Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“If at first you don’t succeed, slap on a bit more” Lucy Mangan on the power of make-up

iStock_000076688803_Medium.jpg

During a clear out, I recently found a little boxful of my early teenage make-up. So many memories. So many terrible memories. Mainly of what a useless teenager I was. This stuff dates from the late Eighties and there isn’t a single neon shade in here. I was wearing brown Marks & Spencer lipstick at 13, FFS. What hope was there, ever, for me? If I could meet my younger self, I’d slap her silly. So frightened, so timid, so unwilling to experiment or take a risk. NNYYYGGARRRGH!

I distinctly remember when I first realised that I didn’t have to be quite so boring. That I could use make-up to express something rather than simply hide my – admittedly proliferating – blemishes. I was putting on mascara with my traditional intention of simply making it look like I have eyelashes and denying the bog Irish heritage that moves me a little closer every day towards becoming a carbon copy of my dad, who is frequently mistaken for a baked potato. But I had accidentally bought a volumising tube, and in black rather than brown. It made me look… different. A bit like – not much like, but a bit like – one of those attractive people you sometimes saw. Interesting. A few more coats and I looked different again. Crazy. Bold. Up for anything. And looking like that on the outside made me feel a little bit like that on the inside.

I scrubbed it all off, of course. I don’t like change. But the seed of the idea that make-up could be a tool rather than a shield, a mood-altering substance rather than drably depressing camouflage, had been planted.

These days, I deploy make-up with military precision. Red lipstick is saved for when I’m having either a good day and feeling genuinely exuberant, or if I am having a bad day and need to convey, “Confident, put-together woman here!”.

I have an array of products for when I want to look like I’ve made loads of effort and a stack for when I want to look like I have made none (when meeting ex-boyfriends, mothers for coffee, friends I hate – “wake up like this every day, me! I’m just naturally even-skintoned and attractively pigmented at various facial points!”). There are products for special occasions and ordinary ones (am I going to waste my Chantecaille loose powder on Sunday lunch with family, who wouldn’t notice if I’d dipped my face in a bag of spelt flour? I am not) and everything in between. I can match, alter or contradict my mood, confidence levels, others’ expectations, the weather and the season as I want. It’s FUN.

In fact, foundation may be my favourite thing, now that I know I do not have to be orange. It took me years to realise that I didn’t have to keep trying to make the Boots 17 panstick the woman on the Catford counter in 1989 told me was right for me work. She was, it suddenly dawned on me, simply wrong. Or high on drugs and had mistaken me for an actual orange. Either way, I was liberated – captain of my base ship, master of my soul, now that I knew not everything that is wrong was necessarily entirely my fault. This is an epiphany worth having.

So, onward with beauty, its powers and its pleasures. And remember – if you still secretly favour brown lipstick above all, just call it ‘Nude’ instead. No-one bats an eyelid then.


Photography: Ellis Parrinder, iStock

Related

alison_rt.jpg

Does your job dictate your make-up routine?

CTSONYA_rt.jpg

Stylist meets make-up powerhouse Charlotte Tilbury

iStock_000076688803_Medium.jpg

Lucy Mangan on the power of make-up

opener_rt.jpg

Get the natural afro hair looks that ruled the s/s 2016 catwalks

iStock_000018926717_Double.jpg

Why the future of beauty is pill shaped

store_rt.jpg

Exclusive: Punk icon Judy Blame revamps Jo Malone

wilderness-edit.jpg

Your must-pack beauty essentials for festivals, camping and glamping

opener_rt.jpg

How beauty became essential for social rebellion

the-estee-edit.jpg

2016’s smartest beauty launch yet

Comments

More

“Happiness is getting acquainted with Mother Nature”

Lucy Mangan steps outside

by The Stylist web team
04 Dec 2016

Why ladylike language can sod off

Lucy Mangan is pleased that we have reached gender parity on swearing

by Lucy Mangan
04 Nov 2016

“Pure bliss is having the house to yourself”

Lucy Mangan on the pleasure of being home alone

by Lucy Mangan
25 Oct 2016

Feeling powerless? Don’t worry, we all are

Lucy Mangan on fighting a feeling of helplessness

by Lucy Mangan
18 Oct 2016

Lucy Mangan on why female victims of crime are not ‘asking for it’

“How rich and famous are we allowed to become before it is OK to rob us at gunpoint?”

by Lucy Mangan
11 Oct 2016

Lucy Mangan on why celebrations have become so expensive

It's a birthday, not an investment opportunity

by Lucy Mangan
10 Oct 2016

Lucy Mangan on the women taking action around the world

All power to the global sisterhood

by Lucy Mangan
04 Oct 2016

Lucy Mangan explains why prostitution is not just another career

Stigma isn't the only problem

by Lucy Mangan
19 Sep 2016

“If we want our icons perfect, we could be in for a long wait”

Lucy Mangan on accepting the flaws of our heroes

by Lucy Mangan
10 Sep 2016

How sick days became the new mini-break

“Three days in bed with a bug did more good than a recent holiday in Norfolk”

by Lucy Mangan
29 Aug 2016