Daring to be different in a society driven by stigma towards something new, is undeniably not an easy task. The mocking eyes and the harsh words are enough to drain one out of motivation. Nevertheless, the few of us who are determined enough breaks through just like Hussain Anees (Justin). His work in the field of make-up, hair styling and costume designing has truly helped in establishing a distinct name for himself.
Maldeeb sat down with Justin for an exclusive interview to find out what motivates the stylist and what he has in store for us in the future.
How did you get interested in make-up and hair styling?
Well, when I was in school I didn’t know which career path to choose. My father does construction and carpentry work and he did a small shop for Sheri. So then the owner of Sheri gave some hair care products and electronics to my sisters – who actually didn’t know how to use them. I figured how to use them on my own, and experimented with them on my sisters and I was like, this is fun.
We noticed that you put a lot of details into cosplay costumes, specially your works in shinzou con items. So how did that really come about?
That happens because of my love for Japan. I love anything that’s Japanese. I love the culture. I used to study Japanese language at the Faculty of Arts. From them I actually got to go to Japan, and in return they asked us to promote Japanese culture here in the Maldives. So to keep my promise, I started doing cosplays. There are other events as well that promotes this.
Your wig styling is pretty unique. How would you sum up the amount of work it requires?
I had to style wigs for cosplay costumes, because we can’t really buy the ones we want. Even on eBay. If it’s a pink haired character, we have to get a pink haired wig and then give it a haircut that looks like the character. So I cut the wig, and then to style it I just do it like regular hair – but with a lot of caution. Because it’s plastic and it melts at different heat temperatures. So it takes a lot of time and is a bit difficult.
How would you begin to describe the industry in the Maldives?
The industry is slowly growing. Back in 2000, I didn’t know a lot of Maldivians working in salons. They were mostly foreigners. And recently a lot of solo artists have started to come out, and I hope for hairstyling as well a lot more would come because most of them are for makeup.
What is the most interesting part of what you do?
Not having to stay in one specific location and just working. Instead I get to travel a lot and meet different kinds of people and I get to hang out with them. I don’t feel like I am at work, I feel like I’m hanging out with people and making them feel happy. And I’m getting paid for that.
You have done a lot of different work, but what is that one thing you want to do but you haven’t been able to so far? And why?
I really want to do an elaborate high fashion shoot in the middle of the streets of Male’. Because nobody has done it, and nobody has the guts to do it. Even the model should have the guts to do it, but I haven’t found anyone who is willing to go that far.
How has it been working with celebrities such as Fareela and Azza?
It was quite pleasant and quite hard at the same time. When it comes to outdoor shoots, we don’t have a specific location to do the hair and make-up. So we have to do it under the hot sun, and sometimes I have to style the hair without any electronics and that can be quite a challenge too. But it’s really enjoyable and the people are nice as well.
How do you see the industry in the future? What do you want it to be like?
I want the industry to grow to a point where we do not have to bring in foreigners to do our hair and make-up. Like all the salons to be employed fully by Maldivians and have employees working who are really talented and be proud of their work.
What do you think we could do to take the industry to that level?
I would say if we had the opportunity to study it here in the Maldives, the industry would go a lot forward. Because there are people who cannot afford to go abroad for studies. It would be a good opportunity for them.
What do you think has been your greatest achievement so far?
In Sri Lanka I got to do hair and make-up for the AOD Fashion Show with Italian models. That is one of the biggest highlights of my career.
What are your future plans?
For now my future plans are to stay here in Maldives and try my best to get this industry forward as much as possible. A lot of clients tell me I’m too good to stay here and that I would get a lot of good opportunities elsewhere. But someone should stay here and start so that other people would start following them.
What would you tell to those who are interested in joining the field?
I would tell them to go for it. The market is slowly opening up in here, even in resorts they are opening individual salons. There are good job opportunities, so it’s a good career if they want to go forward with it.
If you got the chance to say a word of thanks, who would you thank?
Stephan Andre Joachim and Gerald Salomons, from Chagall International for believing in me and Cheryl Gooneratne from CG Academy for seeing my potential and giving me great opportunities. Special thanks to Desmond James, family and dad, my creative director and model Hussain for always being by my side and supporting me, Rizna, Dheekko, Millzero, Funko, Hisham Agil, for their love and support.