Wednesday, January 5, 2011

All About Mickey Contractor

Mickey contractor
Director of Makeup Artistry – India

He’s a makeup artist who turns heads when he walks down a Bombay street, a talent who literally changed the face of Bollywood and he’s M·A·C Director of Artistry, India. He’s Mickey Contractor whose career started in an extraordinary way – by meeting a muse.

As a young lad what came first were the movies. Watching films from age 10, he became transfixed by an actress whose onscreen persona was both cabaret dancer and vamp. At age 10 he may not have known the culture behind the looks, but he knew what fascination felt like. With eyes that flashed, hair that piled high above her head, feathers that rose cockade-like above her head, she was “awe-inspiring.” Her name was Helen Richardson Khan, Bollywood’s legendary “Helen.”

Unlike traditional Bollywood queens, she was trendy. Of exotic mixed heritage, she found her inspiration in English glossies, and took to mimicking the trends of the ’60s and ’70s. The sexy eye liner flicks, the loose bouffant, the sense of sex and liberation. Young Mickey was drawn in.

Something about the hairdo and the feather must have stuck, for upon leaving school Mickey went to work in a hairdressing salon. Amid the perms and updos of Bombay’s stylish, there was one customer in particular who he was thrilled to work on, Helen. One day, shampooing her hair, she asked him what he wanted to do with his life and suggested that he learn makeup. Giving him some insider advice, she told him to go and assist a Bollywood makeup artist.

Mickey was hardly going to ignore his beloved muse. With no formal schools in makeup art in Bombay, apprenticing was the way to go. Unlike Western culture, makeup artistry in India was at that time a family profession and techniques were passed down father to son like family secrets. Because of this laissez-faire, no trends were created. Mickey, on the other hand, had no family connections and was an outsider. Finding a makeup artist willing to take him on, he was taught the basics in foundation. Assisting for eight months, he began to create his own tricks; after all, he had no family secrets to be the keeper of, he was
free to ad lib – and he did. His techniques became savvy and he started to develop a reputation. Stepping out, he initially worked the provincial film studios, working on C-list movies – learning but financially barely scraping by. His kit was a mishmash of local brands of makeup and a few brushes he had bought from an art store.

He was also inadvertently networking. The faces he made up in the provinces were also cast in Bollywood. Eventually he was asked to be the makeup artist for a trio of actresses. This was getting closer to his mission, but he was learning something about Bollywood, too – makeup artists weren’t esteemed. The combination of low pay and shabby treatment made Mickey react. A rebel with a cause, he quit and went to work in commercial advertising. There he earned more, and was allowed a different kind of creativity, one that was more receptive to trends. Finally, he had the freedom to create and develop his look. Dipping into six-month-old fashion magazines, he would look, see and reinterpret in his own style.

As his reputation grew, Bollywood’s interest in him returned. Wooed by director Rahul Rawail, Mickey dug his heels in and made unheard of contractual demands. Despite himself, he got the job. But there was no shrinking back to the status quo. When the director screamed, he screamed back. He began to get a reputation. But if his screaming was loud, his work spoke louder. Juggling Bollywood and commercial work, he attained an unheard of celebrity status in Bollywood and around Bombay: he became a makeup superstar.

Movies meant location work and one year he found himself in Canada shooting a Bollywood film in the Rockies. On the way home he popped into a makeup store in a shopping mall in Vancouver – M·A·C! Struck by the colours, he picked up something he never thought he could find; perfect nude lipsticks – M·A·C favourites Malt, Twig, and to this spontaneously added a deep burgundy Diva. Back home he experimented and got hooked. This was just the start.

As his reputation grew and his fees increased, he built his M·A·C collection. With no source in India, he would pick it up here and there. In London he would buy a Cork Lip Pencil...Then next port of call he would dip into the browns, rusts, and coppers he would find in the eye shadow collection. He built his collection on one inspiration: the colour spectrum of the Indian complexion.

As his status rose, he began to influence a whole new generation of Bollywood makeup artists – and his fame outside the country was growing, too. Scouted by M·A·C for their first store in Bombay, Mickey had no hesitation. He still does Bollywood and commercial work, but his work with M·A·C is a passion. Between M·A·C Master Classes round the world, in-store appearances, new store openings (after Bombay, there was Bangalore), Bollywood and its Award Ceremonies, and Delhi Fashion Week, he has little time for much else. His inspiration comes from the West...from the backstages of London, Paris, Milan, New York, and from the glossies, and where he needs to, he tempers them for the Indian taste and skin. As he says, “In India – unlike Paris – you don’t do looks that are so nude you look like you just got out of bed.” He may not realize it, but when he takes a trend, and modifies it, ever so slightly for the Indian market, he’s echoing his muse, Helen who in the ’70s looked at a photo in Vogue and copied it in her own way...And as for those art brushes, with which he learned the art of the liner, yes, he still has them – but only as keepsakes.

To view the MAC & Mickey Contractor collection, click here.

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