You may—nay, must—have come across Anish Tamang’s extreme body painting transformation videos as you scrolled through TikTok.
An aspiring make-up artist recognized for his amazing body paintings, Tamang, who finds great joy in expressing himself this way, creates works of art with captivating details.
Growing up as a feminine boy, Tamang struggled to accept himself. Having to deal with constant bullying by his peers, he wrestled with his identity and tried to hide behind traditional gender norms. “We were only taught the stereotypical roles of a boy and a girl and, as a child, I didn’t know my being different was okay,” shares the now 27-year-old. “I tried so hard to be someone I wasn’t”.
One thing that always made him feel better, though, was make-up. After watching his mother, another make-up lover, spruce herself up, he wanted to try doing it on himself.
All his life he had dreamt of one day working as a flight attendant and he thus studied Bachelors in Hotel Management. But things didn’t exactly go as planned.
In 2012, Tamang started modeling. “In my modeling years, I would never be satisfied when other people did my make-up,” confesses Tamang. “So I always did it myself”. With no plans of taking it up professionally, he continued to get better. It was only when he did a make-up look on his sister, in 2015, that he realized that this could be a possible career path.
“Looking at my sister, I fell in love with the idea of transforming a human body and I realized that this is something I wanted to keep doing.” He thus took it up as a profession in 2018 and, today, Tamang is a full-time self-taught make-up artist and body painter.
At the start, Tamang struggled with the complications of his new job. “Earlier, I used to feel so free and paint whatever came to my mind,” he adds. “But now my expression has to incorporate people’s expectations and current trends.” Yet he still does his best possible job, both on himself as well as his clients.
In the beginning, he was only involved in facial make-up. Then he fell into depression. “I always felt so lost and everything felt rough and pointless in life. That is when body painting came to my rescue,” he says.
He remembers being struck by a dialogue from the 2019 movie ‘The Lion King’: ‘Remember who you are’. It touched him in a way nothing else had up to that time and he immediately wanted to give an expression to it.
The stars aligned, and Tamang came across a video of another makeup artist body-painting a movie scene. He knew that he had to do it too. He didn’t know how, he had never done it and he didn’t even know if he could. But after 10 hours of painting on himself, Tamang knew he had found his calling.
“At first, when I used to body-paint, it felt like I’d escaped reality. I forgot all the problems in my life. I could go on for hours and hours. And now, it has become a part of me. It reflects who I am today, what I’m going through, and how my heart is feeling.”
His social media presence grew with time as he started putting up content showcasing his incredible talent. More people appreciated him and he built a strong fanbase. Tamang doesn’t let negative comments online affect him much, and in fact believes Nepal will slowly come to accept all those who transcend traditional gender categories.
To support himself, Tamang also teaches make-up and at times does special-effect make-up.
It takes him nine to 13 hours to complete a body paintwork. “These past couple of years have taught me to be patient with my work, to watch myself learn and to grow with every painting I do,” he shares.
Ultimately, Tamang wants to create a space where people aren’t obliged to give up their passion to earn money. He hopes the scope of body-painting in Nepal expands as people come to realize how it is an amazing medium where art, expression, and identity complement each other.
When you do something so unconventional, there are bound to be detractors. How does Tamang deal with them?
“There is always going to be someone who doesn’t like you, who you can never impress,” Tamang says. “That is when you stop caring about what they think and continue with what makes you happy.”