Beauty content creator Niharika Chandrasekar on embracing herself to the max
How Gen Z uses makeup as self-expression.
By Samia Abbasi, Editor
While scrolling through beauty TikToks, I’m inspired by the immense amount of detail that goes into creating eyeliner looks and the confidence that these content creators radiate. We’ve seen such an exciting shift with makeup toward embracing vivid colors and using makeup as a form of self-expression. Someone who definitely embodies this is beauty content creator Niharika Chandrasekar (@indiepeacock), with her checkered winged eyeliner looks and exquisite matching eye makeup and outfits. As part of our Kulfi x Parachute series, I sat down with Niharika to get to know how she’s embraced her South Asian-American identity, what beauty means to her, and her tips for creating the sharpest eyeliner looks.
Q1. Tell us about yourself, Niharika!
A: I am a makeup artist, content creator, and the Director of Influencer & Brand Partnerships at Parachute Media. I'm currently located in New Jersey. I go to NYU where I’m finishing up my senior year in Econ, which is completely different from the content I put out on social media — I know! I’m all about creativity, fashion, and makeup, and I love challenging myself to create content every day. I’ve always loved to express myself with fashion. My mom told me that when I was 2 or 3 years old, she would hide my clothes, because I loved playing with them and I’d make a mess, haha.
Q2. How did you make sense of your Indian-American identity growing up?
A: I was originally born in India, and I moved to the States when I was a year old. We lived in many different places: San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Pennsylvania, and now New Jersey. In school, I tried to distance myself from being Indian. In second grade, I went by “Nikki” for a year, because I didn’t like my name and it was hard for people to pronounce.
I remember my Indian friends in middle and high school defined “being Indian” in a certain way: you had to wear certain clothes, go to certain functions, and act a certain way. Because I didn’t necessarily fit into those things, they didn’t think I was “Indian enough.” It’s difficult to navigate the standards that both our generation and older generations place on us. At times, some of my family members don’t really love what I post on Instagram; it’s a little more sexy and out there, unlike how I’m expected to look or behave.
photo credit: Niharika Chandrasekar
When I got to college, I realized there were parts of me that could identify with Indian culture. I’m not very religious, but I love going to the temple; it’s almost like a routine for me that keeps me grounded. My family and I are Tamil (very Tamil!), and we speak Tamil almost all the time at home. That’s something that’s very important to me! So, I’ve learned how to connect with my heritage in my own way. Rather than it being more of an outward or visual thing, my connection to culture is much more personal. There is no set definition; it’s about accepting the parts that work for you. It was only within the past year that I’ve really connected with my identity. Now,
I feel like I can be whoever I want and define cultural identity for myself.
Q3. What makes you feel seen in the media?
A: Oftentimes, North Indians are represented in mainstream media more than South Indians. So, when I was growing up, I was obsessed with Mindy Kaling. She’s a Tamil woman, doing her own thing and being herself. In the past few years on TikTok and Instagram, the creators on there have been a huge inspiration to me. I love the South Asian girls who are completely themselves. There are definitely people who use culture as part of their content, and I’m all for that. But there are also South Asian girls who are talking about sex, dating, and different personal things that aren’t often talked about in our culture.
I’m someone who loves being myself to the max.
So, it’s really cool to see South Asian people being themselves on social media.
Q4. What does Parachute mean to you?
A: I started working with Parachute this past fall. Growing up, there wasn’t a community of creators around me or people who liked what I liked. A huge part of Parachute is feeling seen. I love that we represent so many types of people; I don’t think we’re centered around a certain profile. Something I love about social media is being able to find community virtually and opening up to each other. Some of my best friends I’ve met through social media — people who I’ve opened up to — and I’ve never met them in real life. Parachute is helping BIPOC Gen Z find community and life-long friends online.
Parachute is coming from us, for us. It’s so genuine.
Q5. How has your perspective of beauty evolved?
A: In middle school, I remember getting my first e.l.f. Palette; it was really cheap and colorful.
I’d go to school with bright blue eyeshadow and thought I was the coolest person ever.
When I got to high school, my focus was more about perfection. I had a lot of breakouts in high school, I would wake up at 5:30am to do a full face of makeup — winged liner, eyelashes, the whole thing. At that time, the beauty trend was more of a contoured look. When I got to college, I shifted my focus from makeup to skincare. That allowed me to see makeup in a different way. I realized that I could experiment with it, be as loud as I wanted to be, and think of it as an art form.
photo credit: Niharika Chandrasekar
It’s been great, because I’ve combined my love for fashion and makeup to create all these looks. I don’t think I would have seen it that way in high school. Now, if I post something, and I have a pimple, it’s not that big of a deal to me.
My idea of beauty has shifted toward what I want to express & create and not about striving toward what society defines as beautiful.
Q6. When did you start posting your looks online?
A: I was only allowed to have an Instagram for business purposes in high school. So, my sophomore year, I pitched it to my parents: “I’m going to have an Instagram account to post my style every day. I could try to be more like an influencer or a brand.” And my parents were like, “Okay, fine.” So, every day, I’d put an outfit together, and after school, I’d take a picture in my backyard. It was the same background every single day, haha. People would be like, “Why are you posting this...?” Even though influencers were a thing at that time, they were more so white influencers with big followings, who promoted brands and created media content. So, when I started, it did feel a little odd, but I became more comfortable with the process by posting regularly.
photo credit: Niharika Chandrasekar
Q7. How does Gen Z use makeup as a form of self-expression?
A: I think it’s about doing the most. Gen Z loves to experiment and do a bunch of different things with their makeup looks. They don’t let one trend set the tone for their content. Younger Gen Z-ers especially inspires me; they put out so much content and are always being themselves. They create content like their breathing, even when balancing so many things in their lives.
Q8. Who are some BIPOC beauty content creators we should follow asap?
A: 3 BIPOC beauty content creators who inspire me are:
1. Mi-anne Chan: She’s a colorful creative, who owns her bright style around NYC and adds her unique perspective to all her work.
2. Mei Peng: Mei is an incredibly bold makeup artist that inspires her followers to show up as their daring self and own that to the max!
3. Flex Mami: Flex Mami is a beauty content creator that shares her opinions on a wide-range of life topics, which helps her be a fun escape from the chaos of social media.
Q9. What are some tips for people who want to elevate their eyeliner looks?
A: Here are some of my tips and tricks:
1. When you’re experimenting, I recommend trying out less expensive makeup products, so you can play around and experiment, and not feel guilty if you don’t end up using it.
2. Some liquid liner brushes aren’t the thinnest, so if you want to get into more detailed, artistic eyeliner looks, I recommend buying nail brushes from Amazon. They’re super thin, well-priced, and really allow you to create those small details.
3. I also recommend wet liner palettes. They’re really great; it’s almost like an artist palette where you can mix colors and get different shades. I like to color match my makeup as exactly as I can with my outfit, so the wet liner palette is really great for that. I recommend SUVA Beauty’s Hydra Liners.
photo credit: Niharika Chandrasekar
Q10. What is your favorite Kulfi Underlined Kajal shade?
A: When I told my parents about this brand, they thought it was so cool. My dad was like, “Are they going to sell kulfi ice cream?” (Such a dad joke!) My favorite kajal shade is Rain Check. I love blue eyeliner, but whenever you find a more ‘wearable’ blue, the shade is almost too dark and better for nights out. I want a more everyday color, and that’s Rain Check. It’s blue, but not in an “in your face” kind of way. Some of my friends would say, “I could never wear blue makeup!” I think Rain Check is a great and approachable way to try blue eyeliner. You can use it to create a fancy look or a simple, everyday look.
Here are some rapid fire makeup questions:
Q1. A makeup product that makes you feel like your best self?
A: I love mascara. I love wearing no makeup except for mascara and my lashes look like spider legs. I love using Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara ($26).
Q2. A makeup product that brings you joy?
A: Wet liners and palettes, especially SUVA Beauty’s UV Brights Hydra FX ($30), because I get to play around with them and create art.
Q3. A makeup product that you can’t live without?
A: I’d say highlighter. Even if I’m wearing little to no makeup, I love putting on highlighter. It makes me look alive! I use Makeup by Mario Master Secret Glow Highlighter ($22).
Q11: What are you looking forward to in the future?
A: In this past year, I invested a lot into creating looks, putting content out, and striving to be more of a full-time content creator. It’s opened up so many opportunities. I can’t wait to do more and share more. I hope to inspire people. At the end of the day, I’m not the type of person who says, “Wear the same makeup as me” or “This is what you have to buy or wear.” Instead,
I hope that being myself helps you be yourself.
If I can get different opportunities to show that, that would be amazing.
About the Kulfi x Parachute Series — This article was written in partnership with Kulfi Beauty and Parachute Media. We are here to uplift narratives in the media that consider our lived experiences and allow us to feel seen in our complexities. For the month of April 2021, you will read articles and interviews on Kulfi Bites and Parachute that highlight BIPOC & South Asian perspectives on topics we’re curious about within beauty, identity, career, and media.
Cover photo credit: Niharika Chandrasekar, @indiepeacock