“Love yourself enough to prioritise you”
Lana Patel on beauty, self-care, and more
An Afro Indian Caribbean transgender woman from NYC, Lana Patel’s journey has spanned cultures and influences from around the world. She is a trans activist, a makeup artist, model, actress, dancer, humanitarian and a proud host of a talk show, “Girls Like Us”.
Lana began her transition journey as a trans woman at the age of 17 and has become an important voice for race, intersectionality, transgender, and LGBTQ rights.
In a conversation with Global Beauty Secrets, Lana talks about her journey, beauty, and her inspirations.
What made you pursue makeup, singing, dancing, and modelling?
Makeup for me was something I always found fascinating but didn't have access to it the way I wanted to while growing up. I got into makeup because I used to suffer from hyperpigmentation as a result of my cystic acne. I remember looking at MAC like a kid in a candy store.
While inquiring about a MAC counter, I met the woman who would change my life. Her name was Patricia and she worked for Chanel along with Dermablend. She told me that they didn't have MAC but she would love to do my makeup. So I sat down for the first time to have my makeup done. Patricia handed me the mirror and I, for the first time felt pretty. I loved how I looked and Patricia and I became friends that day. I would go to her for makeup, tips and sometimes just to have that human connection as she was someone who treated me with humanity amidst a sometimes shallow, salsa-driven, and distant industry. Patricia will always be my makeup fairy Godmother. She passed away 6 years ago from cancer right as I started working as a permanent artist for MAC cosmetics.
MAC taught me so much about makeup and artistry. I'm so honoured to have had the opportunity to work for them.
Music was something that came to me instinctively. I remember loving to sing as a child and I kept that love of music with me throughout school which allowed me opportunities like singing at Disney Candlelight Christmas event, joining the Trans Chorus Of Los Angeles, singing the national anthem for the CNN and HRC presidential town hall, and doing a holiday campaign for Pantene.
Dancing has also been something that has been with me from birth. I come from diverse cultures that are so rich in dance along with the music. The moment I hear music, my body moves. I studied ballet for a short while and then got into traditional Indian dance styles years later with an incredible dance company.
Modelling was something I always wanted to do but didn't have the confidence or didn't have the looks for it. I was always thin with a "model" frame and facial structure. However, I wasn't comfortable or confident with myself for a while due to navigating gender dysphoria, acne, and low self-esteem. Modelling just kind of happened later in life. Once I felt comfortable in my skin, started taking care of my body, cleared my acne, I Induced self-love & felt beautiful within, and voila! Opportunities started to come. I felt blessed after a long struggle.
Tell us about your experience with beauty while growing up.
I always saw my mom pampering herself and making time for beauty rituals whether it was getting hair and nails done or investing in her fashion. So I feel like my mother was the ultimate beauty icon. She was very simple with her makeup. Sometimes she liked to use some kohl & mascara to highlight her beautiful eyes and brown lip liner and clear gloss as well. But she was so beautiful and radiant in her simple makeup looks.
What are some of your favourite beauty rituals.
When it comes to skincare, my favourite ritual is a simple Haldi (turmeric) mask. It suits my skin best & prevents the onset of hyperpigmentation, scars, and other long-term skin concerns. Another ritual that I picked up is Mehendi (henna), whether I'm using it on my hair or applying it to the skin for designs.
Were there any traditional beauty rituals that you picked up from your culture, or others that you came across?
I love masks and oils! Whether it's a hair mask or oiling my hair after or a face mask with beauty oils or foot masks, I'm all in! I love Korean foot masks! I love a good Haldi mask, which is a prominent Indian beauty ingredient or clay mask depending on my skincare needs. I'm a DIY hair mask kind of girl. I love mixing items from the kitchen like bananas, mayonnaise, molasses, honey, etc, and applying henna in my hair.
What is your definition of self-care?
Taking out time for yourself. Take care of yourself. Scheduling in time alone, for exercise, and fun. To get to know yourself better, not just to function, but to flourish. It can look a myriad of ways but prioritising yourself, whether it's a moment of silence or pampering yourself. It's so important.
Who are some of the women that inspire you and why?
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, Deepica Mutyala, Michelle Obama, Masaba Gupta, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj are some of the amazing women that I am so inspired by. I am always inspired by women who have the ability and willingness to be selfless, caring, innovative, and perhaps dare to be different. Women who have a vision, who have experienced hardships, accepted a challenge, and fought for something bigger.
What makes a person beautiful according to you?
Beauty is in the soul; what's behind the eyes; the aura, the essence. Inner beauty is peaceful and it is radiant. If you want to make changes to your outer appearance, do so in healthy, positive ways. But, don’t forget to nurture your inner beauty too.
Places you’d like to travel to anywhere in the world.
I am a big fan of colours, textures, and traditional jewellery. I also try to infuse some Indian cultural references and flavour into my art & persona. I've never been to India so that would be top on my discover list and then I would like to visit Africa next to dive deep into the roots. I also want to explore Morocco as I am intrigued with the culture & beauty rituals that they follow.
We would love to know what inspired you into undertaking a journey towards womanhood.
I always felt like I was not living authentically to how I identified. I never had a moment of feeling male, I always identified as a girl. I didn't know there was a term for it until I was about 9 years old watching Ricki Lake and I saw this trans woman named Erica on her show. They showed a day in the life of this woman and I instantly knew that there was a way to live a life that felt more authentic to my identity.
What were the challenges you faced during the transition to your identity?
My family was not supportive for a while. I lost some friends. Discrimination was a big concern , whether on college campus or in employment opportunities. There were hardships in dating, forming connections and trying to come to terms with my own self. I struggled for a while before I got to where I am now.
A message of empowerment that you would like to share for the trans community?
Love yourself. Love yourself enough to prioritise you. A good journey is not an easy one, but it gets better day by day. A sense of community is so important. It is also so important to find those people who are there to support you. Don't be afraid of your intuition and allow it to guide you.