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Magic make-overs

Beautician Ambika Pillai helps models and brides put their best face forward


FOR RAMP stars, brides to-be and now, news anchors, Ambika Pillai is a `make-up artiste with the midas touch'. The woman behind many well-groomed faces, Ambika obviously seems pleased by the sobriquet. "From driving a Luna almost 20 years ago to owning a Toyota today, it's been quite a bumpy ride. So I don't mind wearing success on my sleeve," said the darling of Delhi's glitterati, who was at the Kanya beauty parlour recently to demonstrate the strokes and lines that make a stunning bridal face.

If Aishwarya Rai's curly locks and near-natural look were a hit in "Taal," Ambika had a hand in it. "Ash insisted I continue to do up her face in films. But post-"Taal", I felt more connected with the fashion world than films. Since then it has only been my salon and ramp shows."

Ambika's tryst with the beauty business began with haircuts. A proverbial outsider in the glamour-struck metro, who is still uncomfortable with Hindi and dal-roti, she took destiny on. And became a rage. "I am driven by challenge because it brings out the best in me," she averred.

Before starting her own salon in Delhi about eight years ago, she worked as a freelancer. Creative and with a no-frills temperament, Ambika soon became `Ambu' to style honchos such as Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Arora and cat walkers such as Noyonika Chatterjee, Bipasha Basu, Sheetal Malhar and Sushmita Sen.

One of the three make-up artists at this year's Lakme India Fashion Week, she lent a distinct touch to the presentations of 33 designers. "With the fashion scene shifting from Mumbai to the Capital, my diary is chock-a-block with shows and shoots," said the big-time beautician.


If these were not enough, she is also into making brides and news anchors (Aaj Tak and Headlines Today) put their best face forward. On the must-list of happening Indian weddings all over the globe, people book months in advance for her expertise. "Many of the girls walk up to me years later and thank me for making them look into their album with pride. It is quite exciting."

Unlike many others, Ambika goes about her job patiently and passionately. "I keep looking into the mirror for a true reflection of my work. I take less then 10 minutes to do a model's face at shows and 30 minutes for a bride."

"Minimalist is the mantra in make-up. But for brides, the matte finish is passé and glitter is in — shimmering shades in powder, mascara, lipstick and hair colour," said Ambika, whose three sisters are also into the powder-puff routine.

Though part of a flashy and flamboyant world, there's an emotional streak in Ambika's work. "Among my clients are also cancer victims and the specially challenged people. While helping them see the beauty of life, I realise inner charm never needs a facelift," she said.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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