The world of beauty and fashion can feel really overwhelming. Magazines and editorials shape the way women and people perceive beauty.
In a space where such extensive judgment exists, rarely do you come across someone who not only understands high fashion beauty but is at the same time protective and kind towards each face they work with.
Mitesh Rajani, is just that rare person. He’s one of the most in demand hair and makeup artists in the industry today. A true collaborator, he commands each set with his light humour and easy camaraderie. He’s done covers for just about every leading fashion publication and has worked with the best designers and photographers.
Every face he works with lights up in confidence and joy. He knows just how to make anyone feel beautiful.
We’re incredibly lucky to call Mitesh one of our closest friends. He’s been a JODI collaborator right from our first collection. To witness each other grow in our chosen careers has been really special. All the while being there for each other personally too. Who said you don’t have real friends in fashion? We found our best boy here :)!
Mitesh is wearing our Naomi shirt.
Tell us about your relationship with beauty growing up. Did you always feel a connection with the creative world?
Growing up in a lower middle class family in India, I wasn’t exposed to any real beauty enhancement techniques or real makeup. Wearing talcum powder or oiling your hair was the only day to day exposure I saw to facial/personal beautification. But I do vividly remember how on certain occasions my mother would wear flowers (gajra) in her hair or paste a bindi on her forehead. It made me feel like she was dressing for something special. Just adding subtle symbols of beautification to her everyday routine.
What sparked that decision for you to leave your desk job and be a Hair and Make-up Artist?
I guess it’s the flu that sparked the decision for me to become a makeup artist. Jokes aside, I was working in client servicing and had the flu and I could not go to work for a few days. Two days turned into two months and I sat at home knowing that there was no way I could go back to that corporate job.
I had no real direction about what else I could do, when an opportunity arose on its own. A hair salon in Hyderabad was going through some restructuring. I decided to invest and buy the place and started running it with its existing staff that was employed there. As I spent time in the salon and observed the workings of the place I got excited to learn about how it all worked. I was awestruck by the outcome of a simple blow-dry. How it made women feel sexy and beautiful when they walked out of the salon. That felt really powerful to me. That I could have the privilege of making someone feel good about how they looked.
Mitesh is wearing our Lapis shirt.
Who were your beauty idols growing up? Films are in some ways our first peak into aspirational beauty. Which movies left an impact on you.
Watching Mandi and Sardari Begum really made me look at how women could look beautiful with really little makeup. Even observing sex workers from afar left an impact on me. Their crude way of enhancing beauty really appealed to me. I found them stunning. Alisha Chinai in her song Made In India was EVERYTHING. Suneeta Rao and her curls in Pari Hoon Mai!
I also loved Rekha in Khoon Bhari Maang and Sridevi in Naagin.
These are all ICONIC looks. I don’t think my work would ever emulate or reflect them because the idea of beauty has evolved so much for me. But I will always love those moments in pop culture.
Share with us your journey as a freelance Make-up artist?
As an outsider in an (fashion) industry that is difficult to break into, how did you find your space?
I have been genuinely very lucky to have met really good and interesting people who have done nothing but helped me in my career. I may have also met people who have tried to put me down, but I think that’s also part of any job or any industry that you are in. You will always meet people that appreciate you and some that are not willing to accept you or be open to you. I personally choose to focus only on what has helped me grow.
Some of Mitesh Rajani’s gorgeous hair and make up works.
What do you consider your big break in the beauty world?
I still think I’m waiting for my big break. I’ll be happy when and if I get signed to globally represent beauty brands like Dior, Chanel, YSL or Tom Ford - all of whose products I personally love.
You follow a less is more approach when it comes to make-up, which is rare in today's hyper filtered version of beauty? Tell us a bit about this approach?
The way I see it, every make-up artist looks at a face and sees it differently. I have to admit that there have been many instances where I look at other artists' work and think it’s so beautiful. But when I am to work with that same face, I just don’t see beauty in it the same way. My idea of beauty is to celebrate the features of the face. Every face has something that is striking, interesting. I like to play with that and celebrate what exists. My aim is to make it look more profound. Beautiful, but real and relatable.
The rawness of a face is really what attracts me. With hair too, I try to keep in mind the natural textures. Even if the hair is done up, how would its natural texture react to situations and processes. That’s the kind of make-up and hair that excites me.
Mitesh is wearing our Kelso shirt.
What does your creative process look like?
I generally like to think backwards. When I first see a face I try to envision what not to do with it first. I try to not look at work with preconceived notions of what will look good on a specific face. Does a party look have to have a smoky eye or a dark lip? Not in my opinion.
I try to focus on specific features and what I shouldn't do with them, so that I know I'm not repressing anything in a bid to try and beautify them. Once I know what tropes I don't want to fall in, I allow my hand to move freely - taking in the shape of the face as organically and naturally as I can.
Mitesh is wearing our Gauguin indigo shirt.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to doing someone's make-up?
My biggest pet peeve with make-up, in general, is perfection. I really dislike how people think that make-up will make you look perfect. That every flaw will be hidden, the eyes need to be lifted, the jawline has to be cut and the cheekbones need to shine. I get really frustrated when I see that type of beauty. For me, beauty is imperfect and fun.
The industry is saturated with artists and It seems to be getting harder and harder to get noticed in today's crowd? Any advice for the youngins on how to establish themselves?
The industry is saturated but at the same time, it isn’t. There is enough work for everyone and you find a range of artists. When I started out we didn’t have agencies looking to hire newer Make-up artists. But these days agencies are looking at newer artists who have a good body of work.
I would say concentrate on your book for the initial days and try to understand the language that you want to communicate through your work. Because there are different kinds of expertise you can bring to the table. There are people who lose their own style because they just do whatever it takes to work with celebrities. It is very important to understand your style and focus and concentrate on your area of expertise and what you want to do. It takes longer to establish yourself this way but is the most sustainable way to do it. Try and choose things that matter to you, that’s the best way you can have sustainable growth for yourself.
Photographer: Sana Thampi