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Life's green room

DIVYA SREEDHARAN
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Passions Ralph Daniels has been through many dark patches before he could find his true colours

Doing what he loves best Ralph Daniels
Doing what he loves best Ralph Daniels

R alph Daniels is a hair and makeup artist. So what, you think. Well, he quit a highly-paid job at IBM to become one.

It's not like he trained in the art of hair and makeup; he taught himself. At one time, he even did his sister's makeup! And he honed his latent talent for mixing and matching colours. “Hours and hours of YouTube videos on hairstyling helped too,” he quips.

The DIY mantra seems to have worked though. Three years after he quit his job as a soft skills and language trainer, Ralph is one of the most sought after beauty professionals in Bangalore. He does events such as the annual Jewels of India show, has a steady clientèle for bridal makeup but is primarily known for commercial work such as the internationally-acclaimed Kerala Tourism advertisements.

Darker shades of life

But then, life for this 32-year-old has been a long journey filled with all the colours of the rainbow — from the sunniest shades to the darkest, deepest hues.

Growing up in Pune, he remembers playing with flowers, loving the vivid colours and textures. He also recollects seeing his first copy of Vogue, “an old issue actually, but I was mesmerised”. But being a boy, he was supposed to do more “boyish” things. His mother was a loving, strong woman, always doing something with crafts, always baking. “On her own, I'm sure she would have encouraged me, but there were other pressures,” he says.

Tragically, she died when he was 16 and Nikita, his sister, 14. Their father remarried and became estranged. That was also when Ralph faced his own sexuality, he ‘came out', as it were. It was a dark, tumultuous time.

Professionally trained in Speech and Drama from the Pune School of Music in affiliation with Trinity College, London, Ralph got into theatre. “I was a tenor in adaptations of Broadway hits — ‘The King and I', ‘Westside Story', ‘Man of La Mancha' — performing across Pune, Goa and Mumbai.”

But a career in the alternative arts and music did not pay. So Ralph worked as a graphic designer. Then the BPO boom happened and he became a trainer, first at Convergys, then at Accenture and later, at IBM.

He had an epiphany when he went to help a friend out at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) 2007. “I loved it — the chaos, the colour, the clothes, the madness.” That is how life as a makeup and hair artist began.

Colours of pain, learning

Success lends an incredibly vibrant hue to his life but for 10 years after his mother's death, he suffered from depression. Counselling and medication helped. He calls that pain-filled time, a “learning curve”.

Now Ralph is keen to absorb something new. “I'm saving up for an intensive course on prosthetic makeup in the United States. (Remember Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings”? Or our very own “Endhiran”?). I can do groundbreaking work there,” he adds confidently.

That's Ralph — changing perceptions, shaking up perspectives, with the touch of a brush.

This column features those who choose to veer off the beaten track

DIVYA SREEDHARAN

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