Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Glass of Gratitude

A flower garland, traditionally used in the Hindu religion as an offering to a deity, that I found washed up on Chowpatty Beach in downtown Mumbai. Vivid colors and inspiring beauty are everywhere, even upon a polluted shoreline.

         I have been very lucky in my life. Unfortunately, as many others do, I often forget this when obsessing about small things like the fact that I can’t afford a Proenza Schouler PS11 or that my hair isn’t thicker. Instead of focusing on the blessings I do have, I frequently beat myself up over my negative qualities or material items that I don’t possess, that in the long run, have minimal importance on happiness or well-being.
          On Friday night, in typical Charlotte “klutzy” character, I stubbed my toe in my doorframe. Well, it was more than the usual stub. I fractured my third toe and have perhaps broken another bone above it in my foot. Confined to bed rest for several days, as cliché as it sounds, I have had some time to reflect on my life, and journey this far.
         The highly visible juxtaposition of India has, in a short period, allowed me to think beyond the typical boundaries and confines I have back in New York City. While certainly you see poverty when riding the subway or walking through the Bronx, it is not so apparent as it is here in Bombay. Here, the Four Seasons Hotel, complete with rooftop club, infiniti pool, and all-inclusive spa, sits directly across the street from a huge slum. The rich and the poor coexist in a peaceful, respectful manner, but as the days pass, you, unfortunately, become more and more immune to the sight of flea-ridden stray animals and begging children that approach your cabs at each and every stoplight.
But, when I take the time to really look around outside, the fact that children, without shoes and covered in filth, are playing in the street past midnight, I swallow my ignorance and remember my blessings.
          Most importantly, I have an incredible, loving family that has enabled me to follow my dreams and my heart, even if that means moving halfway across the world. People, who, in the wake of my father’s unexpected death, were there for me, through the tears, the laughter, and the joy. People who never doubted the career path, however obscure it was, that I set out to do so early, and supported me wholeheartedly through it. Life has also allowed me to discover my career path very young, something that not all people can tout. I have a body that allows me to walk around and explore my surroundings, learning new things by seeing how exactly this huge world works, a little glimpse at a time. A healthy body (well, before I injured my foot, but it will heal) that I can twist and contort to whatever strange Bar Method position I decide, or subject to some crazy, low-carb diet whenever I choose with a refrigerator filled with fresh produce. These are just a few of the things that I so often take for granted.
         It can be difficult to admit how selfish we often behave, especially when we are surrounded by others who have been given the same privileges. But when you take a moment to stop, and, truly, “count your blessings”, that perfect lipstick that you can never seem to find or the pair of Loboutins that you would “kill” for, really don’t make any difference to your true happiness. A minute of positive thinking and embracing those we love means much more at the end of the day than anything else we can waste time doing.
          I’m not writing this to encourage you to become the next Mother Teresa, or Gandhi (I'd say India taught them far more lessons than I could ever grasp), by any means; but perhaps to turn and hug your best friend or mother or father or brother or sister, and thank them for the support and love they’ve given that has enabled you to live your life so beautifully and blessed. Try to be a bit more grateful when things aren’t going your way, and allow the power of positive thought to bring gratitude into your being.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Blonde Ambition

     I’ll admit it: I can be obsessive compulsive. Especially when it comes to my hair. I’ve had times where I have gone back to the stylist several times to fix my color and cut exactly how I want it. Yes; I am THAT client.
     Over the past year, I have dramatically lightened my hair from deep chesnut brown to pale golden blonde. The reason? I was bored. It was not an easy journey. I went through various shades, from a horrid highlight experience (yellow chunks on dark hair – not cute) to some reddish light browns, to dark blonde, and now, well, platinumesque. Obviously, I did not really think about the fact that super-light hair would only make me stand out more in a country full of dark, shiny, perfect manes. You see, I’m not really the best at making plans.
     So here I am, a month in, with roots that can be seen from quite a far distance. Wearing sunglasses as a headband can only get you so far. I decided to look up the best salons in Mumbai, and pray for someone who was familiar with fine, wavy, unruly, damaged, “white girl hair”. I stumbled upon the b:blunt chain of salons when passing by one in Kemps Corner, and decided to give them a try based on a recommendation. Boy, am I happy I took that chance.
     Despite the fact that I was 30 minutes late to my appointment (Mumbai traffic!), Michelle, my colorist, could not have been any more patient or kind. She decided to double process my hair, with a golden shade and a whiter shade, running some all the way through. Four hours later, with about 500 (no joke) foils on my head going in every which direction, I knew I had found a great stylist. The patience and time she took was amazing to me! She and her assistant worked diligently and I was super-excited to see the results.
     The moment we all wait for: the blow out. And I couldn’t have been happier! First off, I have never had two people work with brushes at once: talk about pampering. Once it was fully dried - I was ecstatic. She used my favorite Kerastase Elixir Ultime, which made me like her even more. My hair was exactly the shade of blonde I had wanted, with highlights framing my face and barely any remnant of the dark color that once was on my ends. What a treat! And quite the deal – it was about $160 US dollars for perfect highlights and color, not to mention 5 hours total of the stylists time!
     Michelle was fabulous, and from her recommendation I will most certainly be trying out the Bikram Yoga in Bandra (90 minutes of sweaty hell for that post-exercise endorphin bliss – why not?). On the way back, I checked out a cutting-edge shop she had recommended in Santacruz, called Attic. What a treat! Indian-inspired but with a western flair, the clothes here were stunning, with this-season neons canoodling with vintage lace and immaculate embroidery. An orange patchwork maxi dress, which had an essence of Balenciaga, was a standout, but unfortunately, I have nowhere to wear it and had to pass. I did pick up a quirky little picture book entitled, “Kumari Loves a Monster”, and I plan to go back to purchase some gifts for friends before I head home.
     Well, the point of this very long post, besides gushing about Michelle’s talent and patience, is that I am fairly certain I have found the answer to every blonde’s greatest enemy: brasiness. What is it? $4 shampoo you can get almost anywhere.
     For some time after lightening my locks, I had been using Joico’s Color Endure Violet Shampoo. Sure, it kept my strands free of orange tones, but it was so drying I was using a deep conditioning mask almost daily. After running out, I decided I would try out Unite’s Blonda Toning Shampoo. While it certainly worked, the scent was overpowering, like a grape popsicle gone wrong, and lingered all day. So here I was, hair getting brassier by the second, out of options, so it seemed.
     I was in CVS picking up a prescription when I noticed Jhirmack’s Silver Plus Brightening Shampoo. I figured, “hey, why not, if it doesn’t work, I throw it away.” Well, this shampoo is absolutely incredible! I can use it daily, without my hair getting dry or too ashy, and it preserves my color completely. I’m pretty sure the water in my shower here in India has quite a few impurities, so this is really a marvel. Followed with Oribe’s Conditioner for Beautiful Color, my hair has never looked better.

     Upon research, I found out that Jhirmack is pretty old school - check out this ad from 1988. History is the test of great hair care...right?

     The only problem? Where o’ where in India can I find this shampoo?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Top Five: Tarte

This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Tarte Cosmetics, and worked as a freelance makeup artist for the line. Before this, I kept several Tarte products in my kit, but did not get to try the whole line. I’m so glad I had the chance to! Tarte is a fabulous, all-natural line available at Sephora and Ulta stores, as well as on QVC, in the U.S., and will soon be available in the U.K. Besides the amazing fact that the products are free of many of the harmful ingredients that show up in most cosmetics, the colors are incredibly pigmented and long-wearing, and are growing more and more popular with pro makeup artists. Without further ado, here are my top five favorite Tarte products:

You know what my least favorite question is? “If you were stranded on a desert island, what three makeup items would you bring?” Since I don’t really plan on trying out for Survivor anytime soon, I don’t think that I need to think about this, or even choose, because I just love too many products! Plus, if I was stranded on a desert island, I’m sure I wouldn’t need any makeup as I’d become quite beautiful with all of the coconut milk I’d be drinking and the omega-3’s from the fish I’d be catching. But IF I did really have to choose, I’d say Tarte’s Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Illuminating Serum would be in that top three. It is an absolute multitasker; I use it as foundation base, tinted moisturizer (I mix it with a foundation), highlighter, even body illuminator. But my favorite, top secret makeup artist trick for it? To add extra oomph to a smokey eye. After applying your eye makeup, simple apply a tiny amount with a domed concealer brush beneath the eye. It will catch any dark shadow fallout as well as give a clean, polished look and illuminate dark circles. I use this product every day, without fail. It doesn’t contain any chunky glitter, but instead imparts a soft, candlelit glimmer. Perfect.

2.     There are many days when I simply don’t feel like putting on makeup, but I need something to perk up my face. The solution to this age-old dilemma is Tarte’s LipSurgence Matte Lip Tint in Lively. The color is so unique; I’m a major fan of both YSL and MAC’s hot pinks and nothing in their lines come close. Deep, electric-but-not-neon pink that looks fabulous on every skintone, from ivory to the deepest chesnut. With a touch of mascara and concealer, you are out the door. Caution: don’t wear this color if you don’t want people asking what you are wearing.

3.     The next product is one that looks awful on me, but incredible on those with deep skintones: Tarte for True Blood Cheekstain. It’s a stunning, candy-apple red infused with gold shimmer that gives an amazing, glowing from within look. I’ve sold this miraculous product to women from age thirteen all the way up to eighty – it’s just that good. If you haven’t tried Tarte’s cheek stains yet, you must. Besides the addicting clean, lemongrass scent (which I keep begging the Tarte gals to make into a perfume or candle), the formula is unlike anything else – a smooth, almost-opaque gel that blends with fingertips or stippling brush and lasts for hours. While this cheek stain is no longer available in stores, you can still get it on the Tarte website – take the chance.

4.     If you read beauty blogs, I’m sure you’ve heard of Cle de Peau’s amazing concealer – and its hefty price tag. Yes, it is worth it, but if its just not in your price range, give Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Waterproof Concealer a try. The formula is wonderfully thick, to cover basically anything, from blemishes to undereye circles to hickeys, but doesn’t crease at all. It even covers dark spots or deeply pigmented rosacea. And at $22, it’s a total beauty steal!

5.     This last product such an on-set staple, I keep at least two in my makeup kit and one in my brush belt for instant touch ups – Tarte’s Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder. I guess I just can’t get enough of Amazonian Clay – but it really is a miracle ingredient! If you’ve tried Bare Minerals Mineral Veil or Makeup Forever HD Powder, this puts those to shame – it sets makeup without ever getting cakey, and keeps the oilies at bay for hours. If you’ve never tried a loose powder, consider one if your skin tends to shine several hours after foundation application. This powder also comes in a Bronze shade, so those with deeper skin tones, or anyone looking for a subtle (faux) tan, can get a flawless, poreless complexion as well. 

Inspiration: India

Classes have begun this week, thus, I haven't had any time to go on my usual photography expeditions. So I will focus on something that I saw just about a month before coming to India that reminded me that I was headed to the right place for learning, new beginnings, and exploration.
Chanel's Pre-Fall Metiers d'Art Collection this year was entitled Paris - Bombay. Karl Lagerfeld took inspiration from the menswear, rather than the traditional female dress, as he felt their looks are "more wearable". With classic Chanel touches mingling with the colors, patterns, and motifs of India, the result was stunning. Here are some of my favorite looks from the show. These are styles I would love to emulate in the coming months! I love the white-gold color satin he used - I have been seeing a lot of that here, but as mentioned, typically in menswear shops. When I find a good tailor, I am going to bring them some of these photos to hopefully construct a jacket that is reminiscent. The shoes are extremely refined versions of traditional styles that you can find in roadside shops in places like Link Road in Bandra for $3 or $4. I am thinking of buying a pair and seeing how I can jazz them up, DIY style.