“It has been an incredible journey” - laughs the master hair stylist – “29 years away from home, I could always feel my roots pulling me back”
Ambika Pillai, the celebrity hair stylist needs no introduction among Keralites. A face which introduced the vast world of fashion to Malayali home makers, a next door beauty expert to many, Ambika Pillai has won over the hearts of Malayalam television audience through 'Midukki' a reality show run by Mazhavil Manorama. After three decades of exile, when she finally made it to her home land forever, let's check what Ambika Pillai has to say on the hopes and stigmas of Keralite psyche regarding fashion and beauty this new year.
“I left Kerala when I was five and I made a return 54 years later. After half a century, Kerala is not the same. From a time when people frowned at lined eyes and cropped hair, the spice coast has moved on to another era, when families actually take their daughters to saloons and request a timely make over. I regard it as a revolution. A sudden change that happened over a couple of years. 2017 is dawning in its light,” she says.
Kerala has always been the land of rural beauty queens, with long oily hair, bushy brows and dimples. Beauty and skin care is vested with great grand mothers who mix oils and grind turmeric to beautify their daughters and grand daughters. They would never permit a haircut or couldn't ever accept a day without hair wash. Keralite beauty consciousness has been passed on from generations to generations without any flaw.
“Why wouldn't a Keralite girl wax her arms and legs? Why wouldn't they go for a good haircut or stop washing hair everyday? Just because their parents don't want them to!” - says Ambika Pillai - “Malayali men don't want any make-up on the face of their wife, sister or daughter. You can't say that you wash your hair daily just because you sweat. People in all other tropical weather zones do sweat. Do you think they oil and wash their hair daily like Keralites do? No! The confidence that a girl loses once they step out of kerala is just mind blowing.”
However, the beauty expert admits that there is a hopeful note about change happening in Keralite fashion consciousness. After 'Midukki' happened, a sheer willingness to adopt the beauty concepts can be vividly noticed in Keralites, says Ambika Pillai. “People started turning up at saloons asking for a mild make over in their looks. Now what if these people are from remote villages of Malappuram? Yes, this television show has taken awareness on fashion deep into the grassroots,” she adds.
But the master stylist does not think that a sudden change could ever happen in Keralite beauty sphere. One reason for this is the weather. “Kerala has a weather which which is very well like its men. It makes you sweat out all the make up you wear” - she says - “second thing is the trust factor. People in Kerala fears to trust the stylists. Many people come to me saying 'with you, I can entrust my hair – or face.' Winning over trust is the second challenge every new style or stylist face in Kerala.”
On her plans to settle down in Kerala, Ambika Pillai says that she is one person who left homeland 'forever', many a time. “I had boasted of settling down in Goa, where I have a beautiful house. But Kerala has really got a magical pull. An energy – that is filled in the weather and people out here. No, you can't bid bye to this land. I realize that this is where my roots lie. And I'm here forever now.”