Glamour, Grit, and Gala

In conversation with Navin Ahmed, one of Dhaka’s most popular makeup artists who is also a successful entrepreneur, a mom and the brand ambassador of the luxury brand, Judith Lieber, Bangladesh.

You are, without a doubt, among the top 5 MUAs in this country – when you started out in 2011, did you ever imagine that you would be a household name in Dhaka? What were the highs and lows of the journey?

I never in my wildest of dreams thought that Gala Makeover Studio and Salon would receive so much love. I started out because makeup was my passion and a form of self-expression. I am an artist and it helped me express my artistic side. As a young girl back then who loved makeup, I saw what was missing in the industry and just wanted to bridge the gap for my clients and in doing so I received both love and recognition. That, of course, is the high. The lows I don’t see much as lows, but more as things to learn as I grew alongside the industry, which itself has grown quite a bit. We have so many makeup artists and salons now but back then, we only had a handful.

NAVIN AHMED has a two-year diploma in Cosmetic Techniques and Management from a top Canadian college and has done multiple makeup workshops with many international artists. She has worked on brides and celebrities both at home and abroad.

Your brand is not only popular among brides, it is also among the top choice for fashion runways and celebrities – how has your experience over the past decade shaped your vision for the brand?

My vision for Gala Makeover Studio and Salon is very simple – being in the service sector is all about providing the very best to my clients in terms of quality, assurance, and behaviour. When clients come to us, they come with a certain expectation and Gala is all about meeting that expectation the best we can. We train all our staff with that in mind. We take customer service very seriously and to us our clients are everything.

Do all these roles you play tie into a particular philosophy or goal you have in life? What do you love most about what you do?

As women we wear different hats. It’s never easy and there is no need for perfection. We give our very best when we take up these different roles and that itself is perfect enough – the faith we have in ourselves. My one and only philosophy is that everything we do
should be done with utmost ethics, dedication, perseverance, and sincerity. All hard work and challenges, however difficult it may seem in the beginning, will always pay off in time. I can only hope I can be an inspiration for my children as they grow up.


Any exciting new looks for this season or projects in the pipeline?

This season at Gala we are seeing that brides either want a soft, natural look, keeping modern contouring methods in mind. We see a lot of brides wanting to wear cocktail outfits like stitched saris or gowns for pre-wedding events or engagement looks. Sleek, modern, clean or minimal buns are in style.

For ethnic engagement or reception looks, brides want soft shimmery glam and often opt for whites or cream palettes keeping the overall look glowy and ethereal. Some brides even opt for soft pastel colour palettes for sangeet and mehendi looks as a lot of these are day events and the brides don’t want anything elaborate for the face. For hair they prefer interesting floral braids or a neat hair look as these events carry on from noon
to night with plans of lots of dancing!

For holud looks, brides still like to keep it very traditional and the colour mustard or yellow is always a winner. Floral jewellery or multicoloured stone jewellery always compliments this look. Brides like to keep the look timeless and always in style for the main wedding events. Most popular are red saris or lehengas with smokey eyes and nude lips or soft shimmery gold/bronze eyes with a bold red pout. Both look amazing with red! They are timeless, classy looks that never go out of style.

Each look is different and depends on the particular bride’s natural style. And that is what I love most about my work. Every bride is beautiful and different and their expected look for their big day is also very much suited to their individual personalities and I love that I get to portray and express my art keeping each individual’s needs in mind.

What would you like to see evolve in the industry? As an industry leader, what word of advice can you offer to the aspiring and current members of the community?

Every year makeup trends change and I think it’s important that we keep ourselves up to date with the recent trends, styles and products. Even skin care needs are changing and we always have to reinvent and innovate our craft, keeping our individual styles as artists in mind. Every makeup artist has different strengths, and I think brides should keep that in mind when they book their artist. They should also research which artist does which type of style the best. For example, some artists do heavier looks better than natural looks and vice versa. Of course, as MUAs we should also be flexible and provide our clients with what they want. In recent times, I’m glad that brides opt for soft glams and want their
natural features enhanced instead of changing themselves completely. They go with natural skin tones, which was not the case before. As artists we should not pass judgement about what a paying customer wants and always support what the client’s requirements are as it is their big day and it’s important that they leave fully satisfied as a bride or makeup client, whether they want natural glam or full dramatic glam. We can make suggestions but ultimately, it is the clients’ wish that should always be respected and that’s what all members of the industry should keep in mind.

Photograph: Syed Shahewar