Pritika Swarup’s fondest Diwali memory fully embodies the significance of the holiday. “Growing up, we would light candles and put them in every window of every room in the house,” the model, entrepreneur, and founder & CEO of Prakti Beauty, an Ayurvedic skin care brand, recalls. “Then we would say meditation, prayers, and mantras, and it was the most peaceful moment that would bring the family close together.”
Often referred to as the festival of lights, the five-day celebration commemorates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. This year, millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists around the world will kick off the holiday on Nov. 12, but Swarup got a head start on the festivities a week early by attending the 2023 New York Diwali Gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Nov. 3.
“Diwali is one of the most significant holidays in Indian culture,” Swarup tells TZR perched in the makeup chair of her hotel suite, mid pre-gala glam session. “There’s such positivity around this time, so I love that so many brands are coming together to make this gala happen, and are championing it in such a big way.”
A celebration of this magnitude calls for an equally major outfit that fully captures the spirit of the holiday. So Swarup wore a haute couture gown by Indian-American designer Bibhu Mohapatra created in partnership with scotch whisky brand The Glenlivet, one of the gala’s sponsors. The almost-black, deep-scoop neckline, navy blue ballgown features intricate technicolor beading and dazzling embroidered silver swirls. These intricate details are a nod to the lights of the holiday, which gets its name from the clay lamps (deepa) that are lit outside Indian homes to symbolize the inner light that protects against spiritual darkness.
“I was talking to Bibhu yesterday at the final fitting, and he said it took almost three months [to complete the dress]. He sent panels of it to India; since its hand embroidered, so much work goes into every detail,” Swarup shares. “It's just supposed to represent the lights. There are so many beautiful colors [in it], including the jewel tones of India. Also, [there’s] the colors of The Glenlivet, it’s super cool how all of the elements are connected in it.”
Like the meticulous work that went into creating the one-of-a-kind gown, prepping to attend a monumental event starts before Swarup thinks about hair and makeup. “If I’m attending an event like this, I’ll use Prakti’s PritiPolish Instant Glow Exfoliator the night before or the morning of. Then I’ll use the SapnaSoft moisturizer.”
When conjuring up her makeup and hair look for the night, Swarup and her hairstylist and makeup artist also turned to the gown for inspiration. “When you look at the dress, the bottom of it has a nod to a traditional Indian lehenga, and the top of it is more like a ball gown,” she says. “So my makeup is modern yet traditional, too. It’s very fresh and minimal, but there’s definition on the eyes as an homage to the Indian culture [of kajal liner].” Her makeup artist Vincent Oquendo created clean, sharp wing and added just a hint of sparkle over the black liner to tie in shimmer of the dress’ beading. A neutral satin lip complemented the eye makeup.
To keep the focus on the dramatic neckline of the gown, Swarup’s hairstylist Rebekah Forecast, pulled her hair up into a sleek twist with a center part, which the model says looked extra glossy, thanks to her regular hair oiling routine.
“I love to oil my hair and I've been using Fable & Mane’s pre-wash hair oil called HoliRoots,” Swarup shares. “I'll use it the night before [an event] and sleep with the oil in my hair and then I'll wash it off in the morning. I don't have that much time, I'll just leave it in for 10 minutes. It really strengthens your hair and helps with the glossy finish.” Before turning to pre-made oils, the model and beauty brand founder adds that she would DIY it, because it’s a ritual she’s been doing with her mom since she was really young. “I learned a lot about holistic wellness from her,” Swarup shares. “She's an Ayurveda doctor; she's even doing a new Ayurveda program 20 years later, so you can never stop learning.”
At the end of the night, winding down is just as important as getting hyped up for an event. “When I’m removing my makeup and doing my skin care at the end of the night, I like to do a little bit of breathing and meditation,” Swarup shares. “However, tonight I’m getting into a car and going to Cambridge. So I'll probably unwind with a nap [on the way there], then get into my comfy PJs. Drinking lots of water and maybe a reading a book — just whatever will get me into a good, relaxed happy place.”
Photographs by Poupay Jutharat
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
Editor in Chief: Kathy Lee
SVP Fashion: Tiffany Reid
SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert