From being on celebrities’ speed dials to launching their own sellout products, these Arab beauty masters are making waves in the region.
Makeup artist, Lebanon
Hala Ajam has been dominating the beauty industry for two decades. The Lebanese-born makeup artist was persuaded to enter the industry by her father, who wanted her to “follow her passion.” This fervor was sparked by the young Ajam delving into her mother’s beauty bag. “I stole my mother’s kohl and dark lipstick when I was 11. It’s still my favorite makeup look,” she smiles. After studying makeup in Beirut and Los Angeles, she gained recognition for her Lebanese–American approach to beauty. Having just moved her makeup studio to a new location in downtown Beirut, Ajam has “new beginnings” in her sights. She’s worked with models Claudia Schiffer and Adriana Karembeu, while in the Middle East her clients include HRH Queen Rania of Jordan, as well as singers Sherine Abdel-Wahab and Maya Diab. For this look, she created a simple yet edgy style for filmmaker and model Lana Al Beik. “I wanted to emphasize her eyes,” Ajam says. “She has bold, thick eyebrows. I would never touch them.” It’s a look synonymous with the region, where Ajam feels the women have a natural kind of beauty, which differentiates them from the rest of the world. “I believe that beauty is all about attitude and character,” she says. “Dare to have your own style and be unique.”
Originally printed in the March 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia.
Masooma Jalil Hashim
Makeup artist, Bahrain
Bahraini makeup artist Masooma Jalil Hashim honed her skills at MAC Cosmetics for seven years, but it was her understanding of what the modern Arab woman wants when it comes to beauty that pushed her into the spotlight. “In the past, Arabic songs were about the beauty of women’s eyes and their tanned skin,” she says. This is still her focus, as illustrated on model Rene Borisova. Hashim accentuates her clients’ features by emphasizing the eyes’ almond silhouette with liner and lashes, and ensuring flawless skin. While Hashim is known for her work with Emirati singer Ahlam Al Shamsi, she’s also become the go-to makeup artist for Western celebrities visiting the region, including Paris Hilton and Olivia Palermo. “People’s taste in makeup is changing,” she says. “Europeans and Americans are being inspired by Arab beauty and vice versa. Beauty is all about giving people self-confidence.” She recently opened a salon in her hometown of Sanad, called Makeup Art, and has also expanded her repertoire beyond her YouTube channel – with its three million views – to include teaching masterclasses. The key to creating her looks, she says, is makeup brushes -“they are my hands.” Her year ahead holds exciting projects, with Hashim hinting at collaborations with leading beauty brands.
Georges El Mendelek
“I never wanted to be a hairdresser,” begins Georges El Mendelek, who grew up in Lebanon in a house full of artists. His father is famed haute coiffure Simon El Mendelek, but instead of following in his footsteps, the younger El Mendelek moved to Canada to study marketing. When he returned to Beirut, a friend asked for his help in styling her hair for a night out. “I was trying to blow dry her fringe, and I actually liked what I was doing,” he remembers. Four months later, he moved to London to study hairdressing at Saks Academy – “the only school I went to where I never missed a day,” he laughs. El Mendelek quickly built up his customer base, working with Lebanese singer Elissa and TV presenter Raya Abirached. He’s also worked on Project Runway Middle East, Arab Idol, Arabs Got Talent, and Dancing with the Stars. Women trust his vision, especially with cutting their hair short. Yet beauty comes from within, he believes. “Every woman has something beautiful in her, she just needs to bring it out with her look. The more I show your character, the better you feel. And when you feel good, everything around you looks beautiful.” One hair transformation he remembers fondly is the one he created for style influencer Nour Arida. “I found the right canvas to work on,” he says. “She went from very long hair to a bob. It blew up.” It has since become her signature look, which helped pioneer the trend for more Arab women in the fashion industry to opt for a chop. It’s a look El Mendelek felt would flatter stylist and art director Samantha Francis Baker. “As a hairdresser, I tend to do my best to show how good the client looks and not how good or skilled I am,” he says. “I think this is the secret of what I do.”
Makeup artist, Lebanon
“I always had a passion for beauty and colors,” begins Lebanese makeup artist Bassam Fattouh, “and I decided to pursue it.” His career has since seen him work with the biggest names in the Middle East, including Haifa Wehbe and Yara (Carla Nazih al-Berkashi). Fattouh’s love of beauty sprung from his mother, the first woman he ever did makeup on. “She fell in love with that look,” he reminisces. After studying at the Paris Carita Beauty Institute in France, he opened the first Bassam Fattouh Institute in Beirut in 1997 to share his knowledge with aspiring makeup artists. In a career spanning three decades, his defining moment was the launch of his eponymous makeup line in 2011; the first makeup artist in the Middle East to do so. “I get inspired by my clients’ character, style, and energy,” he says – and it’s this ability to highlight their natural beauty that makes him such a hit with them. For this look on fashion stylist Tamara Farra Hakim, Fattouh focused on his signature highlight. “I made sure to have a certain harmony of colors and shading to ensure a glamorous and contemporary finish,” he explains. He worked with his bestselling Backlighting in Bride’s Way, an innovative emulsion that can be worn alone or under foundation. Will this versatile bestseller be supplanted by another winner when he launches new products later this year? We’ll have to wait and see.
Style: Mohammad Hazem Rezq
Hair and Makeup Assistants: Instaglam
Production Assistant: Nour Altoukhi
Shot on location at the factory with thanks to Tania’s Teahouse