One Smalls Step For Man..
I was so excited when Estee Lauder sent me a press release on their collaboration with Derek Lam for his AW11 catwalk show in New York. Puerto Rican-born model Joan Smalls (pictured above), ranks 7th in Models.com's Top 50 Female Models. She was the third new Global Spokesmodel signed by Estee Lauder last year. She follows in the oh-so-glamorous footsteps of Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede, whose contract as a face and Global Spokesmodel for the brand, came to a natural end in 2008.
I'm mixed race (my mother is half Ethiopian and half Eritrean, while my father is Scottish), and it is SUCH a joy to see diversity in beauty advertising. Though I was born in Oman, I relocated with my parents to Northumberland at the age of five. I was educated in Northumberland, Scotland and London throughout the 80's and 90's. Yet throughout my childhood, I often felt somehow detached and disenfranchised. My black hair, olive skin and brown eyes set me apart from the people I saw around me. Where did I fit in?
I'd attended an international school in Oman. When I think of my classmates, I envisage a Benetton campaign. Lots of youthful, smiley faces, in an array of skin tones with infinite nuances in hue and tone. This was my earliest memory. But soon, I found myself on a plane out of the Gulf Coast, headed to a remote town in rural Northumberland, surrounded by farmer's fields and a stone's throw from the sea (talk about a culture shock). The point of this little anecdote, is of course that I couldn't help but feel a little cut off. My new neighbours and classmates found it difficult to process me and my African mother at first, but in time we were vaguely accepted into the community (but not by all my any stretch of the imagination, this was slow progress).
Even while at school in Scotland through my late childhood to my mid-teens, my Scottish heritage was irrelevant. People didn't believe me when I said I was half Scottish. For one, I didn't sound Scottish and I certainly didn't look it. In summary, had I seen more diversity around me. Had I seen it in the films I watched and the adverts I saw, perhaps I wouldn't have felt quite so alien.
This is why brands such as Estee Lauder ought to be celebrated. As a professional who has worked in the fashion and beauty industry for over a decade, it genuinely warms my heart to see a global brand of this magnitude, communicating proudly, that beauty is multifaceted. It is not one race, creed, colour or religion, neither it an age. We are all inherently beautiful. Everyone has a beautiful aspect about them, be it that little twinkle in their eyes, a disarming smile, flawless skin, killer legs, an amazing bum, a fabulous tummy, a bountiful bust or just a delightfully mischievous sense of humour. Beauty and charisma, even star quality, are not tangible, measurable qualities.
When I think of the original supermodels of the early 90's; British/Jamaican Naomi Campbell with her panther like strut and cocoa-hued skin, Canadian Linda Evangelista with those inimitable cat eyes, American Cindy Crawford with that mane of chestnut hair, beach tan and aerobics queen body and American/Peruvian supermodel Christy Turlington with her exquisite angelic face, they were all so different. When they, along with fellow supermodel Tatjana Patitz, starred in George Michael's Freedom video, it not only cemented a definitive cultural moment, it also showcased (albeit on a minute scale), the breadth of beauty our world has to offer.
The late Yves Saint Laurent was groundbreaking in his frequent use of black models (femmes noires) on the catwalk. Without his appreciation of African beauty, I'm not sure if Burberry would have cast black British model Jourdan Dunn to be the face of their brand last month (for the month of February only). African American male supermodel Tyson Beckford would have been unlikely to have graced the 90's Ralph Lauren billboards and African American supermodel Veronica Webb would most probably, have not become Revlon's first black face, again, back in the 90's. It is worth mentioning that Naomi Campbell has publicly acknowledged that she had been approached to be the face of Revlon, but when her fellow supermodel friends told her that Revlon were paying them significantly more than they had offered her, she politely declined (highly respectable).
What I find remarkable about Revlon, is that its billionaire founder Charles Revson, had a well documented affair with the American actress and singer Eartha Kitt. In her book, "Confessions Of A Sex Kitten", she talked at length about their intimate relationship. He lavished her with expensive gifts, even buying her a ranch and land when he had to cool their romance, after his estranged wife had threatened to publicise the fact he was dating a black woman, unless he gave into her divorce demands on his assets. A dear friend of James Dean, Kitt's mother was half Cherokee and half African-American, while her father was of European origin. I wonder what the late Revson would have made of the fact that the very company he founded, would go on to deny Naomi Campbell the same rate as her fellow models. Kitt even mentioned in her book, that after she complained that Revlon had no lip colours to suit her complexion, he looked at the lipstick she bought in Paris and soon, a shade for her was available in Revlon's collection. Not only was Revson clearly a devoted and kind lover, ever the businessman, he was actively seeking to give his consumer what she wanted.
Campbell has also said, several times, that had it not been for her great friend Christy Turlington, she wouldn't have had a fraction of the modelling work she received. Turlington and the other supermodels, would often threaten to boycott designers, telling them that they would all cancel appearing at their shows, unless Naomi got booked too. This display of humanity and sisterly solidarity, is for me, quite possibly the most important aspect of the entire supermodel legacy. Forget the glamour, the clothes and accessories, the jet set lifestyle, the parties, the jewels, the hotels, the red carpets. What good are any of those things without freedom and equality. Like the musketeers, it was a case of "all for one and one for all", and what a marvellous attitude that is to embrace, as we move towards the future.
Not one of the couture make-up brands has a black face (you'd be hard-pressed to find even a tanned one). This season Chanel has Eastern European model Jac, Dior has the Italian actress Monica Bellucci, Dolce&Gabbana has American actress Scarlett Johansson and Armani has American actress Megan Fox. These legendary brands supposedly inspire the masses and define the trends, yet on a commercial level, all the marketing campaigns seem tragically outmoded (or c'est depasse as the late Saint Laurent would say). I hope that these brands follow in the footsteps of Lauder brands; Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown and MAC, who have been intelligent and humane enough to accept and celebrate every glorious, unique facet of global beauty.
Bobbi Brown took the brave step of casting real models in last season's Pretty Powerful campaign (and accompanying book), featuring women of various ages and diverse ethnic heritage. These are the faces of modern beauty. Yes, consumers like to stare wistfully at beautiful faces, after all, we all love to dream, and dreams are the very foundations upon which the fashion and beauty industries are built. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy flicking through all my favourite fashion magazines, drooling over the lavish set designs, hot models, world class photography, design, styling and make-up. For me, design is as valid an art as painting or sculpture. If one can admire a Picasso painting or an Anish Kapoor sculpture, why can't you appreciate the high art that goes into creating fashion and beauty imagery.
There's no doubt that in this business, we sell people their fantasies. The industry creates the fantasy as a means of "need creation". Entire advertising campaigns, or "fantasies", are built around products, be it accessories, garments, or cosmetics. Gazing adoringly at an Armani Beauty campaign shot of Megan Fox for instance, it would be very easy for a female consumer to think "I need that lipstick", if the prospect of buying that product somehow whispers seductive promises of Hollywood sex appeal, Angelina Jolie lips and mass adoration. At the core of all this glamour, lies the "feel good factor". Fashion and beauty makes us feel great. But how can I feel good about myself when I can't even see myself in the very campaigns that were designed to make me spend my hard-earned cash in the first place?
This is where Estee Lauder differs. Just look at the diversity of the two other Global Spokesmodels the brand signed last year:
French supermodel Constance Jablonski, pictured above at the Derek Lam AW11 show, is seen wearing Estee Lauder Automatic Brow Duo through her brows, her eyes adorned with the NEW Estee Lauder Silver (metallic finish) and Black (shimmer finish) Eyeshadow shades, two hot new shades launching in AW11. Her eyes have been highlighted with the NEW Estee Lauder Illuminating Powder, also launching in AW11. On her lips, she wears the NEW Estee Lauder Nude Matte Lipstick, again, launching in AW11 (gosh this is painful, I'm already pining for all these delectable treats).
Constance has been popping up on the runway pretty much everywhere. One of the hottest faces of the moment, like Joan Smalls, she is beloved of many a high profile designer and photographer. Constance ranks 6th in the Models.com Top 50 Female Models chart.
Liu Wen, pictured above at Derek Lam AW11, became the first Asian face of Estee Lauder, having been appointed a Global Spokesmodel for the brand last year. Hailing from the Hunan Provence of China, she was the first East Asian model to walk the Victoria's Secret runway in 2009. She has since starred in a major campaign for CK Calvin Klein, photographed by the leading photographers of luxury advertising campaigns, Mert & Marcus, not to mention gracing the runway for a plethora of global fashion brands. Liu ranks 10th in Model.com's Top 50 Female Models.
Originating from Korea, Jin Soon Choi (pictured above), is the founder of New York's uber-successful chain of Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot spas. Like Marian Newman, Leighton Denny and Mike Pocock, she is one of the hottest creative nail artists in the world. She collaborated with MAC for AW10 on a limited edition range of six nail colours, inspired by Imperial Asia. For the AW11 Derek Lam show, she painted the models' nails with Estee Lauder's NEW Pure Colour Nail Lacquer in Porcelain, launching in AW11. Joan and Liu sport the ethereal shade on their nails in the photos above. It looks like an amazing manicure colour for anyone who favours a natural look. It looks unbelievably fresh and clean, a great work or bridal shade.
Constance, Liu and Joan, pictured backstage at Derek Lam AW11
Constance, Tom Pecheux, Liu Wen and Joan Smalls, pictured backstage at Derek Lam AW11. Tom created the make-up look for the show, with sheer velvet finish skin, nude lips, subtly contoured cheeks, defined brows and a graphic winged silver and black eye shape.
The official Estee Lauder face chart Tom Pecheaux created for the Derek Lam AW11 show.
Tom and his team prepped the model's skin with Estee Lauder DayWear Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant Creme SPF 15. This super-hydrating cream is best used twice-daily. With a unique anti-oxidant that offers broad-spectrum protection from the ageing effects of UVA rays. I'm forever writing about the importance of incorporating an SPF of at least 15 into your daily skincare regime as a means of maintaining the youthful quality of your skin for the long term. If you leave a photograph by a windowsill for too long, it soon yellows and fades. The same is true of our skin, if you want to avoid being mistaken for a raisin in the supermarket, it would be well worth you investing in this multi-tasking moisturiser.
The model's immaculate, sheer velvet finish complexions were created using Estee Lauder Double Wear Light SPF 10 Foundation. Estee Lauder originally launched with Double Wear, a 15-hour wear full coverage foundation, with a much heavier texture. This lighter version, has a deliciously sheer texture whilst still imparting a soft, medium coverage finish. The SPF 10 is a bonus, though dermatologists recommend an SPF 15 as a minimum for safe daily exposure to UVA rays. Because the models' skin was prepped with an SPF 15 moisturiser, they needn't have worried about using their foundation in conjunction with a purpose-designed SPF product. However, if you choose to wear Double Wear Light with a regular moisturiser, you could always apply a product like Clinique City Block, a sheer liquid UVA shield, available in a range of SPF levels.
The foundation was set with a light dusting of Estee Lauder Lucidity Loose Powder. It's worth noting the skin finish on all the models was velvet matte, a departure from the dewy skin that is so hot this season.
Naturally, each of the three featured Estee Lauder Global Spokesmodels has been blessed with razor-sharp cheekbones. Tom Pecheux and his team further enhanced this aspect of their beauty, sculpting and contouring their cheeks further with Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Duo Bronzer.
Estee Lauder DayWear Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant Creme SPF 15 - £35
Estee Lauder Double Wear Light SPF 10 Foundation - £25.50
Estee Lauder Lucidity Loose Powder - £25
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Duo Bronzer - £26
Estee Lauder Automatic Eye Duo - £16.50