Recently, Desh-Videsh sat down with the winner of the 2012 Orlando Mehndi Competition, Niketa Amin, who started refining her artistic skills at an early age. Niketa, an expert at mehndi, also offers brides hair, makeup, and other beauty services to brides-to-be in the Orlando/Tampa area. She plans on expanding services nationwide soon.
For those who are not familiar with you or your work, can you share a bit on how you got started in the wedding industry?
As a child, I would tag along with my mom and help her with hair, make-up, henna designs, arts and crafts. I used to enjoy doing mehndi designs on everyone and everything. I started out by doing henna for friends and family for fun and also designed pots and wall decorative pieces with creative designs. As I got older and better with practice, it was only natural that I turn my hobby into my profession. With my parents’ support and encouragement, I started my own business for all bridal services.
How does it feel to be the winner for the MyShadi Bridal Expo Mehndi Competition?
I feel very happy about winning the competition. Being chosen from other a field of other mehndi professionals who also had beautiful designs made me feel very confident and honored. I wanted to make my parents and husband proud of me and they are, so the feeling is more like winning their hearts than winning a competition.
Your passion for this art form is evident. What inspired you to become a Professional Henna Artist?
My finishing work, speed and my creativity made my parents say that I can be very successful professional mehndi artist. I have done mehndi designs semi-professionally since the age of 13 in India and professionally in London since the age of 19. What really inspired me to become a Professional Artist was when I was working long side with another famous mehndi artist, Ash Kumar. We were working at the same mehndi party. I remember him complimenting me saying I was really fast and he liked my finishing work.
What inspired your winning Mehndi design?
1Big thanks to my husband who actually encouraged me to show my henna art to everyone at the bridal show as I was not going to enter originally. His enthusiasm and confidence in me inspired me to enter the competition. He helped me go over different mehndi designs and finally suggested that incorporating a peacock design with beautiful glittery colors would look original and attractive. Since mehndi designs with color are a fashionable trend, the peacock inspiration helped to win the competition.
What other wedding related services you offer?
I offer full bridal packages that include hair, make-up, all types of mehndi, and sari draping. For brides-to-be, I also recommend and provide a free hair and make-up trial. In addition to that, I also offer pre-bridal services including threading, full body waxing, facials, manicure, pedicure, and haircuts.
What is the biggest lesson you learned your first year in business? What was the biggest lesson you learned in this past year of business?
In my first year of business, I learned that providing great quality service was above all else. When brides and their families felt confident with their looks and mehndi designs, I received more referrals and thus more success in the business. In the past year, I learned people expect great service but now they also want great value. In today’s day and age, people are looking for good deals, and the wedding industry is no exception. Now I have modeled my business to provide great quality service along with better value.
What has been your favorite wedding or moment that stands out to you and why?
My favorite wedding was obviously my own, but my favorite (and funny) moment occurred during my wedding time for someone else’s wedding. I was getting married on the 21st, and I was getting my mehndi done at my house. A previous client came to me at that time saying that she wanted me to do her mehndi design because she was getting married on the 20th. She insisted that she always wanted me to do her mehndi for her wedding even though I recommended other people to her. So she waited until my mehndi dried and then she got hers done by me. So even during my own wedding, I ended up doing another bride’s mehndi giving both of us a story to remember.
The economic climate affected the U.S. wedding industry in a profound way over the past years, including the normally untouchable high-end segment of the market. To what extent did it affect Indian weddings and your business?
The economic climate has affected a lot of businesses including the Indian wedding business. People nowadays are looking for the less services than before with more preference on value. What I have done is to adjust by offering brides and their families full services at a lower cost. This helps many families dealing with an already high wedding cost.
What suggestions do you have for brides planning their wedding?
Always go in for a trial, and check the quality of the work as well as the cost. Your wedding day is very important, but do not plan only for that day. You have to plan for what you will look like in your wedding pictures two or 25 years from now. Your wedding may only be one day, but you live in your wedding album forever. Your mehndi may look okay or good enough when you look at it in person, but look at how it will appear in pictures or videos. The same goes for make-up – do not assume that brand name will do everything, you have to look at the skill of the person applying the make-up. So remember, even though all brides look good on their wedding day, you should plan to look great for the future.
Do you have any suggestions for brides who are planning their wedding Mehndi?
Plan on having your mehndi done two to three days before your wedding day to maximize the color effect. While instant mehndi is available for those with a time crunch, it just doesn’t last long. Brides are also encouraged to choose their own designs. With more colors and decorative jewels/stones available, brides can create a one of a kind design that can match their wedding dress. For all my full-service bridal clients, I give them the option of adding glitter color on the day of the wedding when I’m getting them ready, so as to amplify the mehndi design in their pictures and video.