It was a combination of adventure, love for travel and films that led me to the bright lights of Bombay. I wanted to explore the world and the world of cinema. Bollywood seemed like the right move,” says Virginia Holmes, famous makeup designer who has been trained at Greasepaint, the London College of Fashion and Dinair UK.
Holmes wanted to pursue her passion for makeup and realising the many exciting opportunities present in multi-cultural Mumbai, and so she moved to India in 2000. Living her makeup dream since then, she is associated now with the best in film, TV and fashion industry.
She has also lent her make-up and styling proficiency to top brands in the country like Vogue, GQ, MTV, Puma, Elle, Google, Indigo Airlines and Heineken Worldwide among others. Along with her partner Natasha Nischol, she also runs India’s paramount make-up academy, Fat Mu; a learning platform for all those who wish to learn the make-up artistry.
Holmes is not only a big name in Bollywood industry, her body of work also includes a multitude of Hollywood films which have won several Academy awards. She has proved her worth in films like Slumdog Millionaire, Singularity, Zero Dark 30, Vanity Fair, Lakshya, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Zokkomon, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd, and many more.
Having worked in both Hollywood and Bollywood films, for Holmes, the common thing that both industries share are stress levels. “Whether you’re working on a Bollywood or a Hollywood production, people still expect perfection in your work. There is no difference for that matter,” says Holmes to Guardian 20.
Holmes believes that as a makeup designer, her aim is to make her work invisible. She says, “The audience should just see the characters up there on the screen. You should not notice the makeup. Since each project is different, the look of the film can be very realistic and very character driven or have a glamour edge to it.”
“Working with a beauty ideal that is set in stone is hard. Beauty is different to many people. So we must always be aware of that,” says Holmes.
Since Indians have different skin tones and textures, Holmes finds India exciting to work in. “It is amazing because you have to adjust to different colours, tones and also aesthetes. You have to be aware that each face/canvas is different and not to be formulaic with your products. Working with a beauty ideal that is set in stone is hard. Beauty is different to many people. So we must always be aware of that,” says Holmes.
Holmes has also worked for films like Mirzya starring Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher. Talking about her experience, she says, “This was a very collaborative film. Every department worked closely together with ROMP (Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra), and we spent months in meetings and looks tests until Rakesh was happy. It was essential that our two leads had to look different from the two characters that they played. It was like doing two films in one.”
Taking about the preparation for this film, Holmes says, “Every film is different, and the director’s vision is always new. So, lots of looks tests and the process of designing was the main difference. It was a very collaborative effort and the whole team was involved in the creation.”
The most challenging film in terms of makeup decision for Holmes was Margarita with a Straw (MWAS) and Slumdog Millionaire and both for very different reasons. She says, “MWAS was shot on q shoestring budget in a short time and knowing the importance of subtlety in the makeup and hair design, invisibility was the key. Slumdog Millionaire was super fast-paced and there was a lot of pressure as working with Danny Boyle is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so every day was stressful on another level.”
In film, TV and fashion industries the makeup style differs takes different forms and abides to different standards. Holmes informs, “Each has the same creative approach. There is a brief and a vision that you need to bring to life with film and TV. We are working with HD cameras and so we have to be up to date on techniques, products and how to work with this technology. Fashion again needs precision because the cameras are everywhere but the creative demands are different, it’s a show so we think of it almost like a theatrical production.”
Holmes sees the cosmetic industry growing in India. “It is huge market! It really is snowballing into a massive industry in terms of products, services and education. Watch this space,” concludes Holmes.