Adrian Jacobs is one of the most renowned makeup artists of the B-town. Popularly known as Kriti Sanon’s go-to makeup artist and best friend, Adrian Jacobs has curated some all-time classic looks for some very popular Bollywood faces. Let’s unveil through his journey from cabin crew to one of the most celebrated makeup artists in Indian Cinema.
Q. Tell us about your background. Have you always wanted to work in the beauty industry?
A. So I am an ex-cabinet attendant. About eleven or twelve years, I was a cabinet attendant with a British airline, Virgin Atlantic and I used to fly in and out of London and see many more countries and I did that for nine years. Before that, I was with another airline. So basically, for the nine years, I was a cabin crew. I never ever had any interest in makeup. I didn’t know I had it also in me. I never knew drawing, I didn’t know art. I was very average at the craft, so I didn’t know, I had it in me. It just so happened that I lost my job about eleven years back with Virgin Atlantic due to recession, and when that happened, I realized that there’s nothing to do. Also, I couldn’t find myself a desk job because of the recession. So I don’t know if it was luck at that point, I guess. I went to visit my sister in New York then and just did a course, came back, did another course here in India. Then, I got a job with MAC so I worked there on a base salary of INR 25,000. I worked there for 3 months and then eventually I was offered a film.
So basically, I just did my courses and then I was at MAC. I didn’t even know what would happen next. I just use all my money on my savings. I almost was done with all my money and I was very scared and nervous. Obviously, 25,000 is never enough in Mumbai. At that point, I got offered a film with Rajashree productions, which was my first film with a lot of newcomers. Yeah and simultaneously so I left MAC. I joined them and then immediately I was offered another film with Mahi Gill and at that time she was very successful. She was just out of the Dev D and I did the look test for Saheb, Biwi and Gangster and lots of other work with her. The ball really started rolling that year, eleven years back, and thanks to Mahi Gill and Rajashree production. So these two projects really helped me to begin my career and that’s how my journey started.
Q. What inspired you to become a makeup/hair artist and who is your inspiration?
A. Mine was never an inspirational story or I got inspired and I became a makeup artist because at that point it was not like now or five years back when a lot of youngsters were coming to the industry or newer people with new ideas or educated people were coming to the industry. I’m not saying that they were not but the whole industry when I came it was very personalized. People had only one person who was doing their hair and makeup for 11 years, 12 years, 15 years, and throughout their career. It was a very different time and I was never inspired and I didn’t know so much. My mother was a very popular hair artist at that point so obviously, I understood the industry, but truth be told, I knew nothing much. I just took my chances. I just wanted a job, it just fell in places, yeah, but my heart was always in the industry. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. So I just said, why not this! And you know I had this feeling that time that things were changing and I kind of got it that maybe I think I’m doing a decent job and I can stick around here. And I think the inspiration was only happening like day by day literally, it was just seeing what people are doing and collectively and then they’re like okay I’m getting inspired now and I’m liking this place. It was at the job.
Q. Who do you look up to in terms of their makeup/hair artistry in India and abroad?
A. I admire a lot of my colleagues’ work because I’m in touch with reality. I’m in touch with what they are doing because of social media. I’m not really one of those people who really will go on an international hairstylist or makeup artist’s page. I think we have very talented people here. Back in the days and even now! Yeah, I think a lot of people are doing a great job. So in India, yes, I’m very aware of who’s doing what and I think everybody’s doing a great job. I genuinely feel they are very talented people, and there’s a reason everybody’s here. But then, I really don’t look up to anybody and actually, I’m very proud of myself but not in a way where I feel I am overconfident. It’s just that I think everybody is good. It’s not just one person. It’s like someone’s good with soft makeup, someone is good with very glamorous makeup, someone’s good with hairstylists. But particularly I genuinely genuinely love Aasif Ahmed. He’s very very talented.
Q. When you first started experimenting with makeup/hairstyling did it come to you naturally?
A. I think makeup came to me very, very, very naturally, because of my training. I don’t even think it was in my training school that I realized it. In fact, I was very okay with the craft. Only with time while the trials and errors were happening the very first year I learned most of it on the job. I’ve learned everything on my own. I’ve never assisted anybody’s that is very rare that you would see a makeup artist, I think I take deep pride in saying that I’ve not really assisted anybody and I’ve done everything I’ve tried my best to be very organic. Also it just generally worked out for me. I think in the second year or the third year I was like okay! You know that I’m doing the right thing, I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing, I was just pretending to be strong, but you know what everything I was doing was working. Maybe in my subconscious mind, it was just that I have to survive, but whatever happened at that point in the second and third year, I think I just got better. I understood the craft, understood the mentality, understood the industry. That’s how it all began for me.
Q. Was there ever a specific moment when you remember feeling like you’d gotten your big break?
A. I feel I got a break with Mahi Gill and Rajshri Productions as I mentioned before, these were great opportunities for a starter. I mean for a newcomer to working with such a big production house. Also, you know Mahi Gill was a very big name at that point and I feel what really turned things around for me was probably in the second year itself. Between the second and third year itself, because by the second year, Aasif had become a hairstylist we kind of combined, and in the third year, I think we both started working with Aishwariya Rai Bachan. We got a call less than twenty-four hours before the shoot of some event in Hyatt. And she had just had a four-month-old baby at that point and it was her first shoot post-pregnancy. And we were very nervous about getting a call from here and we just went there to take pictures thinking it’s cool to meet Aishwariya Rai Bachan. And we were just like. We’ll do that makeup and we had no idea if she’ll like it or not! Back on that day, when she told us that I’d like to work with you boys more often just changed everything for us. And the second time we worked with her, we took a picture and I remember that went viral and I got so many calls after that from the leading girls and that’s how I think a lot of things changed and that’s how Aasif and I grew.
Q. Has social media impacted your career?
A. I think social media is a good thing. I mean, say seven years of odd social media have been booming and at least five years, it’s such a long time, and I’m used to it. We are all used to it and what I think is it helps, because what happens is that in the very first three or four yours I don’t think I captured enough work and put it out there. Today, it’s so easy to do that for an artist to choose you because you have an Instagram or Twitter handle and they check your work out. Even without you knowing people, they have checked your work out, you’re getting followers from all over the country, all over the world. You’re getting people to see your work, even that one picture is being seen largely by everybody: who’s interested in your craft, your artist, the industry is watching it and there are so many important people follow you are watching it. What’s important and your work gets recognized. It’s such a big deal. I don’t think one can now do anything without an Instagram or Twitter profile, especially Instagram. Social Media, in general, I think it is very good.
Q. Has there been a change in the industry since the time you started working?
A. Well, I think yes from initially to now, there’s a big change. I think there are a lot of educated people that have come in and a lot of people, even the artist, whose mentalities have changed! They are younger, they are sassier. I mean I myself sitting here as a thirty-seven-year-old guy, but the truth is that you know they are younger- as I work with Sara Ali Khan, she’s twenty-four! So of course there are younger thoughts, ideas. A generation has changed, a whole generation has changed. I have worked with Aishwariya and she still exists and she is a superstar. But there are new girls in the industry now and they are very very different people. And I have had both and both are very good in many ways at least artist-wise. But having said that, I feel the modernity in terms of like world production houses, directors, you know you have to understand that these are not the sole producers anymore. These are huge production houses and studios that come into the picture, so there are younger and modern people working in the industry. Of course, there is a huge change.
Q. What is your advice for aspiring makeup artists?
A. My advice for any aspiring makeup artist, who really wants to do it is that the truth is Fifty percent of people usually don’t make it, but you can’t think like that. I really feel that it’s very easy if you click here, it’s the place to be in. I love the industry. I can’t see myself anywhere else. I’ve been a cabin crew before and I loved it there. I just love this place, I don’t think I can be anywhere else for the next whatever a number of years I live and I would say this to everybody who wants to be a makeup artist, it’s a very easy thing. Just learn the craft well. Keep listening, keep looking, keep getting inspired. Do the right coaching classes, have the right people to do the right thing and you’re good to go. There’s no issue. It’s very easy to come here.
Q. What are the challenges you face while working?
A. I don’t really face any challenges. There are just times where you have worked very hard and there are people who don’t pay you. I’ve had very rare but I’ve had about two big incidents in my entire career, one in the south industry and one with the production house here. So I’ve had issues where you know you work so hard, day and night, you put in so much together. You also pay your assistant from your pocket and the product money going from your pocket and then you don’t get paid or there is a delay in payment. I have had that blow twice in my life and I’ve learned from it, and it’s very scary. But right now, that’s why there are contracts put in place, also emails. So I don’t think that can happen now but I have faced these issues for sure.
Q. Film schedules are long and hectic, how do you maintain a balance between professional and personal?
A. I have conditioned my mind. This is one job and this goes for anybody who wants to be a makeup artist. Also, it is very time-consuming. Most of the time you are on a set. Sometimes, you are working for 18 hours a day. I remember that for Luka Chuppi, we were working 16 hours a day. But the thing is, I love this job, so I’m happy to do it. Also because we are paid well. There’s no other place that would be you this much in terms of this craft. I love Bollywood for the way it is. So basically, you have to love it. And it is very hectic, you do not have a personal life. But most of my times in the past six years at least I have worked with a lot of very strangely, not like something consciously happened, and one shouldn’t necessarily only make friends with the artist but I’ve been very lucky that I had good human beings that I’ve worked with I’ve worked in the job itself, we all became friends and like family. So when you actually work with your family, you don’t feel the pressure. Kriti Sanon is my best friend. Amy Jackson is my best friend. Parineeti and I are buddies. So you know all these three girls and I’ve been working with them for so long. I got along very well with them, I felt like I was working with family.
Q. When you are working with an actress in a film, what is the rapport like?
A. With every artist, the rapport is very different. But like I said, in the previous question, I’m a people’s person. I am very direct and very honest as a human being. I, now in the eleven years that I’ve been in the industry, I’d like to believe that I do a decent job is why I’ve survived and that I’m still a part of the industry. The battle is fifty percent if you’re very good with your work and the other fifty percent is what they usually say that you should just be calm, stay quiet, but I’ve never actually had to have a plan or act in a certain way to impress. I’ve always admired my work and I’ve always been organic with the human I am in general. So even in my personal life, I am this person and blunt and direct and honest, but I would I’m a correct person, I will not hurt someone intentionally. Amy Jackson, Kriti Sanon, Parineeti, specifically Kriti Sanon – I have enjoyed working with them and I have also done personal holidays with them. They are my best friends. And truth be told, Aasif and I have worked all three of them. Also, Aasif and I are best friends. I get on very well with Aishwariya Rai. I get along very well with her manager, Archana. She is my best friend. You know it’s a circle, my best friends are from the industry. All the artists that I have worked with, Sara Ali Khan- she is so young and so cool, Vaani Kapoor also. I get along very well with most of them.
Q. Your favorite people to work with?
A. My favorite people to work with I’ve been saying this time and again. It’s Amy Jackson, Kriti Sanon, Parineeti Chopra are definitely the top three favorites.
Q. How do you stay innovative?
A. I can innovate myself with anything that I love. I love this place, I love my job. What really keeps me going is the rush to wanting to complete projects, finish things off deadlines, and then move to the next and everything that you do. So you do a project for five to six months and then the seventh month you’re going to another set. So it’s so exciting to eventually make a film and then you actually see it in the cinema. You watch it with your family. It is a very proud moment, because you are entertaining people, and you are a part of the business that a lot of people want to be in, any kind of it. So I get very innovative with the fact that you know there are so many people who ask me every day, how did you become a makeup artist and how did you reach here? And this question has so much depth to it and it tells you so much about who you’ve become. I mean that’s the best thing.
Q. What do you do to keep up with the changing trends? After all, the beauty industry is just as traditional as it is volatile when it comes to trends.
A. Trends change every six months and that is given. You need to know the basics of makeup. You need to understand when the trends change. It is not the colors or how the liner is done. That’s something that anyway in the first two-three years you understand if you’re good at it. What is something you need to learn is how you little or how much more people require on the face and I think that is that that trend is. It has changed for right now like it’s all-natural and dewy, but there was a phase where you know when I came in, it was a lot about contour, it was a lot about covering up the skin and how everything had to be clean and neat. Now people are experimenting, they want to show errors on their face. For example, body makeup, when I came in, it was heavy body makeup and it looked lovely. It has its own glamour off it, and you shimmer the body. And now, for example, Sara Ali Khan, she is willing to show marks on her skin, her legs and it looks lovely. You know it looks natural, and things are changing.
Q. What are the 3 things you’d like to change in the industry?
A. I mean who am I to change anything in the industry, but yeah I wish, like I, said these two incidents of me not getting paid. There are some actresses that I worked within the south. I think that their attitude is very different and that is one of the reasons why I hope, if I have to do a film from the south, I would have to think about who the person is. And I’m saying it now because I do have the choice of choosing. When I didn’t have the choice, I went there and worked and I’m very happy that I did so, no complaints. But the girls there do treat you in a different way compared to the girls here, they are very cool. The South industry is lovely but I have has my share of problems dealing with some of the girls there, not Amy Jackson but the other girls that I’ve worked with.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects.
A. There are two things that I have signed: one of them is Bacchan Pandey with Kriti Sanon, where she’s opposite Akshay Kumar, it is Sajid Nadiadwala’s next film. And the other one that I was supposed to start before the lockdown is again with Kriti Sanon opposite Rajkumar Rao which I’m hoping to start when this ends. But these are the two projects that I do have on.
Q. Any advice/ tips/ tricks?
A. Advice, tips, and tricks- I feel that you should follow my page for that, I make things very simple on my profile. I try to keep my makeup very natural. I also try to keep my hands open to versatility. So the trick is what I have realized on Why people hire me? What I feel about myself is because I’m not limited. I can do a Smokey eye and I can do extremely natural makeup at the same time, so I think that’s very important to know. Your versatility is very important in the industry and that is why people hire you, especially the ones who work with you regularly because the looks keep changing.
Q. Where do you see the beauty industry in the next 5 years?
A. It’s a very tricky question. I’ll try to be funny about it. If you asked me the same question five years back, I mean look at where we are! I mean sitting at home. Isolated! But I’d like to believe that five years from now, I’m in a happier space and I’m still doing makeup and I am hopeful I would have taught people and educated people on the subject that I love and believe in so much. I hope that happens and I open an academy by then.