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As we entered Amy Billimoria’s House of Design in Juhu, Mumbai, we knew we were not in Kansas anymore. The store exudes a happy feeling. From the décor of the store to the clothes housed within it, we could tell that this was going to be a departure from a traditional bridal makeover.

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We met at a common friend’s wedding in Lonavla, after which we started meeting almost twice a week with friends. We got along like a house on fire; it felt so comfortable talking to each other, it was like we were long lost friends. The initial courtship felt more like a game of hide and seek. We didn’t want to tell people yet as we were still getting to know each other.

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7 Jan

The big beauty evolution

Mickey Contractor, one of India’s leading makeup doyens, traces the transformation of bridal beauty on Indian terrain

From Asha Parekh’s winged eyeliner to Priyanka Chopra’s luscious pout, the silver screen has been setting beauty goals for young girls and brides-to-be for decades on end. Needless to say, behind every leading lady is a makeup maven with artistic brush strokes that transform her look. In Bollywood, Mickey Contractor is the glamour guru, who has managed to evolve and modernise beauty trends thereby leaving the bride-to-be with enough and more inspiration for her big day. As we celebrate the metamorphosis of the Indian bride over the years, Contractor takes us through his journey of seeing and being the change in the world of makeup on his home turf.


Big hair demanding an awful lot of hairspray, bushy brows, lurid makeup—the 80s truly was a decade of excess. “I was already a working makeup artist in the 80s. Back then, there were no fashion magazines, social media or the internet. We didn’t even have computers!” exclaims Contractor. Everyone followed trends that were set by film stars. “So, if we were working on a bridal sequence in a movie, we would use a lot of gold, copper and rust. Eyeliners and faux lashes were abundantly used; the smoky eye look wasn’t discovered just yet. In the 80s, whenever one thought of putting together a bridal look, they were naturally inclined to use orange-brown, russet or bronze shades,” he shares. While the decade gave birth to gaudy, kitschy shades that ruled the makeup palette, for Contractor, there was one person who pulled off these looks with mighty ease and trendsetter panache.“Rekha was the diva who every girl looked up to back then. She pulled off these shades with such flamboyance and confidence that whatever Rekha did, people followed blindly and I was one of them,” he says.


In the 90s, Contractor saw a transition from bold lips to a more toned down, subtle version. By the 90s, he started to acquire somewhat of a celebrity status; people began to take him and his work a lot more seriously than they did a decade ago. One of Contractor’s now favourites, Kajol, made her debut with Bekhudi (1992). He recounts how he ushered in an era of opaque, neutral lips. “We were shooting for Bekhudi in Toronto (Canada) and on my way back to India, I bought three nude lipsticks. Once we returned to our India schedule, I used my first nude lipstick. Today, one wouldn’t call that shade ‘nude’, but by the standards of those days, it was.” All of Contractor’s work in the 90s—especially in the films by Karan Johar—subtle, nude lips have been a constant. Contractor is dismissive of red being touted as a popular bridal hue. “Red was used heavily in the 70s and then it went off trend for a long time,” he says, and advises, “If you want to channel a 90s bride look, use nude or a flesh tone on the lip.” Besides the leading ladies back home, Contractor was heavily inspired by the looks of models like Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, both of whom were supermodels of the 90s.


Come 2000 and Contractor chalks the transformation of bridal makeup from lurid (80s) and restrained (90s) to full of pop (2000s). “In the 2000-2010 decade, we saw plenty of bright colours—from shocking pink to electric hues—gain popularity,” he recites.


To a large extent it is believed that the 90s have made a comeback. From shine to glitter, nude lips to soft glam—beauty mavens of today are certainly taking a cue from this decade gone by. “Furthermore, social media is really influencing trends in a big way. Bloggers, makeup artists and social media celebrities (read: the Kardashian clan) are showcasing caked-up looks with a heavy focus on highlighting. They’re so structured with the contouring as well. Never forget that makeup has to be wearable and real—something not too overt, yet not too discreet,” reminds Contractor.


Ask Contractor what irks him about bridal beauty in India and exasperated, he’s quick to say, “I’ve been saying for the last 11 years that women in India wear the wrong shade of foundation because everyone is obsessed with wanting to look fairer. Although, I am going to give the modern bride some credit; over the last couple of years, people do seem to be embracing their natural skin tone. My advice: don’t use new products or try a different hair colour just before the wedding; set aside enough time to change it back to what it was in case something goes wrong. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Most importantly, try to look yourself. That’s the one day you have where you need to look your best self.” Contractor has glamourised Bollywood’s biggest leading ladies on-and-off-screen for over 35 years now. You could prod the industry veteran to name his favourite, but his lips are firmly sealed. Though, before we ended our conversation, he did let slip, “I did Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan’s) makeup on her wedding day and she looked absolutely goddess-like. I mean breathtaking—literally, there was a gasp in the room when she made her appearance.”

Photos courtesy: Getty Images

Lynn Lobo / [email protected]
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