Nonstopmama confession time: my earliest experiments with make-up involved sneaking the Abba-blue and emerald green eyeshadows from my Girl’s World hair and make-up doll and applying it on myself (nice). Later, advice came courtesy of my older, impossibly glamorous cousin’s Jackie annuals. Today, thank goodness, help is at hand in the form of age-targeted beauty books which mamas and daughters can share, such as Be Beautiful: Every Girl’s Guide To Hair, Skin & Make-Up, by award-winning journalist Alice Hart-Davies and her daughter, Molly. Alice, who writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard, is passionate about making those first forays into make-up, skincare et al about enhancing a teen’s natural beauty and, equally important, having a great time in the process. The book covers teen-specific skincare, hair styling and less-is-more make-up tips – whilst showing older girls how to approach stronger looks – to what makes beauty products ‘green’ and healthy eating. Refreshingly, Be Beautiful features Molly and her friends, rather than models, which only adds to its real, fun spirit.
As a mother, was it important to you to produce a book that encourages teens to make beauty all about enhancing their looks, rather than feeling their face has to ‘fit’ a certain look?
Yes, absolutely! Young girls are all terribly keen to have a go with make-up and it’s a really tricky area because most of the time, they need no enhancement whatsoever and even a small amount of make-up can completely wrong. But if you tell them that, they roll their eyes and say that you, like, SO don’t get it. What I’d love to encourage girls to realise is that the only real trick when it comes to make-up is that it should be a minor enhancement, a confidence-booster if you like, because we all feel better about ourselves if we think we look good. But that aspect of it tends to get lost in the rush to have smoky eyes like all the models in the magazines. It’s one of the most difficult things to learn about growing up; that there is no need to fit into any mould – the best thing of all is to be yourself.
What first inspired you to write Be Beautiful?
One summer, when Molly was 12, she became mad keen to shave her legs, and wouldn’t let the matter drop. I said she didn’t need to; I said the hairs were invisible… but clearly it was something that bothered her and I realised I had to take her concerns a bit more seriously. Then she started asking what she should use to wash her face, and whether she could wear a bit of make-up … One way and another, she had so many questions that when Walker Books asked me to think about a skincare-and-beauty book for teenagers, I knew just what to suggest.
How was it, co-authoring a book with your daughter?
It was immense fun! Most of the book is written in the form of an extended question-and-answer session, because that’s how it evolved. Molly was incredibly patient and co-operative, always happy to re-write the chapter-introductions (her bit) and come up with more questions (also her bit) as needed.
Which areas were the most enjoyable to write about?
Definitely the hair-styling and make-up. The sections about skincare and spots, body odour and eating properly are all sensible and vital, but hair-and-make-up is just playing, isn’t it? We have a friend, Louise Constad, who is a fabulous make-up artist and working with her was a real education. She showed us masses of things to do with eyes and lips that looked fun and fresh on a young face, rather than over-done. If you want to try lipstick, for example, but red looks far too grown-up or tarty, try a light bright purple, which just looks cool.
Did you have fun doing the ‘research’ and shooting the photographs?
We did, particularly doing things like mashing stuff up for the home-made face masks (unless your avocado is really ripe, it just won’t mash …) The shoots were terrific, especially the day we went to the West End with a gaggle of Molly’s friends. Selfridges kindly let us take pictures in the beauty hall, and the girls went completely hyper when surrounded by so much perfume and make-up; you can see their excitement in the shots. And walking back along Oxford Street afterwards, because the girls were being photographed, people on the street presumed they must be famous …
Has Molly now become something of the beauty ‘go-to’ girl among her friends?
She says not really – but that they do refer to the book a good deal when they want to know something.
And did you learn things from Molly and her teenage friends?
Oh yes, not least to lighten up. I tend to take the whole subject of looks and make-up a bit seriously and working with these girls made me see the fun of it through their eyes. And that there’s a good deal of Emperor’s New Clothes about it all, too. I’d tell them that some new nail varnish was tr•s cool because it was from an amazing company that was really fashion-forward etc etc and they’d just look at it and giggle and say, •But it looks gross,• and they’d be absolutely right.
Snag it, mama! – We have 3 copies of Be Beautiful to give away.