I think the most beautiful thing about a woman is grace, and beauty comes from grace. Being in the music industry doesn’t have to mean you have to wear a bikini and do a video where you’re having a lesbian relationship with another singer; I mean yeah, sure, it’s hot, but what’s it saying about women? It doesn’t tell me anything that I can relate to. It’s about voyeurism and the male gaze, and not really about whether you’re doing it for yourself.
What happens with me a lot is people say, ‘Why are you wearing these big silhouettes on stage? Why don’t you want to show your legs and arms and shoulders off?’ And that’s fine, but I am who I am and I have a vision for myself. I really respect artists like Bjork, because she’s not apologetic about her choices in music or what she wears; that tells me about her individuality and her openness to experimentation, and I adore that.
There’s a lot of sexism in the industry where they expect the pop artist in you to come out, but I’m not really involved with that. The music I make is at the tail end of pop; it’s industrial electronic music. I’m surrounded by people who make this kind of music and who experiment with their clothing. Artist, musician.Volume and drama can only happen with big shapes, you know? It doesn’t have to be tiny with long legs on stilts. Image is important in music, but it’s different to different people. For me it’s about expressing your individuality, because that’s what people relate to. They want to see who you are, not a cookie cutter image of someone else.
Sometimes I end up making my own clothes, but now that my brother’s graduated from fashion school and is launching his own line, he makes a lot of stuff for me. He made the jumpsuit I'm wearing right now. I like voluminous silhouettes that create drama, and I use my hair on stage a lot. To be honest, it’s just because I’m playing two instruments on stage, so I’m always bowed over my instruments. I see pictures of myself afterwards and every photo is no face, just hair. (Laughs) I suppose it’s my little shield from the world. But I do like the attention, there’s no doubt about it. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I wasn’t at least a little narcissistic.
My hair was about shoulder length long when I moved to London, but I stopped cutting it because I was a student, and it was like, £100 to cut your hair. (Laughs) Long hair is now very much a part of me; I don’t wash it very often but when I do, I use the shampoo and conditioner from this great brand called Nisim. It’s very softening and very light, especially since I only wash my hair about once or twice a week. Also, if you’re working out, I feel like the salt from the sweat makes it sort of beachy in a way, and you don’t have to style it much. I also use the Lemongrass Lift Spray by mop, which I really love. Whenever I want to go out and I need big, big hair, I put this on, and it really does give me big hair. It lifts your roots a bit, which is great. I don’t really style my hair other than that; I will blow dry the front sometimes so I don’t have a cowlick. I hate the cowlick. (Laughs)
I used to have very problematic skin for the last six or seven years. I would break out as soon as I walked into the sun, and being on the beach was such a hassle. I went to so many dermatologists, and every one would give me a horde of creams that never helped. Then I went to see Dr. Debra Jaliman in New York, where I now live, and she changed my skin. I use the Mild Cleanser and the Rx Moisturiser from her line.
She told me that I was breaking out because of the sun exposure, and she put me on to the UV Clear SPF 46 sunscreen by Elta MD. I put on a thick layer three or four times a day and now, I don’t get a spot. I used to wake up terrified that I’d have a new breakout, but this has made my skin so clear that I don’t have to use makeup anymore. It’s quite amazing. All the dermatologists in New York carry it, but you can also buy it online.
I wear it at night too, which might sound strange, but it doesn’t have a whitish tint and goes on clear, and it makes my skin look really dewy. It gives it a nice glow, which I love; I don’t like the matte look at all. Women tend to stay away from shine but you want your cheekbones to have a bit of shine, you want it under the brow – it’s OK to shine! (Laughs) It’s just a sign of good health and good skin.
To be honest, I think that too much makeup ages you, especially with women who cake their faces with foundation. I use a bit of MAC’s Studio Fix Concealer if I need to cover something up, which I mix in with my sunscreen, but I don’t wear anything on my face otherwise. I have a big mouth, so I always thought that wearing colour on it might be too much, so I used to stain my lips a little using MAC’s Lady Danger. Then I noticed my sister wearing a lot of this really great red lipstick when I went to visit her – turns out it was Lady Danger. So now I use it straight from the tube; I might start wearing it on stage too, who knows.
As told to Komal Basith.
Vandana Jain photographed by Komal Basith at Olive Beach in Bangalore. © Komal Basith
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