Makeup artist Leena Ghani is slowly shifting the conventions of bridal makeup
Walking into Leena Ghani’s studio in Lahore, I’m faced by a large canvas painting. As I look around, I see another and another. There are mirrors and lamps. But there’s hardly any furniture. Emboldened in the moment, I ask if she has plans to add furniture. “I like the place to be a wide space with lots of room to walk about and space to stare into,” she says. Spoken like a true free spirit. When Leena moved her studio from London to Lahore, she brought much back with her, not just great paintings.
You might recognize her name as the makeup artist from shoots such as Meesha Shafi for Hello!, Alizeh Waqar for Nickie Nina, and Amna Babar for Zara Shahjehan. She is a visual artist with an MFA in drawing from the Camberwell College of Arts after which she pursued an intensive eight-week diploma at The London School of Beauty & Make-Up. A young woman who’s driven and talented, Leena landed a stint at MAC cosmetics, the holy grail of makeup, and a brand beloved of women the world over. At the fountainhead of styling and makeup, Leena got her hands on all kinds of fun assignments, from magazine shoots to runway shows. At the salon at Harvey Nichols in London, Leena had clients like the late fashion muse Isabella Blow, who discovered Alexander McQueen.
Leena landed a stint at MAC cosmetics, the holy grail of makeup and a brand beloved of women the world over
From the glittering world of MAC and runaway shows, Leena has since kept a jazzy yet personable practice here in Lahore. She believes it is immensely valuable to get to know your clients personally in order to give them what they are looking for. “I only take appointments. Especially if it’s a bridal client, I want them to feel at home. Like going over to a friend’s house and doing the makeup together,” says Leena. For an appointment, a pre-session get-to-know-you cup of tea is essential for Leena. She doesn’t subscribe to the setup prevalent in Pakistan, where all customers and brides are treated the sameâ€”as a blank canvas on which to dump colour. Leena bristles as the thought of Pakistani brides looking more or less the same. She has opted for a different approach, one that involves patient observation and makeup application that actually responds to and compliments the client. “You’re a bride, it’s your big day. You should certainly look your best, but you should also feel comfortable,” Leena says.
Leena swears by Giorgio Armani’s foundation that she says has a great weight and feel to it. She also loves Armani’s master corrector, a primer that glides on and neutralizes the grays of dark circles. Like most artists, MAC is her go-to for lipsticks. GT had taken along one of its contributors, Aimen Khan, to Leena’s studio. To achieve Aimen’s look, Leena started out with a lightweight, gentle moisturizer; she applied foundation in tiny strokes and blended it with a small round brush. For the eyes, she used a base of black MAC pigment with a little water to make the colour stay. She glided a black pencil eyeliner over the lid, then smudged it is small circles with an eyeshadow brush. Leena applied the liner on the water line in circles, vigorously. The liner was topped off with mascara, which had a ball-shaped applicator as opposed to a straight one. A touch of highlighter went under the arch of the brows and a small amount of brown eyeshadow on the brows to complete the look. A sheer lip-gloss balanced the boldness of the eyes and brought a healthy pop to Aimen’s lip. Some blush on the contours of Aimen’s face, previously washed out by foundation, and viola! Aimen was ready to step out to a party with polished smoky-eyes.
â€˜When someone says to a bride that they look beautiful, that they look like a completely different person, I wouldnâ€™t consider that a compliment!â€™
Leena has won the hearts of a growing crew of brides and party-goers who appreciate her personable style and who, most importantly, prefer makeup that is complimentary instead of painted-on. “When someone says to a bride that they look beautiful, that they look like a completely different person, I wouldn’t consider that a compliment!” laughs Leena. “What’s needed is the ability to look at a face and know what’s needed, how to enhance what that person already has.”
In collaboration with photographer Kuki, Leena has been working on The Pop Culture Series which features reinterpreted portraits. So far we have gotten to see Salvador Dali, Dorian Gray, and James Dean. When I asked who would be featured next, I was told I’d have to wait and see! With steady work that fills her planner, from bridal to party clients, Leena Ghani is diligently pursuing her calling. She continues to exercise restraint and independence, altering her techniques to suit the needs of each client. Now collaborating with a photographer in the true spirit of creativity, Leena Ghani is entering the most exciting of avenues: the exploration of makeup as art.