It’s nearly midnight, and Suite 501 at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai is buzzing with activity. GQ’s Fashion Team has laid out an exotic array of monochromatic clothing along the back of a sofa. There’s a sleek black leather Bottega Veneta dress; a satin and lace Christopher Kane cupcake dress with a plunging neckline; an elegant Burberry gown with feathers. There are perilously high heels and chunkier clogs lined up too, as if in a firing range.
Katrina Kaif ’s entourage is here in full force – her security detail is sat outside the suite, guarding access; her manager is tapping away at a laptop in one corner; her digital assistant, who helps manage her social media accounts, has set up a temporary workstation at the 12-seater dining table.
A minute later, Kaif opens the sliding doors to her bedroom and emerges in a dark blue tee, black sweatpants, her hair half up and fastened with a clip. She’s more petite than I expect, and more energetic, given that she’s just gotten off a flight, and it’s been a long day. Her team may be wilting, not having slept for the past two nights, but not her. It’s T-5 days to the launch of Kaif ’s beauty brand, Kay Beauty, in partnership with Nykaa.
Kaif is right in step with a global trend of celebrities launching make-up lines – everyone from Kylie Jenner to Victoria Beckham to Rihanna – but in India, she’s the first. The stakes are high. “How many magazines are following us [on @KayBeauty]?” she enquires briskly. It’s been about 12 hours since she announced the beauty line’s Instagram handle, and already the account’s amassed 46k followers.
When she’s introduced to the photographer, Tibi Clenci, who’s flown in from Bucharest, she compliments him on his last cover with Anushka Sharma. With Kaif, little is left to chance. She does her homework, and she shows up prepared. “Sometimes, I get pulled up for being hard on people, or told to go easy on someone – and of course you’ve got to be gentle – but I’m always ten times harder on myself,” she admits. “But, I’ve got to find a balance. To know I’ve done my best, and let go.”
At 9:45 am the next day, the entourage has three new members: the hairstylist, make-up artist and make-up assistant. Kaif enters the room in a black leather dress, duckbill clips in her lightly wavy hair, made up with a dramatic smoky eye and lip gloss, looking utterly transformed. She peels the cellophane back from her breakfast bowl, pops some berries into her mouth and instructs her manager to carry her breakfast so she can eat in the car.
There’s a last-minute flurry of excitement as her Havaianas are found, her hairdryer packed, and then we’re out the door, headed to the Dubai Marina. There are several moments like this, where Kaif ’s celebrity fades into the background and she morphs into just another working woman: managing, multi-tasking and, somehow, staying on top of everything. In the end, there isn’t time for more than a quick bite of her omelette in the elevator.
On board our 96-foot yacht, the make-up artist paints her toenails in a shade of nude as she types out a caption for a post promoting the IIFA telecast that weekend, and confirms the correct hashtags and tags that need to be added. As the yacht pulls out of the jetty, and Dubai’s skyline shrinks, she curls up on the plush sofa for a catnap.
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