The most sought-after MUA in Manipur and tinseltown’s fairy-god mother Jenny Khurai speaks to us about coming out, Makeup, carving a niche in the Makeup and Potloi scene!
Khaidem Jenny, popularly known as Jenny Khurai from Konsam Leikai is one among nine children born to Khaidem Inaoton Meitei and Khaidem Chaobi. Along with the iconic Tom Sharma, it was Jenny Khurai who paved the way for the transgenders in Manipur to carve a niche for themselves in the Makeup and Fashion world (apart from the Sumang Leela Artists who are known for their acting skills). A hard-worker and an enterprising spirit, Jenny Khurai as she is popularly known did not have an easy way up the ladder of success. She strived hard to break the preconceptions of a society who were struggling to accept the idea of transgender. The fairy-god mother (as we like to call her) of the Manipur Film industry won the hearts of the public through her work in cinema and taking up bridal makeup assignments in her earlier days.
Now a much loved MUA in the Manipur Film as well as the wedding industry, Jenny is the first among the transgender community to provide a complete potloi and makeup package for the first time in Manipur. Her struggles have to a certain extent been paid off and she has carve a place for herself in the society and paved way for many others like her in the society. ManipuriWeddings spoke to Jenny in an intimate set up about her journey as she build a life for herself and make a stand of her own, the world of Makeup, the glamourous Manipur Film Industry and her work as the bridal designer!
MW: First of all, meeting you and having heard your last interview, we have been looking forward to this meeting.
Jenny: It’s been a busy time.
MW: So, please tell us how you managed so much in such a prejudiced society?
Jenny: I am a very independent person and don’t like to depend on anyone for anything. I love self-independent and have strived to help my fellow transgender in coming out of their shells to become someone of their own and be happy about who they’re.
Frankly, it’s been a struggle. It’s not easy being a transgender and march out to do something of your own. I always feared about being myself when I was very young. I was in high school when I started realising who I was and was not very comfortable with the idea. I sort of know what my people have to go through even today.
MW: So, what inspired you to take up make – up as your career?
Jenny: As a high school student when I started showing signs of being a transgender. I sort of knew that I had to be independent if I were to be respected for who I am. The fear of openly being myself was one but the aspiration to be respected was much more than that fear. I always did wanted to have my own way of earning to be self – independent. One of my friends suggested about being a make – up artist. These friend showed me the way, brought me a form to Babina Beauty Institute; that’s where my journey started.
MW: And then the beauty parlour was a natural progression? How did you start your business (parlour)?
Jenny: After I completed the course, Shanta a good friend of mine and I decided to open a beauty parlour at his home. I suggested that we open it somewhere people will notice so we can grow our business but he didn’t want that. So, I decided to go my way and open one my own. It was a really small one space not like the one you see now.
MW: Yes, Jenny Khurai parlour instantly became a name. Do you consider this as your breakthrough?
Jenny: Hmmm… it was all very simultaneous. When I started my business, there was a wave of Manipuri Music Album. It saw a good number of music album being made by all these production houses which proved lucky for me. I started taking up make – up assignments for albums and ads, mostly for KAMS production house. I was first approached by Luxmi through my parlour. That was my first work for an album.
But I think I started getting recognised for my work and people started noticing me as a make – up person through albums like Ningshingbadi and Yenglaga Penjarage.
MW: So, the name Jenny Khurai was an obvious choice?
Jenny: No. No. I started off my parlour as Jenny Beauty Salon and at that time I started out as a make – up artist in albums. Those days, I never cared about getting paid or not (laughs). I just loved seeing my name on – screen and it was another way of getting some exposure as well as publicizing my talent.
Then I started seeing so many other parlours with similar names coming up so I decided to name myself as Jenny Khurai to honour my birthplace as well.
MW: Like you mentioned, it wasn’t an easy journey. What were the most difficult challenges?
Jenny: There were so many! If you really look at the past, the role or the only job for a transgender was performing in Sumang Leela. And I was looking for an alternative, for another job option. So I think being a beautician was one I took up. But as a beautician too, I had to face a lot of struggles.
Being myself, coming out as my true self was so difficult. I would get teased and mocked many a times. But I tried my best to ignore them all. I learned at an early age that it’s how I am and I cannot change it even if I wanted to. So, I decided to braced myself and work hard in whatever way I could in whichever way I could to let myself develop in a positive way.
Moreover, I always have faith in God and always did prayed to Lainingthou – Sanamahi for my wellness and strength and now I am truly blessed with people who love me and accept me for who I am.
MW: Moving on, what made you come up with the Bridal package. If we were to remember right, you are one of the first transgender MUA to come up with a bridal package like that.
Jenny: Actually, it all started through my relatives. One of my relatives asked me to do her bridal make – up which I obliged. Looking back, I wasn’t that satisfied with that make – up (laughs) though I was praised a lot for the work. Through these works people found out about my work and this a chain of information about the make – up grew.
Then there came the challenge of Makeup getting worn out by the time the bride would reach the mantop. The reason was simple: potloi takes a long time to get sewn and I would have left after the Makeup hours ago. That’s when I started getting complains. And the only solution to that was adding the Potloi services.
MW: And how was the new venture like then? How did you research about the Potloi?
Jenny: I consulted Potloi expert Deviya from Hiyangthang and Oja Inaocha. I learned how to make a potloi because the technique and style is very different from all other forms of craft. Also, I understood the importance and need to retain the traditional meanings. This was how I started and added Potloi. It took me some time to learn the craft but once I was confident and fully trained, I took in students for potloi and started the Potloi journey.
With addition of Potloi, my business has increased double fold along with the love bestowed upon by the people.
MW: How different is bridal and Film make –up?
Jenny: There is a vast difference not only in films and bridal but among the different types of brides as well. The make – up of Meitei bride, Meitei Pangal or Muslim bride and Christian brides are all different. It goes from simple to heavy to light day makeup to glamorous.
MW: How do you research about these different make – up?
Jenny: I follow bridal magazines to update my bridal make – up and fashion magazines for films as well as other make – up videos or photos.
MW: What brand do you use for your make – up? Do you have any brand preferences?
Jenny: I use MAC, Clinique and Inglot mostly, I prefer these brands over others. Although sometimes I do use other brands as well I am use to their products.
MW: How do you source these products?
Jenny: I get them online most of the time and sometimes get them myself when I go outside Manipur. It’s sad that we don’t have my favourite brands studio here. I do wish that they open up someday.
MW: Another best laid plan! Thank you Jenny. We had a wonderful time with you.
Jenny: Thank you.
Jenny is now the most sought-after MUA in Manipur. She takes up Bridal assignments starting from Meitei Weddings, Christian weddings to Manipuri Muslim weddings. The popularity of her Makeup, potloi and other bridal work has reach every nook and corner of Manipur. She ha thus started her own Makeup Institute and have been a source of inspiration for her community as well as Manipur at large. Her sprightly demeanour and enterprising spirit was something we could sense as we spoke. Do follow her work on her Instagram page.
Interviewer Nikita L Sharma is mostly known for her up close interviews and Manipur Film Industry News which she covers. She also writes for Poknapham and is a regular contributor at ManipuriWeddings. You can read more of her interviews at The Personage Blog.