Beauty Special! The National Indian Girls Football Team gets a beauty makeover

Read on to see what happens when six football stars from the Indian women’s team decide to walk into a salon for makeovers
Styling: Mia and Devika Make-up & hair: Vidya Tikari; Art Direction: Amit Malik
Styling: Mia and Devika Make-up & hair: Vidya Tikari; Art Direction: Amit Malik
Updated on Feb 19, 2017 10:24 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Lubna Salim and Veenu Singh; Photographs by Sarang Sena and Vinod Aggarwal

Of course, beauty is only skin deep. But just give a woman a makeover and see how her confidence cranks up! Even when she’s already the best in her field.

These six super-talented women from the national football team are at the top of their game. Recently in the capital for the Indian Women’s League tournaments, they showed us what they could do on the field.So we decided to show them what we could do in the studios.

From left to right: K Lalhruaizeli, Sumithra Kamaraj, Sasmita Malik, Dalima Chibber, Oinam Bembem Devi, Sanju Yadav
From left to right: K Lalhruaizeli, Sumithra Kamaraj, Sasmita Malik, Dalima Chibber, Oinam Bembem Devi, Sanju Yadav

Focused totally on their game, most of these women visit salons only for the basics. Some enjoy shopping for clothes and accessories, others are just not interested in fashion. For some, skincare is important, for others, it’s an unknown concept. None of them wear make-up, either because they don’t want to or don’t know how to wear it.

So we took them to beauty expert Vidya Tikari’s studio, swapped their jerseys and cleats with dresses and heels, and prepared them for an all glammed up cover shoot. Some were nervous. Others were delighted to experiment. All, when the mission ended, looked even more gorgeous than they already were and twice as confident.


Sanju Yadav, 19, Bhiwani, Haryana

Sanju and beauty salons are miles apart. With so much going on in her life, including football practice in the mornings and evenings, work on her parents’ farm, and college work as a second year BA student, fashion and beauty are the last things on her mind.

Football happened to Sanju in school, when the girls took the field in the halftimes of the boys’ games. “Gradually more girls joined in, outnumbered the boys and finally our coach made the boys play kabaddi while we girls played football,” smirks Sanju. 

In 2011, Sanju played her first India Under-14 match and was also part of the U-19 Qualifier. As a senior player, she’s represented India in the South Asian Games, South Asian Football Federation (SAFF)Championship and Olympic qualifiers.

But her hairstylist is a local barber, and her clothes – only jeans, shirts and tees – come from the local market. “That’s what I wear to weddings and festivals too,” she says. “People in my village are not so fashionable. But I do want to grow my hair long some time,” she adds

After her makeover, Sanju takes a selfie or two. Dressed in an edgy skirt, shirt and women’s Oxfords, her hair in soft, messy curls, her make-up retro, she’s almost another woman.

Doin’ It For Kicks

K Lalhruaizeli (aka Nupuii), 19, Aizawl, Mizoram

Nupuii is only too keen to experiment with her looks. “I bought my first lip gloss when I turned 16 and streaked my hair last year,” says the footballer who began playing when she was 13. 

“I participated in school football tournaments, then I was selected to represent my school at the Mizoram high school games, and then I played the Under-14 national school games,” she says. She also represented India in the U-19 tournament in 2012. 

She’s a busy woman: her days begin with cooking, then college, and finally, football practice. But Nupuii makes time to dress up, especially for church on Sundays. “I wear foundation, mascara, lip gloss and sometimes I also style my hair into soft curls,” says Nupuii, showing a selfie of her Sunday look: a shocking pink traditional Mizo puan (wraparound), with a cool cocktail ring and matching peep toes. 

But her makeover has changed her. Nupuii’s usual plain jeans and blue or white tees have been replaced by a black blouse and a bright yellow skirt, worn with beige stilettos. Her hair is styled into Mohawk braids, and her make-up is edgy with smoky eyes and natural glossy lips. She’s transformed, and she loves it.


Sumithra Kamaraj, 21, Kadalu, Puducherry

“I think my dressing sense will improve now,” says Sumithra, feeling good. She’d walked in wearing a tiny maroon bindi, muttering something about having her hair cut in layers. That’s where her beauty and fashion knowledge ends.

That’s because she’s been playing football since she was 12 years old, and is now pursuing an M.Phil in commerce. “I was selected for the inter-school sports meet, then the district football team, and finally the state football team,” says Sumithra who participated in the U-14 (2009), U-16 Qualifier (2010) and the SAFF Championship (2016).

If her extended family had had its way, Sumithra would have had to give up football after the death of her father. “But my mother was very supportive,” smiles Sumithra. Her wardrobe is supplied by her mother and sister – mostly jeans, tees and shirts, with churidars and salwars for occasions. Make-up is the occasional swipe of a lip-balm. Until now that is.

Sumithra’s eyes are smoky towards the edges, her cheeks are sun-kissed, her lips are red. Her straightened hair is in a high ponytail, and she’s in a skirt and shirt, and dainty black sandals. “I feel so good about myself,” says Sumithra.

Taking A Pass

Oinam Bembem Devi, 37, Imphal, manipur

Bembem has always been more interested in the beautiful game than in looking beautiful. So, the former captain of the Indian women’s national team, who once had her team ranked higher than the men’s, is not keen on a makeover.

“I always had very short hair and was used to playing with boys,” she explains. “So dressing up was the last thing on my mind. Even when I go out, I just use a simple lip gloss and face cream.” However, sunscreen is a must.

Bembem was a child when she began playing football, but her father didn’t want her to play. “He even threatened to burn my books if I didn’t quit,” she says. When she began playing for the state, he gave in, and by the time Bembem was 15, she was playing for India. Post her makeover, Bembem is confident in her skirt, boat-neck top and high heels. She has natural eye make-up, soft pink lips and peachy pink cheeks, while her hair is styled into soft curls and tied on one side.    

But this is only for Brunch. “The fact that I’m a respected sportswoman and play for my country gives me the confidence to look beautiful,”she says.

Taking Wing

Sasmita Malik, 27, kendrapara, Odisha

Sasmita, the 2016 All India Football Federation’s Woman Footballer of the Year, gave up all interest in beauty when she began playing in 2001.

“I used to enjoy dressing up, but after starting football, I was focused only on the game,” she says. Though her mother and uncle didn’t like the idea of Sasmita travelling for tournaments, her father and brother were on her side. She joined the national team in 2002 and represented India for the first time in 2004, going on to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tournaments, the SAFF Championships, the Olympic qualifiers, the South Asian Games and the Asian Games. 

Despite her focus on her game, Sasmita refuses to cut her hair. “I like long hair, even if it’s a hindrance during a game,” she says. “I enjoy shopping and trying new shades of cosmetics.”

Sasmita is awed by her makeover. Dressed in striped trousers, top and blazer with high heels, and wearing subtle make-up in soft brown and gold hues, she looks like a model. “Next time I go for a party, I will definitely use a little make-up,” she says.

Fast & Furious

Dalima Chibber, 19, Delhi

Delhi girl Dalima lives up to her big city background by stating that since athletes are role models, they should care about how they look. “It is important for us to look groomed and presentable. It is not about partying, it’s about taking care of our skin. We need a sunscreen, a lotion and a lip gloss,” she says.

A psychology honours student at Jesus and Mary College, she began her career by playing football with the boys at her coach father’s sports academy at Tagore International School. She made her national debut at 11, and since then has represented India at the AFC U-14, U-16 and U-19 qualifiers, and as a senior in the SAFF Championship and South Asian Games.

Make-up, however, is not something Dalima is interested in. Her daily wear is shorts or jeans with tees. “My birthday is the only day when I wear a dress for sure,” she laughs.  

Post makeover, Dalima is in a body-hugging top, skirt and jacket, with crimped and curled hair tied to one side, and her make-up is classic. She still isn’t convinced about cosmetics though. “The more natural you are, the better for you,” she says.

In the international rankings, the Indian Women’s Football Team ranks higher than the men’s side. So these girls have a stronger chance of representing our country in the world cup than the guys. Here’s to women power!

When the girls made Baichung Bhutia do a double take!

Brunch invited the former Indian captain to surprise the girls, but he was so surprised himself, he was almost tongue-tied. When he recovered, here’s what he said about their makeover...

“Footballers are usually very fashionable, setting trends with their hairstyles and attitude. But it was difficult to recognise these women today – they were in a totally different avatar.

That’s probably because I have seen them only on the field before, so seeing them today wearing make-up and lovely clothes was a happy experience. They looked glamorous and beautiful.

The 2016 Olympics showed India what women can do in all sports, and as for football, as a former FIFA chief once said, Indian women dance and move their bodies so well that they can definitely excel at football.”

From HT Brunch, February 19, 2017

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