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She’s the Boss: Meet Neha Assar, Celebrity Henna Artist

Photo Credit: Roxy Rodriguez

Every South Asian little girl dreams of the day her arms and legs are delicately painted in the elaborate designs for which a bride’s henna is famous. The woman tasked with the honor? Often, it’s the girl next door or the mom of a cousin’s friend’s brother. Henna artists have long been the hidden gems of the South Asian artist community—their talents sadly unnoticed until the occasion calls for them. And even then, they’re often simply known as the “mehndi walis”—the mehndi women. But Neha Assar is no ordinary mehndi wali. She’s the mehndi wali you call if you’re Kylie Jenner, Drake, Jessica White, or one of the “Shahs of Sunset” crew because her artistry is bar none. The only thing more impressive than her mesmerizing work? The fact that she’s a full-time engineer, wife, and mom as well as an entrepreneur. For this week’s “She’s the Boss” edition, we know you’ll be dying to know more about this boss-woman we’re fangirling over.

Stomping Grounds

Cerritos, CA

The Gig

“I have always been artistic. When I was a child, my parents would have a paper and pen on the table for me to doodle with when I would come home from preschool. Being of East Indian decent, I was exposed to a lot of henna art, as I would get it done for every wedding we attended. Pretty soon, I was covering pages and pages, edge to edge, corner to corner with tiny henna designs using my pencil. In elementary school, I was annually awarded “Best Artist” among my peers.”

“[Doing henna sometimes involves] convincing my clients that thinking outside of the box is okay, which leads me to create awesome customized pieces that they later fall in love with! [Some things I’ve been able to do]: being part of LA Fashion Week, working on celebrities, working at red carpet events, like Oscars, Emmy’s, Grammy’s, and MTV Movie Awards. [I also did] a project with BuzzFeed India, which was a huge success! Our goal was to get 1 million viewers in 10 days. We managed to get 1 million viewers in 4 hours.”

Be-Your-Own-Boss Perks

“This may sound weird, but the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur is the fact that you have to know your business like you know the back of your hand. You are in control of EVERYTHING. You decide how to handle everything from client correspondence to pricing to accounting to final execution of the service. Your business can be as great as you want it to be. It’s hard work for sure, but the rewards are seeing happy and returning clients who always call me back and count on me to do an amazing job for them time and time again.”

A Day in the Life

5 a.m.: Gym
7 a.m.—11:30 a.m.: Work
11:30 a.m.—12:30 p.m.: Client correspondence
12:30 p.m.—5 p.m.: Work
5:30 p.m.: Wife and mommy duties, like cooking, children’s activities, homework with the kids, cleaning up, preparing for the next day.”

“On days that I have mehndi appointments, I attend them directly from work. I don’t stop at home. I get every other Friday off from work, so I schedule a lot of my appointments and meetings on my off Fridays. I don’t work weekends as they are blacked out for my family.”

neha assar henna

Photo Credit: Roxy Rodriguez

Early Beginnings

“In 1994, my little sister attended a carnival where there was a henna artist under a tent. The artist was a salon owner and with a sign that said, “Help Wanted”. My sister got her henna done and came home to tell my mom that this salon owner needed help and she was confident that I could fill the position. I was a freshman in high school and wasn’t really interested, but mom took me down to the salon against my will to speak with the owner. The owner handed me a henna cone and said to show her my skills. This was the first time ever holding a henna cone and my sister gave me her hand to use as a canvas. The salon owner said, ‘You’re a little slow, but I will hire you anyway.’ That was it…I got the job.”

“I went home still thinking nothing of it. I figured she would just call me in on an appointment basis and I would end up doing little tattoos. Three days later, the salon owner called and said she had a bride waiting for me at the salon. My jaw dropped and I was super nervous. I had never worked on a real client let alone a bride who needed extensive henna. I showed up to the salon and did what I was supposed to do. The client and the salon owner were so happy and I gained so much confidence just from that one appointment. I still look back and think, ‘Wow! My first client ever was a bride!'”

neha assar henna artist, west coast, creative mehndi

Photo Courtesy: Neha Assar

Feel Good Mojo

“Days get stressful. Last week, I had four weddings and a full five-day work week [at my full-time job]. It was very stressful. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I am setting an example for my kids. I want them to be able to pursue their passions the way I do. I don’t want them to have roadblocks and feel like they cannot manage. I want them to know they can do anything and be anything they want to be in life.”


Photo Credit: Justin Jackson

The Success Manual

“My childhood role model was my mother. She is the biggest hustler I know on this planet. She always wanted to learn and grow. She was nonstop. The words ‘lazy’, ‘I can’t’, ‘I won’t’ were never in her vocabulary—truly an inspiration.”

“Do not let other people’s opinions influence you. Opinions are not facts. In India, being a “mehndi wali” is a profession that is looked down upon. Even in the States, some people still carry that mentality. I have clients that announce at their home upon my arrival, ‘The mehndi wali is here!'”

“I personally don’t let [that] affect me. I know that I’m an educated woman who has a full-time career as an engineer. I’m a wife to a husband that supports me and has my back. I’m a mother to two fantastic children who look up to me. I have my two hands that all of this artwork flows from…I bring joy and relaxation to a bride on one of the most life-changing and special moments of her life…at the end of the day, I do what I love and it loves me back! The best lesson I ever received, before I started my own business, was to always know my worth. Know the value of the art. Know how much your artwork means to you and everyone around you. Never sell yourself short.”

2 Comments

  1. Sneha

    You are truly talented and a great artist!

  2. Seema

    Neha! So very proud of you! You are truly beautiful, inside and out…you’ve always inspired me! Keep shining! xoxox

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