Friday, 25 May 2012

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato..

When I think about it, there's no doubt that my mother was my beauty and style hero growing up. As a child I used to sit transfixed, as she sat or stood by a mirror, masterfully applying her make-up, wearing something typically uber-glamourous. Whether in my birth place of Oman, or in my latter home in rural Newcastle, she always seemed like an exotic peacock amongst pigeons.

Having been in her prime in the heady late 70's Disco era, her style was colourful, exotic and decadent. Her various beauty regimes were an integral part of her life. She was a yummy mummy before the phrase had even been coined. I dread to say it, but I recall at school in Scotland, boys in my boarding house marvelling at the cherished picture of my mother I kept adoringly by my bed. To me she was just "mummy" but to them she was "yummy". 

Mum has been undergoing chemotherapy since she was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma in the lungs last year. She has a lot of tumours so the last year or so have been difficult to say the least. Worse still, my mother was battling breast cancer a decade ago, and survived, only to be cursed a second time.

The first time around I remember mum being really weak and sleeping a lot. I had to shave her head when her hair started to fall out (something I repeated the second time). She lost her eye lashes and then became very puffy due to all the steroids. The radiation treatment left her with a black mark so large and prominent over her breast area that it looked like she had been attacked by a hot iron. The scar from the lumpectomy a constant reminder of her fierce battle with "The Big C".

After her recent bout of chemotherapy, mum started to develop other side effects relating to her treatment. Insomnia (at one point she was so stressed and in so much pain that she couldn't sleep for a week). Her eye sight has been severely impaired, she relies on glasses to see things she would have had no trouble registering ten years ago. Worst of all is the chronic pain and neurological issues such as impaired reflexes and sensation in her hands and fingers. She also experiences acute muscle cramps and shakes involuntarily.

To say that she has suffered would be an understatement. But true to her supermum form, she has barely complained throughout the whole ordeal, choosing instead to mostly suffer with dignity, in silence.

At times I can find it hard to be with my mother. We love each other fiercely, she is a tiger mother and I her tiger cub. We are both stubborn to a fault, independent in spirit and fiery (me in spirit, her in temper lol). Being close to her, sometimes when she is angry and frustrated, I feel like I have been on the receiving end of the brunt of it, which in truth has been really difficult. I know inside that it's not really her when she is like that, it's the illness and what it has done to her.

Being such an immense, life or death prospect, it has altered our relationship somewhat. I have drifted away a little, partly because I'm 30 and partly because it's a difficult situation. I don't want to smother her or patronise her. One of her biggest frustrations has been her inability to do menial tasks. The impaired sensation in her hands and fingers and involuntary shakes make a simple task like making a cup of tea a danger. Fiercely independent in nature, to rely on others has been something she has had to get used to.

Beauty is not only my vocation and one of my core passions, it has also been a way for me to re-connect with my mother and indulge her. Giving her a manicure and pedicure the other day, it dawned on me that when we are children, our parents look after us, and when we become adults, it is we, the children, who care for our parents. And so it should be. Maybe Elton John wasn't so off the mark when he sang The Lion King's Circle of Life. 

It gives me immense pleasure to look after my mother and to pamper her with facials, manicures and pedicures. She deserves all the love and attention in the world. Cancer has a terrible way of making everyone involved feel powerless. You sit, and you wait, and you pray. You pray that this time, the test results will indicate a turnaround, or that miracle upon miracles, they decree that the dreaded "C" has been vanquished, that a state of remission, the holy grail, has finally been reached.

So you do what you can, you fight with whatever you've got in your bag of tricks and you damn well make the best of things. 

Being a jobbing make-up artist, my "bag of tricks" is in fact a bedroom and bathroom stacked with storage boxes containing beauty gems such as Dolce & Gabbana Intense Nail Lacquer in Fire, pictured on yummy mummy above. Yummy is doubly appropriate, as this luscious, juicy tomato red shade makes me salivate. Laughingly, yummy mummy kind of looks like she's about to throw a grenade (once a military wife, always a military wife). I guess now would be as good a time as any to insert the Bruno Mars jokes. 

But seriously, Fire is the cosmetic equivalent of a grenade, it certainly has explosive beauty and style impact. It speaks of 70's glamour, of exotic climes and sun drenched beaches, framed by azure skies and crystal clear water. Damn it, it makes me want to be in Antigua, Bali, Mauritius or Fiji. It is the kind of quintessential coral red that you could imagine Basian beauty Rihanna rocking from her lips to her fingers and toes. Or the type of hue Marisa Berenson, Bianca Jagger, Pat Cleveland, Marie Helvin and Jerry Hall would have rocked in an opulent Vogue spread, or on the dance floor at Studio 54 in their 70's hey day. 

For yummy mummy (shall we refer to her as YM from now on) we settled on fingers and toes, and goodness doesn't the colour just pop against her rich chocolate skin tone?

I started off by soaking YM's hands and feet in bowls of pleasantly hot water, spritzing the water liberally with Leighton Denny Intense Manicure Oil. Chemo really dries the skin, so the Avocado, Wheatgerm, Olive, Sweet Almond and Palm Oil nourish and hydrate, while essential oils of Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Cedarwood and Bergamot combine to soothe and uplift the senses. 

I massaged and scrubbed her hands and feet with The Body Shop Spa Wisdom Africa Ximenia & Salt Scrub. Containing Community Fair Trade beeswax supplied by Guide D'Espoir in Camaroon and hydrating Ximenia, an emollient seed oil. It's worth noting that salt scrubs become salt soaks when the body, or parts, are submerged, promoting the elimination of toxins and easing muscle and joint pain. Epsom and Dead Sea Salts are noted for their intrinsic healing properties. This product wins on two fronts as the salt crystals exfoliate while the Ximenia Seed Oil hydrates, leaving you with soft and supple skin. Massage not only relaxes, it also stimulates circulation, oxygenating the blood, therefore promoting healthier cell function and lymphatic drainage. 

After a good ten minute soak, I dried YM's hands and feet, trimmed her finger nails and toe nails, filed them to a soft rounded shape at the tips, then buffed them using a generic "nail cube".

Once the nails were filed and buffed, I massaged them with Creative Nail Design SolarOil Cuticle Oil and gently pushed back YM's cuticles. I got turned on to this product by an amazing beauty therapist at the Spa at Chancery Court ( A blend of Jojoba, Rice Bran and Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba in particular is noted for its ability to carry Vitamin E deep into the skin to prevent cellular damage (the wonders of antioxidants). It also has healing properties, essential for dry, brittle or sensitive nails. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Madonna are reported to be fans. The host of awards this manicure essential has garnered since its launch speaks volumes about its efficacy in promoting healthy, conditioned nails.

Once the solar oil had penetrated, I treated YM's arms, hands, legs and feet to an indulgent massage with the Leighton Denny Intense Manicure Oil, the beautifying properties of which we touched on earlier. It has become commonplace to use an oil-based serum or booster prior to a facial moisturiser (Trilogy 100% Certified Organic Rosehip Oil being a fine example), so why not utilise the same knowledge when dealing with your body? If you have particularly dry skin, exfoliate to smooth and promote cell renewal, rinse, then massage your desired oil into the body when the skin is still moist, this seals in essential moisture and really plumps. Follow with a liberal application of your favourite cream. I'm a fan of Leighton Denny Intense Manicure Oil as the spray action makes it super easy to apply all over the body. Being a dry oil formula, it doesn't feel excessively heavy or greasy on the skin. It penetrates quickly with minimal residue and smells divine.  

The skin prep was complete once I'd massaged a liberal helping of The Body Shop Spa Wisdom Africa Honey & Beeswax Hand And Foot Butter over YM's pre-oiled arms, hands, legs and feet. Containing Community Fair Trade beeswax from Guide D'Espoir (also in the Ximenia & Salt Scrub) and soothing and hydrating honey extract, YM's skin was so luminous and smooth afterwards. Check out her shiny ankles in the pedicure shot.       

I'm obsessed with Leighton Denny Under Cover Base Coat. With the slightest hint of opaque pink pigment and a finish that is neither matte nor glossy, more demi-matte, it's often my go to product when I'm doing my own nails. But my own man-e-cure regime aside, it's a brilliant base coat. People are becoming increasingly au fait with make-up primers, so why not prime your nails too? It makes for a much smoother application, protects the nails from discolouration and increases the life of your manicure. This is exactly what I used to prime YM's nails.

Once the base coat had dried, it was time to paint YM's now glistening talons and toes with Dolce & Gabbana Intense Nail Lacquer in Fire. I love the Dolce & Gabanna lacquers because one coat delivers a whopping colour pay off with a hyper-glam glassy finish. 

Though designed to not need a top coat, to ensure YM's manicure lasted a week, I did some brand fusion and followed the DG Lacquer in Fire with the NARS Top Coat. Covetable for the Fabien Baron designed logo alone, this little gem ensured YM's manicure had a glossy, crystal finish, also sealing in the colour, making the manicure more chip resistant and durable.


The Body Shop Africa Ximenia & Salt Scrub - £15

Creative Nail Design SolarOil Cuticle Oil - £11.95

Leighton Denny Intense Manicure Oil - £22

The Body Shop Africa Honey & Beeswax Hand And Foot Butter - £10

Leighton Denny Under Cover Base Coat - £11

Dolce & Gabanna Intense Nail Lacquer in Fire - £18

NARS Top Coat - £14

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Tiger

The Tiger..

"TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
 Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"

William Blake

Neither immortal hand, nor eye could frame the fearful symmetry of Storm Models New Face Penelope Simpson, showcasing the luxurious and exotic Animal Instincts collection from Fred & Ginger Lingerie.

Having shot the bridal collection, I rallied the troops, photographer James Burton, model Penelope and hair stylist Joel Benjamin for lunch. I had personally prepared packed lunches for Penelope, home made cheddar cheese sandwiches on wholemeal bread with fresh fruit and bio yoghurt. Refreshments came with straws (yes I'm that detail obsessed, I wanted to protect her lipstick).

James and I had set out with the intention of providing as safe and comfortable environment on set as was humanly possible, so I had brought Falke cashmere socks to keep Penelope's tootsies nice and cosy, while James had packed a robe for her to don between shots.

Add the NuBo facial she got, two manicures, two make up looks, two hair changes and body massages, I'd say team Burton proved that chivalry isn't dead.

Here are the arresting Animal Instincts images, simply click on them to enlarge:

Lingerie: Fred & Ginger Lingerie

Hosiery: Falke

Shoes: Gil Carvalho

Model: Penelope Simpson @ Storm Model Management

Make Up & Styling: Ian Brown

Hair: Joel Benjamin

Photographer + Retouch: James Burton

Copyright: James Burton

White Mischief

White Mischief..

My photographer chum James Burton and I were delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with our favourite lingerie brand, Fred & Ginger Lingerie, on this gorgeous shoot.

With the aid of the delightful Chelsea at the New Faces division of Storm Models, James and I held a casting at Storm HQ. Having met a succession of exquisite creatures (some of whom we made a mental note of for future projects), we mutually agreed on Penelope. James and I bumped into Penelope on the Kings Road after the casting. I tapped her on the shoulder and said "you're booked". She looked at me wide eyed with genuine excitement and gave James and I a huge hug. It was like being embraced by a giant. Now I know what it feels like to be Tom Cruise.

As sweet as a 19 year old girl could possibly be and wrapped up in the body of Jessica Rabbit, Penelope was the closest thing to Aphrodite I'm sure I'll ever see in real life. I have a feeling she has the makings of an Agent Provocateur star or Victoria's Secret Angel.

Blessed with a fabulously grand abode in North London to shoot in, we pulled two sumptuous collections from our friends at Fred & Ginger Lingerie, one Bridal and another entitled Animal Instincts, and set to work with our hair guru pal Joel Benjamin to shoot two separate lingerie stories.

Below are the Bridal images. Simply click on the shots to enlarge:

Lingerie: Fred & Ginger Lingerie

Hosiery: Falke
www.harrods.comShoes: Gil Carvalho

Model: Penelope Simpson @ Storm Model Management

Make Up & Styling: Ian Brown

Hair: Joel Benjamin

Photographer + Retouch: James Burton

Copyright: James Burton