Aditi C. Venkatesh, Attorney, Ralph Lauren

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"My name is Aditi C. Venkatesh [@aditicv] and I'm an attorney at Ralph Lauren, which means that at any given work meeting, where I’m surrounded by absurdly talented and creative people, I am probably the most boring person in the room. I grew up in San Diego, went to college in Los Angeles, and moved to New York for law school when I was 20. Like every other bicoastal snob, I have to say that if I ever left New York, it would be for Cali.

My parents moved to the United States from India in the 70s. Thanks to them, my culture has always been part of who I am; I've never thought twice about it. As a kid, I used to practice Indian classical dance. Like any type of performance art in which you need to convey a lot of expression onstage, it involves some serious face—Google 'Indian classical dance makeup' and you’ll see what I mean. I remember when I was five and I was backstage post-performance, and my mom was trying to wash off all my makeup. It took us a few rounds with the Pond's Cold Cream, and I distinctly recall watching all that foundation and lipstick and eyeliner swirl down the drain in this cesspool-of-Covergirl, and thinking 'Ew.'

I don't wear much makeup. I'm lazy, and more importantly, I don't like the idea that I'm somehow unfit for public consumption without it. It's depressing when you're makeup-less and you run into someone, and she says, 'You need a vacation!' and you're thinking, 'No, that's just my face.' How much makeup you wear and how often you wear it shouldn't be determined by external pressure to erase so-called flaws. For me, makeup is an occasional pleasure, not a daily obligation. I probably get that from my mom. She'll swipe on some lipstick—maybe—and then forget about it, because, frankly, she has more interesting things to think about. When I was little, we never went to the salon to get mommy-daughter pedicures like I wanted; instead, we drilled multiplication tables so I could skip the third grade. I suspect that's partly cultural, but that's also just who she is. Seriously, she's hardcore.

It's taken me a long time to figure out a routine that works for me. I would love to be one of those girls who slathers on a custom blend of rare tree-nut oils to achieve that 'glow,' but my skin misbehaves and needs no encouragement to make my life harder, so I’m always looking to achieve that tricky balance between moisture and exfoliation. In the morning I wash my face with Cosmedix Purity Clean. It smells minty and wakes me up, which is semi-unfortunate, because I also use it right before bed. I really like Luzern Laboratories Force De Vie Micro Gel. It's lightweight, but has managed to sufficiently moisturize my face through NYC summers and polar vortexes alike, so I think it's a keeper. Last, I'll smear on some Andalou Naturals Oil Control Untinted SPF 30 BB. It goes on with a slightly white cast, but that disappears after a minute or so. Before bed, I wash with Purity Clean again, and then I'll either use Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 or Sunday Riley Good Genes—the former if I feel like my skin is on the verge of doing something terrible, and the latter otherwise. They're both great exfoliators, but going by the odor and the really unique expression my husband makes when he smells it on me, I think the P50 is a bit more intense. Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion is my nuclear option for any spots attempting to surface, and Kate Somerville Exfolikate makes my face feel like glass when I use it, usually on weekends. Whatever I'm using, I spend some time working it into my face to get the most out of the product.

Olive oil is my go-to makeup remover, shaving cream, weekly hair mask, body oil, lash conditioner, what have you. Coconut oil is something most Indian women have been using forever, but I don't love smelling like pastry all the time. I'm kind of a dude in the fragrance department. I stick to Avalon Organics Lemon Bath And Shower Gel and Body Lotion, and a spray of Guerlain Vetiver before I leave home. Nail polish is too fussy for me, so I just get my nails buffed. I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to hair. I just grow it, okay? There's actually a well-known Bollywood actress named Kajol who famously doesn't let anyone touch her unibrow. I don't have such a militant stance about it, but she makes me feel better about letting my brows express themselves. On my hair, I use DevaCurl Low-Poo and One Condition and air-dry. My hair is quite long and can never decide how wavy it wants to be, so I sort of gingerly leave it alone, feed it Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray when it goes flat, and hope it likes me.

I don’t wear foundation, period, end of story. I dot on Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard if I need it, and wear Dr. Bronner's Lip Balm, which is the only thing I've ever used that really moisturizes, rather than sitting uselessly on top of your lips. It also doesn’t taste weird. The Chanel Precision Eyelash Curler can be hard to track down, but it's great if your eyes are on the rounder side. That's me on a daily basis, plus Laura Mercier translucent powder to control shine.

If I go out, though, I go for drama. I have strong features, so I like to play up one thing—eyes or lips—and leave everything else bare. Chanel Le Crayon Khol in Noir is the best. It sticks to your waterline and smudges in a way that looks mostly intentional. Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl, Train Bleu, and Yu are my other go-tos—the most pigmented red, goth purple, and neon pink I've found. I don't do sparkles or glitter, because yes, I hate fun, but I also don’t do those 50-shades-of-beige palettes. My makeup motto is all or nothing. I mean, I wore Yu on my wedding day. Granted, Indian weddings are colorful affairs, and my outfit was Yu-hued, too. My point is that if I’m going to make an effort and wear makeup, the last thing I’m interested in is looking like the girl next door.

I got married this past winter, which was...edifying, beauty-wise. I wanted a very traditional wedding, so I went through all the pre- and post-wedding ceremonies with an open mind. In some parts of India, like where my parents are from, the whole process of getting married can take a week. There's no better test of a product's longevity than surviving an Indian wedding. One of the ceremonies required smearing turmeric and mustard oil all over my face and arms, which stung like crazy, but produced this incredible glow. Another ceremony involved painting alta—similar to a red dye—on my fingers and toes. Think Lorde at the Grammys, but red instead of black. It takes weeks to come off, and until it does, anyone who wasn’t at the wedding thinks you’ve amputated your extremities. The actual wedding ceremony is so long it actually has an intermission, but I loved every minute of it and would do it again in a heartbeat.

What else? I love my standing desk and will never, ever sit down to work again. I eat the way I suspect many New Yorkers do, which implies a steady diet of oysters, tacos, IPAs, and bourbon on weekends, balanced out by penitent kale salads and Greek yogurt on weekdays. I tried a juice cleanse once and it made me profoundly resentful. Also, I missed chewing. I don't think there are 'beauty secrets' for long hair or clear skin or, I don't know, really white eyeballs. Use common sense and hopefully a little of what you learned in bio and chem to understand what works, and more importantly, why. Be a skeptic. I’m all for examining labels and doing your research, but I notice that there's a tendency in the blogosphere to throw around buzzwords like synthetic, natural, unrefined, chemical, etc. without any real analysis of why those things might be good or bad. If I encounter an ingredient I don’t recognize, my first reaction isn't, 'MUST BE TOXIC.' I get out my phone, start googling, and figure out why that ingredient is there in the first place. I try not to be a passive consumer, but I also try not to be a conspiracy theorist. When it comes to what you put on and in your body, you alone have the ability to decide what’s worth taking a risk and what’s not. Try to do that in an informed way."

—as told to ITG

The #ITGTopShelfie series puts the focus on the lives and beauty routines of Into The Gloss's lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Show us your own Top Shelfie on Instagram—tag us @intothegloss, and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie. 

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Lina

    wow! She is everything I want to be now!

  • Caroline Evertz

    By far my favorite ITG Top Shelfie! So well written - thanks for sharing!

  • Hayley

    this is such a fantastic interview. she's whipsmart, creative, and knows what she's talking about. amazing. #itgtopshelvies are by far my favourite new feature on ITG. excellent friday read.

  • http://lifeisyourright.tumblr.com/ Melissa

    Love everything about this, and she is gorgeous!!

  • Rose

    One of the few top shelfs that I felt like this person could be my friend. Smart, savvy, not obsessed with beauty rituals and the whole beauty culture, but aware of it--with a nod to tradition. I enjoyed reading, thanks!!

  • Samantha Klein

    Yes, more like her!

  • krishnas2468

    Omg I LOVE that you featured an Indian woman on the top shelfie!! I'm Indian too, so I'm loving the perspective of someone with similar skin tone, hair, etc. Plus I love the lip color recommendations =) Thanks Aditi (and ITG)!!

  • bijoux

    Yes! This is an inspiration for women with regular careers- it shows how you can work in any field you choose ( she's at RL). This is why I'm pursuing a degree in accounting.

  • Guest

    What an interesting article! I started reading because I wanted to know what a woman with my coloring used in terms of makeup, but I was so fascinated that I had to keep reading even after I realized that my beauty questions would not be answered here. There is something I'd like to know more about though: that standing desk. Could you please tell us where you got it? I have decided to make that change, too. The medical case for it has left me too frightened to even think about continuing to sit while I work.

    • Aditi

      Of course! I bought the Ergotron WorkFit-S from Rakuten. My model is basically an arm you can mount onto your existing desk to convert it to a standing desk. It was expensive, but so worth it for my back. Ergotron has a few options depending on what your monitor/keyboard needs are.

      On another note, so happy that you enjoyed the article. Thanks to your and all of the other lovely ITG commenters' kind words, I've had a foolish grin on my face for 3 days straight.

  • mc103

    THE BEST! totally not the most boring person in the room.

  • Mady

    yes! she sounds so refreshingly reasonable

  • Victoria

    This is my favorite Top Shelf EVER. This chick is clearly a smart and reasonable human being with some really great ideas about beauty. Also, total babe alert!

    More like this please!

  • Cay

    This might be my favorite top shelf ever. A) Fellow Indian girl and B) SO interesting.

    The thing about her mom drilling multiplication tables instead of doing mani-pedis made me laugh. Same here.

  • http://badoutfitgreatlipstick.blogspot.com Nae

    KAJOL!!! I always loved Kajol and thought she was such a unique beauty. I DO think she started letting them pluck her brows a bit when she got older--I don't recall a visible unibrow in "My Name is Khan" versus "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge"--but still, I've always appreciated that about her.

  • http://vanitytalkbeauty.blogspot.com Addison Cain

    Love her! This has been my favorite #ITGTopShelfie yet. She seems like someone I'd want to hangout with.

  • Bella

    "I don't do sparkles or glitter, because yes, I hate fun, but I also don’t do those 50-shades-of-beige palettes." I adore this woman! I also suspect our moms read the same parenting book ;).

    Really enjoying this series, but will we also see a few readers who have NOT (yet) made it in the fashion world, or who do something completely different but love beauty? That would be totally fascinating too. (And no, I have not uploaded my top shelf LOL!)

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    I love her! We have similar hair conundrums. I've wanted to try the Orbie spray for the same reason. She's got just the right amount of products. The few I don't know are about to get researched!

  • bluesky557

    Oh my god, I love her. So rare to hear someone talk sense about cosmetics, like "read the label," "google ingredients," and "be informed." Novel! I'm kind of over hearing people talk about "toxins" with no idea of what that means.

  • bluesky557

    Be informed! Educate yourself! I'm amazed at how many people don't do this and just echo pseudoscience they've read on the internet.

  • Katelyn Burkhart

    my favorite top shelfie yet!

  • thebloginista

    She. Is. Awesome.

  • Ms White

    Love that she seems so down-to-earth, not your typical aloof modelish kind of girl, but so confident with herself that she does not have to play cool. And a total babe as well!

  • amyK

    best top shelf. smart, pragmatic, realistic, beautiful and she's Indian. So glad you guys profiled another indian woman, its really the best to be able to see girls like me and learn what they are using-- also, I suspect most Indian moms have the same approach to beauty: swipe of lipstick that is soon forgotten in the blur of busy motherhood; I know mine was and I am so grateful that we never had mother daughter pedicures-- skipping the second grade was way better in the long run. Great article! :)

  • Stevie

    Favorite #ITGTopShelfie so far - love her vibe

  • cindy

    Definitely the best... well...with Amanda Harlech (also great).

  • Mon Valdés

    Favourite Top Shelfie so far, so down to earth. I love the way she is honestly funny but serious and deep at the same time - "I don't wear much makeup. I'm lazy, and more importantly, I don't like the idea that I'm somehow unfit for public consumption without it."- LOVED IT!

  • cat butt

    Wow!!!!! She is so beautiful!!!!! And I loved her voice here- she sounds cool and smart and like someone you'd want to have drinks with.

    Fantastic, ITG!!!

  • JY

    I've learned classical Indian dance since I was little. It's an hour of putting on makeup, hair extensions, flowers, bells, belts, and the silk costume for a six-minute dance, but it's worth it. Heavy makeup means facial expressions are just as vivid even on a video recording years later.

    As an American girl with Indian parents, it's heartening to see people of Indian descent considered cool and glamorous. As kids, we were very self-conscious of the FOB stereotype.

  • C

    "I tried a juice fast once and it made me profoundly resentful." This woman understands me.

  • amelie

    More women like her on Top Shelf PLEASE! Great tips, funny, pragmatic. I think many real women out there enjoy playing with make up and taking care of themselves, but also realise there's much more to life than the perfect mascara or $300 eye creams.

  • psubramanian

    a funny, smart, irreverent, down-to-earth, desi lady who can write! i love how she blends tradition with a modern sensibility. moar from her please.

  • A girl

    Agreed. I loved this top shelf and no offense to models/actresses/etc. who didn't go to college, but I hope that this blog will feature more women with advanced degrees. This top shelf proves that women from all walks of life can be beautiful, not just models and actresses.

    • nivk

      My favorite line: When I was little, we never went to the salon to get mommy-daughter pedicures like I wanted; instead, we drilled multiplication tables so I could skip the third grade.

  • jiamirkh

    I love her!

  • A girl

    I absolutely love how humble she is. She never once mentioned that she went to Columbia Law School (yes I googled her), only saying that she went to law school "in New York." Also, I'm sure that she's far from the "most boring person in the room" but that statement just again shows her humility, at least throughout this interview.

    After seeing models who shall remain unnamed brag about pursuing Ivy League educations without having even set foot in a classroom for a full semester, it is absolutely REFRESHING to be reassured that humble, beautiful, "actions speak louder than words" women still exist. My favorite top shelf by far.

  • http://aethenia.tumblr.com Trisha

    She's so down to earth, and I love it. Best top shelf ever.

  • jmiSF

    more than slightly alarmed/creeped out by my desire to track this woman down and make her be my best friend....

  • Alice

    This was the most amazing top shelf ever. I share Aditi's normal approach to beauty and most of the women portrayed in ITG's top shelves irritate me to death: "I eat only raw food and drink water from the Himalaya's bla bla"... Also, most of the women who read the blog are women who have an actual job - economists, lawyers, accountants, sales-associates - and it is so refreshing to see someone whose life also does not evolve around mani-pedi's. Overall, fantastic article!

  • Vi

    This woman is amazing, and I want to be friends with her. So hilarious and clever!!

  • Sara

    So nice to find someone that doesn't find their worth in the foundation they wear!!! Can we have more REAL people, smart, educated and amazing like this brilliant woman?! Definitely my favourite! What beautiful wedding shots!

  • Jasmine

    She sounds hilarious.

  • Yaz

    What a gorgeous woman- such beautiful, generous features. I fully concur with her beauty philosophy. This is in my top 3 of Top Shelfs

  • nivk

    For someone that doesn't like makeup, she sure's got a list of products.

  • SRN

    Best Top Shelf ever!!! Please feature more woman with beauty, smarts and a sense of humour! What a breath of fresh air - nice work ITG.

  • http://blushingtheory.blogspot.com/ Nicole Rivera

    Definitely one of my favorite top-shelfs! She is so charming and witty, and it really shone through this article! Definitely someone I would love to actually meet in person and talk beauty (and the craziness of NYC) with!

  • Gaby

    She is so gorgeous! even more without makeup (as well as with), I am an industrial engineer and have always used boxes or other things to convert my sitting desk into a standing desk, and everyone always so I feel happy to know someone else uses them, and has the same approach towards products that I have :)

  • Amanda Chan

    I love that she's real and honest through and through. Loved this #ITGTopShelfie, you go Aditi! x

  • Simone

    Waow! ITG you should hire this woman! She is an incredible writer!!

  • ni ni

    She's so beautiful!!!

  • pip

    "I don't wear much makeup. I'm lazy, and more importantly, I don't like the idea that I'm somehow unfit for public consumption without it" LOVE this line! She's brilliant.

  • IrisG

    This was literally the best installment of this series, featuring a woman of refreshingly unpretentious intelligence who also has a defined, personal perspective on beauty. I didn't think I could take another self aware yet clueless model/DJ/actress/rich person's child burbling about toxins.

    More like this, please!

  • Lidia

    "My point is that if I’m going to make an effort and wear makeup, the last thing I’m interested in is looking like the girl next door." Amen.

  • Gina Carpellotti

    While I am a bit of a skin care junkie, I love that her routine is so streamlined.

  • Sabrina Rice

    Best TS yet!

  • siritachi

    This was both hilarious and full of information!

  • Melissa

    Every word, every sentence...loved it!

  • http://covenlosangeles.tumblr.com Luna

    Wow I really loved it! Thank you for this article.

PRODUCTS MENTIONED

Cosmedix
CosMedix Purity Clean
Luzern Laboratories
Force De Vie Pure Oxygen Micro-Gel
Andalou Naturals
Andalou Naturals Oil Control Beauty Balm Un-Tinted SPF 30
Biologique Recherche
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 W
Sunday Riley
Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment
Mario Badescu
Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion
Kate Somerville
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment
Avalon Organics
Avalon Organics Lemon Bath & Shower Gel
Avalon Organics
Avalon Organics Lemon Body Lotion
Guerlain
Guerlain ‘Vetiver’ Eau de Toilette
DevaCurl
DevaCurl Low-Poo Shampoo
DevaCurl
DevaCurl One Condition Ultra Creamy Daily Conditioner
Oribe
Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
NARS
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
Dr. Bronner's
Dr. Bronner Lip Balm
CHANEL
Chanel Precision Eyelash Curler
Laura Mercier
Laura Mercier 'Smooth Focus' Pressed Setting Powder Matte Translucent
CHANEL
Chanel Le Crayon Khol Intense Eye Pencil
NARS
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil
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