Meddling, judgemental, often brutal and bordering on toxic, South Asian ‘Aunties’ are an entity unto themselves. They thrive on gossip; their dreams are made up of matchmaking successes, and they simply love having unwarranted opinions about anyone and everyone. They don’t necessarily have to be related to you, but they’ll still feel the need to comment. Such is the misery of growing up South Asian. It’s not the silence but the chatter that is slowly killing the generation.
It’s time to finally put the auntie brigade to task, and famed British beauty blogger Anchal did just that with her bold, no-filter podcast, aptly titled ‘What Would The Aunties Say’. From mental health and interracial relationships to colorism, Anchal touches upon a variety of topics that are otherwise deemed taboo in South Asian culture. She speaks at length with her guests, sharing their experiences with the South Asian community’s stereotypical approach to real-life issues made fairly uncomfortable over time, while revisiting her own personal journey as a brown girl.
Anchal has always been quick to find gaps in the digital sphere and take on a route less explored. She started doing make-up tutorials on YouTube at a time when there was barely any representation of brown skin in the beauty industry. It wasn’t long before she became an online sensation for her unbiased reviews, with brands like Garnier, MAC, and more approaching her for collaborations. In the same vein, Anchal spotted the gap in difficult conversations that needed to take place within the South Asian community. The conversations often dodged like bullets coming our way because we’ve been raised to believe that speaking our minds, especially in front of elders, is a show of disrespect.
In an interview with Brown Girl, Anchal unpacks the need to ruffle some feathers and discuss issues out in the open to normalise the idea that “it’s okay to go against the grain.”
‘What Would The Aunties Say’ is a very interesting name for a podcast that you just got done with. Tell us a bit more about the idea behind it?
As brown girls, we’re always worrying about ‘what will other people think?’ whenever we want to do anything and the people whose opinion we care so much for are usually gossiping aunties. Every family has one…or a few! I wanted to create a space where we could talk about topics that would probably send shivers down an aunty’s spine if she heard what us young brown girls really had to say. I wanted it to be a judgement and ‘Auntie-Free’ zone so we could finally address topics that are really important and have played a huge part in shaping us to be who are today. The good and the bad, all while having fun with it.
Have the aunties ever said anything to you? Has there been a particular instance in life that sort of became a driving factor in you always wanting to start something along the lines of ‘What Would The Aunties Say?’
The reason I wanted to start a podcast along these lines was because as I grew older, into my twenties, I started to question things a lot more. Why can’t we marry someone from a different race? Why are brown girls not as favoured as boys? Why can’t we drink alcohol? I just started to notice how much there is to think about for brown girls, and guys sometimes too.
If I’m honest, it’s a lot of pressure trying to find yourself, all while pleasing the people around you. I didn’t really have anyone I could relate to or knew anyone that felt the same as me. I would question myself and who I am and whether I am good enough if I’m not following certain protocol and it made me feel quite alone. The purpose of the podcast was to help other brown girls, like me, who also feel alone in these situations. I want them to know that they ARE good enough even if they’re going against the grain.
What are the aunties saying now? How has the response been from your community now that you’ve touched upon some crucial and some taboo topics out in the open?
The response has actually been amazing. I can’t say I’ve completely changed the minds of the people around me. However, by allowing them to hear these topics so openly spoken about has definitely been thought provoking for them. We’ve even had deep discussions in my own home since my family have listened and that’s all I could ask for at this point really. As for the brown girls that have listened, the response has been so positively overwhelming. I’m so touched that so many other people feel the same way and can relate. It’s definitely made me feel less alone, and in turn them too.
You’ve discussed a range of topics, but what has been your biggest challenge growing up with this dual South-Asian-British, identity in a traditional South Asian, Punjabi household?
I think my biggest challenge has been trying to understand and accept my parents’ views, while trying to be my most authentic self and live a life that makes me happy, and hope that they too can understand my views.
South Asians within themselves are a very diverse community with a host of subcultures. And then there are also religious differences to account for. Has finding relatability with your guests on a topic been a struggle at times?
No, not really. Fundamentally, we all have had similar upbringings in some way shape or form. For some brown girls we may have been able to have slightly more freedom in some things, while others have been far more restricted. But I think there is an unspoken understanding between us. We will always be able to relate with each other, and if not, can understand why things are the way they are for another brown girl.
There are a number of South Asian-focused online platforms highlighting similar cultural predicaments within our community. How do you think your podcast stands out?
I think my podcast stands out because it’s very personal. I share stories and parts of me that I have never shared before and so have my wonderful guests. It’s like listening in on real conversations or being a part of a conversation, you would have already had with a friend. Aside from that, I also like to have a laugh from time to time. I know these are serious issues and topics, however being a brown girl isn’t all doom and gloom and I wanted to put that across in my tone.
Now that you’ve completed Season 1 of ‘What Would The Aunties Say’ successfully, what do you want everyone listening in to take away from it?
As I’ve mentioned before, I want them to know they’re not alone in whatever they’re going through. Whether that’s something as little as trying to dodge loud and nosey Aunties that turn up to your house, or something big like having parents that aren’t understanding of your mental health, whatever it is, I promise you are not alone. Secondly, I want them to know that they are worthy, and they are capable of anything.
Will there be a season 2? What should listeners expect?
Most definitely! After the amazing response, how could I not haha! I can’t tell you too much, however what I will say is that we’ve only just touched the surface with Season 1 and the topics and conversations are about to get a whole lot deeper! I’m really excited to have you all join in and listen!
If the success of Season 1 is anything to go by, we are sure the next season of “What Would The Aunties Say” will definitely be worth the wait!
Ever since we can recall, the Cannes Film Festival has been a merger of movies and glamour. On one side, there are hand-picked films — ready to premiere and make their mark in the world of entertainment — and on the other, audiences and paparazzi alike are served epic moments in fashion.
The festival, aimed to preview upcoming films from all over the world, invites a wide variety of guests that span the film fraternity, of course, but more recently, has opened its doors to many digital content creators, including renowned South Asian creatives.
With a more vast guest list comes a more recent debate: Cannes is a film festival and not a fashion showcase. Kickstarting the debate this year was none other than ace Bollywood director, Nandita Das, who in an Instagram post shared:
Sometimes people seem to forget that it is a festival of films and not of clothes!
In short, Das wants Cannes’ narrative to continue to focus on films.
But of course, there’s been a paradigm shift in the guest list over the last few years; this shift has allowed talents from various industries — including lifestyle content creators, entrepreneurs, etc., who showcase their work in fashion and beauty like fine masterstrokes — to walk the carpet and represent their craft, making space for others in their industry.
Influential names like Dolly Singh, Kaushal, Diipa Buller-Khosla, and Shivani Bafna — all of whom made a raging impact on the red carpet this year — weigh in on the significance of representing South Asian artists/influencers on the red carpet, and how they feel they’ve been part of this paradigm shift at Cannes Film Festival.
I believe that each step we take at events like Cannes sends a powerful message of diversity, cultural richness, and artistic excellence. Representation matters, and the presence of South Asian creators on the red carpet at Cannes helps broaden the narrative of beauty, talent, and creativity. It allows us to showcase our unique perspectives, narratives, and contributions, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive industry. By actively participating and making our presence felt, we help create more opportunities and spaces for South Asian creators, encouraging others to share their stories with the world.
Since 2015, the first time I walked the red carpet, till this year I have always been invited by L’Oreal Paris, one of the main sponsors of the event. It has always been such an honor to be invited to the festival through the makeup brand that I have been using for almost two decades, and, before my social media career began. Personally, I feel a sense of acknowledgment from such a prestigious brand, and its head office teams that sponsor Cannes Film Festival, and value the work I have done and continue to do as a South Asian content creator within the beauty space. Makeup, hair, and beauty will always play a big role within the film industry and it’s something I have always created my content around which is why I am proud to attend.
This is a proud moment not just for me but also [for] my peers and the entire content creator ecosystem given that we have reached such new global stages and presence. Of course, as you said, such film festivals, once considered as an exclusive hub for a congregation of the finest acting talents have, in the last few years, opened their arms to more people from the entertainment industry.
This is not just a sudden phenomenon with a burst of Indian creators at the festival this year but there is increased participation from non-film and non-South Asian celebrities across various spectrums from different sides of the world. Along with the many filmmakers, actors, producers, etc I also met some amazing influencers and entrepreneurs from other sides of the world. It’s amazing to represent India and celebrate and champion the advent of the digital ecosphere on such a prominent platform.
The confluence of actors and creators signified the amalgamation of traditional cinema and new-age digital influence, highlighting the transformative power of creative expression and how festivals like Cannes have become more forthcoming and progressive in their approach.
Cannes, like any other prominent festival, boasts of a red carpet that is synonymous with fashion and glitz, and I wanted to use this opportunity to represent all the amazing Indian fashion designers on the carpet besides, of course, attending the screenings. As someone who is just not an influencer but also an actress, I thoroughly enjoyed all the red-carpet screenings and meeting like-minded film talent from around the world at the event. At some point in the future, I would like to be attending Cannes for a film I’ve featured in.
Creators are often placed into boxes of where they belong and the rooms they can be a part of. Being on the red carpet dismantles the ideology that there’s a cap on how far we, as creators and as a South Asian community, can go and what we can achieve.
The Cannes Film Festival has always been viewed as the epitome of a glamorous event — everyone who attends looks like they’re living their best lives. I used the platform to share an authentic message of what the experience felt like for me. To represent all of us who doubt our potential, experience imposter syndrome, and are nervous to find their place, yet continue to push through to achieve their dreams!
As the first Indian American influencer to walk at Cannes, I hope I can inspire young women to confidently ask, ‘Why not me?’
There’s no doubt that the Cannes Film Festival is centered around films, and continues to be a unique space for the global film fraternity to bring their art and showcase their aptitude. But, creators like Bafna, Singh, Buller-Khosla, and Kaushal — a special shoutout to Raja Kumari for being instrumental in paving the way as well — have their own set of responsibilities to fulfill upon their invitation to the prestigious event. Their will to represent their South Asian identities, celebrate their industries, and continue to hold space for their peers makes their presence at Cannes more than just clothes.
All images in the featured photo are from the influencers’ Instagram feeds.
If I DM my friends a bunch of videos on any given day, one of them is almost always an Ankush Bahuguna reel. When I first stumbled upon his content, I saw him as an actor and a comedian, lifting our mood up during the lockdown one video at a time. However, his day-to-day content is more than just that — Bahuguna is changing the landscape of the beauty industry by making (and holding) space for men who aspire to be makeup artists and who have a passion for all things beauty.
Content creator, makeup enthusiast, actor: Which title do you resonate with the most? And, why?
A creator is the word I’d resonate with the most — that’s what got me here — creating comedy, creating beauty content. Even as an actor, I’m very collaborative. I tend to weave nuances around a character and make it my own. I believe, no matter what you do, your work should be unique to you and that can only happen when you build it up yourself.
How did “Wing it with Ankush” come about?
Till three years ago, I used to work for a media house that had a whole team of stylists and MUAs working on every shoot. So when the world went into lockdown, I realized I would have to don all those hats myself. I used to [regularly] shoot videos with my mother and she didn’t know anything about makeup either. So I had to try my hand at it — I would do her makeup and we’d shoot videos together. Soon I realized how much I enjoyed learning a new skill from scratch. I used to paint as a kid, so makeup just somehow made sense. It felt like even though I had a whole lot to learn, it came naturally to me. I decided I would journal these experiments [on] a ‘secret’ page called Wing it With Ankush so that I can look back at it five years from now and see what I was up to [during] lockdown. I didn’t tell anyone about it. But people eventually discovered it and there was no looking back!
One word for gender stereotypes?
One word: Ingrained. It’s so deeply ingrained in us that we find it hard to just accept people the way they are.
How is (or isn’t) India evolving in terms of stereotypes?
We are definitely evolving. It’s a slow process but there’s hope. There’s a long way to go and for starters, I wish people could give non-cis people as much respect, appreciation, and credit, as they give to cis people like me, especially in the beauty space.
Must-have makeup products for men?
Makeup ‘must-haves’ are very subjective across all genders. Some people can’t do without a full face of makeup, while others could care less. I feel nothing is a must-have. [D]on’t wear makeup because you feel you need to, wear it only if it makes you feel good. My must-haves would be a color corrector, concealer, and powder.
Favorite makeup hack ever:
My favorite makeup hack is to underpaint. Apply bronzer and blush before your foundation. It’s so much more natural looking.
Let’s talk about your career in entertainment. What does comedy mean to you?
Comedy is a defense mechanism for me. It’s also self-expression, to be honest. That’s how I go about my day — finding humor in mundane things. Comedy is how I see life.
Beauty Influencer Of The Year Male (Popular Choice) — Ankush Bahuguna! Congratulations! You left your audience with these words in your Instagram post: “There’s always been too much self-doubt and too little self-worth.” How does one overcome that feeling of self-doubt?
As someone who has grown up constantly feeling inadequate, it’s difficult for me to not give in to self-doubt, literally every day. But I guess the idea is to be as kind and forgiving to yourself as you are to others. If you’ve come this far, you must’ve done something right. Right?
We can’t deny that Ankush Bahuguna is going out of his way to put a smile on our faces with his day-to-day content — reels, photos, Insta stories, and more! All while paving a new path for himself and, like we mentioned before, holding space for those who aspire to be them one day. Ankush continues to push the envelope one makeup tutorial at a time, showing the modern world that it’s time to take men in makeup seriously because they’re here to stay!
The featured image is courtesy of Dream N Hustle Media.
Holistic beauty trends are more prevalent than ever — that makes ayurvedic beauty brands incredibly sought-after, as well. Do you find yourself asking what your beauty products are actually made of? A lot of us even resort to food products for a skincare routine such as honey for face wash.
The term “Ayurvedic Beauty” is getting more recognition outside the South Asian world as well.
Ayurvedic beauty is coined upon the term “Ayurveda,” which originated in Hindu culture as the basis of utilizing the five life forms — air, water, ether, fire, and earth — to heal the human body.
Is your skin feeling a little dry this winter? Nourishing your skin with body oil will lend it the right amount of moisture — Soma Ayurvedic’s jasmine body oil can do that trick! Shop the oil, and their full line of products, here.
If you’re familiar with author and podcast Host, Jay Shetty, then you may have heard of his tea line, Sama Tea. Herbal teas provide many natural benefits. Has it been a stressful week? Try their lavender rose chamomile tea for some TLC. Check them out here.
Know the Netflix show “Ginny & Georgia?” Loved the actress’ fresh-looking skin? Sahajan Skincare is behind that glow! They’re a must-try, featured in both Vogue and Elle India. See their full range of products here.
This unique company showcases its brand with an emphasis on ‘holistic.’ Whether it’s bad hair days or excessive shedding, not only do Shaz and Kiks provide the products to help but also break down the science behind the problem. Go on your very own shopping spree by clicking here!
Looking for accessible ayurvedic beauty products? Look no further! Ranavat is now in Sephora. With a beauty line that covers both hair and skin, there’s something here for everyone. See for yourself here.
Are you looking for brown skin-friendly sunscreen filled with nutrients? Look no further. Inde Wild has its very own SPF 50, with natural substances such as liquorice extract and cica, and it’s a mineral SPF suitable for all skin types. See what the brand is all about and shop it here.
I’m always in the market for brown girl-friendly lipsticks, and ones that are made of natural ingredients are a huge plus. Mango People does just this with their unique lipstick colors that suit all brown skin tones. Try them out here!
Need to swap out your shampoo for something better? Try Kama Ayurveda’s Ayurvedic Hair cleaner, infused with a variety of herbs and pulses with key ingredients like vetiver, tulsi, rose, moong beans, and shikakai. They have a variety of products to choose from so start with your hair and keep shopping for more here!
Just getting into skincare and don’t know where to start? PRATIMA skincare has starter sets, with basics, that every woman can use such as vitamin C serum, essential oils, and collagen creams. Grab yours now by shopping here!
Struggling with hair care recently? Fable & Mane includes various hair oils in their collection that help grow and nourish your hair. Not only that, they have a scalp detox line as well — definitely worth checking out. See their full range of products here.