It’s exciting that you are coming to Jarrold to talk about your latest book Pretty Iconic and in conversation with Sam Chapman of Pixiwoo too – how did this come about?
I was invited to come to Norwich and jumped at it, because it meant I'd get to see my friends! Sam & Nic Chapman and India Knight all live nearby and we're all so busy that it's always a treat to spend time together.
How and why did you come up with the idea for the book?
I was in bed one morning and my now-husband was moaning about all the old makeup in the attic. I was explaining to him that I couldn’t bear to part with some products, because they were like a time capsule, a beauty mixtape of my life. I started typing up the names of products that mattered to me, or had captured a moment, or had changed the face of beauty in some way, and within half an hour I had over 300. My publishers were keen for another book after my first, Pretty Honest, and so I mentioned it to them, and luckily, they loved the idea.
Your book has been described as a beauty mixed tape, how did you decide what products to include and what to leave out?
Pretty Iconic is a look at the products that shaped how women look. Modern skincare as we know it would look very different if it weren’t for Clinique 3-Step, for example. All modern foundations derive from Max Factor Pan Cake, launched in the 1930s. I would certainly have had less fun in my youth had I not doused myself in Lou Lou by Cacharel, and who doesn’t own an Urban Decay Naked palette? These are just some of the products that mean a great deal to our culture, and to our self identity. I wanted to celebrate them by paying tribute not only to the influential classics (8-Hour Cream, Vaseline and the like), but to the iconic products that make us instantly nostalgic, transporting is back to a Matey-filled bubble bath, an Impulse-drenched school disco, a red lipstick-smudged first encounter with a lover. These products matter, and so rarely get written about. I wanted to honour them - and to educate and entertain in the process, of course.
Have you got a favourite all-time beauty product?
It changes often as technology and research advance, but if I was stuck on a desert island then I'd want a red lipstick to cheer me up. MAC Lady Danger or Laura Mercier Fire.
You have said in one of your columns for The Guardian that beauty is like a time capsule with some products evoking personal memories for you. Can you share some of these with us?
That is and extract from, and the basis of, the entire book - it's all in there!
What three things (of the many!) will we learn from your book?
YSL Touche Eclat is not a concealer. Max Factor invented foundation as we know it. Kate Moss and Margaret Thatcher have the same signature scent.
And on another note…
You and your friend Jo Jones have also set up Beauty Banks to help those in poverty have access to sanitary products and toiletries, when did you set this up and why?
I had visited several homeless shelters while working on a film for the BBC, and they were all desperate for donations of toiletries, so that clients could look clean and groomed for job interviews, housing meetings and for their general dignity. Both Jo and I have teacher friends who were taking toiletries like deodorant and sanitary towels into school for children who didn't have access to them, and were suffering as a consequence. Then we read that 1.3 million people in Britain per year need emergency three-day food supplies from foodbanks. Naturally, when people have to choose between eating or washing, anyone will choose the former. Jo and I have access to all the beauty brands and a good social media following, so it was really a question of putting those two sides together and helping. We now supply to schools, foodbanks, charities and family centres across the UK.
How can people get involved with Beauty Banks?