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Charting a Course: FAT MU Academy

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A coffee meet with FAT MU Academy’s Natasha Nischol and Virginia Holmes have taken their love for make-up and collective skills to train young aspirants looking to make a breakthrough in the make-up industry.

Fat Mu is the perfect blend of UK and Indian sensibilities in the field of make-up. How long back does this association go?

Virginia: We met 10 years ago in September 2004.

How did the idea of starting a make-up academy come about?
Natasha: When we started the academy in 2010, there wasn’t very much happening here and I think there was the need for education and bringing in new techniques in the field of make-up.
Virginia: We’ve been running workshops since 2007, and it started very naturally. It began with giving a makeover, sharing techniques, etc. and it just accelerated, so we sat down one day and thought we should start a school.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Natasha: Our biggest inspiration comes from our clients, and also, going from film to film. Because we have worked both in the UK and in India, I think people could use a lot more variety of skill, as well as a different approach to make-up.
Virginia: With our experience, knowledge and the passion for what we’re doing, this is a way of giving back.

How has the response been so far?
Natasha: It’s been very good.
Virginia: I’d say fantastic.
Natasha: I think we can proudly say we’re probably the best.

How do you adapt to the current international make-up trends to suit the Indian skin tone and climate?

Natasha: I think most trends suit everyone globally. It’s just a variation in the shades, the colour, and keeping the weather in mind; here we just have to keep going lighter.

You two have worked with renowned names like Danny Boyle and Shekhar Kapur. How was the experience?
Virginia: It’s been a fantastic association.
Natasha: In fact, our next film is about to begin. We’ve had lots of exposure of different kinds and we’ve met many different kind of people in the journey.
Virginia: We’ve worked really hard. At the same time, we’ve been very lucky. Each director is different and each film is different.

While training at the academy, what is the first tip you give to aspiring make-up artistes?
Natasha: The first thing we tell them is that it is not all glamour; it all about putting in hard work. And it is back-breaking too.
Virginia: We tell them: forget the glamour, forget the glory, it is really not an easy job. We take them through all the negatives and positives – a realistic approach.
Natasha: Everyone thinks it is just about glamour, film stars, and travelling to exotic destinations. Yes, it is all of that, but, you do have to work for it.
Virginia: You have to be good at what you do. You have got to have talent.

Hat would you recommend as summer make-up trends for India?
Natasha: Bright, matte orange lips. You can pick your shade of orange to suit your skin tone so it doesn’t look loud. It could be softer, it could be lighter, deeper or rusty – there are many shades one can pick from. Lots of colours are in… very 70s… so you have lots of purples and blues.
Virginia: Stay natural, use waterproof mascaras to get big lashes.
Natasha: And bronze skin. That bit is taken care of so we just have to enhance our complexion.

What is your advice to the current lot of make-up artists?
Natasha: Keep up to date in terms of international make-up trends since we’re getting a lot of international quality of work here as well.
Virginia: We always believe in the expression ‘you’re only as good as your last job’. So, never get complacent, always learn and always be open to learning from anyone around you. Be sincere and keep learning.
Natasha: Yes, I think that is very important. A lot of people get confident of whatever knowledge they have acquired. There is never such thing as right or wrong; one will always pick up something interesting from someone. Stay true to what you know, but be open.

What are your plans for the future?
Natasha: [in jest] Global Domination! I don’t know when and how, but we’re still thinking about it. There are lots of lovely little ideas. We want to expand across India and internationally, but we don’t have a plan yet. We’re not one of those companies that jump from point A to point X. We take baby steps and cement it so every step on the way is solid and that is the reason why we’re moving up.
Virginia: For the short term, this year we’ve got three big films lined up. We are getting into special effects make-up and possibly next year we will set up something new outside of Mumbai.

What is your success mantra?
Natasha: Work hard and keep it simple.
Virginia: Be the best of yourself.

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