The 'invisibility cloak' that descends over women's shoulders in our fifties tends to mean that we forget that there are very many amazing and capable women who have made a really significant contribution to the lives of others in various ways. Women's working lives are often complicated by domestic responsibilities and child care in a way that most men's are not, so I am always full of admiration for women like LFF Ambassador Lady Justice Anne Rafferty who has reached the top of the legal profession as an Appeals Court Judge despite giving birth to four girls, one of whom tragically died at 2 years of age. And LFF Ambassador Elizabeth Bessant who built a successful couture design business whilst caring for an autistic son single-handedly.
Our latest ambassador, Clarissa Farr, has also combined motherhood with a demanding career and has reached the very top of the teaching profession as high mistress of St. Paul's Girls School.
Clarissa is a customer of LFF who sent me a delightful email saying that our makeup tutorials "have been brilliant to give me new ideas and new confidence with my makeup even though I am a different generation to my fashion-conscious pupils."This email pinged into my inbox one Sunday and I replied immediately not realising that Clarissa was high mistress of St. Paul's, arguably the best school for girls in the country. When she told me, I suggested that she might like to become an Ambassador for us and was really happy when she said she would.
Clarissa's teaching career began in 1981 as an English and drama teacher at a sixth form college in Farnborough.
Over the next fifteen years, which included a three year stint in Hong Kong (see above), she progressed through the ranks until she achieved her desired goal of running her own school. At the age of thirty-seven and with a one year old baby, she was appointed as head at Queenswood, a boarding school in Hertfordshire. Clarissa moved to St Paul's in 2006 as High Mistress, a role she has fulfilled for ten years and from which she is just about to step down. It is interesting that Clarissa has decided to leave a job she loves whilst still at the top of her game. However, as you will hear in the interview, at the age of 58, Clarissa is keen to find a new direction and new ways to explore her many obvious talents.
What I loved about Clarissa when I met her at the school to interview her was how approachable and down-to-earth she is. I don't know what I was expecting, but thoughts of the forbidding and steely headmistress of my own time at school and also as the parent of two girls at boarding school in the 1980's, made me somewhat wary. Clarissa is warm, charming and vivacious and, as you can see in the photographs, elegant and attractive. I kept thinking 'I bet the girls here all respect and admire you enormously!' Having spoken to Clarissa it's apparent that she has had a huge impact on the lives of the girls who go to the school.
For a start she wanted to lessen some of the terrible pressure that she felt every child at the school was under to achieve at the highest level. Clarissa was at pains to tell her pupils that 'we all fail from time to time and that making mistakes is a part of life.' She also set up parenting classes to help the high-flying parents of her pupils to give their daughters the best possible support with things like exam stresses, the pressure of social media and how to stay safe online.
Clarissa's is a hugely demanding role and she regularly works 60 to 70 hour weeks. Meetings with parents can often start at 7.30 am. She still teaches English to the first years so that she gets to know each girl as she becomes a pupil at the school and it is, no doubt, an excellent opportunity for the girls to get to know her. And now Clarissa has decided that she has gone as far as she can go as head of the school and is leaving St Paul's at the end of this school year in August. As you would expect she has had many offers, but is taking her time to decide what the next stage of her life will bring. She is a relative youngster (certainly compared to me!) at 58, so I am sure that she still has a lot more to give to any of the people lucky enough to have her as part of their team.
I do hope you enjoy my interview with Clarissa and agree with me that, once again, we have chosen the perfect Look Fabulous Forever Ambassador! I do hope you enjoy my video interview with her.