With a mop of curly hair, a hint of kohl and an infectious grin Ambika Pillai may not look the most-sought-after celebrity stylist she is. But then, in her own words, it’s her personal template, quiet and subtle. Other than creating the looks on red carpets and runway shows, the beauty and hair expert is now busy judging a reality show, the very reason she is in Kerala, far from the cutthroat fashion circuits in Delhi.
For her, entering the beauty industry and emerging as brand Ambika was a matter of ‘total default’. “When I first opened my salon it was called ‘Visions by Ambika’, but within one year I decided to build it into a brand rather than remaining as a name and later brought out my cosmetic line,” she says.
She has an enviable clientele that includes Bollywood divas, fashionistas and socialites, but Ambika asserts she is catering to all. “I don’t concentrate on the rich and the famous alone. My salons are not for celebrities coming in chauffeur-driven cars. I have kept my rates affordable so that everybody can walk in.”
Behind the dazzling looks of every star there will be an expert with unerring instincts. Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Bipasha Basu, Deepika Padukone - you name them and she has given them all an edgier makeover. She must be the first choice for many Bollywood beauties, but Ambika insists that cinema is not her scene. “I am not a Bollywood person and I hardly watch any Hindi films.” Though it was her hands that created the serene looks of Aishwarya Rai in Taal, she feels that films are not the right place for a make-up artist. “In the films you are expected to constantly keep a certain line of the look, and then, fashion has always been my forte. I have been doing fashion weeks and shows all over the globe and that is what I enjoy doing,” says Ambika whose career highlights include shows in New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Mauritius and Switzerland along with a long string of awards.
Unlike the people of her league who swear by fairness procedures, Ambika believes “brown is beautiful”. “I really don’t understand this fair skin fixation. I am totally against fairness creams. Most of the Kerala girls are blessed with this honey complexion and I really don’t understated why they want to go two shades fairer. Do you know that the fair skin ages more quickly? Be proud of the skin you are born with,” she says.
She is irked by the fact that every second girl in Kerala has her hair rebonded and she is pretty amused to hear that ‘it’s not a stylist but a beautician’ who cuts your hair in Kerala. “Chemical treatments are the worst thing that can happen to your hair. All your major hair problems like hairfall and dandruff stems from it. I have chemically straightened my hair six times and I have learned it the hard way. There is nothing better than your natural hair. You can style it the way you like using the best products available. But rebonding means you are struck with straight hair.”
Ask her about the in things this season and she goes all gung ho about the styles that are storming the scene. “Teardrop side bangs coming over one eye are very in and so are girlie lip colours like orange and pink. Then shorter haircuts are very sleek and happening if you are more into western cloths. But in India as far as hairstyles are concerned long hair will never go out of trend. It goes with our customs and dress sense.”
She believes Kerala is slowly waking up to the idea of grooming. “Delhi was not very style-savvy during my earlier days there. But the scene slowly changed and then suddenly I was doing forty cuts a day and was booked up three months in advance without a single minute to spare. I think now Kerala is ready for that,” she says.
But at the same time she feels Kerala is still lagging behind when it comes to fashion forwardness. “Kerala is still not open to the idea of makeup. I think a girl should be able to wear hot red or pink lipstick without twenty people commenting on that. But that will take five or six years more to happen,” says Ambika who is all set to open her salons in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram by the end of this year.