There’s more to beauty than being white.

Salina Thind, make-up artist, created these looks and spoke to us about what we still have to learn about non-Caucasion beauty.


Anita Rani, TV star, photographed by Stephen Perry.

DG: Salina, when you hear the term ‘ethnic beauty’, what flashes through your mind?

My immediate thought is colour (both skin and in terms of clothes and make-up). I grew up exposed to a lot of cultures.  I’m of Indian heritage and my mum is from Singapore, a melting pot in itself.

Historically, non-Caucasian cultures embrace colour in clothes and make-up.  However, it is changing and I’m not really a believer in certain colours being more suited to certain skintones. You can make all colours work. It depends how you’re using it.

DG: You’ve an impressive roll-call of white celebrity clients – Princess Beatrice, Davina McCall and Gillian Anderson, for example.  Have you encountered any industry bias towards hiring you primarily for Asian and black models? 

I’ve never encountered any industry bias in this way – and I’m not sure that I’d necessarily see this as a bad thing, either. There are make-up artists out there who still struggle to work with women of colour. I was recently on a shoot with multiple make-up artists and one of the models made a beeline for me. Once I’d finished her base, she commented, “I knew you’d be able to do my make-up properly”. There’s still this fear in women of colour.

Photographer Davide Cossu, stylist Amy Leonard, Hair James Oxley.

DG: You mean fearing that white make-up artists won’t get our skin right?

Yes, sadly. Major models like Leomie Anderson have spoken about this, recently. I’ve had black models passed to me by fellow artists backstage even though they were told to make-up the model. I’ve also had models come to shoots with their own foundation who are surprised when I have the necessary kit. This is still happening, in 2018.

DG: Almost anything is possible in hair and make-up, but what do you love about creating beauty looks for non-white women?

Bringing out their individual beauty. Things like not using foundations which are three shades too light on South Asian women because it’s OK to be dark-skinned – and not messing around with the eye shape of East Asian women so they look like Caucasian eyes. We need to celebrate what we have and what we are, instead of constantly trying to change our appearance.

Photographer Davide Cossu and stylist Amy Leonard for Blanc Magazine.

DG: Can we talk about Indian and Pakistani beauty? When I was growing up, my otherwise loving Indian Bengali mother felt anxious that my dark, skinny appearance would blight my chances of a ‘good’ marriage and social status. What prejudices do you sense, encountering Indian and Pakistani notions of feminine beauty?

Oh, I’ve heard all of that and more. “Don’t tan too much, you’re too dark. Don’t eat too much, you’re too fat. Perhaps put some lipstick on?” [Some still don’t get the natural make-up look]. The list goes on. And yes, 9 times out of 10, it’s to do with “who will marry you??”

Harper’s Bazaar, India.
Photographer Arjun Mark.

DG: So, what beauty statements do you see as empowering for Asian, black and women of colour?

I think the main statement would be to do something because we want to…not because it will help us get or keep a man or because ‘that’s how my boyfriend or husband likes me to look’. We shouldn’t be wearing make-up because we feel like we have to or don’t have the confidence to go make-up free – it should be fun, an expression of creativity that adds to our outfit. Also, I think we need to hammer home the point that there is more to beauty than Caucasian beauty. We’re in a really exciting time – in just the last two years there’s been a huge increase in models of Indian/Pakistani heritage in the fashion industry.

Raye for Modzik Magazine, photographer Elliott Morgan, hair by James Oxley.

Salina Thind was in conversation with Soma Ghosh.

Follow @salinathind

Main photo by Sylvia Draz, stylist, Oliver Vaughn.

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