Makeup is an Art, Your Face is your Canvas, Your Confidence can make it Shine, So learn to make it SPARKLE!
- Lekshmi Menon
This is my Story
"Love of Beauty is Taste,
The creation of Beauty is Art"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is my story... a story of a passion that started with something by mere curiosity at a very young age to wishing to build my name in the field of beauty and makeup for women all around the world. My name is Lekshmi Menon and I hail from a beautiful and wondrous state in India called Kerala. If you are one of those people who relate to India as just a few cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru, then I should definitely say, you are missing out!! I am a self-taught makeup and beauty expert, learnt everything over many years through lots of reading, experimenting, trial and error... and also got inspired from several pro makeup artists like Pat McGrath, Gucci Westman,
Charlie Green, Lisa Eldridge, Kevyn Aucoin, Rae Morris and Bobbi Brown. I grew up in Kerala. My native place is in Thrissur but raised in Kollam since my father is into Cashew nut exporting business. Since my father was into Cashew exporting and Kollam being the hub of it all, we often got involved in a lot of society events having elite members of the society get together for chit chat, drinks and food. I remember at the tender age of four, going for such events when I happened to see lots of beautiful and elegantly dressed women and getting inspired. I often wondered how their lips were all pinks and reds.. You see, my mother never wore makeup, still does not, not even a lipstick so I did not actually know what made their lips so pretty and red.
In fact, I thought it was liquid Eyetex Shingar that these women have applied on their lips. (Liquid Shingar is actually a red liquid which women used to draw round shapes on their forehead instead of their bhindi). My mother always wore a Shingar so I presumed it to be that. One day at home, I saw my mum's Shingar and I immediately took that and applied on my lips. It was such a disaster, but my mum caught me and asked me not to wear Shingar ever again on my lips and instead she bought me my first lipstick ever for me to play with. I do not remember the name or the brand, but it was a pink lipstick and I remember being really, really good at wearing it. Since then, I dabbed it on my lips lightly before going to every event, new year parties or occasions with my family.
When I turned 10 years old, I went to Munnar to study in a Residential School called The Tagore Mount School. It was difficult to stay away from my parents and also it was the very first time I got to interact with a lot of boys since I studied in a girls school before. Studying in a boarding school and mingling with children from different places, countries, ethnicity gave me an insight into understanding a world beyond where I lived. As I got into my teen years, I started watching more of Channel V and MTV and got inspired from seeing their Fashion and Makeup skills. When I turned 13 years old, I remember seeing an interview of Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor after her movie Ashoka was released on Channel V where she said her favourite makeup brand is MAC and her favourite hair colour is from Igora and I went and Googled them. I did not even know each of their spelling but somehow figured out what MAC was. Immediately, I asked my dad's office in Mumbai to get me a MAC lipstick and I still have it with me as a reminder of where my obsession started. It was a Limited Edition Lipglass in the shade 'Light My Fire' and it was simply beautiful. I still take that lippie and look at that shade.. It was a plum shade, a bit of bronze in it with copper gold and pink glitter. It was just beautiful, but I hardly used it all through these years and yet it still smells like sweet vanilla frosting!
I was really good at Art during my school days and was always a bit inclined to the creative side. I loved mixing and matching colours, enjoyed the varied colours of our nature around. That was one advantage I had while doing my studies in Munnar. I was always surrounded by beautiful scenery and always enjoyed watching the changing colours in our sky during sunrise and sunset. Once I completed my 10th Grade, I decided to live with my parents and complete my 11th and 12th grade. By then, I started collecting lipsticks and blushes. I remember wearing a lip liner and blending it to my lips everyday with my school uniform during my 11th and 12th Grade. Right after my 12th grade finals, I slowly started getting movie offers from Regional movies and I did a bit of anchoring for events and television and modelling became something I wanted to explore a bit then. I mean, not ramp modelling, but something like anchoring shows which gave me a better insight into makeup and the world of glamour. I started reading better, knew much more about colour co-ordinations and combinations, experimenting different tones and flicking my eyeliner. Since I was naturally good at art, I was good at mixing and matching colours. Slowly, my makeup collection grew and I was completely confident to pull out varied colours both on my hair and my face. I was never hesitant and always knew that I would be able to pull it off.
My College years, well, let's just say, was not the best of my life to put it on a piece of paper... since the opportunities for me to grow creatively was not something I got through those 3 years of my college. There was a lot of shallowness, close-mindedness, lack of integrity and bullying that I faced during my college years. However, I grew out stronger and confident from all that and shifted to Cochin to pursue my Diploma in IATA-UFTAA. Being in the Airline and Travel industry did not restrict me in my beauty ambitions and helped me experiment a bit more and I was able to pull it off confidently in public. After completing my course, I immediately got selected by Jet Airways in the Cochin City Office where I got the chance to wear more makeup. I remember how my friends used to watch me wear my makeup every day before my shift and how they always commented on how quick I was to draw my eyeliner. I always paid attention to the latest products in the market, new brands, new makeup techniques and always collected Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Women's Era etc and browse through products and makeup tips.
After 14 months of work experience with Jet Airways, I decided to fly to Australia to pursue my Masters in International Business. This was the period in 2009 when there were news reports and rumours about racist attacks on Indians in Aussie land and my father withdrew his consent to send me after seeing a news report of a child who got attacked, fully bandaged and wrapped in a wheelchair, being brought to India. I know everything is not what it seems in the news, but being a father who has to send his only daughter overseas alone, made these reports change his mind. He insisted that I change my course to another country and after speaking to my consultant, she advised me to go to the UK. Since I was looking for a January intake to the university, I had very few options. The Robert Gordon University offered me a partial scholarship after seeing my grades and then I did a bit of research about the course and the university and felt extremely excited about the offer and to be in Scotland.
February 2010, at the age of 23, I took a 3 leg flight alone, from Cochin all the way to the city of Aberdeen. I was wrapped up in a bundle of mixed emotions... anxious, nervous, excited... This is where I understood about the varied colours in makeup, texture, formulations available in the market which got me to read more about it. My makeup journey went a step ahead when I stumbled across an interview by Bobbi Brown while doing my usual makeup tip search online.. which led me to read her book 'Makeup Manual'. It took me a while, but I always felt the need to buy products and understand the right technique to use it. Slowly, my makeup collection and insight into professional makeup techniques grew. I started doing my research on Professional Makeup Artists and then found Kevyn Aucoin and his book 'Making Faces'. This was another book that made me his fan. I understood about the growing online Beauty Community through YouTube and other Social Media Platforms. Julia Graf was one of the first YouTubers I started watching many years back and I always found her to be naturally talented, creative and knew intricate use of colours and techniques.
This was the same time I stumbled across Lisa Eldridge's YouTube Channel and did a bit of research on her work across media as well. This was very interesting for me as I found her to be precise, delicate and her techniques helped me to understand makeup better to be a strategic placement of the right colours. Similar was the case with Charlotte Tilbury as well. She was someone whom I just loved reading and watching.. Her passion for her craft was shown in every word I read and every sentence she spoke. I started following the work of another celebrity makeup artist as well, Rae Morris. The word BRILLIANT personifies her work. This made me tempted to explore various eye techniques, perfect my blending skills, understand better about colour charts and co-ordinations, strategic colour correction, contouring, highlighting etc. I admire many makeup artists from the globe. Pat McGrath is another icon for me. I admire her graphic and editorial makeup skills and I find her to be extraordinary in every possible way!! I literally wish she would adopt me!!!! Sigh! I love the way she knows her craft.. she is a mixture of delicate, sometimes fierce and sometimes intricate looks which makes her the favourite among Designers, Fashion Weeks and all major runways. Recently, I have been also loving Val Garland and her editorial looks as well. Something I adore in awe!
My makeup skill grew over the years.. made it seamless after a lot of love for it and a tonne of practice. If I say tonne of practice.. it literally means tonne of practice!!! Later I could make bright shades work for my lid, work with glitters and pigments at ease.. and whenever I went out, someone would compliment on my eye shadow or lipstick. I learned from mistakes and making errors rather than spoon feeding and I always believe that I am a student. I learn something new from makeup industry every single day.. it maybe tiny, it maybe a chunk of info.. but it is knowledge and it is my biggest strength because I gave it years, I gave it my time and dedication and each bit of that knowledge is filled with the passion I have for this industry.
I got selected to work for couple of makeup brands while I was there in the UK, however, I chose not proceed with it at that time since I had plans to come back to India by then. However, my interest did not lie on just getting women ready for an event. I believe in the art of teaching anyone with a clean slate in makeup and train them to get ready in the best way. I get satisfaction and happiness when women write to me and say that they feel beautiful and confident now. They never knew they could pull off this shade of lipstick but they are so happy now. These words make me feel so, so loved and so, so blessed which is the reason I do what I do.
After coming back from the UK, one thing I have noticed here is that, most women are ready to invest in good clothing or jewellery or even hair straightening but when it comes to makeup or skincare, everyone just goes blank! I know things are slowly changing in Kerala, but there is still a long way to go. Through Social media platforms I have noticed a lot of women bring other women down and put the term "culture" and "values" in every aspect when it comes to makeup. Always remember, these words are a relative term. We need to help boost other women in our society, learn to compliment them, ask them questions on their lipstick shade or perfume... Do we ever do that?
Another thing that I noticed considerably here is the misuse of the word HD makeup. People here consider using MAC Cosmetics in your bridal routine is what is HD makeup and the makeup artists here charge exorbitantly including this word in their salon and bridal packages. Normal women here are not aware about the basics of makeup and assistants at the makeup counter are not even formally trained to assist these women. Several Professional makeup artists that I have met here in Kerala (including some of the so-called Best ones), put little to no effort to understand about the changing makeup trends, new product releases, different kind of formulations etc. These things need to change at the earliest. Through my website, I would like to bring a difference to makeup industry. Do Master Classes for Makeup Artists here, Beginners Workshops for Normal Women, Advanced Makeup for Women who completed their Basics Workshop etc. I will also be considering women living outside Kerala and thereby trying to include Video Consultation Facilities whereby I will train these women one-to-one through Video Chat on different looks, guide them etc. I have also been able to work at various locations for clients such as Nykaa.com , Lulu Hypermarket etc and collaborate with them as makeover partners for their activities.
I want to be able to connect with people easily through Social media and all other media, if possible and to let them know that I will be available to them, whenever they need me. I have been able to share my work through various media outlelts like Asianet News, Flowers TV, Mathrubhumi Kappa TV amongst others. I would always remember what Kevyn Aucoin said, one of the greatest weaknesses of women is being timid. You let the fears of others judgement frame how you are to others and often you present yourself fearing that judgement. That is the biggest mistake you can make as a woman. If you wish to dress up, let your confidence and smile shine through. This will stand out better than anything else.
Sending all my lovely readers a million times of love, hugs and pecks!! Love you all my angels!
Lekshmi Menon speaking at the British Parliament in London. She is only the 2nd Indian from Beauty Services to speak at the British Parliament after Shahnaz Hussain, who achieved that feat few years ago.
Launch of the book cover of the english & malayalam version of Makeup Artistry book.
Lekshmi Menon was chosen as one of the Top 50 Emerging Beauty Industry leaders in the European Union and India
for the year 2019