It was not mere happenstance that Ishika Taneja was born in the year her mother, Bharti, set up ALPS Beauty Clinic, a household name in Delhi now. It almost seemed like a sign of things to come, and as she watched her mother turn the company into a chain, Ishika vowed to assume the mantle one day, when she was ready.
Back then, in 1988, there were either beauty parlours or dermatologists and cosmetologists treating beauty, skin and hair-related problems in their clinics. Bharti, along with her husband, Balraj, took the initiative of setting up a beauty clinic that had the facilities of doctors to treat the clients – and played a key role in bringing out the business of beauty care from the confines of rich and the elite by offering really affordable solutions for the women.
Inspired by her mother’s journey, and determined to join the industry armed with the best skillset, Ishika moved to London for an advanced makeup course from London School of Beauty and Makeup. Thereafter, she mastered prosthetics from the world-renowned Atti Tabak, at Netherlands. To polish her entrepreneurial instincts, she enrolled in International Business and Strategic Management programme in London School of Economics.
Her mentor and airbrush teacher, Nelly Recchia, is the one of the reasons behind her imbibing the unique art of airbrush makeup. Ishika followed Recchia to Hollywood, where she used to work with American popstar Katy Perry, to take on the challenge. “A large number of lights are used on film sets, so, the importance of contouring and sculpting increases manifolds. We have to also take care of factors like heat and minute detailing of camera – hence we ought to implement waterproof, HD and long-lasting looks. I assisted her in creating several looks for her albums using airbrush makeup. This made me get keenly involved in the whole process and learn this vivacious art of airbrushing. It’s a great form of makeup that amalgamates art with technique; while playing with colours on textures. And, the result is mesmerising– something that India had never encountered much before at the time.”
When Hollywood comes knocking
After completing her studies in London, Ishika shot to success working as a makeup pro in Hollywood – while brushing up her skills on several Hollywood stars like Britney Spears. She was also the makeover expert for beauty pageant winners in many countries.
“But, somewhere deep down in my mind – I had this urge to do something with my work which makes my own country proud,” Ishika says.
So when the restlessness set in, she returned to the homeland and had a short stint in Bollywood.She worked her strokes of magic on actors like Aamir Khan and John Abraham, among many others. But she knew that her heart belonged with her family business. Soon enough, Ishika joined ALPS as their Executive Director.
Her return, though, coincided with the time when the entire nation was shook by the gruesome rape of Nirbhaya in late 2012. “I was deeply shaken by this incident and wanted to do something for this girl and her family. I wanted to pay a tribute to that braveheart. I could also feel her pain as she was also just like me – a girl wanting to make her people proud by working hard for her dreams,” Ishika says.
Woman on a Mission
She decided to attempt a Guinness record with her skill, as her way of proving what women are made of. “The entire experience was completely exhilarating for me. Though I was given the target of airbrushing 25 models, I had set my target to perfectly airbrushing the faces of 60 models. And, I must say, it wasn’t a cakewalk, owing to the several hurdles and glitches that came along with every application,”she adds.
After registration, came hours of practice. “With full attention, along with hours and hours of daily practice on the mannequins kept in my basement, I trained my hands to achieve the stable target of over 60 complete airbrush makeup jobs in one hour,” Ishika quips. Her best record, though, unofficially, was 80 faces.
As a record of this sort was never attempted before, Ishika even helped Guinness structure the intimidating challenge. Using only airbrush equipment, the makeup had to provide full coverage to the model’s face and all the looks on models had to be achieved using three colours of airbrush makeup – wherein no two looks could be the same. D-Day arrived at DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj, but Ishika walked in confidently. The day chosen marked the two-year anniversary of the Nirbhaya gang-rape.
With an advocate (for legal viablity), an airbrushing expert, two people from Sports Authority (to keep time), and one from Guinness World Records, who had to do a course in airbrushing (to judge perfectly) – her panel was a formidable one. All eyes on her, Ishika set off.
While the target was set at 25 models, she optimistically prepared a line-up of almost a 100 models on the big day. Out of the 64 models she successfully performed on, only four ended up getting disqualified. “I had applied eye-shadow in different hues for everybody, but two girls got disqualified – the make-up looked similar, though technically, it wasn’t.”
Sixty, therefore, was the magic number, and Ishika went down in history as the artiste with the most number of looks achieved in one hour, using airbrush technique. Even as she was receiving her Guinness World Record Certificate, she dedicated this record-of-a-lifetime to the courage and bravery of Nirbhaya. All the funds raised during the event went to the Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust. Moreover, 12 scholarships worth Rs 12 lakh were granted to other victims of Delhi, with 100 percent job assurance from her.