NYC Hair & Makeup Artist - Ananda Khan

The Producer: Hi Ananda, I’d love to talk to you a little bit about how you got started in hair & makeup, and how you do what you do. How long have you been working?


Ananda Khan: Well, I started in 2005 working in cosmetics, I was a counter girl in Bloomingdales SoHo. And two years later, somewhere along the line I decided, “I gotta stop!” and that this wasn’t for me. I actually intended to be a writer. I went to school for creative writing and was travel writing before that, but I just went into this whole life tail spin and I couldn’t write. I had a creative block and I needed to do something else with my hands, so I started doing makeup. I needed to keep my hands busy and my mind free. I started doing freelance work 2007. It was a total fluke - it really was - I left cosmetics, and a week later my friend called and said “Hey! Can you come do hair for these little girls?” It ended up being a hair care shoot with six little ballerinas. The lead makeup artist on the job liked what I was doing and she said that their agency needed more hair people so I was like, “Hey, I’m free!” The agency called me, and they continued to call me. That was Mark Edwards in 2007. I started assisting the artists there and didn’t know where I was going with it, but I started building my book and it took a long time,  a long time, but eventually I started getting my own clients. Now it’s 2014 and I have a pretty strong book and my own roster working as hair stylist and makeup artist.


TP: And do you feel that you have one speciality of hair or make up? Do you prefer one over the other? Or do you really feel that you always want to do both?

AK: That’s a hard question, I get it a lot actually. I think makeup is less stressful because I’ve been doing it longer, but I went to cosmetology school after I realized hair styling was a lot of work, and was really intense. I needed the education so I got my license - and that changed everything. It gave me a really, really great solid foundation. I went to a great hair school Arrojo Cosmetology, so now I feel a lot more free about hair, and I think my hair work has been more experimental, or I just push that a lot more. I couldn’t tell you why, it could just be that education that I got that gave me the confidence to know I can handle it. I think that I may do more work with hair in the long run. I’m always thinking in hair, and coming up with new ideas, I’m very inspired.

TP: I love the dance and movement-related work that you do. I think that you have a wonderful eye for what fits with those concepts, and you are really strong with both your hair and your makeup. And that your hair is something that’s very conceptional too. How do you feel about the collaboration between you and the photographer and the art director or the photo editor when you’re working on a project?

I love the mood boards, and starting from just a baby concept and seeing it develop and transform completely. It surprises me a lot of times!

AK: I love it, I love that collaboration, I feel like honestly my work couldn’t exist outside that collaboration. Like you said, I love working in concepts, so I know if the work is on a mannequin or if it’s outside of the light and the photography, it’s not a finished work, if you know what I’m saying. I think we bounce ideas off each other a lot -  I love the mood boards, and starting from maybe just a baby concept and seeing it develop and transform completely. It surprises me a lot of times. I was working on a Bloch dance shoe campaign, it was ballet and it started with these inspirations from Louis Vuitton. And you know, it’s the photographer and the stylist, but also the models and dancers themselves who take their ideas and turn them into a whole other beast. It is really fun to see happen.

TP: When you’re working with dancers or athletes you have to take into account what works for them and what would be authentic - how could they still maintain their sense of movement. If you give them a crazy hairstyle that affects how they move, it affects the shot.

AK: Absolutely! I’m always taking that into account.  I feel like those ideas build on themselves over time. And if I walk into a scenario with ballerinas, because I’ve been working with them, I understand there are certain parameters. And I don’t even feel limited by that, I just feel like this is what I need to work with, this is the aesthetic of ballet - there’s going to be movement, there’s going to be sweat, so I need to think on those terms - and I really love it. I really love it.

TP: I think that’s something that really resonated with me when I worked with you the first time. Feeling your energy - you have this very calm energy but you can tell that you’re truly inspired, even though we met on an ad job during which that creative can often become very diluted. 

A styling kit is thousands of dollars, it really is, and trying out new tools can be so expensive - especially coming up as an assistant - I couldn’t rely on those things because I simply couldn’t afford to.


You still arrived with such enthusiasm and positivity, which really impressed me. Do you ever work with assistants?

AK: I do work with assistants, actually I was assisting when I met you [Annika]. And actually a lot of the assistants I’ve worked with are not assistants at all. I’ve worked with the same group of makeup artists and hair stylists for years. We’ve all been referring each other.

TP. It’s a community!

AK. It is a community which is so important because it can be stressful. You want to trust everyone around you to treat your clients and the project with care. Often, it will be a friend of mine who’s an artist and I’ll be like “Hey, do you have a couple of hours free?” Because I know they are going to be on time, I trust them, I trust their work and I trust the way they are with the clients.

Find out what's in Ananda's Tool Kit!

Thank you, Ananda, for sharing  your story!
To see more of Ananda's work, check out:

Interview with Ananda by Annika Howe, photos by Adrian Alston.