“I’m a makeup artist and own a salon and a photography studio.” At 40, Bina Khan feels like she has achieved a little and has a long way to go. She started working when she turned 19 and married her high school sweetheart 15 years ago. Her salon is her second home and a safe zen place for her clients.
Running a business in Pakistan is a challenge in itself. “In Pakistan, any business owner could actually run an IDP camp I think! We can generate our own electricity, our own water, you’re not particularly supported as small businesses, all of us are floundering and working out how to do things for ourselves.” Other countries have a proper structure, they have unions and councils. In Pakistan, there is no proper system but Bina also sees this as a great learning experience. “You learn to deal with problems as you go along.” She spent some time in Sri Lanka and noticed that they had a ministry for floral decoration. The ministry set trade schools in the right areas, where eager girls would come to learn. These girls hadn’t even finished schools, nor could they even write, but due to this government initiative, they went on to become the highest earners in their household. Pakistan barely has any trade schools or any sort of government support, and despite that, we see so many pioneers emerging. “It’s amazing how people have created stuff out of thin air.”
As a bridal makeup artist, Bina struggles with people who have a constant desire to be fair. “We get into deep, long, and annoying conversations about post-colonial hang ups. Be proud to be brown! What’s with the fair stuff?” Complexion should not matter. Confidence matters. Education matters. Strength, talent, efficiency and usefulness matter. Especially for girls in this misogynistic society. “If you’re trying to be on a level playing field with men, I think young girls need to gather themselves and have the confidence to ask for equal treatment. They have to be quite serious, have to be more composed, and not kid around. Prove you’re strong, it’s okay to own your power.”
It’s important to be financially independent as a human, but Bina recognizes the fact that a lot of women are keen on being taken care of by their husbands, which is okay too. Personally, she’s always had the drive to contribute something to the world, and feels everyone else should also. “The lady who doesn’t earn any money may be running a charity school so as long as you’re doing your bit for the earth why not. It’s not about money, it’s about usefulness.”
Bina is all about self-care. In fact she entered this field because of her own skin troubles. “I have very problematic skin and taught myself to cover up. I do everything I tell everybody else to do. Men don’t think they need to take of their skin but it’s just dirt and must be cleaned up! All you have to do is get a monthly facial and a good face wash. You don’t need to be lavish. Simple things work.”
Living in Karachi, we’re all aware of city conditions and how calm can turn into chaos in a matter of minutes. Therefore, when the going gets tough, Bina goes for vacations and switches off from her busy life. She doesn’t use her phone much and takes a break from social media. “Some moments are yours and should just be yours so I try and do that. It’s pretty hard to stop.”
Bina’s Miracle Moment was the first time she saw her name on a billboard. She would go round and round the roundabout to see it. At that time she was opening her current salon. “We are a tiny business, for me it felt super uber cool to have my name up there. I was just like wow!” This is precisely our reaction when we see Bina Khan’s transformational looks on brides. She is one of the top make-up artists in town and it is not surprising why!