British women voted her the world’s most beautiful woman. Cheryl Cole tells Stylist how she does it.
The anarchic thud of M.I.A’s Bad Girls is blaring from the speakers. Five smartly dressed security guards – here to keep an eye on some very expensive diamonds – are huddled in a corner and, somewhere inside a triptych of polystyrene walls is a diminutive Cheryl Cole. We are at a studio in north London, as today, Cheryl is lending Stylist her powerful eyes to showcase this season’s foremost eyeliner looks. Five hours, four looks, four hairstyles and a spot of lunch later, we sit down to chat about her life in beauty. Relaxed, warm and selfeffacing, it’s proving difficult not to fall under her spell…
A smokey eye is your signature look. How old were you when you started wearing it?
When I was about 12, I started experimenting with the little pots of liquid eyeliner you used to get. Now, it’s so much easier – I use a liquid liner across the top of my lashes. Starting in the corner of the eye and following it across, then I always use a black kohl for the inside of the eye and just smudge it in. It takes a while to actually get there, but I think it’s quite easy to do. And remember, everyone’s eyes are different, so you just have to go with it.
What’s the essential element?
Lashings of mascara. I apply multiple layers for the full effect. I don’t go as crazy as I used to, but I do like the false eyelash look so I’ve been using L’Oréal False Lash Telescopic Mascara, it’s got four different sides to the wand, so you don’t use as much.
You obviously have a lot of influence on modern beauty. Who were your idols growing up?
It wasn’t actually anybody in the limelight. I always had older friends and we didn’t have much money but they’d always have glamorous clothes and gorgeous make-up. I used to look up to them and say, “Wow, she’s so pretty.” But, that was just local girls from my area. I wanted to be like them when I grew up. The girls really take care of themselves in the north. Especially in Newcastle, there’s definitely more of a cultural feel down south, whereas up north, you can definitely spot a local girl from a mile away. You can tell if someone’s out of town – they’ll have their coat on during a night out.
Do you think you have the same effect on your fans?
I still feel like that little girl. That’s the weirdest thing for me especially when I’m out in America and people are like, “So what’s your background, where you from?” When I tell them, they find it difficult to believe that I’m from a council estate. They’re like, “No way!” In my mind I’m still that person. But to them I’m a pop star, it really is the strangest feeling.
In your latest ad campaign for L’Oréal Casting Crème Gloss you star alongside three competition winners, chosen by you. How was it working with your fans?
Shooting the advert for L’Oréal Casting with the girls was amazing because I remember how it felt when I first got the call to say L’Oréal really wanted me to be involved with their next product. At first I thought I was being punked. But, they were like, “No, really.” So I knew the exact feeling the girls must have felt knowing they were going to be saying, ‘You’re worth it’.
"Anyone who says that they love red carpets is lying. Getting dressed up is the best part. And champagne after the event – that’s even better!"
You’ve come a long way since the early days of Girls Aloud. Would you like to try any of those looks again?
Looking back at some of the make-up looks, I think, ‘Wow really? I really went there?’ Or I think, ‘That was actually really cool.’ Sometimes I think a certain look was actually ahead of its time, like the black and white eyes in the Sexy! No No No video. On the day, it was wacky. But now you look at Lady Gaga or different big make-up looks and it seems really normal. I like to make a bit of a statement.
Do you enjoy photoshoots?
At first on photo shoots, I was like ‘What do I do?’ but now I put on a good song and I treat it like a performance. It all comes down to experience and I’ve been doing it for a long time so getting into the mood is something I’ve learnt you must do. I used to stand in a silent room and think, ‘This is so awkward’. If I look at the monitor, I start picking at things so I usually just trust in the photographer – that’s his craft, that’s what he’s been doing for years. I wouldn’t expect him to come to my show and say “Don’t hold the mic like that”. And I know which way to angle my face now – towards the light.
What are your thoughts on walking the red carpet?
For the record, it’s terrifying. We once had this nightmare where my dress ripped here, somebody was sewing here, my nail had just chipped so somebody was painting them… Then I walked out, tripped in the middle of the corridor, grabbed the security guy and tore all my nail polish off. I had burgundy nail polish all down my white dress. So I said “Wait until I figure out how I am going to manoeuvre this handbag so that my nails are covered.” So, that’s how I walked down the carpet. It was absolute pandemonium. Anyone who says that they love red carpets is lying. Getting dressed up is the best part. And champagne after the event – that’s even better.
What insider secrets have you picked up from the makeup artists who work on you for shoots and events?
You’ve got to take your makeup off at the end of the day. No questions about it. If I haven’t washed my face I can feel it in my skin straight away so I always do it before bed no matter how tired I am. Even if you don’t wear loads of make-up, you wear a little bit of mascara, it’s important to remove all the dirt and grime you’ve collected throughout the day. I’ve used the same cleanser for ten years, it’s got a little exfoliating grit in it. I think that’s the key, just a little bit of exfoliating takes the debris away I suppose. Keeping skin hydrated is important too, just use a simple moisturiser, something to put a bit of moisture back in your face. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Do you think it’s important to stick with a signature look?
I like to change it up but I do have that go-to look that I feel comfortable with. I don’t feel like myself if I don’t have eye liner on. I’m quite happy to go without make up but if I was to a friends for dinner but I’d feel more comfortable, more ‘me’, with my eyes done.
Do feel responsibility to your fans in terms of your image?
It’s not a conscious thing but I suppose you’re aware that they look to you for inspiration because I did when I was growing up definitely. I just feel like they know me and I know them, especially now with Twitter. Is that weird? I did a signing two days ago where I get to see them one-on-one and I was asking them so many questions. They were laughing at me saying it was like I was interviewing them but I want to make sure I really know them.
How do people in LA approach makeup?
People have this idea that in LA it’s all about glamour and of course, to an extent it is but actually it’s more relaxed there than people realise. Girls will put a bit of mascara, a bit of blush, some lipgloss and they’re on their way. They care less than we do, it’s much more effortless, you just throw on a pair of shorts and sunglasses because the sun’s always out. You could just roll out of bed in the morning, put on a pair of sunglasses. Sorted. It’s easier to be healthy there too because there’s a juice bar on every corner. It’s a strange place though.
How would you describe your fashion style, what are you in to?
I don’t think I have a specific style; I just wear what I fancy or buy what I like the look of. Like everybody else I might see someone on a TV ad or pass a billboard and be like, “Where’s she got that from?” then go and buy it. I like the print trend at the minute. But in terms of work, I guess it depends what’s appropriate. Sometimes it’s appropriate to wear a cocktail dress but if it was more of a big gala thing, then it’s got to be the full shenanigans – a big, full gown. I can’t bare shopping though. I hate changing rooms. If every retailer in this country invested more time in mirrors and lighting they’ll get more customers – trust me. Until then, online shopping is the way forward.