A discussion with Nina Banerji, champion of “eclectic witchy glamour punk” aesthetic.
TW: This interview includes discussion of eating disorders, body image and weight.
You have great skin. What’s your secret?
[Laughs] My secret is that I just have good genes. Well, no! That’s false – I do have a secret which is like, when I do get acne, which thank the acne gods I don’t very often – knock on wood – I use this thing that is Wintergreen something or other by Biotique. I always got it in India but I think that it is also available in the US. And in India it costs like 50 rupees for a jar which is like a buck for a jar. Which, you know, the jars are small, but one jar has lasted me two years and counting.
Name one makeup product you couldn’t live without.
Colourpop lipstick. The one I’m wearing right now is Notion. It is so good. It is a beautiful color that goes perfectly with my skin, which is rare, and goes perfectly with my hair, which is dyed red, about the same color, a little darker. Goes perfectly with my boots. And it lasts all day and doesn’t come off when I kiss people on the cheek, so that’s all that I could ask for. And, again, affordable. Costs like five bucks. (Correction: Notion retails for $6 on colourpop.com)
How does beauty play into your various intersecting identities? How do you express yourself through makeup and fashion?
So, it’s really a thing for me, it’s part of my identity to be like, bold lipstick. Big heavy dark brows, big bold dark lipstick, long dark hair. And that’s like my Look, capital L. And big dark boots. I love the big dark boots. I actually drew a self portrait in still life that was just a pair of boots and a pair of stilettos, and that was how I described my identity as gender fluid. And even just right now, what I’m wearing is really feminine with the cute dress, the flowers and whatever, and then the boots to make it a little bit more androgynous, a little bit more punk, a little bit less…normal, I guess. I try to just…not entirely defy the norm, because I’m not courageous enough for that, but just tweak it, make it my own. So makeup plays a very big part in that, because I don’t really feel together until I have lipstick on. But also, if we’re talking about intersecting identities, being Indian, makeup is meaningful to me because I’m proud of my dark, thick eyebrows, and I’m proud of my round eyes, which make my face look more Indian to me. So I usually try to pick makeup that emphasizes that.
I know that fashion played a big part in my eating disorder recovery and I wondered if that had anything to do with your recovery. (Ed. Note: Nina is currently in treatment for anorexia.)
A big part actually. I mean, I know that a lot of the work that I have to do while I’m in treatment this time is getting rid of sick clothes. Because when I was, last semester, at my lowest weight, that was also when I felt most confident in my body and most confident in my fashion sense and I wore a lot of really tight clothes and I wore a lot of really revealing clothes that I just don’t really feel comfortable in anymore, and as I’m going through the refeeding process they just don’t fit anymore. But I also, when I was in my disorder, I did a lot of discovering about my fashion sense. So what I’m trying to do is rebuild myself from the bottom up in terms of fashion. Get rid of clothes that are too small, that are sick clothes that I don’t feel comfortable in anymore and replace them with things that just make me feel good that are in the same vibe that I worked really, really hard to create last semester. I think that it’s really important to spread the idea that fashion is fashion no matter the size of the person wearing it and that bodies of all sizes and shapes are beautiful and it’s what you wear, how you carry yourself, how you express yourself through what you wear that matters. I guess my point is that, trying to take the confidence and self-expression that I got mainly from being thin and turn that into something that is about my fashion sense and about me. I think that looking at the people around who me who are also in treatment, they often try to hide the process they’re going through under loose clothing, and I’m like, I don’t want to do that. I want to learn to be proud of my body so I want to show it off as it changes and love every transitional phase that I go through. ♥