As a freelance makeup artist who doesn’t dabble in bridals and isn’t associated with a major salon in Pakistan, life isn’t easy. In an unregulated industry and no proper management agencies, making your mark can be an arduous process but the barriers to entry and obstacles along the way ensure that those who emerge victorious are the absolute best at what they do.
That is exactly how we would describe Hannan Siddique, a Lahore based makeup artist, whose work is internationally recognized. Don’t believe us? Have a look at his followers on Instagram and you’ll spot the world renowned Pat McGrath keeping up with his work. That in itself is accolade enough but McGrath takes it up a notch by commenting under photos of his work that she likes. This alone should give you an inkling of the kind of magic Siddique can conjure with some foundation and coloured pigments.
“I started working in 2008 with Guddu Shani (GS). I’m an artist, a painter by education (he studied fine arts) so I guess I’ve been inclined towards creating beautiful imagery and makeup always intrigued me so the two combined and became my calling in life. I was asked to execute an intricate and quite technical hairstyle for a Nomi Ansari editorial, which was meant to be my test to join their team. I passed with flying colours and was taken as an apprentice by Guddu Baji, who then trained and groomed me. I was with GS till 2014 and shot extensively with them while they were in Bangkok before turning freelance on my own.
I worked in Bangkok with agencies for a year and a half and it was during this time I did some of my acclaimed campaigns for global brands. Through my exposure in Thailand I got the opportunity to shoot for Vogue India, GQ India, Vera Moda, Baracdi, Blender’s Pride etc among others and I also got a chance to work with Bollywood star Varun Dhawan. I’ve shot for ace stylists Allia al Rufai and Harshad Gadhvi and I was in Poland last year shooting for Zara and Travelogue magazine,” Siddique says as he rattles off a long list of accomplishments.
After his stint in Thailand, Siddique moved back to Pakistan a year or so ago to rebuild his base in his home turf and to cement lucrative, long-term associations with brands. He’s the go-to makeup artist in Lahore for fashion editorials and celebrities regularly ask for Siddique by name to do their makeup. Siddique won Best Makeup Artist of the year last year at the first Hum Style Awards and has also previously been nominated at the long-standing Lux Style Awards. He also has a movie under his belt, having worked on Shaan Shahid’s soon to be released film, Arth 2, though he’s certainly not fond of working on films and finds the experience rather tedious and nerve wrecking.
Talking about the difference between working abroad and working in Pakistan, the most major discrepancy Siddique points out is how people abroad are more professional; organized, timely and non-interfering. “When you work internationally you realise how teams work in tandem. Everyone is on time, the sets are ready when the models arrive for makeup and there’s an actual time limit to how you’ll be on set, unlike in Pakistan where you often turn up for work only to wait hours before getting started and staying over-time without being paid for it.
Because my exposure abroad I’ve become very particular in terms of contract and like to clarify all details in advance before a booking. Working hours, looks, number of models etc. have to be communicated before the shoot and can’t be subject to random changes. Obviously, there is flexibility but in Pakistan the entire system is a bit too informal and that can lead to problems on set.”
Siddique also laments the fact that there is very little representation for makeup artists in the country. There is no association that binds all of them together or forms a regulatory board and there is a serious dearth of managers and agencies to push freelance artists and safeguard their rights. “I’ve signed on to international agencies which is extremely helpful because they can plug me in international campaigns. In Pakistan we have so such talent management which means that a lot of talented people never get to maximize on their potential because there’s no one managing their career. An artist can do both, work and also ensure that they can negotiate the best deal possible for themselves,” he elaborates.
We certainly don’t disagree. Despite a boom in the entertainment and fashion fraternity, there are few talent management agencies and those that are present deal mostly with celebrities. Internationally though, everyone from models to stylists and makeup artists are associated with agencies that bag campaigns for them. The lack of it is evident in Pakistan where freelancers work rather haphazardly and are often short-changed by brands or advertising agencies when it comes to payments.
Our topic of conversation turns to Siddique’s personal aesthetic when it comes to makeup and what makes him cringe about local makeup application. “Women here tend to layer up makeup to an absurd degree,” Siddique says without missing a beat. “They wear too much product and the result is cakey faces that tend to look scary in summer heat when everything begins to melt. And for the life of me I don’t understand why women in Pakistan so casually sport fake eyelashes. They look extremely made up and should be worn in an occasion appropriate manner.
As far as my own aesthetic is concerned, I love the sun-kissed bronze-y look and feature enhancing makeup. I don’t believe in changing a person’s face with makeup but rather advocate enhancing features that work and minimizing the flaws. Pakistanis though generally tend to shy away from tanning or bronzing so it’s an uphill battle sometimes getting celebrities or models to agree to the sun-kissed glow.”
Siddique has some incredible plans in the pipeline, including a salon deal that is currently very hush hush but will see the artist extraordinaire travel to Paris to sign contracts and finally reveal the collaboration sometime later in the year. Till then he’s busy shooting just about every day for a slew of lawn and other commercial campaigns while keeping one eye out for work in Europe, which is really his dream destination to work in.