Interview with Make up Artist – Elton J Fernandez



Fabien Charuau Photography


Elton J Fernandez is among India’s best fashion and celebrity make-up artists. His work has graced dozens of magazines like Vogue, Elle India, Grazia and American Condé Nast Traveller. He worked with veteran Bollywood actresses like Manisha Koirala, Juhi Chawala to young actresses like Alia Bhatt. One of my favorite works of his, is on Lakshmi Manchu in the South India’s first ever Walt Disney film Anaganaga-O-Derrudu where she portrayed the role of Irendri. Despite his extremely busy schedule, Elton also runs India’s first professional Youtube Channel where he shares his DIY make up and hair tutorials. BarelyVogue had an opportunity  to chat with Elton about his journey, his take on makeup trends and he graciously shared with us the most basic details on how to find the right make up for Indian Skin and more..

BV : Hi Elton! excited that this interview is finally happening. So tell us when did your fascination for make up begin? In the past you were working for Google and now you are a renowned makeup artist.  So how did this happen? Can you tell us little bit about this.

EJ : For me makeup and wardrobe were always interesting. I remember trying on my mothers makeup all the time when I was a child, but you are not conditioned in a society to think that as a career option, so its not even at the back of your mind ,we don’t even pursue it sooner than we do. I was working at Google and HSBC at desks jobs out of the college. At that time I used to paint on canvas. I was then introduced to painting faces by a makeup artist friend from Hyderabad. He told me that the face is just another canvas that talks back to you. That was something that caught my attention. I tried it, loved it and there was no turning back.

BV : What point did you realize that your career is really taking off and when did you leave your full-time job.

EJ : I was exhausted from working desks for 5 years. I knew it wasn’t for me. I chose to leave home and move to Mumbai. I didn’t have anything else to do and came to Mumbai to pursue makeup. I got a sales job at MAC cosmetics. I was thrilled with a new salary way more than what I was being paid at Google.

BV: You have done commercial, fashion, movie and bridal makeup. Which has been the most exciting for you?

EJ : My favorite sort of work is Advertisements and bridal work. Brides are people that genuinely reach out for help. Its a great bonding experience. You end up developing a great relationship with not just the bride but with the entire family…if it’s a destination wedding you get to travel, stay at nice places, eat good food. I like ads because they are good money and a much shorter duration unlike movies.

BV : Do you think working in Indian Films you have limitations contrary to what you want to do.?

EJ: Oh…Hell yeah! I value good cinema..I have a great amount of respect for technicians and certain artists. But for me, blow dried hair, lip gloss and manicured nails for villagers carrying sticks on their shoulders makes no sense. I like to see things that make sense and tie up together.

BV: How did the youtube videos start?

EJ : I didn’t really plan on having a full-on channel. I like teaching and I like being on camera so I thought why not..Id like to host a TV show 5 years from now. So I just started for the kick of it and I enjoyed the process. I had Nina Manuel, who is a dear friend, on my first episode and that really boosted my confidence. Recently I signed up with a Network ‘Culture Machine,’ so editing and marketing of my content will be deflected to them. I just have to produce, go back and say what I like and what Id like changed.

BV: Let’s talk some beauty tips…Quick and easy steps to look more glamorous?

EJ: Invest in good skin care so your skin looks hydrated and it doesn’t look dry like a wall. It has to breath and look dewy. Use moisturizer, sunscreen and focus on good skin. Always …always use mascara after curling your lashes because it really opens up the eyes and makes you look alert and awake. Blush is a great way to look healthy! Healthy hair and a nice haircut is also crucial. Heavy layering is so passé!

BV: Do you prefer Dewy make up or Matte look?

EJ: For me, its always about relevance. If you are going for a classic DitaVonTeese-Sequa look –  plain skin, well groomed eyebrows, lots of mascara and bold red lips, matte skin looks great. That said, when you’re meeting people you don’t want to overwhelm them with a mask. You should just look striking. I don’t like skin that’s caked up. Dewy skin is always in.

BV : Is there one make up trend that does not work for everyone?

EJ: Everyone?  Why must one follow any makeup trends at all?! Most trends filter down from the European market with Caucasian skin, light eyes and blonde hair. Whereas our skin is deeper, we have deeper hair, lush eyebrows, lashes and beautiful beady eyes. So the balance is already difference. Pale skin needs color to create balance between what shadow they are taking in. Because too much light washes them out. We on the other hand, have so much shadow we like to take in light. Which is why we like to look brighter. It is ultimately about maintaining a balance. 

BV: The fact that you mentioned about trends being set for lighter complexions. That is something I find challenging when I am buying makeup or just foundation. Do you have any tips for someone who is super new to makeup and have hard time finding correct shades for their skin tone. Do you have any go-to brands that are more friendly for our wheatish Indian complexion?

EJ: Bobby brown is great she gets Indian skin tones fantastically. I like Nars if you are a deeper color. There is a Australian brand called Becca which you see I use a lot in my videos. They are phenomenal with their color tones in foundations and concealers. I love this Polish brand called Inglot they have shades from palest to darkest skin tones.

BV: In your videos you use brands which are only available at Sephora or Online. Most of the college going girls in India don’t have accessibility to these brands. Do you have any suggestions for more economical brands that are available in Indian department stores?

EJ: Initially when I started making videos I started with my kit, which is largely expensive brands simply because I work with different people and this my job. I started to use several other economical brands like Nyx, Revlon, Diana of London and Maybelline recently. Needless to say, pigment quality will hardly ever be as superior as a luxury or premium range brand.  I always recommend investing in good products.

BV: Most of us have corporate jobs and for example I work for a financial corp and I can’t go to work wearing a smokey eye or too much make up. Do you have any tips for women like me who likes to play around with makeup and still look professional?

EJ: Yeah ..of course! You can definitely play around by using various shades of blusher, different colors of kajal. Indian women love to wear Kajal. It doesn’t have to be black. It can be plum, navy blue, bright green, sky blue, grey or different shades of brown. You know brown eye can wear anything! We are so lucky to have brown eyes, hair and brown skin. Anything matches our skin. Most shades of lipsticks complement our skin and hair. And I think Indian women wear awesome bindis. We make such beautiful jewellery!

BV: Is there a lipstick etiquette? When to wear lipstick and when to wear lipgloss? ..or just go by how you feel?

EJ:  Definitely how you feel. But lip glosses are all about adding shine and that glam factor. For work however, it’s the longevity that counts for me. You don’t want to keep touching up your lipstick at work. So a long wearing lipstick to work and lipgloss when a lady is going out for a night. I like simple lipsticks cuz they’re more sophisticated.

BV: And..Mascara! Is there a rule of thumb to pick one? There are hundreds of varieties which say lengthening, thickening, fake etc. If I have to buy one what would it be?

EJ: It is very relative to how you apply it. If you apply very slowly and have trembling hands, you want something that won’t dry quickly and has a wand like comb similar to mens mini-combs and not a spiral comb. I am not a fan of fat stubby wands because they go all over the place. But many people like it as one or two quick moves and you’ve got it all covered. I don’t have a particular favorite. 

BV: Any makeup trends that you are looking forward to?

EJ: I don’t really follow trends. I go with how I feel when I wake up. But few things that are always in trend are healthy skin which comes from blush and bronzer and very welcoming wide eyes with something sexy like kajal and lips that are not chapped. So, a good tinted lip balm will always be in trend.

BV: Three must have products every Indian Women should have in her makeup bag?

EJ: Definitely black mascara, any lip and cheek stain and powder to mattify your T-zone.

BV: One Last question. What would you tell some one who has a burning desire to do something related to make up. Is there a good opportunity in the industry?

EJ: The main thing is not to make a Bible out of text books. If you have learnt something from a beauty school or a text book, erase what they thought you and come fresh into the field and learn from your own mistakes. I think the best advice that I can give some one is not to intellectualize something as superficial as make up. If you make a mistake it can be corrected. it’s only makeup, not rocket science… we are here to have fun painting, not to cure cancer. The more important focus should be on grooming ones personality. Don’t overthink. Just have fun. That’s how I work and I encourage it.

Don’t forget to check out his youtube channel – here 


Image Source – Fabien Charuau Photography 

2 thoughts

  1. Renuka Ramsaran - June 17, 2015, 12:57 PM

    Hi Elton,
    Just hooked on your site.
    From East Indian origin, living in Trinidad, West Indies
    A lot of makeup brands and floors do not suit our complexion.
    Thus is why, I am so drawn to yours.
    Can’t remember how I came across yours while on the Internet,
    But bottom line just love it.
    You won’t believe, I am 66 yrs. but with serious hyper pigments
    On both sides of my face, actually I am very uneven.
    So I am trying to put your ideas and colors together to get a sought of
    Perfect foundation for myself. It is very, very difficult, I am not fair
    Nor dark skinned, but with the pigments, I look mid way between dark
    And medium.
    Need your help. I love beauty even at my age. Working feverishly right
    Now to lighten the marks, using turmeric and yogurt. But u know everything
    Takes so, so long to get that pretty effect. Thank you – Renuka

  2. Poonam jhangiani - August 15, 2016, 11:31 PM

    I live in the u.s. For several years I haven’t tried different foundations but I stll think I don’t have the right match fo my skin. Is there a way I could meet Elton Fernandez where he can look at my skin and give me the right foundation lipstick etc. I have acne pits and thereby having the right foundation is a must. Please help us

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