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Politically connected Brandon salon goes Bollywood

Alanna Haskin works on Hira Gohar’s hair Wednesday. On the far right, Daisy Vargas instructs Kris Martinez on the ways of Indian styling.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Alanna Haskin works on Hira Gohar’s hair Wednesday. On the far right, Daisy Vargas instructs Kris Martinez on the ways of Indian styling.

BRANDON — Hair stylists and makeup artists at Divine Designs Salon & Spa will close up shop for three days, pack up their equipment and cater to Bollywood stars in Tampa this weekend for the International Indian Film Academy's Weekend & Awards.

"We're so excited, you have no idea," said salon director of operations and part owner Akashi Patidar, who was born and raised in India. "We've been preparing for this event since January."

As the official salon for the Bollywood event, it could be working on as many as 300 celebrities and attendees, Patidar said.

Patidar said the salon landed the high-profile gig thanks to a connection between influential Republicans — salon owner Sam Rashid, party activist Deborah Cox-Roush and Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, the public official credited with leading the charge to bring the awards to Tampa.

"They both came to me and asked if I'd be interested in being the chief salon for the event," Rashid said. "We're really proud to be part of the team that's helping Tampa get this worldwide recognition."

Rashid said the salon and its stylists are excited to be part of it.

"I'm so close to my culture and Bollywood, so Sam asked me if I really wanted to do it," Patidar said. "Yes, it's publicity for the salon and spa, but it's also because of our passion for the culture and Bollywood."

The salon, which has been around since 1999, normally operates with 18 stylists but will bring 30 to the hotels this weekend, Patidar said. The staff has been practicing popular styles among the Bollywood crowd.

"It seems to be a mix between braids and upstyling," concierge manager Roberto Rolon said. "A lot of the girls have been wearing big curls and tight braids."

Rolon said stylists came in early every Tuesday since January to refine these skills in preparation for Saturday's big event. As it drew nearer, Patidar said they bumped their practice times up to two days a week.

The stylists will be setting up shop at two hotels for trials today and Friday and event prep on Saturday, Rolon said. Concern had arisen over whether the hotels would be able to support the power of all the blow dryers and equipment the salon will need, but Patidar said there will be an electrician on site to make sure it goes smoothly.

Landing this event is a dream come true for Patidar.

"It's a lifetime opportunity, and I am thrilled," she said. "Every time I think about it, I have tears in my eyes."

She is most excited to see actors Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Hrithik Roshan.

"Madhuri has been in the industry for about 25 years now," Patidar said. "They call her the queen of dance. Whenever she dances with the Bollywood songs, she can express herself really, really well. She's been my favorite as long as I can remember."

As for Roshan: "He's ridiculously good looking."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Politically connected Brandon salon goes Bollywood 04/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:11pm]
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