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@maytahmi

May Tahmina Akhtar is the British-Bengali mastering make-up & data science


TextFelicia Pennant

We talk to the make-up artist about her motivations, inspirations, and rejecting Eurocentric beauty standards

The Dazed Beauty Community is our ever-expanding encyclopaedia of creatives and emerging talent from across the world who are redefining the way we think about beauty. From supermodels to digital artists to makeup prodigies transforming themselves in their bedrooms, these are the beauty influencers of tomorrow who embody everything Dazed Beauty is about. Discover them here.

Instagram inspired May Tahmina Akhtar to finally indulge her passion for art and make-up. “I started seeing more editorial make-up accounts like @wendysworld_xox@honeydon.t and @urgalsal_,” she explains, “It made me start creating looks that were more than just the cut creases and contour that were trending back then.” Now she’s the insta-inspo, delivering dazzling beauty experiments ranging from coloured circles and crystal cat-eyes to a full face of glossy pastel Louis Vuitton monograms and floral Nike swooshes. 

Her face is clearly her canvas, but it’s also a space for the self-taught make-up artist to assert her identity as a British Bengali. "My bindi looks are some of my favourites because I was so tired of seeing people wearing them for festivals with no clue of the significance." 

Currently finishing a Masters in data science, her Plan B career, she’s aiming to bring even more conceptual art to her feed and put “Manchester on the map when it comes to beauty.”

We chat to her about what motivates her, her favourite products right now and rejecting Eurocentric beauty standards.

Tell me a bit about yourself and where you grew up? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: I’m a British Bengali, born in London and moved to Manchester aged three with my mum. We didn’t have a lot of money but we were comfortable and after my mum remarried, we moved into a little terraced house that my family still live in. The area I grew up in is working class and pretty white – basically a place where being Bengali stayed at home, which is weird for me now I am more self-aware and proud of my culture and heritage. Back then, it was a case of not wearing my hijab until I got to the front door of mosque or dreading anyone I knew seeing me in a salwar kameez. Now I wouldn’t think twice.

What is it you do and why do you do it? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: I’d say I’m a self-taught make-up enthusiast/artist. I do make-up because I love it and it calms my brain from going into overdrive. I create looks for me but do some freelance jobs and I’m also finishing my Masters in data science. My passion lies in make-up and art so it’s a bit worrying that I’ve added an extra £10,000 to my student debt but a girl’s gotta have a back-up. 

How did you get into it? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: I always wore black eye liner in the last few years of secondary school then I had a point where I was chilling. I had nothing to do, a student loan to spend and then I started seeing editorial make-up accounts like @wendysworld_xox, @honeydon.t and @urgalsal_. I realised that my make-up interest had always been there, I just wasn’t looking in the right places. It made me start creating looks that were more than just the cut creases and contour that were trending back then on Instagram.

What’s your earliest beauty related memory? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: My younger aunty did up my hair, put a cute pastel blue eyeshadow and lip gloss on me and I felt amazing. We shot it on her film camera and I remember looking at the little palette with classic sponge applicators like: ‘What is this?’

What are you working on at the moment? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: My Instagram page and stepping outside the usual things I do. I want to bring more conceptual art to my feed because I want to be taken seriously. I’m sketching out ideas before I start adding shit to my face which I’ve rarely done. I’m also trying to put Manchester on the map for beauty. It’s so frustrating to see how many more opportunities creatives get in London. The amount of times I’ve been offered make-up artist and modelling jobs but haven’t been able to take them because of how expensive train tickets are is a joke. I just want to be able to establish enough of a scene for companies to start doing events here and not just the same influencer events from clothing brands. I’m also working on me – mentally, religiously and physically. I know if I don’t have these things in check, I can’t work on anything beyond them. 

Which three products are you using the most right now and why? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: Revolution The Waterpool Mascara is the best mascara I’ve ever used in my life. It lengthens my thick droopy lashes and actually keeps them up. I use this Golden Rose lip pencil as a freckle pencil and I’m gutted because I don’t think they make them anymore. It’s the best for when I have those days where I don’t want to do a graphic eye but want to look cute and sunkissed as fuck. The Fenty Beauty vivid liners are all you’ll see on my page at the moment. The light periwinkle – it’s literally the most perfect blue and pops so well against my skin. 

How do you assert your identity through your beauty looks?

May Tahmina Akhtar: My bindi looks are some of my favourites because I was so tired of seeing people wearing them for festivals with no clue of the significance. Those looks are me reclaiming bindis. I grew up despising my facial hair because of Eurocentric beauty standards and it’s because of make-up that I’ve grown to love it. I can never be bothered to edit out hairs from my looks so it’s out there for everyone to see. I’m no longer insecure.

What’s been your career highlight so far? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: Reaching out to a major UK beauty stockist about their lack of representation on their social media and website, and seeing this company make a change and approach artists I believe have less exposure due to the whitewashed beauty industry. It’s amazing to see that I made an impact beyond my growth, getting others noticed and appreciated more. 

Which fictional characters do you most relate to and why? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: Kat Slater and Kim Fox from Eastenders - extra, jokes and fashion icons. Probably one of the most questionable things about me that I still watch Eastenders. Wish I could say someone cooler but I spend so much time watching it, I’ve probably taken on some character traits.

Who is your beauty icon? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: Rihanna. An icon on all levels but she shook the beauty industry and paved the way for inclusivity with Fenty Beauty. Her face is always flawless and she never misses a beat in shoots. My favourite look of hers has to be the cover of Paper magazine where she has green spiky hair with smoke out eyes, dark lips with the metallic centre, and the two gems above and below her brow. Everything about the look is perfection and something only Rihanna could ever pull off. The Dazed shoot where she has the simple base and yellow matte eyeshadow is another favourite. I have so many physical copies of these magazines that I keep in envelopes and refuse to take out because she’s so beautiful. 

When do you feel most beautiful? 

May Tahmina Akhtar: When I’ve done a proper creative look, finish the last touches and take a picture that makes me think: ‘That’s the one’. It’s a process doing a look and it’s not a nice sight mid-look. So it’s more rewarding and I feel even more beautiful when it’s done. 

God – or let’s just say a higher power of some sort – is only letting who they follow on Instagram into the afterlife. What kind of pic would you put up that perfectly sums you up as the person you were back on Earth?

May Tahmina Akhtar: Probably the one with the blue hearts all over my face. I’m so moody in that look and it’s pretty ironic because of the cute little hearts everywhere. It’s reflective of me, quite pessimistic, sad and blue lol. But also full of love and shows I’m dedicated because those hearts are pretty symmetrical for a freehand draw.

It’s the year 2100. You’re the owner of the largest beauty tech company in the world, what product or treatment will you dedicate your resources trying to invent?

May Tahmina Akhtar: Printable make-up masks. Imagine a 3D face scanner and an app where you can draw, copy and paste images onto the face in the app. Then you have a printer that prints a mask in face-friendly ink, like temporary tattoos, that leaves the look on your face when you remove it.

Are you optimistic about the future?

May Tahmina Akhtar: If we’re talking about the future of this world in general, absolutely not. But with the state of the world at the moment, can anyone be? I’m praying it gets better because my siblings are my world and I want them to grow up hopeful and happy. 

What is the future of beauty?

May Tahmina Akhtar: The future looks hopeful, it’s so fast-paced that the possibilities are endless. I hope it keeps up its momentum and that more companies go down the packaging-free and eco-friendly route. It’s such a wasteful industry and it should be a major priority for companies to minimise.

You encounter a hostile alien race with an inability to see colour, while sound is their only mechanism for communication. What would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?

May Tahmina Akhtar: Ari Lennox’s PHO (EP). How could they kill the human race when a voice like Ari Lennox exists?

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