Girl We Love: Shyema Azam, Beauty and the Feast

Shyema is the beauty maven and foodie adventuress behind one of our favorite blogs, Beauty and the Feast. She’s often touted in glossies (check out her recent spotlight in Cosmo) and featured in our daily web reads, such as Refinery 29.

By day, Shyema is a freelance editor alternating between different magazines including Marie Claire, Allure and Harper’s BAZAAR, and also writes for youbeauty.com and typef.com. She has also worked for Vogue, InStyle, Elle Decor, New York Magazine, and Shop Etc. before it folded (RIP). Any given day can find her working with the makeup artist to the Bollywood stars, reporting from backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, interviewing a celebrity chef, or critiquing the cuisine at a new restaurant.

This busy lady is not only gorgeous, but incredibly, disarmingly nice, which only adds to her beauty. Always ready with a great makeup tip or restaurant recommendation, we’ve come to trust her advice on everything from washing our hair to New York’s hidden gastronomic delights.Shyema was nice enough to take the time out of her hectic life to dish (pun totally intended) on how she does it all, offer her advice for budding bloggers, and of course, share some great beauty tips for South Asians.

DB: We are longtime fans of Beauty and the Feast and love that you’ve merged your interests in beauty and food in one blog! It’s unlike any other blog we’ve seen. How do you manage to maintain it while working a day job?

Shyema: It’s not easy. Truthfully, I don’t sleep a lot! Even short posts take a lot of time because I’ll have to sort through and re-size pictures. You kind of learn what works best for you as you go along. I tried pre-scheduling posts a week in advance but that’s just a lot of work to take out of your Saturday. And at the very beginning I was maybe over-zealous, writing up to four posts a DAY. Some of my friends told me they could barely keep up, so now I aim to post at least once a day, every day.

With a day job, you have to just try to manage your time as best as you can. I usually have events after work so my day will sometimes go on until 8 or 9PM. I’ll come home and catch up on my shows (DVR is my best friend), then write a post before I sleep. If I’m REALLY tired, I’ll wake up extra early instead to write and take pictures. The most I’ll go without writing is a few days, and that’s usually because I’m traveling. After that point I start to feel like I’m going to hyperventilate if I don’t get a post in!

DB: What are some of the unexpected experiences that have come out of BATF?

Shyema: So many! I’ve met a lot of people “virtually” who email me to tell me they enjoy reading or ask for advice for starting their own – I always find that touching. I don’t know why but it still surprises me when people say they’re avid readers. I remember once, a woman from North Carolina recognized me at a wedding from reading my blog. It was only when she told me her name that I recognized her from her comments. She’s a beautiful mother of two lovely kids, has an incredible career, and goes to school part time. She was so excited to meet me, telling me she reads the blog religiously. She introduced me to her whole family and told her young son, “Mommy reads her blog!” She was just so sweet, and it really blew my mind that she even had time to read my blog with all the things she seemed to be juggling. I don’t know if she knows it, but it was really she who inspired me with her drive.

DB: What advice do you have for aspiring bloggers?

Shyema: It’s never easy to put yourself out there. I struggled with that a lot. With Twitter and Facebook too, I just felt like, Ok where do I draw the line on how much I share? I toyed with the idea of keeping it anonymous at first, but as you grow, it’s harder to maintain that anonymity.  All the wonderful partnerships I was able to forge probably would have been harder if that were the case. Just look at DKNY PR Girl! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing myself to her . . . she’s on a whole other level of success, but even she had to ‘come out’ eventually. And being someone who picked writing as a profession, there’s that added pressure of ‘What if everyone thinks my writing sucks?” And then, “Will people think I’m a tool if I post seven close-ups of my lips?” But you know, it’s a beauty and food blog. It caters to the senses — it’s not a political commentary, it’s fluffy. It’s supposed to be fun and inspire people to try something new or discover a new brand because that’s what I love to do myself. As long as I have remained true to that, people have responded positively. It took baby steps, but now I’m a lot more comfortable. For aspiring bloggers, I just want to let them know that it’s normal to feel that anxiety, and you will figure out what works best for you.

DB: Got any magazine editor tricks up your sleeve?

Shyema: Contrary to popular belief, I learned most beauty editors will tell you NOT to shampoo everyday. It’ll dry out your hair. If you think you have oily hair, just try for one week to lay off the suds by shampoo’ing every other day. Often, your scalp is actually overcompensating by producing even more oil if you’re stripping hair of its natural oils every single day. Also, kind of obsessed with the funky designs of Sally Hansen Real Nail Polish strips, which are so easy to apply and have zero dry time.

DB: You recently had the opportunity to shadow MAC India’s Mickey Contractor, who works on all the Bollywood starlets. Did he turn you on to any particular MAC shades?

Shyema: Mickey Contractor is a genius and so incredibly humble. I loved talking with him. The bane of his existence is South Asian women wearing the wrong foundation color, usually going lighter in order to look fairer than they really are. It just looks awful! In fact he was lamenting as to why more MAC foundation in shades NC41 are sold in India when NC43, according to him, is more or less the universal color that works with most Indian skin tones.

DB: Some of us are afraid of bronzer. We hate when we see it done badly! Will you share the secret to your glow?

Shyema: I am a bronzer fiend. You don’t want to go too orange that you look like an oompa loompa or too brown so you look ruddy. The one I have been using for years is Cargo’s bronzer in medium. It has a little shimmer and adds a healthy looking glow. Don’t get one that’s more than two shades darker than your natural skin tone because it’ll end up creating harsh, stripey lines — you’re not an art project. I also remember Emily Katz, who was the makeup artist on the show Lost and pretty much perfected the sun-kissed look, told me she uses a lot of MAC matte bronzer on set too. Besides that, I really love peach blush which I think also gives a beautiful glow. My favorite is Motives’ “So Peachy.”

DB: Do you have any go-to hair/makeup/threading specialists in NYC?

Shyema: For higher-end, I usually go to Pich and Nyoku at Warren-Tricomi in the Plaza Hotel. I also once got layers done by Robert Stuart at Robert Stuart Salon on the Upper West Side and he did such an incredible job. Their prices are surprisingly reasonable too. I know so many amazing makeup artists but they all move around a lot. A favorite is Alena at the Guerlain counter at Bergdorf – she’s a makeup whiz. When I’m in the area, I get my eyebrows done at The Eyebrow Place in Hoboken, which is my aunt’s place. Ask for Dolly or Kushbu!

DB: Favorite hidden gem resto or cafe in NYC?

This question is not fair for a food blogger! I’ll go with the first place that popped in my head, and that’s a gem of a café on the LES called Roots & Vines. I don’t know if many people know about it because it’s pretty far east on Grand, but it has the most incredible coffee, a very chill ambiance, and spacious tables to get some work done too!

Thanks to Shyema for all the wonderful advice! If you don’t have Beauty and the Feast bookmarked already (for shame!) get to it — it may just become your new addiction.

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