A Bolly/Hollywood dream come true: working with Julia Roberts, Madonna and Demi, as well as Aishwarya, Kareena, Aamir and Shah Rukh. Master henna artist and make-up guru, Ash Kumar, is the go-to man for intricate henna designs on both sides of the globe. The two-time World Guinness Book of Records winner has carved a niche for himself as one of the most creative and influential mendhi designers in the world.
The British Asian artist comes from the most unlikely background. Holding a degree in forensic anthropology (yes, the stuff they do on CSI), Ash did a 180 and went from doing DNA testing to creating intricate mendhi or henna art. Surprisingly, his forensic training came in handy; with his scientific grounding, he ventured out to source and produce the most pure, highest quality mendhi available.
At the age of twenty, Ash was doing mendhi as a hobby at home, and surrounded by a supportive family, Ash grew his hobby to a business, supplying his own blend of henna locally in the UK and building a reputation for creating intricate, beautiful designs. In 2001 and 2003, Ash won the title of World's Fastest Henna Artists in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Jugni Style Insider Tip: That beautiful black mendhi? It’s hair dye. Ash warns against people claiming to have black mendhi: “Deep maroon is the only natural colour of mendhi. Anything else comes from chemicals that can be toxic.” Watch out, ladies.
His Big Break
Ash Kumar was on the BBC talking about the benefits of henna (it's pretty and therapeutic) when THE Julia Roberts saw him. After Julia, Madonna, Demi and Cameron were all quick to follow as Ash's high-profile clients, but it was Shilpa Shetty who gave Ash Kumar his big Bollywood break in 2001 when she called asking for his expert designs. What followed was work on big budget films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum, Devdas, Hum Tum and more recently, Jodhaa Akbar.
"I'm very Indian. I can be inspired by a mud hut or a crystalized lengha."
Kumar is sought out in Bollywood for his expertise in detailed mendhi work that mixes traditional henna paste with colourful embellishments like Swarovski crystals and richly coloured make-up. Besides working as a mendhi artist on cover shoots for magazines like Cine Blitz in India, Ash has also taken to directing photo shoots, providing his creative eye behind the lense as well.
Ash Kumar is coming to North America. First stop on his tour: Vancouver. To buy his products or train with the mendhi master and join his team of Angels, contact Soo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story By: Manjot Bains | Photographs Courtesy: Ash Kumar