About face

Renju Renjimar applying make-up on bride Arathi Pillai Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Renju Renjimar had a hand in making the big, fat wedding of the year a huge success and she couldn’t be more thrilled about it. The long-time celebrity make-up artiste, a transgender, was the one responsible for making Arathi Pillai, daughter of business magnate Ravi Pillai, look a million dollars on her wedding day. “Arathi is an exceptionally pretty young woman and all I had to do was enhance her looks to standout amid the opulent decor, the Manish Malhotra bridal sari and all that diamond jewellery. What continues to amaze me is that Arathi entrusted me with the job and that too when she had the wherewithal to chose literally any make-up artiste in the world!” says Renju, a native of Kollam, like the bride herself.

Renju not only dressed up Arathi for the wedding but for all the events leading up to it – the engagement, the mehendi, the sangeet... and finally the reception too, seven functions in all. “For every event we had a broad theme in mind and we ensured that each look was different, be it clothes, hairstyle, eye make-up and contouring. For the wedding in Kollam, for example, the concept was Sita entering on a chariot, with a contoured updo to showcase that elaborate maang tikka headpiece. For the ceremony in Tirupathi it was a traditional Kerala bridal look, complete with a kasavu sari, straightforward make-up, and a loose hairstyle tied together with a strand of jasmine. For the reception we went for a high fashion look to go with another Manish Malhotra sari,” explains Renju.

Then again, Renju, who is based in Kochi, is used to having her work in the spotlight. In her 17-year-long career as a make-up artiste she’s become a favourite of the who’s who of Mollywood – singer Rimi Tomy, actors Priyamani, Swetha Menon, Kavya Madhavan, Bhavana, Remya Nambeeshan, Muktha, Bhaama, and Meera Nandan, to name a few, not to mention hundreds of society brides, up and down the state. Renju is especially known for styling Priyamani in reality show D for Dance and Rimi on her bubbly talk show, Onnum Onnum Moonu on Mazhavil Manorama.

“In fact, Arathi and her mother, Geetha, happened to watch an episode of Onnum Onnum Moonu and they liked Rimi’s look so much that they went to the trouble of finding me and asked me to come for a trial make-up session,” says Renju. She’s also done several makeovers for magazine covershots featuring actress Madhubala, Miss World and actor Parvathy Omanakuttan, models Ujwala and Monikankana, and so on.

“There is a whole lot of difference between celebrity make-up and bridal make-up. For both, I abhor the idea of whitening skin tones. My expertise is in enhancing each individual’s looks to match the costume and hairstyles to match the face. Young brides these days have a clear cut idea of the look they want and almost always have picture references in mind for their look. My job is to edit their idea without compromising on their vision or their happiness.”

Celeb make-up, on the other hand, is very “situation based,” she says. “For example, their look for a television interview is not the same as they would need if they are appearing on the panel of a reality show. In that instance, we’d get to play around with costumes, make-up and hairstyles a lot more,” explains Renju.

It is a skill that Renju has been honing since childhood. “All the cousins used to put up elaborate dramas at home and I was always in charge of the make-up. Also, I was the one who used to get my three young nieces ready for school every day,” says the self-taught artiste, who actually started off as a clerk for a lawyer in Kochi.

“I got the opportunity to meet several celebs who were his clients, particularly Vani Viswanath, all of whom used to give me make-up tips knowing my interest in it and it just evolved from there until I struck out on my own,” she recalls.

“Becoming a make-up artiste was an accidental career choice, really,” says the 41-year-old, with a laugh, adding that she is proud to hold the flag aloft for the transgender community.

“I’ve had to face a lot of flak for my life choices but I’ve never let that stop me from achieving my goals and I am not even that ambitious! My only wish is that society realises that transgenders are also humans and that we don’t know any other way of life. We also have a lot to contribute. Those who recognise our value, the Arathis, the Priyamanis, the Rimis of the world are the ones who are saving us,” says Renju, as she signs off.

Look out!

Who I'd like to give a makeover to: Nayantara. I want to bring out her inherent cuteness, which we never get to see these days

Make-up icon: Deepika Padukone

Next celeb wedding: Priyamani’s, next year

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Printable version | Sep 10, 2021 3:56:54 PM |

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