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Khandiz Joni photographed by Richard Pengelley

Our Resident Iconoclast

with Khandiz Joni

issue ten : icons & iconoclasts

By Kat Nugent

A professional makeup artist with an ambivalence towards makeup itself, founder of Untainted Magazine, Khandiz Joni is not your average beauty expert. After having been disillusioned by working in an industry infamous for irresponsible environmental and social practices, Khandiz needed to break the mould – she became a revolutionary. Interrogating the values and traditions at the very core of her professional world, today Khandiz dedicates her work to openly challenging the status quo within the industry and empowering consumers to make conscious beauty decisions that are better for themselves and the planet. 

For the tenth issue: Icons & Iconoclasts, I spoke to Untainted Magazine’s very own iconoclast about what drives her to do what she does. 

Makeup for me is a medium to channel my creativity. I have stories I want to tell and conversations that I want to start, and I Find makeup a powerful way of doing this.

Khandiz photographed by Maaike Mekking

Q. You’re a makeup artist who isn’t interested in makeup, what’s that All about?

Makeup for me is a medium to channel my creativity. I have stories I want to tell and conversations that I want to start, and I find makeup a powerful way of doing this. Unless I’m using makeup to express something more than simply painting someone’s face to conform to boring beauty standards, it’s not something I find hugely interesting. That’s also why I started Untainted Magazine; to push the boundaries of how we think about makeup and what makeup, specifically ‘untainted’ make up, can do.

Q. Can you tell me a bit more about the inspiration behind Untainted Magazine and why you founded it?

I wanted to create a space for myself and other makeup artists who were exploring and experimenting with eco-conscious beauty to be able to really challenge this assumption that clean and organic beauty has to look natural and minimal. I wanted to show that sustainable and responsible beauty products can achieve the same “wow-factor” as any other products filled with unnecessary toxins. Ultimately, I wanted to build a space where untainted products can be appreciated simply for their outstanding results without the constant footnote of them being ‘clean’ or ‘organic’. 

On another level, I consider Untainted Magazine to be a platform where makeup is the language, but it’s certainly not the only conversation. Through our editorials and articles, I want to show people the power of makeup to tell stories and start wider discussions around real things like self-love, conscious living, what it means to be a responsible citizen of the world – those kinds of big picture questions.

Q. I’ve noticed the start of a sea change in consumer awareness, not just when it comes to beauty but in all kinds purchasing habits. What do you think is the biggest challenge for people trying to be more conscious with their choices?

Unfortunately with the growing awareness around the devastating impact of our disposable attitude towards the things that we purchase, there’s also a lot of manipulation of the conversation for marketing purposes. The amount of information and misinformation to wade through is overwhelming and can be really impenetrable. That’s another motivation behind Untainted Magazine. I’m trying not to get caught up in these buzz-words like ‘clean’ ‘green’ ‘organic’ and ‘cruelty-free’. I chose the all-encompassing word ‘Untainted’ to shift the focus away from the product itself, and onto the impact and message that the product is putting out into the world.

Q. What are your fears for the future of the beauty industry?

Khandiz body painting for the I AM IMPACT Project

As a beauty expert, it might be terrible for me to say but frankly, I don’t care about the beauty industry or its future. Every day, I lose more and more love for the world in which I’ve built my career. What I care about is our planet and the people and animals living in it. My fears are that what appears to be positive changes in the industry are just superficial pandering, “greenwashing” and clever marketing to appease the growing consumer desire for more responsible products. Of course, I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush! There are some really amazing brands in beauty and wellness emerging that are making positive and impactful changes. But I think for the industry in general, unless there’s a shift in the underlying attitude surrounding the purpose of these products, we’re not going to properly move forward. For so long we’ve been sold this idea that you have to be wearing makeup to be considered beautiful. We’re now experiencing a really interesting time in which there’s a lot of exciting conversations being had that interrogate this social pressure. Unless these beauty brands follow suit and stop shoving down the message that without their products, we are not good enough, well that’s just not good enough – no matter how eco-conscious, cruelty-free or sustainable their products might be.

Q. Are you hopeful that consumers will change their behaviours for the better?

I think any meaningful change is going to come from the bottom and its promising to see that this shift in mindset is happening. I believe that human nature is fundamentally selfish, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s selfish in the sense that we put ourselves and the people that we love at the centre of the decisions that we make. Every day it’s becoming clearer that it is in every single one of our best interests to change. It even comes down to a matter of survival – we simply cannot continue to sustain this way of irresponsible living. So yes, I am hopeful. I think that if we can harness this natural instinct to act in our best interests then we can really make authentic and positive changes. 

Q. What does “iconic” mean to you?

To me, iconic in the broadest sense of the word means timeless. An iconic image, for example, is something that transcends time and space. It’s something that leaves a lasting impression, that always draws you back and has the power of capturing the collective imagination. If something is iconic it taps into something very human in us, engaging or accessing our most complex emotions.

Q. And Finally in your opinion, who are the iconoclasts of 2019?

You can’t talk about icons or iconoclasts today without mentioning Greta Thunberg. But not just her, also the entire youth movement that is revolutionising the way the world thinks about climate change. I have no doubt in my mind that they and iconic movements like the Extinction Rebellion will go down in history. 

In beauty specifically, I have had the privilege of meeting many iconoclastic people who are passionate about changing the narrative, one of whom is Jasmina Aganovic, founder of Mother Dirt. Firstly, they are a beauty brand that isn’t afraid to use the word ‘dirt’ in their name – genius. They are doing some really exciting things with unpreserved, plant-based products and rethinking the connection between natural science and beauty. It’s very cool. 

From Khandiz’s new project, I AM IMPACT.

One woman who I’m also in awe of due to her authentic self-examination and expression is Grace Woodward. In her project ‘Body of Work’ she reflects on her career in the fashion industry, and asks photographers who have shot her in the past to take nude, totally unadulterated portraits. The work seeks to spark a dialogue around the relentless pressure on women to control their bodies and the images of them. It’s some really brave iconoclastic stuff – super inspiring. 

And finally, Sophie Mayanne. She’s an incredible photographer who captures raw beauty and delves into themes of body positivity. One of her projects is called “Behind the Scars”. The photographs celebrate scars and the stories behind them. It’s very powerful. 

untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

UNTAINTED is a directional beauty platform, pushing the boundaries of clean, sustainable beauty. We are inspired and motivated by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi.

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