Deepa Verma is the most under-the-radar (yet the best) makeup artist in our country. IF and when she chooses to do makeup for a fashion show, models love her because she is super gentle on their skin, applying makeup with an airbrush. Real women love her because she makes them look amazing while still retaining their personality. I know her since 2002 when I was working with Cosmopolitan. She did my wedding makeup and was already using an airbrush way back in 2003 when I got married. While other makeup artists aim to make the bride look fairer, Deepa tanned me a complexion darker so that my photographs would look amazing (they did!). She’s extremely selective about her work, and is known for her colourful language and strong opinions. You have no idea what a task it was to get this interview out of Deepa. But when you read her answers you’ll know why I chased her for a whole month:
How do you define beauty?
It’s a total embodiment of your personality and your inner soul. When your soul is happy, when you’re confident, when you’re feeling content, it just reflects on your face, and you look beautiful. Beauty is being true to yourself. I love glamour, but for me it has to be something you do all the time, like you wake up looking glamorous and carry it through the day. It has to look like a part of you instead of me wanting to see the person behind this mask of makeup. The individual character and personality are far more superior for me than outward beauty.
What is the biggest beauty mistake that women make?
Pretending to be someone they're not. For instance changing their skin colour, or contouring, which I hate. If you have a full face just embrace it. Contouring just makes you look like you have another person sitting on your face. Sadly, the makeup trend these days is to make everyone look the same. When I pick up a magazine or when I go through a tutorial, its all about how to look like XYZ. Its generic. No one says how to make your face look beautiful or enhance what you have. Its all about how to hide your jaw or change your features. I just feel like this makes you become somebody's idea of beauty instead of just enhancing what you have.
On the other hand if you work with your own strengths, your own personality will shine and come through instead of that superficial idea of beauty. Why should we all have blowfish lips and big pupil eyes? I just find people who are simply dressed the most beautiful. I get drawn to people who are more natural. I’m not against makeup but it shouldn't look like someone else is sitting your your face. Makeup should make you look like you’re born with that flushed cheek or glowing skin. I just find that these days foundation tends to overpower what's hiding inside. I’m against this whole mask makeup. It looks like a POP (plaster of Paris) wall. Do people really need fake eyelashes? What is the idea with everything exaggerated? I feel this kind of painted-on look drowns what you're given - it takes away the fragility of your features.
Give us a makeup trick that you discovered on the job.
I use this trick on myself: I mix the Peter Thomas Roth Unwrinkle Illuminator with foundation and smooth it all over the face to make my skin look even and glowing. If you don't want a very heavy eye concealer (especially when it creases on mature skin) it is good idea to mix your cream concealer with any illuminating moisturiser, and then pat it on the under eye. I also love bronzer but I feel that sometimes it can look too sexy. To make a bronzer look pretty I top it up with a salmon pink blush. I use NARS Orgasm on clear and poreless skin, and Laura Mercier Blush in Fresh Ginger on problem, breakout-prone skin.
What is your skin and hair routine like?
I love Bio Oil. I massage it on my face at night. As I’m getting older my skin is changing from being excessively oily to now combination, and dry in patches. This is a very light oil that moisturises and softens without making my acne-prone skin react. In heavy winter my favourite is the Kama Kumkumadi Oil at night because this makes your skin feel soft and plush - I even use it on my hands and arms. In fact, the Kerala Arya Vaidyashala will also have some fabulous oils. In the hot summer I hydrate with pure aloe vera or Blossom Kocchar’s Hydrating Seaweed Pack. I let it sit for 10 minutes and then wash - it makes my skin feel so moisturised. I use this Seaweed Pack on models' skins sometimes instead of Clarins Beauty Flash Balm because it also helps tighten the face.
Its a struggle to keep my hair clean because it has psoriasis so I have to wash it every other day. I use a shampoo that has coal tar and salicylic acid, which was recommended by my dermatologist.
If you had to suggest five beauty essentials for women, what would they be?
It’s absolutely essential to have a good moisturiser.
Fantastic mascara because eyes are the window to your soul.
Its nice for every women to have her favourite evening lipstick - either in a red or wine shade.
A good dermatologist who you trust not to botch your features.
A great yoga teacher.
What are your favourite makeup products?
These days its the Dior Serum Foundation; Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer; Innisfree Brow Pencil for its perfect texture; Chanel Écriture de Chanel Liner because its like a sketch pen and has a strong black colour; and Guerlain Terracotta Bronzer for the best glow.
How important is diet and exercise when it comes to beauty?
Super, super, super important! I feel diet is a very essential part because what goes in is what makes you. I am a big believer in ayurveda - how your food affects your mind and body. Hot foods like pickles, meats, fried stuff, chillies etc will aggravate your skin. I love satvik food, although I do have my bad days. Exercise is a part of it. Its a great way to realise your toxins.
What is the best beauty advice that you’ve ever got?
Its the advice that I received, which is also my philosophy now. Take away the discomfort when you dress up. For instance I see so many girls struggle in stilettos and walking so ungracefully that it becomes like a big joke. Unless comes to you naturally, it will always look wrong. We cannot just go by a formula or trend that hits the market. We have to be careful about how we filter that formula so it becomes a part of us instead of being something we are trying to fit into. Like coral lips, not everyone looks good in them but so many girls try to fit into that.
Do you have a tip about becoming more confident?
The only tip I would give is that you need to be true to your soul. The moment you try to deviate from what you are at your core, your soul will never be at rest. And this is when your confidence suffers and your whole personality shatters.
What is the advice that you’d like to give our readers.
Its just one life, have fun! And also: Do what you love and love what you do.
Lead image of Deepa in her glasses: Tarun Vishwa.