Making up the rules | Verve Magazine
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Verve People
October 19, 2018

Making up the rules

Photographed by Nihar Tanna. Realisation and Styling Team: Dhruv Tyagi and Ojas Kolvankar

As conversations around gender roles and identity become more nuanced, there has been a noticeable move towards inclusivity in the global beauty industry. Here in India, where the landscape is still dominated by content and products aimed at women, the LGBTQIA+ community is shaking things up. Beauty guru EltonJFernandez meets four forward-thinking members and uncovers what lies beneath the foundation

Divya Roop, 25

His incredible bone structure and towering frame remind me of the jagged terrain of Leh, Ladakh. Like the cold mountain breeze, our conversation quickly turns pages — unfolding and unravelling with beauty. Growing up in a conservative family from Shimla, Divya Roop saw his parents exercise control over his life choices, and he was expected to be influenced by his father’s dignified administrative role at a local public school and follow in his footsteps. He found himself trapped under clothes that didn’t fit and traditional values that didn’t seem to represent him. Outed by his own sister, Roop finally decided to try out the wings that he’d never spread. Moving to Chandigarh, then to Delhi and eventually to Mumbai, he began to experiment with make-up in a deeper exploration of his identity, and is thankful for having been able to do so as he reflects on the ever-morphing historic and cultural landscape of beauty ideals the world over. With an empathetic sensitivity, Roop stands for LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights.

His love affair with colour began early as he struggled to find his own voice. From the safety of shy pastels, Roop dived into the embrace of potent pigments and the sinister seduction of black kajal. He fondly recalls childhood cosplay appearances as Aladdin and Lord Krishna, and insists that a world of imagined fantasy far supersedes the real world. Given his journey into the open skies, it seems almost ironic that he found the most freedom in black shadows. Perhaps it is only in these shadows that we claim most of our inner light after all.

A Perfect Palette
“It would have to be a colour wheel called Heavens and would consist of 14 dual shadows and blushes — seven bright and bold tones juxtaposed by seven of their pastel and pale counterparts. I want to break away from the norm of earthy natural tones to create hues of unexpected colour — free to be, to express feeling and emotional value.”

Marc Mascarenhas, 28

He bursts with personality and sass. Just like his femme-alien make-up aesthetic, his vocabulary is saturated with colour and his style is a story told in glitter. Growing up with his adoptive family since the age of two, Mark Mascarenhas recalls having supportive parents. His mother would innocently play dress-up with him; he would steal her make-up and paint himself in front of the bathroom mirrors. Mascarenhas remembers not being allowed to watch a lot of television and his subsequent joy at chancing upon Shakira’s album Laundry Service (2001). His earliest childhood glamour influence from the little he was exposed to was Alisha Chinai with her iconic chart-topper Made In India (1995).

He says, “Drag was a childhood thing…I was deeply moved by the 1990s LGBTQIA+ movement in New York. I came out to my family at the age of 18 and learned how to do hair, took up jobs with events, styling, and make-up.” He started to focus on building his personal brand, slowly picking up the pace and finding direction and purpose. Through his abstract fringe drag, Mascarenhas aims to appeal to and speak for all those “weirdos” that relate to feeling unacknowledged. He prefers to take an organic approach to his work, creating stories around his newest inspirations. Currently collaborating on a make-up line, Mascarenhas is excited about the merchandise for his clothing brand Tropical Marca, and was recently seen walking for designer Chola at Lakmé Fashion Week 2018. He has found the passage of time has allowed for further self-reflection as he continues his ever-evolving journey as a drag artist and entertainer. And although at first his family weren’t sure about him dressing up as a woman for money, he’s grateful that they have grown to respect his choices. Aiming to be the future of India’s drag culture, Mascarenhas imagines a world where his work would require him to step out looking glamourous and feeling absolutely fabulous every day.

A Perfect Palette
“It would be called the Tropics of Marca! On display would be the brightest tropical neons and deepest darkest black — all matt, absorbing all the sunlit goodness of the tropics. There’d also be bonus chrome or holographic nail paint, duplicates of which surface everywhere, from Mumbai’s infamous Crawford Market to local trains and everywhere else!”


Jason Arland, 22

He was raised in Nagpur by progressive, open-minded parents who pushed him to live out his dreams. Although blessed with an artistic mind, Jason Arland claims to have had the worst sense of style. He took to music naturally, like his father, and soon began competing in Latin and ballroom dance competitions too. Arland grew familiar with cosmetics, art and fashion with the help of his stylish mother. He recalls childhood memories of dressing up as Lady Gaga, and transforming into his other fierce alter egos. Being on stage remains one of his most significant life experiences and Latin dance allowed him to break free from rules and expectations, from insecurities about his body type and fears about big city life outside of his hometown. But Arland dreamed of more. After spending three years in Pune studying fashion design, he moved to Mumbai without a plan and no certain career goals. He did, however, develop a greater appreciation and gratitude for his empowered upbringing at home because often, society in contrast, seemed brutal and unforgiving.

Today, Arland is a young man of many skills and enjoys his many roles as a make-up artist, stylist, and a performer. He also models and works as a beauty endorser — and is currently manager of artistry for the make-up brand, MyGlamm. He insists that his skills have everything to do with self-expression and less to do with his gender or sexual orientation. “I’m just a boy playing dress-up. I trust my instincts and let life happen to me,” he says. He has come to find his own core and make peace with his natural self, which often means that he doesn’t need to borrow as much from alter egos anymore. He embraces both his masculine and feminine energies, and jokes about how one of his biggest life investments has been in make-up and shoes.

A Perfect Palette
“It’d be called Resurrection and would come in rectangular, white packaging. It would have 10 shadows (five matt neutrals and five metallics in rose gold, bronze, black, pink and silver, and a super, black, water-resistant mascara with an hourglass wand.”


Ashish Chopra, 23

He wears a handsome smile that can light up a room and reminds you why, at the age of 23, he won 1st runner-up at Mr. Gay World India 2018. You can tell that Ashish Chopra is a bright and happy person just by that big smile. But, it took some time to get there. As is the case with a fair number of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community in India, he too was taunted and bullied at school for being effeminate. “I matured, and I soon gave voice to my inner rebellion,” Chopra says. “This is when I decided that I would grow up to be my most authentic self without having to feel apologetic about who I am.” His earliest childhood influences and idols were Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone; he continues to swoon over Hrithik Roshan and holds a deep fondness for cinema. While in class twelve, he watched a televised episode of Satyamev Jayate and was taken by the gay rights activist, Harish Iyer. Chopra knew then to embrace his urge to contribute in his own personal way to the queer movement. It’s no wonder that he found expression in performing as drag queen Cum-Sin Haseena.

It’s not often that people can pick up their self-esteem and continue onward against the tide. He is no longer affected by labels like ’princess’, ‘fairy’ or ‘queen’ and now loves dolling up in his neon blue-pink wig and natural beard, a short seductive dress and nude stockings with boots, and dreams of putting together his own colourful solo act in Hinglish as a DJ and drag queen. Having recently completed a course in DJing, he’s very excited and grateful for all the support he has received from his family and colleagues.

A Perfect Palette
“It would have bright colours, and be called Haseena Ka Khazana. The eye section would be Aankhon Ki Masti, with shadows, kajal, mascara and lashes, and a lip section named Cum-Sin Honth made up of striking red, pink and orange lipsticks, and everything would come in bright neon pink packaging.”

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