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Radio Mangalam Interview : Lekshmi Menon FRSA speaks about her RSA fellowship, makeup and her future


Recently, our creative Head Lekshmi Menon FRSA was interviewed by one of Kerala's leading radio Channel, Radio Mangalam, for their programme, Mukhamukham, where they interview people who have excelled in their respective field of practice. We have reproduced the transcripts of the interview for the benefit of people who would like to know more about Global Makeup Artistry. People who understand Malayalam can hear the interview below.

Hello Everyone. Welcome to Mukhamukham to all our listeners. Its me Sindhuri with you in Mukhamukham. Our guests in Mukhamukham are always related to current affairs or someone who have excelled in their respective field of practice. Definitely, they will be well known as well as we would be knowing many things about them. Through the Radio Mangalam (RM), our main purpose of Mukhamukham is to bring you more information of each one and their works. But today's topic is different. Today, our guest is someone we may not noticed in today’s busy life but received world’s attention and became eligible for a reputed award. Mrs. Lekshmi Menon, first Indian Makeup artist who received famous RSA fellowship from London. Makeup Guru Lekshmi Menon from Kerala is here with us. It is our pride that Lekshmi Menon is a malayali who has trained women to become Makeup artists thereby making them financially independent. She is one among us who received world’s attention and became eligible for RSA fellowship. Many won’t be familiar about RSA fellowship. So let’s understand what is RSA. RSA is a fellowship from Royal Society for Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce, London. Whats makes RSA different is because of its Patron. That Patron is Queen Elizabeth II from Britain and its a 264 years old society. RSA awarded Lekshmi Menon as a fellow of Royal Society of Arts. Some others famous personalities who have received this fellowship are James Bond, actress Judi Dench, Musician Alex James and composer Benson Taylor. From these predecessors of RSA fellowship, you can now understand how much its valuable. I am heartily welcoming Lekshmi Menon, who have received this fellowship to Mukhamukham.

(RM) : Mam, welcome. Very happy to meet you, mam. Firstly. we are heartily welcoming you to this programme. We all associate a Makeup artist with a film industry. And someone who is teaching makeup or Makeup Guru often limits themselves to some organisations. But mam, you are different and have reached a big recognition. The most important thing in this recognition is that even though you are a Makeup artist, you have taught how to do makeup to many women and tried to empower them in their life. That’s the most important reason for receiving this recognition. Can you please explain the reason for doing so?

Thank you for the introduction. From the childhood, I was very much interested in Makeup. I always says this is a God’s gift. Because my parents or no one in my family does makeup. My mother won’t even use a lipstick. I got the curiosity from the society in my childhood. My interest started from my curiosity. As I grew up, the hunger for knowledge for this curiosity also increased. But after going to UK, I got a perspective how to professionally and globally view makeup. Until then, I was just following Indian style. But globally, Makeup artists are performing scientifically as well as products are launching. When I came back from UK after studying, I came to know that here we are still following the old ways, that is, the way makeup artist are performing, the approaches, the outlook of the society. That’s the time, I felt that the industry should be refined, should teach makeup scientifically likewise confidence should be build. These arouse interest in me and developed as passion. Most of them don’t have confidence in their skin tone. I used to get many emails and message regarding this. Initially I began this on online. I used to help many women and men regarding skin tone, makeup and skincare queries. I used to write articles. This is the way I began this. Then I realised that the industry is growing globally and still we are living in a cocoon. I must change it. Here, many likes makeup and wanted to become beauticians, makeup artists, there are people who likes this field from childhood. The change should come from them by educating how to use cosmetics scientifically, process of makeup step by step how to formulate, what are the social responsibility when they become artist. I call this effect as Ripple effect. Ripples effect means what I educate my students will be taught to their clients. From the confidence of the client, they will pass it on to their friends and family. That was the mission I wanted. It is a kind of balance between what I teach at the same time the confidence I give to society to embrace themselves.

(RM) :This is what make you different from other Makeup artist. I know, instead of saying makeup artist you like to be called Guru. This importance pave the way to this recognition. What did you feel when you came to know about your nomination?

I was shocked because I never expected it. I came to know about the nomination from the RSA board. I was shocked to hear about nomination. But then, they have a board to elect the fellowship. I was very shocked to receive the mail from the board regarding the nomination. They have a detailed board to elect from the nomination and decide the fellowship. When I came to know about the fellowship, I was excited. I was in Delhi. I was quite overwhelmed to receive messages from others because first Indian Makeup artist. RSA is 260 year old society and till now there are 27000 fellows out of 260 years. From India, there are only 40 to 50 people that too from entrepreneurs and from different fields. But there is no one from Makeup field in India. So I felt completely overwhelmed and to express, sometimes we say that we don’t have words to express our emotions, we haven’t discovered the words, that was the way I felt.

(RM) :Mam, you have received the fellow of Royal Society of Arts. The predecessors are James Bond actress Judi. When we look overall, there are only few people who have received this recognition. So this is a award that comes with responsibility. How do you see this responsibility?

Now, I got a very big responsibility. I wanted this to be fully fledged. At the moment, I do the training focusing on Kerala and national wise on online. But I want to take it global. That is my mission. Every student that comes to me, they need to learn to embrace themselves. I always say is that you are born, what you are is genetic. I always used to say that beauty is not something that belongs to a some section of group. That is our perceptive. Everyone have beauty in their own way. We think that it’s nice to put makeup only for those who are beautiful. No! There is a power in makeup. Power means when the colour elements comes on the face, we get a confidence and that is scientifically proven. That is the reason, in the olden days the warriors and tribes paint their face. There is a power in colours that we apply on the face. Its is very much psychological. That element or the feeling should come in everyone. My mission is to bring that feeling. After getting RSA fellowship, it’s a global ambition for me. It’s a feeling that should come in everyone, and not for some exclusive people. There is no age group or some colour tone people. Everyone can do makeup and everyone is entitled to that feeling.

(RM) :It’s a high time to bring a change in our perspective towards Makeup. Talking about Makeup, especially in Kerala, like you said the discrimination is there. Beautiful people concentrate on makeup and others with not much beauty will not be interested in makeup. Some consider makeup as a passion whereas some others think that there is no need for makeup. How do you rate the perspective of our society towards Makeup?

We have many misunderstandings in our society. Firstly, according to me everyone is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. This is something that begins from our childhood. It’s not a sudden thing. It’s sedimented from the childhood. People with skin tone, with no pimples, with clear skin, with beautiful eyes are defined as beautiful. But it’s not true. It's in our genetics and in the eyes of our creator we all have our own uniqueness. Beauty is when you embrace this uniqueness. Each one have their own skin type, skin tone, shapes… its innumerable. When you notice each ones face, there is a beauty in every face. It's the ability of the artist to identify that face. Here, the artists think that they don’t have much work if a person have better skin tone or beautiful whereas the artists will be worried that how they will whiten the person if he/she is tanned or dark skinned. This is type of thinking should not be there for an artist. According to me, an artist should see their beauty first. Artistic means to see that beauty and Makeup artist means to see the beauty of face, should see the beauty of each face. This type of perspective is little low here. Most of the makeup artist don’t have social responsibility. When someone comes and sits in our chair, they are coming with lot of expectations. It’s the responsibility of artist to make them feel good. In my class, social responsibility is an element I teach my artists. Because when an artists meet a person, from that second till they go, how the artist make them feel is important. They may wash off their makeup that day itself but the feel they get from the artist will stay. That is what I teach. That culture should come here also because there is a segregation like… ‘others are beautiful and I am tanned so makeup won’t suit me’ others say… ‘I am old. I am 40 years old and others will say things’. Makeup will suit everyone. In that there is no age or skin tone nothing. Everyone can wear makeup and there is a beauty in it. Artist should understand that as well as the society too. That is the beauty.

(RM) :Surely Mam. If you people could see that beauty, definitely it could be felt by us. In this society, it’s not that long the beautician course took its form. And also women who came to this field for earning have not been that much active. But it's changing now. How do you think this change affect the financial structure of our society? How do you view it economically?

See, for us ladies, we like whatever that is beautiful. Take in case of small kids, they like makeup and to do makeup. But here, when we speak of career, generally we categorise career and some careers will be given importance. But for every career it has its own importance. We will choose particular career at different point of life. Right from plumbers to drivers… Everyone does their profession with sincerity and worth. Likewise beautician, at some point of time we go to beauticians whether it is male or female. It’s a profession with flexibility. We like it. Becoming a beautician or Makeup artist is enjoyable for those especially people with artistic interest or creativity. It’s a flexible professional for most of the women especially becoming a Makeup artist. There is no need to set up a shop. They can prepare their own kit and when they get proper practice, they can freelance at their home. There is no need for a studio or a shop. It is one's interest. Likewise, there are many cosmetics brand available and they can also work for many global brands also. It's a profession that can wake up your creative mind. If you are a freelancer, you can balance your family life with your profession. Many of us, from childhood will be having interest for makeup, but due to our society’s perspective that it is not a professional, they move on to another profession. There is something that is called happiness from inside. When we do our profession, there should be happiness and satisfaction from inside. There are no words for that. There are many students that comes to me who are from IT, bankers, engineers and from other fields who are not happy and satisfied from their work. They all dreamt of being a beauticians or Makeup artist from their childhood and came to me to learn makeup. From this I could understand that many are coming to this field. Identify your interest and follow your heart and be happy. This moment is ours. There is nothing like that we should do a particular profession in this life. You should always follow heart. A big example is myself because I studied Master in International Business and Entrepreneurship from Scotland. But this is my field and this is what I love. So I would suggest anybody, men or women, whatever they like even if it is beauty field, go ahead and do it. And bring about a change.

There are only few who are doing something different from their field of study like you, for the happiness of the heart. Everyone else, according to their circumstances, entering different fields. Like you said, for coming generation who have identified their interest and following their hearts are selecting this course, which is the course you will be suggesting. Most of them will be looking for short term course of 3 months or 6 months. Apart from these course, to become professional which course will be better.

It is not the duration we should be looking to become a Makeup artist, you should be looking for the quality in the content. You should be looking for what all you are learning. For example, my course is for 2 months. In this 2 months, training period is 10 days. Advance courses are coming, but this is for those who have completed the beginners course. These 10 days are very intense. We are concentrating on the quality of teaching. Those who wanted to learn, you should not jump into but do your research. As always research from the institution, trainers and understand what they are teaching, course content, contact previous batch student and enquire whether they were taught good. It’s very important to do your basic research. Duration does not matter, it’s the quality of training. Another important thing is that, it should be present times training not the old way of training. Because the field of Makeup always change from time to time. New brands are coming, new formulations are coming, there have been an increase in the research on skin and many types of finishes are coming. So make sure that you are equipped and professionalised from where you have studied. For that you should look out for quality training institutions, good instructors, course modules and always call them and understand before enrolling.

(RM) :Thanking you Mam. Can I ask one more thing. You said that you completed a course relating to business. To follow your heart, you reached this field. How did your family supported you for this?

Family was shocked. They know my interest for makeup from my childhood. I was just 3 or 4 years old when I put my lipstick for first time. My mother never used any makeup and I took her Shingar for putting it as a lipstick. I even don’t know what a lipstick is. It was my mother who told me that it’s not the shingar, you should use lipstick and she bought me a lipstick to play with. So they know my interest towards makeup. But many was shocked when I talked it as my profession because I studied in a scholarship. I got my rank on Bachelors from Kerala. After doing my Masters in International Business and Entrepreneurship from Scotland, when they heard about this they were shocked. But my biggest support is my husband. He supports me for everything. He is very motivating for me. When I talked about this during our courtship, he realised that I was very creative, I got a mission, I studied business. So it is not a small thing that I got a mission and I am a beauty entrepreneur. When most of the people like my relative, distant relatives heard regarding beauty, they all asked me whether I became a beautician. I answered them that I studied International Business not to work or develop someone else dream. I studied to develop my mission and business. So I will do my 100% to develop that dream. I trust my instincts. That was my answer. I always say that we should follow the voice from inside and don’t let others to pull us back. You have to always follow your heart.

(RM) :Mam, I am feeling very happy. We ladies, mostly don’t follow the voice from inside. Some don’t have the circumstances to follow the voice but you could do it, Mam. The RSA fellowship is the recognition for that. You also said that even though you are an entrepreneur, makeup is always a weakness for you. When was the happiest and satisfied moment in your life?

See, the iconic moment was the moment I got RSA fellowship. I have no words for that feeling. Then, when I teach my students.. when I transform them I get a feeling of ecstasy. It don’t have to be a celebrity. I always like ordinary students very much. For bridal makeup, party makeup and for Face Palette, there is a campaign for Makeover life. I was very touched with this campaign. Generally, boys don’t have much interest for the girls who does makeup. I started this campaign for anyone, anytime can do the makeover. Makeover doesn't mean to put something on the face, it’s the feeling they get. It can be done for any age or any skin tone. For that I did Makeover Life campaign. Fortunately it became one of the reason for RSA fellowship. I gave free makeover in this Makeover Life campaign. Many travelled from Kannur, from Trivandrum to get this free makeover. After the makeover, the feeling they get is a very beautiful feeling for me. I don’t have words to express it. That is what is makeup. Each time when I get a new person and their reaction is very beautiful. No words to explain that reaction.

(RM) : I could feel that heart touching is that for you, Mam. Makeover is a recent thing otherwise it was done only by film stars and celebrities for their characters. Its is surprising changes. Now it is even done by ordinary girls also. They like the makeover very much even it is a change in the hair style, or using a specs. What all the things to be considered to select a makeover?

Firstly, as an individual, we should embrace what our skin type, our hair type, our skin tone. It should not be like curly hair ones want straight hair, straight hair ones want curly hair, dark skinned wants to be fair and fair ones wants to be dark skinned. Everyone should embrace what we are. Based on that we should develop the routine for makeup and for the hair. If our hairs are curly, learn to maintain that curls. If it is straight hair, learn to make it beautiful. Even the skin is tanned, it has its own beauty. Everyone wants to bleach their skin and whiten their skin. It’s not whitening, we should understand what we are and then makeup accordingly. This is the first aspect of Makeover. Embrace what we are. Then only after makeup, we will be natural and beautiful. Natural means not making contrast. If a person is fair don’t make her dark and if a person is dark don’t make her fair. We should work with what they are. That is actually Makeover is. It’s transformation but without changing their identity. Like I always say, each one have a personality. Understanding that personality or that identity we should do the makeover and enhance their features, give some colours. There is a power in colours. That is the reason our nature is beautiful. There is positive energy in our nature. Isn’t it? When we see our nature, we get a positive energy. That positiveness is the set. Why we all like sunset and sunrise? There is a beauty in it with their colours. That’s why there is a beauty in colours and when these colours go on a phase, it has a beauty of its own. Maintaining that, we should work. That is what makeover is. Anyone can do makeover. It has been always my ambition to do Makeover for less confidence people. I am aiming it through my future MakeoverChangesLife campaign. Without changing their identity, bring a change in them to make them feel confident.

(RM) : Surely, wishing many can take part in that campaign. Our time is running out. You did your studies from UK and also you received your recognition from UK itself which is your happiest moment in your life. How do you see Makeup from other countries?

In global artistry, what I like is, most of them are embracing their skin tone. Likewise, they have changed from camouflaging means heavy layers of makeup to skin like finishing. That is very beautiful and this is being followed globally. The biggest example for this is, in case of Royal family, wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was live and Bridal makeup was so beautiful. Freckles of Meghan Markle’s skin was visible. It was glass like finish. It was because they didn’t camouflaged heavily, on the other hand, they gave a natural finishing that showed her freckles. And it has its own beauty. That is exactly my perspective. We don’t have to be afraid of our spots or identity. I say, for a photoshop you can do it but for a bridal makeup you don’t have to be afraid of it. You should have a confidence in yourself. A big example for that is, the recent wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry because that makeover was exceptionally good.

(RM) : Mam, from our ancestors makeup have a place in our history. In most the countries too, their ancestors also used to do makeup. Which countries makeup did you feel influenced.

I like Cleopatra’s makeup. It’s like Egyptian style because it’s where the makeup started. Makeup started from Egypt. So Cleopatra’s makeup is an inspiration to me. It’s from the nature, from bugs and beetles, they extracted colours for lipsticks. For blush, they crushed berries from nature. So that is a big inspiration. To understand how makeup evolved, first we have to understand how it started. Now, many pigments, colours, formulations are available. But there was a time these were not there. Even then, at that times whether it was a male or female, they have a perspective for makeup. That's why Cleopatra is an inspiration for many even today. So Cleopatra is someone whom I look upto and I love her makeup.

(RM) : Ok mam. You have already told us that you have an aim and you studied business to fulfill that aim. You are in a journey towards that aim. What are the expectation we should have from you? We all are excited. What will be the gift we will be getting at the end of your journey?

My mission is to refine the makeup industry in Kerala.By refining I mean to produce good artists for the industry. Good artist, in the sense, people with good practical and theoretical knowledge. We need to produce good knowledge equipped people. We need global artist because tomorrow when they travel and talk with any artist, they should be having knowledge to interact with them. There are many learning from the Youtube. Even when you are learning from Youtube, you should know how an artist does a real life makeup, how to do a client makeup, what are the social responsibility as an artist. They should understand themself, when a clients comes and sits on their chair there is something called B2B in Business, likewise I say, those coming to FacePalette its Beggars to Billionaires. That is, from beggars to billionaires those who are coming to you are your clients. You should understand that and move on with responsibility. It’s is very important to create confident girls and boys. We instigate from childhood that after going out we are bothered of tanned. You should have the confidence to say that it’s ok and will go away after sometime. That type of confidence in people is my mission and drive. It’s not the number of makeup I do, but its the number of people I produce who are eligible to do makeup. Those who are passing out from FacePalette should be equipped and eligible. That is my biggest mission.

(RM) : We are praying, hoping and wishing that yours mission can be fulfilled as soon as possible. It’s a pleasure we could know you. Thanks a lot.

Thanking you so much my dear for this opportunity. Thank you to all listeners. I am very happy to start my mission from Kerala. I cannot stop thanking for all malayalees and others. I don’t have any words. Thank you so much.

(RM) : I am certain that todays Mukhamukham will be a different experience for all. In today's world of protecting the beauty, Lekshmi menon is a makeup artist who changed the perspective of the beauty or a guru in the field found herself a place. Her mission is to make other women who have interest in Makeup, like herself self empowered. Wishing her all the best for that. Thanking her for the time we are wrapping the Mukhamukham. Signing off Sindhuri.

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