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July , 2014

Life & Success |Ambika Pillai

Growing up in the South India during the 60’s taught me that being true to yourself is the only real road to happiness and fulfillment. As luck would have it, I never really found my groove till pretty late in life. I’ve come to believe that there are two kinds of people – People who are born talented and the others who strive very hard to learn and master an art. I know now that I’ve been blessed with an art, which has won me awards and have been appreciated by thousands. I thank god for keeping an eye out for me.


Twenty years ago, I worked relentlessly to maintain the quality and creativity of my art. From handling 20 clients a day, we have grown by leaps and bounds to become the most talked about salon in New Delhi. Ask me now where I see myself 5 years from now, without a blink of an eye, I would say “in every nook and corner of India”.

While growing up, I never thought of hair styling as a profession. It was a twist of fate, when other friends of my age were busy planning their trousseau’s, I already had a divorce behind me, and a baby daughter to support. Though I belonged to a well-to-do family in Kerala, I was driven by the urge to be independent and discover what success was all about.

One of my best personal moments recently was when I did a show called “Midukki” (meaning smart girl in Malayalam) wherein I was one of the 4 judges. It featured 20 girls from Kerala and I did their makeovers – hair and makeup on screen and transformed them. So the Mazhavil Manorama TV channel decided to do a contest wherein they would get 20 viewers to be part of my makeover. So they decided to run this contest for a week. They had to close this contest in a day after receiving over 35000 sms’s. That’s when I decided that Kochi was ready for Ambika Pillai. Sushmita Sen inaugurated the salon and Rohit Bal showcased his couture collections to celebrate the salon inauguration.

Another highlight of my career was when I was chosen as the only hairdresser from India to go to the L’Oreal hair dressing convention in Paris 2 years ago and my work being featured worldwide was definitely the biggest highlight of my career.



Make Up Artist
I started out as a Hairstylist and at that time I found that very few people could do good makeup and was getting frustrated about most of my clients not being able to get great makeup to compliment the styles I would give them. This led me to experiment and with makeup and I found with enough persistence and a good eye for fashion and beauty I was able to give my clients what they wanted. I have never been professionally trained in makeup. I have come to realize that rules and words like “NEVER” and “ALWAYS” are sure death to creativity. I am grateful for my lack of formal training in makeup. The journey itself may have taken longer, but along the way I discovered things I could not have been “taught”. For me, new and exciting ideas are most often created when chances are taken and rules are broken I am a self taught makeup artist and proud of it.

I am from Kollam, Kerala. I studied in Kollam and Ooty. My late father Gopinath Pillai, my mother who lives in Kollam and 3 sisters – Gopika, Devika and Renuka. While Gopika and Renuka live in Delhi, Devika lives with her husband and my mother in Kollam. My daughter Kavitha is also a hair stylist and makeup artists and lives in Delhi.

Fame & Favorites
Rekha Ganesan is who I’d like to do makeup for. My experience with all the celebs is that they were all models before they became superstars, so in my eyes all of them are still the simple yet beautiful girls who I’ve known before their super stardom. Girls like Deepika Padukone, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif, Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, John Abraham to name a few. I’ve done their makeup and hair before they became film stars.

Suggestion Out of Vanity
Cleansing, toning and moisturizing is a daily routine that must be followed diligently. Lots of brands – ambikapillai, Kryolan, MAC to name a few.

Buying the wrong foundation for the skin color tone. They choose the wrong shades of makeups that does not suit their skin color tone by way of eye shadows, lipsticks and foundations. Lip balm, kajal, a cream blusher, gloss and a lipstick of your choice is the ‘FIVE Must’ for your Vanity Bag.

Guru Advice
Fashion trends keep changing. What great makeup artists have to keep in mind is that one can’t blindly follow them. Trends have to be adapted to suit the person they are doing makeup for, keeping in mind their age, face, clothes, personal taste etc.

Open more salons in India and bring out the Ambika Pillai makeup, skincare and accessories line.


Ash Ash Ash Ash