-by Zaiceka Ahmed
There is the kind of art which is found in galleries, framed or propped on a pedestal. And there are those that move around – walking, talking, breathing. Lost? Well then, let me introduce you to an example of such. Meet Jason Arland – a 21 year old stylist, model, and dynamite make up artist set to make waves in the glamour industry, and do so by vigorously rattling the bars of gender binary (which is such an outdated concept really, especially when a plethora of alternatives has come to the fore in all its extravagance!). He rocks the most unconventional styles, turning heads with sartorial choices most wouldn’t dare to try on; he redefines the term ‘eyebrows on fleek’; and his Instagram photos will make you reconsider your highlighter game.
But don’t be fooled by his slight frame! This young man is a powerhouse of talent with stints in theatre, as a dancer, and a formal training in design from NIFD as well. He has recently started an online initiative, “Beau Shringar“, and has been a panel member of a series of workshops organised by Hopkins Collaborative Influence called “Dress like a Man” most recently in Mumbai that educates the audience to greater acceptance of people and their choices in all its diversity – both the fronts garnering interest because of its sheer inventiveness, and mores, necessity in today’s changing society.
And don’t be surprised if you see him becoming the first male face of a leading fashion magazines anytime soon!
Here are a few things he revealed about himself over a phone call –
He was super in academics (pretty obvious – it takes a sharp mind to become a sort of icon at such a young age)
“I did really well in school, and still am very good at studies. I come from an academic background – my mother is a teacher, my sister a doctor. I too had considered taking up medical studies but my dad was convinced that it was not the profession for me!”
Teenage years not the best time in life
“People in my hometown (Nagpur) were not very open to nonconformity when it came to appearance – the fact that a boy can wear make up, or grow out his hair…even colour it pink, did not sit very well with them. I literally ran away from there at 16 years of age to Pune where I worked as a dancer and an administrator (youngest one among them!) for a dance company which had an international presence. Pretty soon I realised that this was not my calling and I headed back home to study fashion at NIFD.
Early days in Mumbai weren’t all rosy
“It turned out that many folks, even in big cities, were bigoted as well. I travelled to Mumbai when i received an offer to work as a make up artist there – but it was a complete disaster. I spoke to my dad and headed back home in two days, very upset. But that’s the thing about Mumbai – if it wants you it has a way of calling you back. By the time I had returned to Nagpur my passion was make up was at its peak – the trip to Mumbai had thoroughly convinced me of my calling. Luckily, my phone also didn’t stop ringing with job offers from various brands. I saw it as an act of fate; even in the two days there, despite the fact that my experience wasn’t an easy one, Mumbai felt like home.
Things picked up, and an audition I appeared for went really well – I am not trained in make up but my sheer knack for it got me selected. That’s the thing about Mumbai – it makes you strive against all odds. You have to start from rock bottom, and fight to create a niche for yourself.”
His family is his biggest support
“My family has always been my biggest support, and it is largely because of them that I have been able to achieve my goals. Once, when I was confused about career choices, I had a discussion with dad. He told me words that continue to empower me. He said, “There are five people living in this family, and all of us have been made in different ways – you should not expect us to agree on the same point all the time. You are the only person who can make choices for your life, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to make them for you.” My family obviously promised their support for me in whatever I chose to do in life, and that gave me the courage to follow my heart.”
What he wishes to achieve through his workshops
“It is high time people started to address the gender stereotype society places on men and women – telling them which aspects of their behaviour and appearance is acceptable, and bullying them for not abiding by these. If we take a look back at history we will see it was (French) men who created high heeled shoes, (Egyptian) men who initiated the use of eyeliners, (European) men who wore wigs and jewellery. Indian tradition is replete with examples of men wearing gold and gems, even a hint of make up – be it royalties or deities. So when and how did these traits become unacceptable in today’s world? Make up (and dressing up) does not have a gender, and its only purpose is to make a person feel more confident about their appearance. This is what I live by, and believe that inculcating such a view will go a long way in making the world a more beautiful, and definitely less prejudiced place.”