In light of the summer wedding season, we decided to reconnect with renowned Lebanese makeup artist, Hala Ajam. Having studied in LA, Hala is known for her unique makeup style that combines western and eastern artistic techniques. One of her specialties is bridal makeup, which one of us has first hand experience with. She’s truly amazing!
We’re privileged to have spent a cozy summer afternoon at Hala’s studio in downtown Beirut, chatting about her passion, and learning some beauty tips and tricks. Here’s our discussion.
- Tell us more about your journey as a makeup artist. What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
I’ve always loved to draw, especially faces. I guess that’s where it all began. But I definitely faced a cultural challenge when I decided to pursue art and makeup. My family viewed it as a more of a hobby than a career. They didn’t support or encourage me to follow this path. But I decided to look past all the criticism and prove them wrong, prove that I was going to be successful as a makeup artist.
- What does it take to be successful in the makeup industry?
You have to love it to be good at it. You don’t necessarily need to stay up to date in the industry. When it comes to art, it’s not about following trends, it’s about looking at the trends and fashion out there, and creating your own thing. The only issue is when your style digresses a bit too far from the norm, it takes time for people to adjust to it.
Nowadays, makeup is being driven more towards business than art, and it has become very consumer centric. This means that most customers that come to me, more or less want the same style. Especially since the rise of social media. And this drives makeup a bit further away from art and more towards market trends. However, whenever I do makeup for magazines, I’m able to be creative, which is what I love.
- What is it about your style that differentiates you as a makeup artist?
I was really lucky to have been able to live in Lebanon and the US. When I was studying in Lebanon, I wasn’t too fond of the style at the time- I found it a bit too much, how they elongated the eye. Also the style in the USA wasn’t exactly what I liked either- the way they made the eyes look rounder. Subconsciously I found myself mixing between the two styles and forming my own unique makeup style, where the shape of the eyes were just on point! This became my unique identity as a makeup artist.
- Do you have any studios outside of Lebanon, and are you planning on expanding outside Lebanon?
I received lots of offers to expand into several countries in the region, mostly from the GCC. But I’m quite happy with my studio in Beirut, plus I travel a lot for weddings and other occasions. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I’m quite attached to Lebanon. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I feel this is where I belong.
- What do you love the most about your job?
The fun of it. You meet new faces everyday. You create faces and looks. When women come to me I get inspired to create new looks for their faces, and then these looks can become new trends that I apply in other makeup sessions. Everyday there’s something new.
- What is your favorite makeup tip?
There are lots of tips! But my favorite tip is to “look like yourself”. That doesn’t at all mean go natural or don’t wear makeup. I just mean whatever you do, look like you – show your character, show who you are. Some women have their own identity with their makeup such as dark lipstick, which is great! The most important thing is, when you see makeup trends, to get inspired not influenced. Because if you’re not comfortable with the way you look, you won’t enjoy your time, wherever you are. It’s better to do your makeup in a way that makes you feel comfortable and makes you feel like yourself.
- How often do you wear makeup and what do you wear the most?
I’m very simple with my makeup and I don’t wear it everyday. There also isn’t something particular that I wear everyday; in fact, I believe that just wearing one makeup item like lipstick or mascara without anything else, won’t really do much for you. If you don’t feel like wearing makeup, at least have a balance of a few simple makeup products so at least the makeup shows, even slightly. And it doesn’t take much time to do a simple touch up to the face, eyes, and lips. Otherwise, there’s no point in wearing it altogether.
- What are the future makeup trends that women can expect?
Anything weird. We often look back at makeup trends in the past and wonder what people were thinking. This is probably what our future is going to look like as well; people in the future will look back and wonder what we were thinking. So in this industry, you can expect anything. You can decide to put a dash of eyeliner on one eye and not the other, and it’s fine. It’s your own style. Your own brand on social media. It’s the future.
The one thing I don’t like is fake media. When I say fake, I mean filters. When you use filters, you’re lying to yourself before anybody else. I believe filters are actually quite dangerous because when you see yourself as flawless through the filters, you change the way you look at yourself and you become embarrassed or unaccepting of your own flaws in reality. For instance, when women come to me for makeup, they are so conscious of every little line they have on their face, and that’s only because they are accustomed to seeing themselves without them through the filters, and they view makeup as just another filter. Makeup is not a filter. Makeup is natural.
- Did you have any challenges dealing with brides?
You always have challenges with brides, but also with regular customers. Brides sometimes panic, naturally because they are stressed. Other people sometimes don’t know what they want. They tell me to do whatever I want, and the risk is that what I do won’t satisfy them. To avoid this, I always try to get to know my customers first, learn what they like and what they don’t like, in order to satisfy their needs.
- Do you have any advice for new brides who are trying to keep their skin fresh before their weddings?
It’s mind boggling how brides, just a few months before their wedding, suddenly decide to get their eyebrows tattooed, fillers and botox, lip enhancements etc. They want to transform their appearance into someone their fiance won’t recognize. Why would you want to change who you are?
When brides come to me initially, I send them a list of dos and don’ts to avoid all this. I tell them that their skin is young and already capable of doing its job as keeping fresh. I tell them to avoid doing any of these facial treatments and enhancements and just let makeup do its job on their big day. If they want to change anything in their face, I believe it’s better to wait till after the wedding, when there’s more time and much less stress to deal with.
Other than that, I can say it’s important to stay hydrated, and sleep well. These all help the skin, but these are things women should do all the time, not only before their wedding. It’s those pre-wedding parties, where brides don’t get enough sleep, drink more than they should, dehydrate and exhaust themselves- that are adding more stress to the bride and to her skin.
- Who inspires you the most and why?
I get inspired from lots of things around me; things I read, people I meet, people’s’ stories, especially how they overcome challenges and achieve success. Oprah was my first inspiration; her story specifically.
- What quote do you live by?
It’s a religious quote actually, about modesty. The translation is “God keep me small in my own eyes, but large in the eyes of others”. This message is to keep yourself grounded, especially when it’s easy to let fame, status, and money inflate your ego. It’s a personal goal for me to not ever be driven by my ego. I remind myself of this quote everyday.
Sisi & Rara