Tejal Bhikha paints using a different kind of canvas — her face.
Curious to use cosmetics in an exploratory way rather than a means of getting ready in the morning, marketing junior Bhikha began experimenting with creative makeup. She said she was originally inspired by art history in college, recreating famous paintings such as Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
This was the inspiration behind her brand Musée Beauty, a magazine and collective focused on the intersection between art and makeup. Bhikha started Musée in 2019 with the intention to build a community first and brand second.
“I wanted to create something that people felt invested in and then create a makeup brand from that,” Bhikha said.
Originally a team of 11 people, Musée has grown into a collective of over 40 makeup artists, models, writers and photographers. Its first print issue was released in fall 2019 and features 13 art-inspired looks.
Musée’s zine pays homage to famous artists, with the makeup and design of each photo shoot modeled after specific paintings while the written stories explore the meaning behind the art.
“Creating the print magazine was a way to get creatives involved and allow them to create art with each other while also getting our name out there and (giving) people more visibility,” Bhikha said.
Mariam Ali, Musée’s vice president and assistant creative director and corporate communications sophomore, said the zine is intended to be inclusive and empowering.
“Most of the people involved in leadership are women of color,” Ali said. “It’s all about empowering us to be able to be creative in a way that we’re not held back.”
Bhikha said her experience as a woman of color working in an industry traditionally centered around white women also helped inspire the creation of Musée.
“For so long we’ve been shut out of the space that’s been just for a very specific kind of white woman,” Bhikha said. “Now we can be in on the space. We can create something that’s an inclusive area for all of us to express ourselves.”
With their first issue published and the brand established, Musée is taking bigger steps in 2020 with the launch of their first beauty product in May, the Impressionism eyeshadow palette.
Based on the Impressionist art movement, Bhikha said the Impressionism palette emphasizes the play of light and shadow. With a variety of shades both neutral and bold, it caters to consumers on both ends of the makeup spectrum and bridges the gap between everyday looks and unique experimentation, Bhikha said.
“We’re trying to set up the palette in a way that’s inviting for everyone,” Ali said.
Tosin Mercy, a model for Musée and a human development and family sciences junior, said the brand is making a space for women of color to defy beauty standards.
“Not only are they making sure that women of color are viewed as art, they’re even making their own brand of makeup,” Mercy said.
As an Indian woman, Bhikha said it’s difficult to go into a creative career because it isn’t seen as acceptable, but having a team that shares her drive and vision makes it possible.
“Makeup is seen as something that’s so frivolous, (but it’s) such a powerful industry,” Bhikha said. “(My team and I) want to create something for everyone.”