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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Eyebrow-raising beauty trend hits town

Learning the art of decorative skin staining using henna.
Learning the art of decorative skin staining using henna. NICKY​ SULLIVAN

Eyebrow-raising beauty trend hits town

The Shinta Mani Foundation and non-profit organisation Senhoa have teamed with Ziba Beauty, a chain of Californian beauty salons whose clients include Hollywood celebrities, to train a group of 33 at-risk young women in the ancient Indian beauty techniques that have become the new thing in beauty circles.

The techniques include threading – a hair removal technique where the hairs are removed using thread and skilled hands – and decorative skin staining using henna, also known as mehndi.

The trainees were selected from organisations including the Shinta Mani Foundation, Senhoa, Room to Read, Friends International, American Rehabilitation Ministries, Lotus House, and KnK Children without Borders in Battambang.

They graduated from the program in a ceremony at Shinta Mani hotel on Saturday September 13, demonstrated their new skills for the public at the Well Made in Cambodia Market on the same day and some will be regulars at the market.

Funded by Ziba Beauty’s Shukra Project, an 11-strong team led by Ziba CEO Sumita Batra spent the week beforehand training the women in the techniques, and documenting their progress.

Sumita Batra became involved after she attended a fundraiser for Senhoa in California last year. She was taken with the entrepreneurial nature of the organisation’s approach, and offered to help.

“I loved the jewellery that Senhoa is creating and the audacity of it,” she said.

“They are not just creating something that someone will pay $10 for because they feel sorry for the women. These are real statement pieces. I liked that the women and girls had been given a genuine art form. That attracted me to it.

Practicing threading on Shinta Mani Foundation development​​ coordinator, Clayton Jedam.
Practicing threading on Shinta Mani Foundation development​​ coordinator, Clayton Jedam. NICKY​ SULLIVAN

“I’m an entrepreneur myself, and when you give someone in need a craft, that makes sense to me.”

Batra founded Ziba Beauty 26 years ago, utilising skills her mother had taught her. Today, the company has 14 studios throughout California with about 60,000 clients a month, and Batra has worked with celebrities such as Madonna, Liv Tyler, Gwen Stefani, Salma Hayek, Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Aniston.

Threading is a method for eyebrow hair removal and shaping using twisted thread that allows for a fast, precise finish. Its worldwide popularity is growing as it is considered to be less damaging and painful than waxing or tweezing.

Mehndi is a form of decorative skin staining using henna paste which is associated with rituals such as marriage and birth and thought to bring good luck to the wearer.

The beautiful and intricate designs are rich with meaning, and are sometimes considered a useful barometer of a bride-to-be’s character since the extent and intricacy of the design may stand as a testament to her patience. The most elaborate designs can take up to 24 hours to be applied.

Shinta Mani and Senhoa are already in discussion with a number of spas in Siem Reap to find places for the women to work with their new skills. The two organisations are also hoping to put together an exhibition of the women’s work on candles and canvases.

Batra said, “We’ve taught them the basic skills they need to work, but we will continue our relationship with them through Skype and other contact.”

She added that to date the training hadn’t touched on the symbolism and deeper meaning behind the designs, and she would like the graduates to be able to discuss such meaningful aspects with clients.

“Most importantly, this is a pilot,” she said. “I want them to be able to train their younger sisters, so that when we come back, we are bringing something new each time. This is a ‘pay-it-forward’ system of vocational training.”​



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