Who doesn’t know Lisa Ray? We've all admired her beauty, and perhaps also wanted to be her with sparkly eyes and full lips. But I really got a peek into her mind and heart when she wrote a feature for Harper’s Bazaar about breast cancer. It was a very personal account of how her body had changed after chemo and cancer drugs. And how strange it was to walk on the red carpet for the first time after her body was, well, bigger and more bloated. (Link to her feature at the end of this post). Her clean, candid, open hearted story was written so beautifully that it really set her apart - she is more than just a pretty face. This year in January I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa in person at Vidyaloke (where I also met the Dalai Lama) and found that not only is she lovely to look at but also really nice and very humble. Now that’s real beauty according to me. Read on for her thoughts (and her amazing selection of skincare!):
What does beauty mean to you?
I’ve frankly always struggled with defining beauty. For myself its a feeling. It’s a sensation. It’s a knowing. I have always been sensitive and introverted and because of that I’m an observer. I notice small things and find beauty on the sidelines of life. It’s not what’s in the spotlight that I find beautiful. I’m not attracted to conventional beauty. In some sense, beauty is a way of seeing, without categorisation, but paying attention to what arouses in yourself.
Does the idea of beauty change with age and experience?
Of course - and it must. We must keep evolving. Beauty becomes less an ideal to fit into and more an encompassing philosophy for myself. I’m so much more relaxed about what I look like and who I am. I own it today and no one can convince me that I’m not beautiful, because its not dependent on mere external appearance. While when I was young - no one could convince me I WAS beautiful.
What is your skin and routine like? What products do you use?
I try to keep it simple, and organic, toxin free. I cleanse with water and Skin Laundry Purifying Cream Cleanser. I use a lot of serums, and two I swear by are Kama’s Kumkumadi and Intelligent Nutrients Renewing Oil Serum. I use Sodashi’s Balancing Face and Neck Moisturiser or Subtle Energies Mogra Rejuvenating Gold Cream on top along with an SPF. I’ve sourced out a natural, organic, broad spectrum sunscreen product called Badger from New Zealand.
For my body, I slather on Purearth Bitter Apricot Oil or their Mandarin Body Butter which is simply divine and uses ethically harvested products from the Himalayas. And facials. I do regular 10 minute laser and light facials at Skin Laundry when I’m in Hong Kong. I wish they would come to India!
Is there any beauty tip/trick that you’ve gleaned on the sets?
Honestly - none. Can you believe I’ve picked up next to nothing after 25 years in the business. I simply never took an interest, I’d listen to music or read a book while my makeup was getting done. I’m a minimalist when I’m not working. Or I call a glam squad. I’m more interested in keeping my skin, mind and body healthy.
How do you feel about fragrance?
I’m glad you asked. My favourite is Lisa Ray Jasmine of India by the 7 Virtues. Ethically sourced and free of most of the binders and toxic chemicals in fragrances, this collaboration with my friend’s company The 7 Virtues supports Jasmine Farmers in India as well as a unique program called COFVI, which trains the blind to be perfumers in Mumbai. As of now, Jasmine of India is available in department stores in Canada and the States and online www.the7Virtues.com.
How do you stay fit?
Here’s the thing - I’m probably fitter than at any other phase of my life, though it takes a lot of effort for me to remain lean at 45. I’m also on a cocktail of medications for my condition, multiple myeloma, one of which is steroids. As of now, I have tennis lessons twice a week and I love it! I’ve just recently started learning and I’m aiming to get competitive soon. In Hong Kong I go to a studio called H-Kore which holds classes in the Lagree technique on super reformers. I call it Pilates on crack. I’ve had a consistent yoga practice for almost 20 years now. I’m actually a trained yoga teacher, I co-own a studio in Canada but these days I am called to a gentler, more mindful practice. In Bombay, my yoga teacher, Twinkle, comes home. In Hong Kong I get in morning walks and hikes as we live close to Bowen Road which is a nature trail. In Bombay, I practice Pilates with Samir Purohit and mix in some swimming. So I try to be active everyday, but I don’t push myself to the extent I did in my 20s or even 30s. I joke that I workout so I can eat what I want these days.
Are there any supplements that you swear by?
So many…where do I begin? As a cancer graduate, I focus on a holistic regime which benefits my health so both my inner and outer appearance benefit. I have an entire shelf of supplements which I take and I also test my nutrient levels regularly to see what’s out of balance or what I might be lacking. But my regular routine is B plus, vitamin D, digestive enzymes, colostrum (a form of milk to increase immunity), honokiol (from the bark of magnolia to treat cancer, chronic inflammation etc), calcium, magnesium and fish oil. I do a detox or cleanse a few times a year. My favourite retreats are Vana and Kamalaya.
What do you carry in your bag?
Kama Rose Lip Balm and a great lipstick. My friend, Hong Kong based makeup artist Natasha Moor is developing her own line and I’m at the receiving end of her samples, which are fab.
What are your three favourite makeup products?
Bobbi Brown CC Cream SPF 35, Benefit Benetint and Benefit Watts Up.
What makes a person unattractive?
For myself, its a negative attitude, insecurity and a manic energy. I’m like a scanner so I see into people’s psyches and I can read body language very effectively after years of drama school and real world experience.
What is the biggest beauty mistake women make?
Using makeup as camouflage. Not celebrating your uniqueness. Not valuing yourself. Not loving yourself. Frankly, you see it now a lot in hindi cinema where all the girls look the same and dress the same.
What is the best beauty advice that you ever got?
'Less is more. And add some sugar to the tomato sauce.’ This from a fabulously distinguished Italian woman when I lived in Milano. Just watching the Milanese women everyday was an education in how to celebrate individuality at every age.
Did your perspective on beauty change after cancer?
Everything changes post cancer, or on graduation as I call it. There’s simply more clarity on what’s important in life and all the superfluous stuff melts away. I’m so much more secure. This doesn’t mean I don’t make an effort in making myself look beautiful, but its more for myself and less for others. My routine is less fussy. I see beauty in everything - and everywhere. The nuances of everyday life fill my canvas now. There’s less striving, more real contentment.
Any message that you’d like to give on beauty?
Trust yourself. Celebrate yourself. ‘Normal’ is a dryer setting. What makes your different is where your beauty lies.
Here's Lisa's story as it appeared in Harper's Bazaar India last year: