Whenever anyone asks, as a young journalist did yesterday, why did you start Look Fabulous Forever, I usually reply ‘for two reasons - firstly because I was finding it difficult to source makeup that worked well on my face now that I was in my sixties and secondly, because I disliked the ‘anti-ageing’ rhetoric of the beauty industry which implied that I must want to look younger than I was.’
Those two motivations definitely provided the impetus I needed to make an initial call to the cosmetic manufacturer that I’d Googled, but they weren’t the only things that were buzzing like a bee in my bonnet.
I also knew that I wanted to become a disruptor within the beauty space and to speak out against ageist attitudes wherever and whenever I encountered them.
This might sound grandiose, but I wanted my launching of LFF to be a sort of political act in the sense of stirring things up on behalf of older women.
Let me start with what I have always loved about makeup because otherwise launching a beauty brand to disrupt the beauty industry makes no sense whatsoever. I suspect that for me it’s always been about creativity and instant results. A diet takes weeks or months to make a difference and is really hard to sustain. It takes months to grow your hair or improve your skin. But just ten minutes every morning with a few pots of paint and some brushes is enough to help my pallid winter face come to life, to make my eyes look bigger and brighter and to lift my spirits and morale. I just feel more like me when I have ‘put my face on.’ And I am doing this for my own satisfaction, not to please anyone else. The older I get, the more I feel that engaging with a beauty routine is a validation that I matter as a woman.
I could so easily say ‘who cares what I look like?’ Because absolutely nobody does any more. But I care and that’s all that matters!
My Beauty Manifesto
1. Older faces can be beautiful too.
We have been brought up with a belief that youth and beauty are inextricably linked. There is a reason that the beauty industry shows its anti-ageing products on perfectly unlined 20-somethings - Cara Delevingne at 27 is Dior’s ‘face of anti-ageing’ - because it wants you to think that use of this cream will keep your face like that forever. Just this morning I heard a discussion on Woman’s Hour and an Instagrammer admitted that she’s been seeking out and using anti-ageing products since she was 20. If, instead of endless beauty ads featuring stunning looking teenagers, we were bombarded everywhere with beautiful images of older faces, we’d soon shift our perception of what it means to be beautiful. That’s why I insist on real older women and no digital shenanigans for all our LFF images.
2. I am against invasive procedures.
Cosmetic interventions of any sort are the point at which myth and reality meet in the beauty arena. The myth is that age can be eradicated with a scalpel or a syringe. Or maybe you fancy a ‘vampire facial’ which I only learned about, again on Woman’s Hour, this morning. In case you are intrigued, a vampire facial is one in which they take your own blood (thankfully) and apply centrifugal force to separate the platelets which are then injected into your face for the purposes of renewal. It costs a few hundred pounds and it doesn’t work. This is the reality. And the reason that the myth-pedalling of the beauty industry bothers me is because it perpetuates the belief that ageing is a choice. There may be a time when it becomes a choice, probably exercised only by the very rich, but in 2020 ageing will happen to us all whatever we do. Accepting this makes me much more likely to make peace with my ageing self.
3. For me, makeup is all about confidence and self esteem rather than youth.
From time to time, I do get quite angry messages from women who take me to task for being part of the problem by selling makeup for older women. Am I trying to have my cake and eat it? Is there a contradiction at the heart of my love of makeup and my dislike of the anti-ageing beauty industry? I honestly don’t think so. I have no desire to convert older women to makeup if they aren’t interested. My conversation is with women who have always derived pleasure from dressing stylishly, putting on some slap and enjoying the result of making the effort to put their best foot forward. And my message is ‘do what makes you feel good. Less isn’t more now you’re older - wear that red lippy with confidence, defiance and pride if that is still your choice!’
4. We all deserve to be part of the conversation about beauty.
Go to any beauty counter with a much younger woman and she will be the focus of the conversation, not you. The assumption is that you are there in support of her quest for beauty not in search of your own. Most beauty ads aimed at the older demographic are still centred around skincare. The conversation is about ‘repair and renewal’ rather than beauty. This is why I wanted to make videos with older women as the models, because I wanted to show that makeup has transformative qualities for an older face just as much (if not more) than for a younger one. We deserve to be included in that conversation and for it not to be assumed that we have lost interest in looking good as we have gained more wrinkles.
5. I will call out ageism wherever I find it.
And finally, my beauty manifesto will also include all and any areas where I find ageism. A comment on a blog a few weeks ago said something along the lines of ‘what qualifies you to offer anything beyond makeup advice?’ To which I’d happily reply: ‘not very much beyond my lived experience’. Last week I had a huge response to my blog about the challenges of finding the goods and services which I now need as an older woman. Just over a hundred and fifty of you, almost without exception, agreed that shopping now leaves much to be desired. Wherever and whenever I can, I will do my best to give space and voice to the ways in which we are marginalised because of our age. Who knows what effect this might have?
I have no intention and absolutely no desire to start a political movement!
But I am mightily glad that I did decide to start a business offering products and services to older women within the beauty arena. It has given me so much pleasure to engage in a conversation with a great many like-minded women. My Beauty Manifesto underpins the values of our business. So much in society is designed to make us women feel almost guilty for getting older, as though our annual birthday is a failure of effort or will. That is clearly nonsense and whilst I am writing these blogs, I will commit to calling out this nonsense wherever and whenever I find it.