Why Ankush Bahuguna wants you to rethink make-up
In a sea of online beauty videos, the content creator stands out with his democratic approach
Mermaid, unicorn, constellation—no, these are not characters from a Disney movie. They are eye make-up variations by actor and content creator Ankush Bahuguna. In November, he started a make-up account, Wing It With Ankush, on Instagram. The content is not limited to red lips, smoky eyes and hacks. Bahuguna’s dexterity with iridescent eyeshadows and bright eyeliners can be transportive—a Disneyland for beauty enthusiasts. He posts videos of applying make-up on his mother, sister and friends. In addition, there are short tutorials of Bahuguna, concealing his dark circles or contouring his nose, and talking about how he did it. In that sense, he explores a wide canvas with diverse faces and creates looks without the usual trappings of seasonal trends or bridal make-up.
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“Wing It With Ankush, simply put, is a passion project. I am documenting my process to become a professional make-up artist and having fun on the way. Five years from now, I can look back and see the entire journey,” he says. Last month, Bahuguna won the “breaking barriers” award from Cosmopolitan India. Among online content creators, The Cosmo India Blogger Awards are much sought after. Yet, despite revelling in the glow of recognition, Bahuguna confesses: “I don’t know if I am breaking make-up barriers. I am not the first to do this. Several people from the LGBTQ+ community have done it before me, some of whom have also been my inspiration. Maybe I have more visibility because of my privilege as a cisgender man.”
Perhaps a cisgender female make-up artist creating Ankush-Bahuguna-style beauty content wouldn’t have been the right candidate for a “breaking barriers” award. The perfect cat eye, after all, is still widely considered a feminine skill. But with celebrities like Jared Leto, Justin Bieber and K-pop male stars popularising eyeliners, blush and foundation for men, make-up has gone beyond gender in the last decade or so. As Bahuguna puts it: “Look, I am no revolutionary. I intend to hone my skills as an artist with this Instagram account. But I hope people feel comfortable with the idea of experimenting with make-up as a tool of self-expression; no matter what your gender, sexuality, skin colour or body shape.”
Bahuguna applies concealer expertly to transform his mother’s softly creased face, experiments with neon eyeliners on friends and invites other content creators to be his guests as he pushes them to see beyond kohl. “I just spend about 10 minutes with them to understand how they feel about make-up, what excites them, what they think doesn’t work for their face, what they have always wanted to try but never could, deciding the outfit for the final look and then thinking of make-up looks that sometimes push them out of their comfort zone. Most of the looks are made on the go, with me trying things out while shooting.”
The videos don’t edit out mistakes—spillage, coloured eye-lense goof-ups, hesitant faces are the stuff of non-contoured lives. “The soul of my videos is authenticity,” he says.
Bahuguna’s journey with make-up began when he started creating online videos for the lifestyle website MensXP. “While getting my make-up done, I realised it’s a beautiful mix of art and science that adheres to colour theories. It’s so fascinating how an orange colour corrector would cancel out the bluish darkness under your eyes . With time, it occurred to me that make-up isn’t just embellishment, it’s a form of self- expression. Of course, it’s deep-rooted in beauty standards, but it’s also an extension of your personality.”
It feels like his approach to beauty—engaging, adventurous and thoughtful— doesn’t erase flaws, but celebrates them.