here.
We began by talking about the differences between Western and Middle Eastern makeup. Vimi recalled first arriving (as a makeup artist from London) in the Middle East and being asked to execute a “nude,” look. “I gave them ‘London-nude,’ and it wasn’t what they wanted at all,” Vimi says. “I had to relearn the vocabulary; I had to begin by asking ‘what do you mean by nude?’”
Vimi explained that makeup in the U.S. is highly influenced by the 20th century, is often celebrity-inspired, and is very much susceptible to trends — tastes can change quickly. From my limited experience, I am inclined to agree with Vimi’s assessment. How often do we see “40s pinup style,” “contoured, androgynous 90s makeup,” “60s-inspired hair”?
By contrast, Vimi said, tastes in the Middle East are slower to change — but women here do love makeup and they love color. Especially for women wearing all-black abayas and hijabs, she says, makeup can be an important outlet for expressing one’s creativity and personality.
“When I first came to the Middle East,” Vimi says, “women here taught me about makeup application. They are masters of drama, creating the most amazing dimensional lip, a showstopping eye. They’re definitely not afraid to try things, to mix products, to play with color.”
“I’ve been happy to watch a few changes take place during my time here. More and more, women are buying foundation with the right undertone, in their own skintone [instead of a lighter shade]. I think we have JLo and Kim Kardashian to thank for that. Thanks to JLo, people are also more willing to try the bronzed look.”
What are some of Vimi’s favorite products for darker skintones? “Amber Lights!” she says. “Smolder Eye Kohl is a necessity; Zoomlash mascara. Right now I’m loving Coppertone or Gingerly on the cheek with Pink Swoon on the apples.” For lips she loves Spice lip pencil with Enchantress lipglass, Plum lip pencil with Ample Pink plushglass, and Burgundy lip pencil with Dubonnet lipstick.
So what’s the difference between Middle Eastern makeup and Bollywood makeup? “Color,” Vimi says. “Bollywood is more classical. It’s defined, but the stars want to look like themselves. You see a lot of smoky eyes in browns and neutrals. Bollywood loves its brown lipstick (and pinks, and nudes), but you’ll never see them in red lips.” Vimi also recounts, from personal experience, that Indians don’t wear a lot of makeup on a daily basis.
Finally I asked Vimi how to adapt Middle Eastern style into something Americans might feel comfortable with. “You can absolutely introduce Middle Eastern drama to your look, no matter where you live,” she says. “Instead of black eyeliner, try blue or green. If Electric Eel is too big a step, start with a darker blue, like Contrast, and work up to it. That element of color feels really fresh.”
“Dimensionality is important,” Vimi says. “Shine (shimmery shadows) reflects in photos, so if you use all shimmer, you lose definition. I like to apply a lighter satin or shimmery shadow on the inner half of the eye, to brighten and open that area. But I blend it into a darker matte shadow on the outer half of the eye. For example, I might use Amber Lights or Ricepaper on the inner half of the eye, and blend it into Swiss Chocolate — or Embark, or Folie. Use Teddy eyeliner under the eye, then smoke it out a bit with the Swiss Chocolate.”
“For a similar look in blues, use Tilt on the inner half of the eye; Electric Eel on the outer half. Line with Auto-de-Blu and smoke it out with Electric Eel. Pinks? Swish on the inner half, Sushi Flower on the outer half; line with Smolder or Feline. Now you’ve got a dimensional, modern Middle Eastern eye that you can wear anywhere. And if you want to kick it up a notch, add a touch of Reflects Gold to your brown eye, on the inner third of the lid. Reflects Blue for the blue eye; Reflects Pink for the pink. Instant Middle Eastern glamour.”
What do you say, readers, are you feeling inspired?