How Badhon Tithi finds balance with Aerospace engineering, art, & makeup
December 30, 2020
Badhon Tithi is breaking barriers—Art and STEM, hand in hand.
By Samia Abbasi, Editor
When Badhon enters the lab, she takes off all her jewelry, zips into ripped up work clothes, puts on heavy boots & goggles, and gets to work. After lab, she emerges with her rings on, makeup immaculate, and whatever colorful outfit she had on that day. Her mom would often ask her,
“Are you going to fashion school or are you going to school?”
Meet Badhon Tithi (@astrobadhunny): a Mechanical Engineering student who loves creating art that you can shop on Etsy and using her face as a canvas with makeup.
It’s so special to be closing out the year with a narrative that’s close to my heart. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I’ve always felt that tug between the arts and STEM, including the common experience of Desi relatives wanting us to choose the most financially stable career option. We all know that it’s a lot more complicated than that—we’re all multifaceted people. So, it’s been refreshing to see South Asian people simply doing what brings them joy, while paving an empathetic, resource-filled pathway for generations to come. Badhon is someone who completely embodies that notion, all while being inspiring, keeping it real, and bursting with creative energy. Read on to learn how Badhon is approaching her path as a budding Aerospace Engineer & artist, infusing wellness in her life, and what her must-have makeup and skincare favorites are.
Q1. Tell us about yourself, Badhon!
I am a Bangladeshi-American immigrant living in New York City. I am currently studying Mechanical Engineering and aspiring to work in the Aerospace Industry in the future. Other than my STEM pathway, I run an Etsy art shop (artbybadhon) where I create stickers, paintings, and art prints. I love creating different creative makeup looks and I’m a skincare enthusiast. I also have a YouTube channel, where I create lifestyle content. You can also find me on Instagram at @astrobadhunny and @artbybadhon, as well as TikTok at @lifewithbadhon. All of these aspects about me inspire me to stay creative and have fun with what I do!
Q2. How did you know that you wanted to be in the Engineering & Aerospace field?
Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to go to space, sparked my interest in Aerospace. She unfortunately died in a crash in 2003, and I remember hearing that on the news when I was living in Bangladesh. South Asian women are often referred to as someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, someone’s mother, and not necessarily by their name and who they are as people. This might sound cliche, but:
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to make a name for myself.
I went to a technical high school in the states and was surrounded by white men. My first 2 years of college were very challenging. Including myself, there are only two women in my major. There is a physical aspect to my field of study, and I’m not very physically strong compared to the men in my classes. I was constantly looked down upon. I even had professors who’d tell me: “Maybe you should take notes,” or “Maybe you shouldn’t do the physical aspect.” I had to be like, “Hey, I’m paying the same amount of tuition that these guys are paying. I have a 100% right to try.” Once, I was in a lab with a lot of heavy machines, and I was afraid of asking for help. A part of me was scared that the professor would tell me that this wasn’t the right field for me—that I wasn’t meant to be here.
Being an only child, I know that I want to settle my career first so I can work toward financial stability. I then hope to branch out from there to explore different interests, like the possibilities that come from creating content on social media.
photo credit: Badhon Tithi
Q3. What has kept you motivated and inspired along your journey?
As time progressed, I became even more motivated. I thought: What if I have a daughter in the future? And what if she goes through the same challenges as me because my generation didn’t do anything about it? There’s been a lot of progress lately in terms of boosting Women of Color in underrepresented fields, but there’s still so much work to be done.
What has really motivated me recently was my internship at Brooke Owens. It’s a program for undergraduate women and gender minority students in Aerospace. Just meeting so many women my age who are in the same situation as me was life-changing. We all talked about how this is the first time we’ve been part of a community like this. That is so important: finding a community of people who are like-minded, have the same challenges, and actually understand you. I went from having zero friends in the Aerospace community, to now having friends in Dublin, London, and all over the place.
Growing up, I didn’t really have a role model who looked like me. So, more than anything,
I want to make sure that young women feel comfortable, have access to resources, and are empowered to be whoever they want to be, without limitations.
Yes, becoming an astronaut would be amazing, but if a little girl saw me and said, “Hey, she looks like me! I can do that, too,” that would be my biggest accomplishment.
Q4. What are ways that you’re finding balance with different parts of yourself, your career, self-care, and passions?
1. Looking at STEM & art as creative outlets: One of the reasons I really like my field is that I get to create things. At the end of the day, if I’m not creating physical, tangible art, I’m designing metal pieces and working on prototypes. So, there’s fun art and studious art in my life. STEM and art are both outlets for my creativity, and I find a lot of balance with that perspective.
2. Prioritizing my time: A dance teacher once told me: “If you really want to do something, you will find a way to get it done and find time for it.” For me, prioritizing my time is very important. I’ve learned to say ‘no’ to hangouts and opportunities. Saying ‘no’ can be hard sometimes, but it also keeps me busy and motivated.
3. Taking 10 minutes to journal: It’s one of those things where, “Okay, what will actually happen if I journal about it?” But sometimes, we can be uncomfortable opening up to others, but the one person we can open up to is ourselves.
When I’m having a bad day or I’m stressed, I’ll just write it down. Pen and paper is my way of therapy.
In a Brown household, you can’t really tell your parents everything that’s going on or talk about your mental health. Therapy, in the Brown community, is often seen as something you do only if “there’s something wrong with you,” and if not, “you don’t need therapy,” —but that’s not true. For me, journaling has been a great way to keep track of myself. I take 10 minutes here and there throughout my day to journal and write lists for myself.
4. Attracting what I want in life: I guess it’s kind of like manifestation, but it’s great to follow certain pages, people, organizations that inspire you. I stopped following things on social media that didn’t bring me happiness or triggered me.
5. Understanding that I don’t have to be productive all the time! It’s really valid to feel unmotivated or stuck, but just know that somewhere in the world, there is someone just like you or someone who’s at the same step as you.
photo credit: Badhon Tithi
Q5. How did you get into art? What has the pandemic been like for you as an artist?
Growing up, my parents were always very open and wanted me to be involved with many extracurriculars. My mom especially wanted me to develop different facets of myself, not just focusing on my studies. In addition to art and music, I danced Bharatanatyam for the past 14 years and was also part of a dance company pre-COVID. When we first moved to the states, my mom was working and studying at the same time. Oftentimes, I drew and painted a lot at home. We didn’t have the money for fancy tools or colors, so I used whatever we could get and put whatever that was in my brain onto paper.
photo credit: Badhon Tithi
This year, everything kind of stopped, and I had so much more time for my creative energy. In March, I learned how to crochet, sewed masks for hospitals, and I did a lot of painting. I picked up digital art, too, knowing that it would be a new and exciting step for me as an artist. I started my Etsy shop, and it became a source of income when I lost my job due to COVID.
I get to travel to different places through my art, and with my Etsy shop, people can have little parts of me with them.
Q6. What has your journey with makeup been like? What are your everyday makeup & skincare essentials?
I first started wearing makeup for Bharatanatyam performances. Something that always struck me about the photos was this white flashback I saw on my face. At that time I didn’t realize it, but my face makeup was always several shades lighter than my actual skin tone. Later on, I learned a lot about makeup on YouTube, although there weren’t really any Brown creators at that time. Around 2016, I discovered a foundation that was affordable and didn’t make me look like a ghost: the Maybelline Fit Me Foundation ($7.99). It’s been so fun to get creative with my makeup in the past years, and lately during quarantine, I’ve been gravitating toward simple looks that accentuate my eyes.
My makeup essentials are:
- Primer: elf Matte Putty Primer ($8)
- Concealer: Too Faced Born this Way ($30) in Honey
- Lipstick: Lancome Matte Shaker ($22) in Magic Orange
- Eyeliner: NYX Eyeliner ($7.50) in Noir Black
- Powder: Laura Mercier Translucent Powder ($23-$39)
- Eyebrows: Glossier Boy Brow ($16) in Dark Brown
- Mascara: L’Oréal Telescopic Mascara ($10.99) in Noir Black
photo credit: Badhon Tithi
I've been making sure to do more research on the ingredients found in skincare products. Here are 3 of my skincare essentials:
- Paula's Choice Intensive Repair Cream ($33)
- Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Cream ($14.99)
- Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum ($79)
Q7. How are you celebrating yourself and your identities?
I’m celebrating myself by embracing all parts of who I am.
That’s something that takes years for people to get to, and a lot of young women are socialized to think they need to fit into these unrealistic standards, like having a hairless body. It has taken years for me to accept, “Hey, I’m a Bengali, Brown woman. And this is what my hair, skin color, eyesight, and body is like.” Quarantine has really helped me embrace myself; I’m home all day with myself. I feel more comfortable going outside without makeup or not having my hair done, too. So, yes, just loving myself and embracing all parts of myself as they are.
Cover photo credit: Badhon Tithi, @astrobadhunny