Couture Rani http://www.bistro309.com The source for Indian fashion, style, and beauty. Sat, 07 Mar 2020 00:27:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 Rasha Goel on Breaking Into Entertainment Reporting http://www.bistro309.com/interview/2020/02/how-i-made-it-rasha-goel-on-breaking-into-entertainment-reporting/ Tue, 25 Feb 2020 15:50:00 +0000 http://www.bistro309.com/?p=16585 It takes more than talent to make it on Hollywood's red carpet.

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Few of us are lucky enough to know exactly what we’re meant to do with our lives but for Rasha Goel her calling was unmistakable. “I joke that I must have been born with a microphone in my hand because I’ve just always enjoyed being on stage and engaging with people.”

That desire to connect with others led her into the ultra competitive world of entertainment journalism, one of the toughest industries to break into, especially as a woman of color. Read on to find out how Goel forged her own path to become the go-to South Asian journalist covering both Bollywood and Hollywood’s biggest red carpet events.

What did you want to do growing up?
At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. I loved being in front of the camera. When I was seven years old, we had to do a history project on Martin Luther King Jr. and my project was a newscast. I had my mom film me as an anchor at a news desk, so it looked like a real newscast. I had her record it over and over until we had it perfect. I already knew that I wanted to tell stories through the media. I don’t think my parents had any idea that I would eventually go into broadcast journalism, but I already knew.

Did your parents support your dream?
I’m going to say yes and no. Raised in a typical South Asian household, I was encouraged to be a bio major and I did that for the first year of college. And then one day, I was in a zoology class and I realized I can’t do this. While being a bio major, I was participating in theater, fashion shows, and beauty pageants. So, my love for being on stage was still present. I decided to become a communication studies major because that’s what I was born to do.

I think my parents kept thinking with communication studies, maybe there’s an opportunity for management or other corporate positions. I’m the first person in our family to pursue a career in the entertainment industry so there was that fear of how is she going to support herself? I know it comes from a place of love. Even now, my father tells me it’s not too late to consider a career change. This is two Emmy nominations later! 

Did the fact that there were no other South Asian journalists in your field deter you?
It actually inspired me that there weren’t many South Asian entertainment journalists, especially females. I wanted to be that person who helped pave the way for other young South Asians to come forward in this industry. I’m not saying that I didn’t have doubts because I absolutely did. In fact, my first job out of college was not in journalism. I took a job with Sony Pictures in their marketing department and I was miserable. I would be at my desk during lunch, before work and after work, searching for hosting and journalism related work. Eventually, I was able to segue into a newsroom and then create my own independent opportunities. At that time, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I knew what I was stepping into — I was taking a leap of faith.

Interviewing Freida Pinto

How did you break into the industry?
I began by interning in the KTLA newsroom and at the same time was looking at trade magazines, websites, and other sources to find out what type of journalism jobs were out there. There were limited opportunities. The one thing I feel that worked in my favor is being South Asian.

I started at a time when Zee TV (one of the largest Indian television networks) was opening a branch in the United States. I knew I wanted to be a part of their team and could provide them entertainment news from Los Angeles. After some hustle, the next thing I knew I was their entertainment correspondent and covering Bollywood in Hollywood and vice versa.

Press conference with Akshay Kumar

Slowly, I began navigating my way as I started meeting people, and building relationships. Before I knew it, my name somehow got spread in India, which was wonderful. I had the opportunity to be the American Indian liaison and I was then covering all the entertainment press junkets for Sony India, Warner Brothers, Disney, and Fox. I became the go-to gal here in Hollywood. A lot of it was hustling and stepping out of my comfort zone. I feel, sometimes, as South Asians, we are not encouraged to do that and are taught to play it safe.

Last year, I was the first South Asian woman to be live on the red carpet at the Golden Globes for Dick Clark Productions. I had a blast being on that carpet and working with that team; they were incredible! To be a woman of color out on that carpet, doing what I love, and represent South Asian Americans, gave me a lot of pride.  

We sometimes don’t give ourselves enough credit or believe in our talent and the work that we’ve done. So, it was that feeling of I’ve worked hard, and I deserve to be here.

Last year, I was the first South Asian woman to be live on the red carpet at the Golden Globes for Dick Clark Productions. To be a woman of color out on that carpet, doing what I love, and represent South Asian Americans, gave me a lot of pride.  

What are some of the challenges you’ve had navigating this career path?
The day you decide that you want to work in the entertainment industry, you have to know that you are choosing to work in one of the most competitive industries. I had to get used to hearing a lot of “no’s” and still be confident that there would be a “yes.” You can’t give up. You have to trust YOUR talent and soul calling. The biggest thing I had to learn was to believe in myself, trust who I am, and know that I’ve been given this gift to share. I had to let go of the self doubt. No one can do that for you!

You’ve talked before about how hard it is to break into mainstream entertainment reporting especially as a person of color. Can you tell us more about that?
When it comes to entertainment journalism, that niche is already so small that I think there is a lack of awareness of the growing South Asian community. Let’s just look at some of the top shows on television. How many Asians and South Asians are you seeing as entertainment journalists? Very few. The term “diversity” sounds so cliché, but if there’s one thing I could change about the industry, it’s to recognize how big the market is and how crucial diversity really is. I think conversations are happening but they have to also be open to actually bringing in more diverse people in executive positions. People of color need to be in those gate keeper positions to create change.

Is there something you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
I would love to do a talk show. I love having open conversations and discussions about different topics. My goal for those conversations is to help empower and inspire people. Even now, when I do celebrity interviews, I always try to ask a question or two that could help empower the audience, because everybody is going through struggles and triumphs. If through conversation, I can help make a difference in someone’s life, then I’ve done my job! 

Celebrity Chef & Nutritionist Serena Poon

Images courtesy of: Rasha Goel


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Stylist Venk Modur on his big year and making it in Hollywood http://www.bistro309.com/interview/2020/01/stylist-venk-modur-on-passion-perseverance-and-making-it-in-hollywood/ Fri, 10 Jan 2020 15:36:00 +0000 http://www.bistro309.com/?p=16521 Venk Modur sat at his table inside the ballroom of The Beverly Hilton...

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Venk Modur sat at his table inside the ballroom of The Beverly Hilton hotel and took in the scene around him — champagne flowing from magnum bottles of Mo?t & Chandon, giant boxes of Lindt truffles at every seat, and celebrities like Brad and Leo chatting up their contemporaries while Ricky Gervais took the stage to open the 77th Golden Globe Awards.?

The surreal then became dreamlike when moments later Modur saw actor Brian Cox, whom he styled that evening in Hugo Boss, win best actor in a TV drama for his role in Succession. It was the beautiful culmination of a magical year.  

But that night was far different from where he was just a year ago. As you’ll read in the interview below, Modur was struggling to reconcile where he was in his life when he got a call that changed everything.

Tell me where you grew up and how fashion played into your identity?

I grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana and it wasn’t the easiest place for someone like me to grow up. I was a very different kid so I was picked on aggressively when I was young, to the point where I had to go to school in another city. When I was in the 8th grade, my parents made the great decision to send me to this really diverse, amazing Jesuit prep school in Indianapolis. 

I didn’t really know how to dress until I went to high school. Everyone was wearing Abercrombie & Fitch and I just wore whatever my parents bought me. I was a mess. I didn’t understand who I was and had no knowledge of fashion. So for me, fashion was born out of a necessity to fit in. I was very much into Banana Republic and Armani Exchange and there was a store called Bernini Beverly Hills where I would go and get stuff. I was the only person my age shopping there. The only other people there played for the Colts and the Pacers (laughs). I was actually voted best dressed and most likely to become a fashion designer my senior year. I was mad about it at first because I was like, ‘oh it’s because they think I’m gay.’ Meanwhile, I am!

How did the need to fit in evolve into wanting a career in fashion?

I was in love with fashion through high school and through college, although, I did have a New York club phase when I wore those shiny shirts, you know the ones that DKNY made. I worked for a bit in NYC and then I moved to Chicago to take classes at Second City — I always wanted to perform and I loved comedy and the dream was to be on Saturday Night Live. I didn’t have a job, so I got a job at the largest Ralph Lauren store at the time on Michigan Avenue. It was incredible. Everything I learned in my years at Ralph Lauren, I’ve applied to what I’m doing now. I didn’t understand at the time that my day job should have been my career and what I wanted to pursue as a career should have just been a hobby. But I was treating my classes at Second City like it was my career. Looking back, I don’t think it was a mistake because I wouldn’t have ended up in Los Angeles if it hadn’t been for that.

What did you do in LA prior to styling? Did you ever get into acting?

Well, I tried. I did this horrible, horrible movie called Fraternity House. It was made for no money and it was atrocious but for some reason I got it into my head, ‘oh, I just did a movie, I should move to LA!’ That’s called not thinking straight (laughs). I came to LA and within a week I was going to shoot this movie in India call Bhopal which starred Martin Sheen and Kal Penn. It was a really important topic and there were good intentions behind the movie but it didn’t turn out the way it should have. So, I did that but I wasn’t really working or making a steady income. I struggled for a lot of years, almost a decade of not knowing what I wanted to do and just doing this and that. I’m not afraid to admit that because I think it’s important for people to understand that you’ve gone through pain and loss and just working to survive which are commonalities between all of us. 

It wasn’t until Nisha Ganatra asked me to style her for the Sundance Film Festival last year that all of that changed. That’s when everything started for me and Sundance hammered home that this was what I was always meant to be doing, even though it was later in life.

How did working with Nisha kick off your styling career?

I’ve been friends with Nisha for a few years and I had styled her randomly for a few events and she really liked it. I had finished up my last project line producing and I was teaching for a semester. Teaching was not for me. I was essentially giving up on a lot of artistic dreams that I had and I was not happy. That was probably the most unhappy that I had ever been. Within days of me leaving my teaching job, Nisha called me about styling her for her new movie Late Night.  I was very honored and it was really exciting because we had the opportunity to work with designers one-on-one. And at Sundance, I was putting together her daily looks while my good friend was having an epic moment in her career. It was an amazing experience and it was an amazing opportunity to be given by your friend. Like Lady Gaga said, ‘all it takes is one person to believe in you!’

What’s your approach to styling your clients?

It’s a really collaborative process when you’re working with someone to define an image. When I’m working with actors, I’m thinking about creating a look that will help them book their next project. It’s not about changing who they are but elevating what’s already there. For example, I just got done styling the CEO of a yoga brand called Maiya. I was really excited to work with someone who is South Asian and wants to go into this space. His yoga line is bright and airy and fresh. It looks like a summer afternoon. But his personal style is very dark clothes, lots of black. So, I wanted to match him a little bit more to his line with clothing that’s light and airy and breathable so he looks like a cohesive part of the brand. That was a really exciting opportunity to work with someone who is starting his own business and to use their product to hone their personal style.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about a stylist’s job?

I don’t know if people understand thoroughly how hard it is to come up with ideas. People see how quickly you work and don’t see how much work happened behind the scenes to accomplish that task. The idea of assisting someone in creating an image where they feel beautiful is not an easy art form. You’re painting a picture on someone. It’s an art form in and of itself and it should be looked at as such.

Where do you get your inspiration from when you’re styling?

I’m definitely inspired by the people I’m surrounded by. My friends inspire me all the time. I like people who are not shy about making bold fashion statements. The first time I hung out with a friend years ago she had on these cool, huge dinosaur earrings. And I thought, either she is crazy or she is fabulous. And she’s both, she’s crazy fabulous! The actor Nik Dodani, who is also a friend, I think his fashion sense is off the rails amazing. His sense of fashion freedom is inspiring especially because he’s brown and like me is a member of the LGBTQ community. To see someone like him doing what he does, his ability to express himself with his clothing, who has a fashion point of view and he’s brown — we need more of that.

How would you describe your own personal style? 

I used to be very preppy. I think as of late, I’ve merged my preppy wear into more of a vibrant, whimsical style. My choices are ever evolving and I’m better able to express myself with what I wear more than I ever have. And it’s going to continue to evolve.

What’s something that you bought recently that you wouldn’t have before?

I recently bought a pair of red Buscemi high top sneakers that have gold detailing with the lock on the back and they’re amazing and they’re crazy and they’re fun. Also my jackets have become a little bit more wild. My jacket and my shoe game have completely changed. I also just bought a pair of Gordon Rush oxfords — gentleman shoes with laces with a little English detailing. But I’m going to pair it with something that’s a little bit more fun. If I have a shoe that’s classic, I make sure that everything else is something fun. 

How do you stay current in terms of what’s happening in fashion?

I would say that Instagram has taken over everything when it comes to staying current and discovering young designers. Instagram has completely changed the conversation of fashion because it’s instant visuals, instant emotional reaction. It puts everything in hyperdrive.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The lack of inclusivity and diversity I see from designers that is not reflective of the reality of America. If designers could expand their sample sizes beyond 0s and 2s to include sizes 6, 8, 10 that would make a huge difference. It’s not easy and it’s not fair and I think fashion should be accessible to everyone because the more voices we lend to this conversation the more beauty and art we can create.

I don’t think that a movie or television star who is a size 10 should have any difficulty getting any designer to dress them but that’s not how it is. On my end, it’s a challenge that’s exciting to tackle but it does make me angry because it’s just showing me that we have a long way to go in our quest for the truest form of visibility.

What has been your favorite styling moment so far?

It was a look that I did on Nisha at Sundance. She wore a thrifted jacket with a Theory button down shirt and we used a chain that she had as a tie. It’s a really simple outfit but it was a moment where she was really happy and that just meant so much to me. The best style moments are when somebody is smiling and is authentically happy. 

How did the opportunity to work with Brian Cox happen and what was it like being at the Globes when he won?

I was asked by Matthew Lesher, Brian’s manager, to style him for the AFI Awards Luncheon, BAFTA Luncheon, Vanity Fair party, the Globes, and the upcoming Critics’ Choice Awards. I had known Matthew for a few years from my time in independent film casting. He was so gracious to have given me this opportunity. And, I got to work with a legend who I respect greatly!

To be at the Golden Globes when Brian won felt like a win for me. This past year has been an incredible experience that I credit to Nisha Ganatra and her belief in me. A decade ago, I had no idea I would be doing this. It feels really good!

What’s your advice to someone who wants to become a stylist?

I would say to get experience in retail. I learned so much from working at Ralph Lauren, it was just a wealth of information. Become an expert in your industry and have an innate curiosity about color and art and design and have a passion for things like that. Get a side hustle in the industry and don’t be afraid of jobs that don’t pay well to get experience. I don’t think anything in the arts is an easy road so be prepared to have people pass on you and “no” is a word you’re going to hear a lot. And unless you’re a top tier stylist, it’s not really a lucrative career. 

If it’s not financially lucrative then why do it?

Because I love it and what I’m focusing on is knowing my niche market. I want to style the people that have been marginalized. I have access to the South Asian community who have been very loving and very supportive. I want to work with everybody and not exclude anyone but there’s just not enough attention being paid to Asians and South Asians in this industry. 

It’s also a great precursor to things that I want to do in the future and one of those things is launching a menswear collection with my business partner Mariko who lives in Mumbai.

Tell me more about your business?

I’ve always wanted to start a fashion line and we are launching Mariko & Venk, a lifestyle line and we’re starting with menswear featuring 100% organic hemp. It’s still in the early stages and right now now we’re trying to find manufacturers. I’m going to be in India for the next few weeks to work on it!

Images courtesy of: Venk Modur

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Celebrity Makeup Artist Shalini Vadhera Talks Beauty With a Purpose http://www.bistro309.com/beauty/2019/12/shalini-vadhera-talks-beauty-with-a-purpose/ Tue, 17 Dec 2019 01:26:26 +0000 http://www.bistro309.com/?p=16406 Beauty has always been Shalini Vadhera’s passion...

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Beauty has always been Shalini Vadhera’s passion but she didn’t realize that it would also transform her life and lead her towards her true calling. Vadhera became a beauty pioneer when she launched Global Goddess Beauty, one of the first multicultural beauty brands to retail at Sephora. When she exited the business, Vadhera knew that she was meant to do more than just make women look beautiful on the outside. 

“What I didn’t realize was that there was a bigger calling for me and it wasn’t about empowering women through lipstick and mascara.” This led Vadhera to create two additional brands, Power Beauty Living, a social platform that gives female entrepreneurs access to mentorship and the resources she didn’t have when she was launching her business and Passport to Beauty, an online destination featuring the best beauty and wellness discoveries from around the world.

Both of these ventures not only fulfilled Vadhera’s desire to help women live their best lives but also led her towards her most personal project, Ready Set Jet, a social impact beauty brand to help empower the women and girls of India to reach their fullest potential. In the interview below, Vadhera talks to us about her incredible journey, the lessons she’s learned along the way and how she plans on changing the face of beauty in India.

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Ayurvedic Winter Skin Care Tips http://www.bistro309.com/beauty/2019/12/ayurvedic-winter-skin-care-tips/ Wed, 04 Dec 2019 17:56:26 +0000 http://www.bistro309.com/?p=16448 Dry hands, chapped lips, irritated skin...

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Dry hands, chapped lips, irritated skin — winter is undoubtedly the harshest time of the year for your skin, stripping it of its suppleness and leaving it dull and dehydrated. “During the winter, the drop in humidity and the fluctuations in temperature can compromise your skin’s protective barrier. This results in cracks in the outer layer, causing dehydration and inflammation which impacts the overall health of the skin. Our skin likes consistency so when the temperature drops, the skin has to work harder to adapt to its new environment. This is when inflammation and irritation occur and when skin can get dry, ” Shadoh Punnapuzha, the founder of Ayurvedic skincare line Taila explained to us.

But according to Ayurveda, winter is also the optimal time of year to care for your skin since the skin is much more receptive to nourishment. This is because the skin is naturally detoxifying during the warmer months and is, therefore, less absorbent. Ayurvedic formulations, like the ones made by Taila, are derived from plants, herbs and oils and are especially potent due to its slow nutrient extraction process that helps to deeply heal, nourish and revitalize the skin. We asked Shadoh to share a few tips to make the most of the season to keep your skin healthy and glowing all winter long.

1. Oils are your best friend

Unlike soap based cleansers, oil cleansers do not strip the skin and help to balance sebum production. It is a common misconception that soap based cleansers work better to remove impurities. In fact, oil cleansers can go deep into the pores and cleanse thoroughly and gently.  Our MUHKA Botanical Cleanser is an oil based cleanser that rinses off with soothing ingredients like turmeric and lavender while papaya lightly exfoliates dead skin cells. 

2. Add a good toner to your regimen

Toners have received a bad rap over the years because of those that have had drying alcohol bases. Now, under the aliases of elixirs, essences, and mists, well-formulated toners are fast-penetrating liquids that deliver a quick hit of hydration, balance the skin’s pH and help remove dead skin cells. Our VAYU Illuminating Toning Mist is packed with antioxidants to protect and prep the skin and help treatments absorb better. It also gives it a quick boost of hydration and replenishes the skin with ingredients like amla, rose and cucumber. I recommend using it twice a day after cleansing to really reap the rewards. I personally spritz generously and then pat it into my skin.

3. Moisturize wisely

Make sure to implement a hydrating serum into your regimen, especially plant oil based moisturizers. Plant oils have been traditionally used to heal for thousands of years and for good reason. They have the ability to penetrate into the deeper layers of the dermis to strengthen the barrier function, prevent moisture loss, deliver cellular nutrition and impart reparative properties.  Plant constituents have healing, rejuvenating and revitalizing powers which are the focus of the PRANA Face Oil and contain hydrating and skin boosting ingredients like brahmi, amla and rosehip seed oil. Don’t skip out on this step, as it is crucial during the colder months. 

4. Mask at least once a week

With the skin at its most vulnerable in the winter, finding a mask that can gently exfoliate and help rev up collagen production can be extremely beneficial to the skin. Exfoliation is key because it helps to remove dull skin cells, refine pores and stimulate cell turnover to revitalize the complexion. When formulating our NAVA JUNGOL Detoxifying Jungle Mask, I wanted to create a unique product that provided immediate visible results but was gentle and nourishing to the skin. Our mask uses plant based AHA’s and has soothing ingredients like honey and pomegranate while also deeply detoxifying pores. While it may not be possible to incorporate this special treatment into your daily routine, if done two to three times a week, your complexion will look brighter and smoother.????

Images courtesy of Taila

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Michelle Ranavat on bringing India’s beauty rituals to the world http://www.bistro309.com/beauty/2019/10/michelle-ranavat-on-bringing-indias-beauty-rituals-to-the-world/ Thu, 03 Oct 2019 20:45:07 +0000 http://www.bistro309.com/?p=16324 And why the Kansa wand is the new must have beauty tool.

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Michelle Ranavat might be an engineer by trade but it was her passion for uncovering the beauty rituals of Indian royalty that led her to founding her fast growing beauty brand, Ranavat Botanics. “Sometimes I feel like I’m an excavator where I’m digging for fossils and trying to find these ancient relics. It tells us a little bit about what people before us may have done and that’s something that I’m just incredibly passionate about,” Ranavat told me when we spoke by phone. 

That passion has led her to achieving impressive milestones in the two short years since she launched her brand — retailing at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Credo, a collaboration with Indian fashion designer Payal Singhal and her knack for finding “hidden gems” like the Kansa wand, an ancient Ayurvedic facial massage tool, have set her brand apart in the beauty space. I chatted with Ranavat to learn more about how she got started, her unique take on Ayurveda and how developing a clear brand story helped her connect with top retailers.

What inspired you to start Ranavat?

I studied industrial engineering and I have a Master’s in Engineering Management so I’ve always been into understanding how products are made, the ingredients, the chemistry behind it and bringing them to life. I was working at Lehman Brothers and when they went bankrupt, I ended up working with my Dad. He has a pharmaceutical raw materials company and I had the opportunity to travel the world and see how things like peptides and amino acids are made and it was just really very cool and exciting. It was something that I really had a passion for and then beauty has always been a big part of my life. And when I think about Indian beauty, I feel like it’s this heirloom that tells us something about where we came from and it’s a little nugget of the past. So, combining both of those passions was really what brought Ranavat to life. 

Image: Beauty Heroes

The origin story of the brand is rooted in the rituals of the kings and queens of India. Can you tell us more about that?

I think there are a number of different ways you can share the culture of India and how beauty relates to it. It’s such a big category and it’s almost impossible for one brand to do it justice. But my little sliver of inspiration is what the kings and queens used to do for their health and for their longevity because they wanted to live forever. So, they were using just the finest ingredients like  saffron and roses and all of these really elevated botanical ingredients in their beauty rituals. And so that’s where I saw an opportunity to bring India to the forefront. India should absolutely be part of the conversation when it comes to beauty. Not only do we have this amazing medicinal science but beauty is a huge part of our culture and there’s a history there that’s way deeper than just beautification on the outside. 

How did Ayurveda become the founding principle for the skincare line?

I always knew that when you talk about beauty in India, Ayurveda has to be part of the story. It’s a really sophisticated medicinal science but it’s not a luxurious experience. It doesn’t always smell very good or feel very good. I wanted to elevate it and have it work in the context of our day-to-day lives. We have an Ayurvedic doctor who we work with on ingredients and as a guide in the formulation process but rather than take a really strict hard stance on following Ayurvedic principles, I think of it more as a modern apothecary where I use Ayurveda as a tool and a guide but not as gospel. I think there’s a lot of room for people with unique ideas that want to find different ways of expressing what beauty in India means and what Ayurveda means because those are huge topics and I can only share my view of it.

India should absolutely be part of the conversation when it comes to beauty. Not only do we have this amazing medicinal science but beauty is a huge part of our culture and there’s a history there that’s way deeper than just beautification on the outside.

How do you come up with your products?

I like to start with the ingredients first, whether it’s Himalayan lavender or understanding why higher elevation Darjeeling (tea) is better and learn the history of how it’s been used before. I’m really into saffron right now and there’s something called the “miracle elixir” that people used to use in India with kumkumadi oil. I found that it worked but there were certain things that I didn’t love about it — it was a little too thick, the smell profile wasn’t great. So, I changed it a bit and made it my own and added five times the saffron content so while kumkumadi was the inspiration for it, it’s been modernized.

Image: Beauty Heroes

How were you able to get your products into retail stores like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom so quickly?

I think it was good timing with natural beauty coming into the forefront. Ayurveda is a very complex science and that’s made it really hard for a lot of people to digest but I found the story that I wanted to tell beyond “oh this was inspired by Ayurveda.” I think you have to have something a little bit more specific for people to understand and I feel like people were able to relate to the story of Indian royalty and combine it with an approachable version of Ayurveda. Also, I think the key is creating layers. If I’m talking to someone at Neiman Marcus, I’m not going into the brightening properties of carotenoids, I’m not really talking about that. I’m going to give them the brand story — that Indian royals thousands of years ago were using these luxurious treatments to help them live forever. Then, if someone wants to know what the ingredients are then you drill down and eventually people want to know more and you give them that information. But you can’t forget that this is beauty and people just want to feel good. This is something that someone’s doing for fun so if they’re confused and if it’s not something they are able to understand then you’re not doing your job.

What products are the best sellers from the line?

I’m always curating the line and listening to feedback because I don’t care to have a million products, I want stuff that’s really working. And so everything that I have now is absolutely something that people have connected with but if you look at the numbers, I would say that the Mighty Majesty Hair Serum is the number one performer. I think part of the reason is that both men and women really relate to hair loss. Hair is such a symbol of beauty and we don’t do enough, especially in the U.S., to protect it. Now, putting oil in your hair is becoming a little bit more mainstream but oil treatments are just so key to replenishing your hair health and unfortunately people wait till their hair is dry and damaged to do something about it. In the winter, I do see the Radiant Rani Brightening Facial Serum sell more so it kind of goes back and forth between those two.

How did you discover the Kansa wand?

I found it while searching and digging into the crevices of the internet about Ayurveda (laughs). And then when I went to India, I knew I wanted to learn more and ultimately stumbled upon the real manufacturer. They’re hand made in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) which is called the Bronze City because it’s one of their biggest exports. It’s expensive because it’s not adulterated and blended with zinc and other metals. The Kansa wand actually predates the jade roller and has been around since the Bronze Age in India when they learned how to fuse copper and aluminum together and found it had all these amazing purifying and alkalinizing properties.

What is its purpose in skincare?

The Kansa wand works on balancing the skin’s pH level by detoxifying the skin. So touching the metal to the skin and massaging it can actually balance your pH and reduce inflammation which can cause acne, wrinkles and dullness. That’s why this is different than the jade roller ––  you’re going to get lymphatic drainage, you’re going to get more circulation, you’re going to get brightness through the fact that you’re bringing new blood flow to the surface of the skin. All of those things are true for every massage tool but what makes the Kansa wand unique is the metal is actually balancing your skin and no other product does that. 

Watch Michelle demonstrate how to use the Kansa wand:

You just launched an incredible collaboration with designer Payal Singhal. Can you tell us more about it?

I’m so excited about this! I always wanted to collaborate with a brand that views creation as art, who use artisans not manufacturers and are just connected to the human spirit. When I thought of all of those things, there was one person that came to mind and it was Payal Singhal. We’ve been working together for over a year to come up with something that represented both of our identities. Payal’s done an incredible job of bringing the Indian silhouette beyond bridal wear into other defining moments of our lives and I thought that meshed well with my philosophy of making Indian skin care accessible and approachable for everyone, whether they’ve experienced India or not. And so there was just this amazing harmony between us and the collection includes the top three products from my line –– Radiant Rani, Mighty Majesty, and the Jasmine Tonique and then we have this beautiful silk scarf that Payal designed just as a great way to tie the collection together.

Ranavat Botanics just celebrated its two year anniversary. What’s been a favorite moment from the last two years?

Honestly, I would have to say it’s the moments when I’m making a difference in someone’s life. There was a woman I met at an event in Dallas who ran up to me and told me how Mighty Majesty was helping her hair grow back after chemo and that she took one of my facial mists with her to the hospital when she was doing reconstructive surgery. Those moments when you’re making someone feel royal, empowered, beautiful and connected to their heritage, that’s what makes me the happiest. That was the exact moment when I knew I was on the right path and this was what I wanted to be doing.

Images courtesy of Grey & Elle and Beauty Heroes

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Model Andrea Thomas on why inclusivity and diversity are about more than just representation http://www.bistro309.com/featured/2019/07/model-andrea-thomas-on-why-inclusivity-and-diversity-are-about-more-than-just-representation/ Wed, 03 Jul 2019 15:06:35 +0000 http://www.bistro309.com/?p=16273 Brands listen up!

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Growing up with vitiligo, a skin condition which causes the loss of pigment in the skin, there was nothing that Andrea Thomas wanted more than to be just like everyone else. But her “difference” has now set her apart as a game changing model who is redefining the industry’s standard of beauty. “I feel both honored and validated that I’m allowed to normalize vitiligo in the beauty and fashion industries in some small way. It’s not the most important issue in the world but I know what it could mean for someone else feeling alone.”

Thomas was recently featured in swimwear brand Summersalt’s  groundbreaking “Every Body is a Beach Body” campaign and told us how she’s “changing the game” as a model and why inclusivity and diversity are about more than just representation. 

How did you become part of Summersalt’s beach body campaign?

One of the co-founders, Reshma Chamberlin, believes she saw a photo of me from another campaign on Instagram. Summersalt reached out to my agency (We Speak) and requested two other models as well.

What was it like shooting the campaign with other incredible women who are also challenging beauty norms?

It was definitely one of the most fun shoots I’ve been a part of. It was shot over several days so I didn’t meet or know every one involved until the campaign launched. The women I did meet are from all different walks of life and doing really amazing things. Seeing all of our photos lined up together definitely gave me a sense of pride to be a part of this campaign.

How did growing up with vitiligo affect you?

Growing up, I knew I was different but all I wanted was to be the same as everyone else. I really did not embrace it and I think that was due to the unwanted attention it gave me. I hated being stared at or for my skin to be discussed. It was definitely a journey to learn that being different in any small or large way can be an advantage. I think some days can still be hard but like any person I have to find peace with my struggles every day and remember that having vitiligo is just one part of my story. I’ve learned to be more compassionate towards others, more forgiving of my own appearance, more accepting of change. I’m able to educate people which means a lot to me.

What does it mean to be recognized as a “game changing model”?

There will always be people who wonder “why is she a model?” but at the same time I have gotten messages from people saying they feel a sense of relief and deep happiness when they come across my photos. That is what changes the game to me, showing people that you don’t have to hide parts of yourself for the benefit of others and that it is possible to live your life fully and the way you want to. Beauty is so much more than what the industry shows us it is and I really applaud brands that want to represent more faces — it is definitely a positive change.

Inclusivity has become the new buzz word in both the fashion and beauty industries. In what ways are brands getting it right and in what ways are they missing the mark?

I think Nike is getting it right for sure. I think the mannequins are great. Inclusivity and diversity — yet another great buzz word — are about so much more than just representation. It’s about making products that suit every body and making their needs a part of the conversation. I think brands that still believe exclusivity are what makes them highly sought after are really missing the mark. People are tired of conforming or patiently waiting for someone to cater to their needs. And there are more and more brands who are taking notice of all skin types and body types so people will take their dollars elsewhere. (Ahem, Victoria’s Secret).

Your modeling career is really taking off! What are some goals/dreams you’d like to achieve?

Thanks! I don’t really like to share them out loud (superstitious of me) but I want to continue to put myself out there. I would love to work with more swimwear and sportswear brands, more beauty brands and more fashion magazines but I am content with what I’ve done so far and it really depends on the industry. Most importantly, I would love some opportunities to write for and to work with teens and children.

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