Makeup artist Mari Shten is the fashion world’s darling. The New York City-based talent has worked her magic on the likes of Cynthia Nixon, Amy Schumer and Mariah Carey, as well as editorials for Vogue, L’Officiel and Elle Italia. In a new interview with World of Dannijo, she tells us what she learned on her recent month-long trip to India.
By Tamara Abraham
Fashion month is great, but it isn’t everything.
Mari travelled to India in February, usually her busiest month of the year, doing makeup for runway shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris. “I’ve done it so many times,” she said. “I want new experiences and I want to learn something new instead of going to the same places.”
Some destinations just demand more time, too. “I had actually never taken that long a vacation in my life,” Mari said. “India’s such a big country and so beautiful, and kind of far, [so] I knew I needed more time there.”
Planning is overrated.
Mari arrived in the country’s capital city, New Delhi, without an agenda. “I stayed in a hostel my first day in Delhi, because I wanted to meet people,” she explained. “They were like, you should go there! You should see this!” This approach allowed her itinerary to evolve in an organic way, taking in Rishikesh (in the foothills of the Himalayas), the cities of Udaipur and Jaipur in Rajasthan, the southwestern city of Mysore, Goa’s idyllic coastline, and historic Kochi in Kerala.
The only thing Mari booked in advance was a week-long stay in an ashram on the outskirts of Mysore. “There was meditation but it was not a silent [ashram],” Mari said. “[Guests were required to be] silent from 10pm to 10am, so in the morning you don’t talk until after breakfast.” For Mari, a self-confessed workout addict, yoga was the highlight. “We did yoga twice a day in two-and-a-half hour sessions, so basically five hours of yoga a day.”
Get off the beaten path.
Some of Mari’s most memorable experiences were ones that tourists don’t usually see. “I went to this temple that was around 20 kilometres from the city [of Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan],” Mari recalled. “It was a tiny temple that’s built into the side of a mountain, maybe six people could fit in there. It was one of the most beautiful temples [I saw]. It was so raw and authentic and you feel the energy. There was no one besides us visiting the temple so it was a very special experience.”
Make friends with the locals.
Mari was lucky enough to have a friend in Udaipur, so unlike many travellers, she experienced the city more like a local than a tourist. “I actually went to a gym in Udaipur – it was interesting!” she said. “Women and men are in separate rooms, they don’t work out together, [and there’s] a trainer who just walks around and tells you what to do — it’s not personal training but he just helps everyone. It was very different.”
Mari also made friends with the owners of one of Rajasthan’s most innovative restaurants, Millets of Mewar — which focuses on raw, vegan and gluten-free fare — and ended up getting a cooking class. “They’re two young guys, just 28 years old and they own this restaurant [that serves] very beautiful, healthy Indian food,” she said. “It was a very cool experience.”
Like all makeup artists, Mari travels with a sizeable kit. Her backpack had no space for such luxuries though, so she pared her professional kit down to the bare minimum, leaning on basics and multitasking products. “I ended up doing a photoshoot there… [and I] realized that I actually don’t need that much of anything, because I mix a lot of things while I’m working anyway,” she said. “I feel like, if I’m limited I get more creative.”
Mari always keeps her own makeup separate from her work kit. For India, she kept that bag minimal too. “Moisturizer, concealer, mascara, brow pencil: those are the four things I absolutely need,” she said. “If I go somewhere sunny, I definitely need sunscreen too.”
Forget your expectations.
India is an assault on the senses. It’s the kind of culture shock that is fuel to a creative like Mari. “I got very inspired by all the colors in India, it’s so colorful, everything is about the colors, especially coming from New York, where everyone wears black,” she said.
But if you think you know what to expect from India, you’re wrong. “Forget your expectations, Mari advised. “The minute you think you know and you expect something, it doesn’t work.”
Wanderlust is real.
“I want to do more trips like this,” Mari said. “I want to go to South East Asia, I want to go to Japan, Australia. I feel like Japan might be my next one.”
Mari wears jewelry by Dannijo throughout. Photos courtesy of Mari Shten.