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Cultural beauty is seen at its best when you learn about rituals, belief systems, clothing, food and the history of a group of peoples. But the wacky side usually comes out when you look into the superstitions of a culture (no offence intended, after all I am Punjabi I can make fun of myself right?). Born and raised into a Sikh Punjabi family, I’ve had my share of “OMG are you for real?” moments when a random auntie, or better yet, my mom informs me of things I should or should not do, simply because somewhere back in the day someone decided it was bad luck.

The irony of most superstitious beliefs is that they often go hand in hand with some religious beliefs. Although I don’t believe this, some atheists or opponents of organized religion view a belief in a higher power as a mere “superstition” that provides humanity with a false reason to justify their being. My opinion: God is a big deal and since I’ve been raised in a Sikh family the religion actually provides me with meaning and explanation for most things in life, but of course others can think as they feel.

A majority of superstitious beliefs were created in order to fight a societal fear or powerful group within a community that the leaders in question wanted to keep in check. For example, in the Victorian period widowed women were deemed as outcasts in English society and in some accused of being witches. Once their husband passed on she became financially in charge of his estate, finances and property. These newly independent women caused  much anxiety for the patriarchal legal system, often resulting in these women being ostracized by those in power.

But on a more light-hearted side, I also just think a lot of fed-up mom’s with undisciplined children created these sayings in order to crack the whip and discipline their children from misbehaving.

A classic example of my second hypothesis that I was told as a child by my grandmother:

“Don’t rattle your keys at night, its brings negative energy in the home!”

This was usually told to me as a child as my grandmother had a look on her face that I was clearly disturbing the higher spiritual order and risking harm to my personal safety with my key jingling.

My translation: “My child is being a pain and keeps jingling keys, while people are trying to relax and sleep, so yes I am going to instil some good old fear into her.” Okay I know this is a bit extreme, especially because I was one of the favourite grandchildren to my Nanni, but I am thinking of a really disgruntled and exhausted mother who just wants to go to bed.

Women as community leaders and creator’s of belief systems

All of this has led me to come to the conclusion that the ancestry of women is really important to the identity of a cultural group, because no matter how outlandish a superstition appears to someone (either a member of the group like myself, or a cultural outsider) at the end of the day, those superstitions become a part of a larger belief system that governs the rituals, special occasions, and important moments of an individual person’s life. And lets face it they are called “old wives tales” for a reason, women are a source of wisdom, authority and oral history in most cultural groups.

SAS’s List of Punjabi Superstitions

That being said, here are some superstitions I’ve grown up with; some outlandish, some beautiful and some that I stand by myself:

  1. A black crow outside your house means you will be getting guests to your home.
  2. Don’t wear white on happy celebrations. White in South Asian culture is worn at funerals and is symbolic of mourning.

  3. If you are a woman and your right eye flickers, it’s a bad omen. For men, the left eye means bad things are coming your way.
  4. Don’t step on books, they are sources of knowledge and givers of wisdom, so they should be respected and cherished.
  5. Don’t play with money. In the Sikh religion gambling is also considered a taboo.
  6. Don’t sweep the floor or do the laundry on the same day after a happy occasion in your home. You’re sweeping away your joys by doing so. Enjoy the moment.
  7. “Achoo.” You just sneezed, now you can’t leave the house right away, it’s a bad omen!

Do you have any cultural superstitions to share? I’d love to hear about them and your thoughts on them, is the belief you shared ridiculous or simply another representative of cultural beauty?

My Bridal Makeup Trial and a Short Q&A with Award Winning Makeup Artist Kavita Suri

Photo courtesy Kavita Suri Spa

How long have you been working as a professional makeup artist and where did you receive your training?

Gosh, I feel like I am aging when I think about “how loooong” I have been working as a professional. At the same time, I will let you know how long I have been working professionally.  I have come a long way, I have been a professional for 13 years. There I said it!
As a make-up artist the word artist is really what it is for me. I was self taught and love the field that I am a part of  because I am constantly creating, whether it be with my bridal clients, teaching and educating others, or marketing my business.

When creating a look for a bride, what do you take into account?

Bridal make-up is my forte, especially makeup for Indian brides. The colours and outfits I get to work with are  inspiring and  so much fun.  I can play up colors with the eye make-up and lips…it’s allowed.

The top three things I take into account are:

1) What the bride WANTS,
2) Her Outfit, and
3) Her personality.

What made you pursue a career in the beauty industry?

Nothing really “made” me pursue my career in the beauty industry. Honestly, it was a journey with trials and successes. It is true, when you love what you do nothing else matters. I just kept on going and I’ve been very blessed with all that I currently have in my life and all the people that show their love and support. I couldn’t be more THANKFUL. ( I sound like I am giving a speech at the Grammy’s, smile).

Name one of your achievements that you are the most proud of or currently excited about?

2010 has been a whirlwind and we are half way through the year, I wonder what God is planning next for me. If it has to be one achievement: I have dreamed of being a role model for girls that always wanted to be a make-up artist! You can do it, it really is possible. You just have to believe in yourself and have the right people around you to support you through it.

Tell me a little about the Kavita Suri Beauty Academy:

It was time for me to share my experience artistically as a Make-up Artist, therefore I started Kavita Suri Beauty Academy in 2008 which allows me to professionally train and certify individuals to enter into the field with confidence. The training is scheduled within 2 weeks with a photo shoot. The best part: it’s  one -on- one, so the student really gets the special attention they need to mprove their skill.

I was approached by the owner of Toronto Aesthetics & Hair Academy this June to provide my professional training with their academy. I was very honored and excited, so of course I accepted with a BIG SMILE. From this Fall onwards, I will be training at both their Scarborough location and their new Brampton location. Of course, my one-on-one training is still available at the Yorkville location.

So ladies sign yourself up if you know you have a make-up artist in you!

How does Kavita Suri define beauty?

To me beauty is what you have inside, your personality and the way you live on a daily basis. It’s not how light your skin is, or how full your lips are, it’s about your beautiful personality.

What is your must-have beauty product that you carry with you all the time?

My must-have is Tahiti Tinted Lip Balm by Vasanti Cosmetics. The perfect trendy chap stick with a hint of color.

As a young and successful entrepeneur, what advice would you give to other young women and girls trying to make it out in the beauty industry?

The first piece of advice that came to my mind when I read this question is “keep your head up.” This industry can be very challenging if you don’t have the right direction. If you know where you want to be in 5 years then keep at it and eventually you will get there.

Anything special you’d like to share with readers of SAS?

I wanted to thank you SAS for doing this piece on me and I wish your blogging adventure to be a continual success.

Thank you Kavita for being the amazing woman you are and taking the time to do this for SAS! Your work and success continues to inspire and motivate other South Asian women to follow their dreams. Make sure you check out her website Kavita Suri Spa and interested brides book her now for your big day! You won’t be disappointed.

If you are a bride who needs some convincing, here’s the beautiful job Kavita did for my makeup trial for my upcoming wedding reception:

Here is the look that I was inspired by from a bridal magazine and here is the jewellery and blouse I'll be wearing at the reception!

Kavita applying air brush makeup

The End Result: Kavita and I were ecstatic, I love it! Be sure to check out my blog after the wedding at the end of September!


Beauty Review on 29Secrets.com

Want to know how to make your blow-out last longer?  Check out my review for the Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Blow Dry Perfection Smoothing Kit on 29Secrets.com

This is what the Garnier Blow Dry Kit looks like once you take it out of the packaging: instructions, two tubes of product, and plastic gloves are provided. I used the wide tooth comb for even application.

As you’ll learn when you read the review I tried out the kit right before  my weekend in NEW YORK with my girls for my bachelorette! It was scorching humid, we melted! But my hair did pretty well due to the Garnier  kit.

Here are some pics to prove it:

Day 1:
This is right when I blow dryed my hair and hadn’t flat ironed it yet (keep in mind my hair is super curly so it take a lot of effor to get it this smooth.

The Garnier Blow Dry kit results after blow drying.

Then this is what I looked like when it was  flat ironed, we were doing a pre-wedding ceremony at my fiance’s house, so I am rocking the desi in me!

Day 2:
The next evening in NYC after we survived a day of sightseeing in the big apple in the rain and humid hair. Considering the craziness my hair looks pretty smooth (I didn’t rewash it before we went out because I wanted to truly test the kit).

Day 3:
The next morning (Saturday) I was dead tired, so I just swept my hair into a side braid. And despite the usual loose strands that come with a side braid my hair resisted the frizz factor well. You can see for youself in this group shot (the tank tops were a cute surprise – my friends and sister bought them and surprised me that morning with the bride top).

Posing on 5th Avenue in front of Tiffany & Co in the hot sun

The kit also says that you can change from  curly to straight styles easily without having the smoothening serum affect how the curl is held in your hair. So for Saturday night I wore it with waves, this is what it looked like. They held very well too.

Loose waves for the nigt out in NYC with the ladies!

Day 4:
The last day of the trip due to a late night of dancing  my hair was in a pony tail, but it was still easy to stretch out my hair when I blow dryed my hair the next time. Check out my review to hear the deets on the blowdry kit now.

Let me know what you think and if you’ve tried Garnier’s Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Blow Dry Perfection Smoothing Kit!

So most of you know that I am currently planning my wedding with my fiance, keeping that in mind I was inspired to write this article for 29Secrets.com where I discuss the main factors a woman should consider before she says yes to her long-term love when he pop’s the question. This one is dedicated to my one and only, soon-to-be husband Raj.

Check out my article “Is He Marriage Material” on 29Secrets.com, who knows maybe it will help make you realize your current man is really THE ONE.

As a magazine, beauty and fashion  junkie, one of the biggest criticisms I have of mainstream magazines is the lack of representation of diversity. As a teen I read a lot of  Seventeen, YM and a few other magazines but I had difficulty relating to the women and girls featured on the covers and within the ads. They just didn’t look like me. Our skin colour was different and frankly, I felt excluded. I remember thinking when looking at the covers each month, “I wonder what it would be like if a brown girl was on the cover…that would never happen though!”

To make it clear though, magazine editors and creative directors aren’t trying to portray only one type of woman, or interpreting beauty intentionally in a narrow way. In fact Editor-in-Chief of Anokhi, Hina Ansari, said it best  in the current Entertainment Issue of Anokhi:

“Unfortunately, there is a dearth of actual South Asian models in this industry…the “East Indian” (South Asian)look you refer to  does vary from country to country and region to region in the wonderful mosaic of complexions and features,” (page 8 Anokhi Hears You! ANOKHI July/August 2008 Entertainment Issue).

Hina Ansari raises a valid point, there just aren’t enough South Asian models out there to go around! Plus, most people expect a certain kind of South Asian woman to be portrayed. Yet the label “South Asian” covers a big part of the world including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the list goes on.  So we cannot expect every South Asian model to sport  a saree, or have that stereotypical Bollywood, East Indian appearance in features. Rather, I think the true diversity of the South Asian woman needs to be brought out better in both South Asian publications and within mainstream media. The complexities of our heritage will only be understood if an effort is made to show that South Asian does not equal India!

One amazing South Asian  model who has hit it BIG, who doesn’t fall in that preconceived East Indian look and broke the boundaries for many future South Asian models, is LAKSHMI MENON. Lakshmi Menon is a 27 year-old Bengali bombshell, who was first seen on the runway shows of Jean Paul Gautier and Hermes in 2006. Since then she has been the face of Swatch watches, H&M and Givenchy and appeared in the pages of prestigious magazine brands including Elle India, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Allure.

She’s hot STUFF, see for yourself! Here’s Lakshmi on the cover of Elle India April 2010:

Plus, she’s a role model for all aspiring South Asian models as Menon’s increasing presence in the mainstream fashion industry reaffirms that the world of fashion has room for women of all race and colour.

Check out Lakshmi Menon’s thoughts on her career in this article from New York Magazine from last year.

Now go ahead and suggest my girl crush post to the dudes in your life,  BUT not before you check out my  Annabelle and Marcelle Beauty Giveaway Contest!

So I know its been a while since I have posted consistently, to my faithful readers I am sincerely sorry, but a lot has been going on these past few weeks!

Here’s what’s been keeping me busy:

1. I finished my internship at Totem with CAA Magazine at the beginning of June and I officially GRADUATED from the Centennial College Book and Magazine Publishing Program.

2. I landed an awesome part-time internship at 29SECRETS.com with Editor Jill Dunn who has worked for Elle Canada and Glow. Located in Toronto’s fashion district, at 29Secrets I’ll be helping out with updating and writing beauty, fashion, wellness and relationships content for the site!

3. My boss, Beauty Editor Denise Wild at my ongoing internship at Anokhi has also been keeping me busy. Early June, I worked on a beauty photo shoot for the upcoming Fall issue where I finally got to meet Anokhi’s Editor-in-Chief Hina Ansari -a vibrant and intelligent woman- and have been interviewing some wonderful DESI BEAUTY MAVENS for some copy that will appear in the Anokhi issue that drops in September!

4. My fiance and I have been busy planning the details of our south-asian wedding—from sending out invites and finalising our last few vendors. In the next couple of months be sure to stay tuned for details of the most awesome and professional SOUTH ASIAN WEDDING VENDORS in the business that we are using this September!

5. All last week I soaked up the SUN in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my family for our annual family vacation, We stayed at the RIU PALACE PACIFICO, a beautiful property with great food, drinks and entertainment.

So basically its been a really crazy month! But in all this time I’ve had a lot of time to think up of great new things to share with all of you. So stay tuned for great beauty product reviews, South Asian – Punjabi wedding info, cultural musings, and my first official blog contest over the next few weeks. As always I will continue to blog about anything South Asian that interests me and my readers so read on and let me know your thoughts!

Follow me on Twitter @PreetsD

In the last  4 months I’ve been finishing up course work for my publishing certificate, attending vendor appointments with my fiance for our wedding in the Fall, and interning at two magazines. Basically I spend a lot of my time  on public transportation – whether it’s a municipal bus, subway, TTC streetcar or the GO Train -to get around.  During all of my time  on the road when I am not taking a cat nap to catch up on sleep, I’ve been reading.

Finding the right book or article for commuting is important:

The book needs to be simple enough so that you can sometimes only read  3 pages while  on a short bus ride, but also engaging enough to motivate you to keep the pages turning when on route in the early morning (as early as  6:45 am this past Winter when I commuted out to the Danforth area of Toronto for class!) or  after a long work day.

Sometimes it also helps if the book is big enough so you can hide from the crazies on the TTC!

So I thought I’d share with you the written word that has managed to win over my desire to just use my commutes as nap time:

1. Chantel Simmon’s LOVE STRUCK talks about the complexities of marriage, the need for communication between partners and takes a humourous and whimsical look at what can happen to a married woman when she confronts her deepest fear, infidelity.

2. Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry: Completely unique from The Time Traveller’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry is deeply evocative, gothic and outright troubling. Niffenegger’s novel, which I just finished last Friday, challenges what we understand as reality, spirituality, love, and death.

3. Jhumpha Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth: I can’t even put into words how much I loved this collection of short stories. Lahiri unearths the darkest of humankind’s moments in her painfully real fiction. Fine, you may not want to read this book on a Debbie downer morning, but if you want to be moved by the complexities of issues such as inter-racial marriages, alcoholism, and unrequited love then Unaccustomed Earth is your answer.

4. Anokhi Magazine : Articles in past issues that  drew my attention –  the March/April Kajol cover story , the article on marriage in South Asian culture called  Great Expectations, and the controversial feature on the swinger’s lifestyle in the May/ June Wedding issue. I especially recommend you to read the article on the swinger’s lifestyle, I love an article that causes discussion, shock, and mixed emotions. If you read it let me know what you think!

5. Fashion Magazine really made me appreciate beauty and fashion features. The farewell profile on Alexander McQueen was amazing and I also liked the article in the May issue about the trend of  Canadian designers collaborating with accessible brands, such as H&M or Joe Fresh.

Do you think international names like Jimmy Choo  and Stella McCartney lose their esteem if they collaborate with chains such as Target or Adidas? When and where do we draw the line between fashion and business?

6.  Toronto Life: The features in  TL never  cease to amaze me. I particularly enjoyed the TTC feature in the May issue because yes,  I also loathe the overcrowded situation at Yonge and Bloor and the ridiculous fare hike put into place in January!

Book’s I loved, but found difficult to read on a commute:

Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native: The book is characterized by amazing writing, language and poetic devices. Plus, Hardy discusses so many controversial issues at such a ground breaking time in history  (the 19th century), but the flow of my reading was disturbed by the constant yammering of  people on the train. Also, the subway cart sounding to a halt at each  stop took away from the luxurious experience Hardy deserves:  a comfortable read of the novel before bed, or on a lounger in my backyard.

Sometimes literature is too luxurious and precious to deal with the invasive honking of car horns and musty subway smells.

A nutritious and easy lunch item!

Serves 3 to 4

Lunch time can be a difficult meal to approach because often we all want something quick and easy, but also nutritious. Furthermore, packing a lunch for work is tiring, especially because the same old sandwich or left overs become boring. This Mango and Avacado salad is a more interesting option for a light lunch at home or for work.

You may be thinking, what does this salad recipe have to do with being South Asian? Well here is my rationale…

1) I am  South Asian and I eat this salad all of the time, its one of my  favourites!

2) Mango, the national fruit of India, is a key ingredient which gives this salad its flavour! Plus, I am sure  fellow South Asians can agree that a family get together is never the same without a mango inspired dish, or even just fresh slices of fresh mango served after dinner!

3) Still not convinced? The fruit mango  has so many health benefits: it contains phenols- these serve as antioxidants which fight against cancer. Mango is high in iron, so its great for women who are pregnant, or those who suffer from anemia. Furthermore, as a source of Vitamin E mango is  great for the skin and helps balance one’s hormonal system. So go  buy some mangoes and make this salad!

My mango and avocado spring salad: A perfect light lunch

Salad Ingredients:

1 small container Spring Mix Salad
1 Mango peeled and chopped in cubes
1 Avocado peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 Cucumber chopped in cubes
1 tablespoon chopped Fresh Chives
2 tablespoons Pumpkin Seeds
Dried Cranberries to taste

Dressing Ingredients:

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Method

1.Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, honey and salt and pepper in a bowl with a fork until fully blended. The blended dressing can be refrigerated for up to a week so you can even make a larger amount for future use!
2.Toss the spring mix, mango, avacado and cucumber in a salad bowl with the dressing.
2. Sprinkle with chopped chives, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds.
3. Serve immediately with melba toast and goat cheese.

ENJOY!

EDITOR’S TIP: If you are taking this salad to work and want a quicker dressing with less ingredients, sprinkle a spoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s less complicated and if you really enjoy salads as a lunch item you can keep a small bottle each of  olive oil and balsamic vinegar at your desk!

For those of you who haven’t already heard, Mani Amar, activist and film maker from B.C. reached a breakthrough in raising awareness about gang violence in the South Asian community in Vancouver and across Canada this week!

His award-winning documentary (2009 International Sikh Film Festival in New York), Warrior’s Religion, is now officially out on DVD and available for purchase  on the official website. 

By spending only $15 on the DVD you will support a noble cause, Amar’s fight to create a safer community for future South Asians and youth of other ethnicities living in the Vancouver mainland.

On the other hand if you are an educator or a leader among social justice organizations for young people, a double disc version with discussion materials for only $25 is also available.

Although A Warrior’s Religion has received criticism from Sikh community leaders because of their misconception of the title, since the young men depicted in the film mostly belong to the Sikh faith group, the film’s name is a metaphor for the lifestyle of these gangsters who see their lives in street gangs as their way of life, salvation and thus therefore “religion.”

Since the problem of gang warfare runs deep among young men whose families are of Sikh faith, Amar’s film raises awareness for this community in hopes of preventing future generations’ deaths. The unbiased documentary includes heartbreaking interviews of parents grieving for the tragic deaths of their young sons, to tense conversations between Amar and former gangster Bal Bhuttar.

The documentary took a total of three years to research and produce for the young Amar, which he funded by working three jobs. A dedicated activist, Amar was determined to see through his goal of producing his film to bring this issue into discussion among community leaders, youth members, educators and like-minded social justice seekers.

I already bought my copy of the documentary, it’s on its way in the mail as I type, stay tuned for my review of the documentary. In the mean time watch the official trailer A Warrior’s religion at Mani’s official website now and make your purchase.

Meanwhile, what’s Mani Amar doing now: currently he is working on his first official feature film, which he envisioned while putting together the research for his documentary. Topics covered include gang violence and sexual violence against women.

Good luck in all of your future endeavours Mani and thank you for serving our community with your hard work and efforts.

Last year when browsing the web, I came across Nick Fleming’s photography website, since then I am a frequent visitor to his website and blog, his work is amazing! Fleming’s website is filled with beautiful slideshows of his work ranging from the Living Divinely collection, to this work on the Nihang Singh’s of Punjab and his beautiful shots of Kashmir.

This picture of one of the Nihang Singh’s, a warrior class of Sikhs, praying in the early morning is one of my favourites. Although I am not very religious person, this image always makes me feel at peace with its simplistic beauty.

This second picture shows a man harvesting saffron in Kashmir, the colours, details and life of the photos demonstrate Fleming’s talents.


If you visit his site at nickfleming.com, you’ll learn about diverse cultures, regions of the South Asian world, and aspects of various religions including Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Islam.

So don’t hesitate, visit Fleming’s site now and get ready for a breathtaking experience in art and sociological studies. ENJOY!

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