For Shaifa, a model's backbone is more important than the cheekbones, but inspiration runs skin deep. By DARLENE BROWMERMAN
Shaifa dreams of painting masterpieces the colours of a Rembrandt, Rubens or Vermeer. She knows about facial bones, the texture of skin, the quality of colour and the slant of light. She starts with a blank canvas, primes it, then paints. But Shaifa doesn’t paint models. She paints on models. Or rather, she paints their faces.
If fashion dictates beauty then the magic of make-up impacts image. This is how Shaifa describes the symbiosis: “Put a girl in a mans trousers. Blank she is androgynous. Paint her lips red and she’s no longer a boy. Draw black eyeliner and she’s a rockabilly”. Shaifa speaks in poetic terms. Her brush is her artistic pen.
Artistic rewards aside, Shaifa’s full schedule and her refusal to slow down are part of a socialised working-class ethic. Shaifa painted throughout university and supplemented her income by doing make-up for model’s portfolios. Tyra Brook at Malones of London gave Shaifa her first break. A half-day job was followed by a week job, followed by a three-month stint in London, Milan and Paris and a 7-year career as one of Vancouver's foremost make-up artists. Shaifa proved to be a better painter than pedagogue.
She’s survived the enormous egos of the industry by remaining humble about her success and self-deprecating about her disappointments. Selected as one of a handful of global make-up artists to work on the celebrities for Bollywood Film Fare Awards bash (the guest list included Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Darsheel Safary and Tabu to name a few), Shaifa laughs at her “illusions of grandeur” at the prospect of doing some of the most painterly faces in fashion and at her subsequent disillusionment at being overlooked while an international make-up artist ceremoniously painted the background dancers and a few Bollywood actresses “by numbers”. She shrugs it off. It was by working with such well-known faces as celebrity model-turned-actress Tabu – who kept her waiting for hours, rudely leaving her five minutes to slap on some paint – that she realised a model’s or celebrities cheekbones can always be shaded in, but there is no remedy for a bent backbone.
She, in turn, treats her models with enormous integrity. Her tool kit is the Rolls Royce of make-up cases: Shumera brushes, La Mer moisturisers and lip balms, and expensive spritzers. The high end cosmetics are bought with money earned from moonlighting on weekends for weddings, doing the faces of brides and their retinues. A beautiful brunette of indeterminate age, her own face has a flawless make up application. “Make-up is the fine-tuning between looking good and looking incredible,” claims Shaifa. “Sometimes dark circles under the eyes can have their own charm.”
Although her eyes take on a particular sparkle when she speaks of her husband, businessman Moe Somani, Shaifa seems genuinely surprised that anyone would want to know the details of her life. “That’s all there is,” she says. “There really is no glamour.” As a seasoned well known indian bridal make up artist who has spent half her working life on exotic locations, one could argue, but Shaifa is keen to move on to more neutral territory. Mention beauty regimes and her voice takes on a professional, confident tone: Perricone face wash, La Mer and 10% Eurea
These are her tips for winter: don‘t forget sun block, even when the sun isn’t shining; choose a light reflective base such as Giorgio Armani or Mac Mineraliser; invest in a good mascara such as Chanel Intimitable; if you’re using an eyeliner, make it black; if you’re going to paint your lips, make it red (lipstick should not be deliberately applied – it should look as if it really doesn’t matter). This winter, there can be only one hero – the mouth or the eyes.
Shaifa is working in a photographic studio. Suddenly, the volume is turned up on a heavy base background noise that shakes the basement stained-glass windows. The photographer Tonino Guzo, who she claims is the best takes up his camera. The stylist finishes dressing a male model and Shaifa is summoned, like an angel of mercy, to do what she does best: create visions of exceptional beauty.