Today’s millennials live in world of Instagram and instant gratification, and everything is now for them. Food? Superfast delivery. New clothes? Just a few clicks should do the trick. Success? Not to fast, dude. That takes years of passion and dedication. Ask Ralph Daniels, whose doggedness and conviction helped him reach his goal, but not before the usual chorus by alarmists and Cassandras. But he did make that leap from a cushy nine-to-five job to reinvent himself as a makeup artist, and a very busy one at that.
Like the Noughties generation, Ralph moved to Bengaluru from Pune to join the booming BPO sector, working as a voice and speech trainer with MNCs like Accenture and IBM. “I really enjoyed my corporate job. But I always had a creative streak: doing crafts, painting and accessories-making as part of extracurricular activities. Coming from a family that gives importance to studies, fashion and makeup did not figure at all in my life. It was treated as the career of a woman who starts her own parlour after getting married,” says Ralph.
But all that would change soon. Hanging out with a friend from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) who worked with several designers, Ralph got a peek into the fashion world. Ralph had the usual middle-class view of the fashion industry as a “party and drug-fuelled, crazy, narcissistic place”. However, a three-day stint at helping backstage at a Fashion Week demolished all preconceived notions and he knew at last that this was where he belonged.
Three days for a mind-set to change
In those three days, Ralph saw the glam world from up close and realised that it was as much hard work and as much chaos as in an MNC. Surrounded by India’s best, he observed how they worked, how the styling happens, and the lightning speed the models had to change outfits. “There was order in the chaos.”
Realisation dawned on him that in the fashion industry, there’s no need for a godfather if one had talent. Encouraged by friends who had faith in his creativity, he made up his mind. “I had a plan. I saved up six months’ salary, quit my job, and began my journey as a makeup artist.”
He had no professional training and was self-taught. Predictably, the initial days were tough. A top artist snubbed him when he asked if he could assist him. Moreover, his natural reticence came in the way of marketing himself aggressively. Even as he resolved to learn the skills himself, he landed his first few assignments through friends who worked for magazine photoshoots. While this did not pay much, it gave him field experience.
Meanwhile, he was also looking for schools that offered makeup courses. But this was way back in 2008 and these institutions were partial to the gaudy styles of the ’90s. Ralph, a fan of FashionTV that showcased contemporary international trends, concluded he didn’t want to be part of the garish brigade. Instead, he schooled himself in the art, made mistakes, and while the learning curve was long, he eventually mastered the skill.
From passion to paycheck
Right from the start, Ralph was very particular about his work. “My style was minimalist. I hate heavy-duty kajal and [overload] of blush.”
His sense of style caught the eye of professional photographers who hired him for shoots, and in a matter of three years, he had made it. Apart from fashion and magazine shoots, his work entailed bridal makeup too.
“I did not have to struggle too much because I was clear about whom I wanted to work with, and the kind of work I wanted to do,” says Ralph.
With so many makeup artists in the field, he knew he had to stand out with his own signature. His is Vintage Hollywood and recently, he went to London to take a course in Vintage Hollywood hairstyling.
So what about Bollywood’s style? He praises Alia Bhatt’s makeup in Udta Punjab. “It was done so well; they even put dirt in her fingernails to complete the look.” But he hated the makeup and look of the actors in Baahubali. Why? no sophistication in makeup and styling.
Having travelled across the globe on work, Ralph is appreciative of the camaraderie in the industry. There are makeup trade fairs in the UK and the US where knowledge-sharing and workshops take place. This encourages newcomers and helps them learn the tricks of the trade, quite unlike in India where senior artists jealously guard their products and techniques.
Ralph wants to change all that by encouraging beginners to assist him in shoots or to intern with him so that they learn on the job. He also plans to conduct workshops and training sessions for newbies.