The most famous eyes in Britain: how Claudia Winkleman became a beauty icon

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Claudia Winkleman has a look so trademark she’s designed a make-up range for M&S. Here she tells Stylist how she found her beauty uniform – and why she’s never taking it off

Photography: David Oldham
Compiled by: Fiona Embleton
Beauty direction: Joanna McGarry

For the last 15 years, I’ve looked exactly the same – heaps of bronzer, pale pink lipstick, a full-on fringe and more black eyeliner than a Jack Sparrow impersonator. The brilliant thing is that it means I’ve never been recognised in my entire life – in normal, non-telly world I’m freakishly pale and don’t wear make-up. I’m on the Tube at least four times a day and the most I’ve ever had is “you look older than Davina McCall – but if it is you Davina please can you sign my book”.  When I dye myself orange and stick on all the mascara however, then I know it must be work time and that in a minute I’m going to have to read out loud. Some people put on a power-suit, I grab a black shiny stick of kohl. 

I experimented with some different and very weird looks as a teenager. Even though I was brought up in a house with no mirrors because my mother was a staunch feminist – what you looked like was absolutely second to what book you read and how funny you were. Even today I’d be more horrified if someone thought I’d asked a moronic question than if they didn’t like my make-up.

I was brought up on Dallas and Sue Ellen Ewing was my first beauty influence. The cool girls at school loved Pam played by Victoria Principal – she was beautiful and perfect and wore a cerise silk shirt and had a pink gloss on from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed. Too prim for me – I loved Linda Gray with her faux shaky hand and smudged make-up and pale lip. Since Dallas, I’ve always believed that pale is, in fact, not interesting and that orange is best. Lancôme Flash Bronzer is up there with the wheel for me. I recently ran out of the stuff and the scream from the bathroom was loud – my four-year-old ran in thinking I was being attacked by a shark. 

Above: The key to Claudia’s signature black liner is avoiding neatness; making it look lived-in rather than laborious. For the perfect level of smoke, draw tiny dashes of liner around the eye with ‘The Joystick, A True Stick Of Joy’, £7.50, Claudia, then do as Claudia does and use the accompanying Smudger Brush to blend them together. Heavy liner does have the potential to make eyes appear smaller, thankfully lashings of a lengthening mascara like Hypnose Doll Eyes Waterproof Mascara in Black, £22.50, Lancôme will instantly undo the effect. Shop the range at


Here’s the thing about a pale lip. You can’t normally do a strong lip and an eye that’s colourful. One has to give. Some people can do both but they have to be mind-blowingly beautiful to start off with. Can Liv Tyler take a heavy shaded lid and a deep red lip? Of course. Can Alexa Chung? Standing on her head. But you could put green eyeshadow all over their cheeks and they’d still look perfect. The rest of us have to pick either a strong lip or eye, otherwise we look like we’re having a breakdown. But you can wear black eyeliner with a pale pink lip. That’s totally acceptable. A heavy eye will win nine times out of 10, but occasionally when I’m feeling brave I want the perfect brick red lipstick. My one for M&S [Claudia has created a range for M&S that includes make-up, haircare and accessories. From £5] called ‘Do Me’ is gorgeous and I adore them for letting me nose around in the lab shrieking, “that one’s got too much burgundy in it!”

Above: There is a school of thought that says your liner shouldn’t go past the crease of your eye, however, Winkleman vehemently disagrees and now, so do we. Don’t waste time with powdery eyeshadows, only a kohl liner like Soft Touch Shadow Pencil, £18.50, Nars will give you this intense colour density. Simply trace the lash line, draw a half moon just above the crease and colour in the shape between. Finish with a volumising mascara like Pile It On Mascara (part of the ‘Use More, Literally Loads’ Panda Eye Set), £19.50, Claudia, on both the upper and lower lashes to add dimension. Shop the range at

But I haven’t always been so focused. My hair especially has had different incarnations. There was a large period of time when I decided to only backcomb my hair and I wore about 500 bangles on each wrist. They turned my forearms green and eventually my hair smelled so bad it made people faint so I had to change tack. As a 15-year-old, I had a home-styled perm, less good. Then I thought everyone should smell of patchouli and wear clothes that were only made out of thick tapestries. I know, apologies – I simply don’t have enough words to say I’m sorry. And then after University I sort of went a bit Goth and have stayed there ever since. I like black clothes, I like black pointy boots, I like buckles and I like a long fringe. By the age of 30 all I wanted to look like was a combination of Chrissie Hynde and Steve Tyler – a sexy sort of grumpy. It’s really Chrissie to whom I owe my fringe. Hers is almost down to her chin – she has to part her whole hair down the middle like a curtain to answer a question. I first wanted a fringe like hers when I was in my 20s to disguise my massive forehead, but the hairdresser only gave me a wispy one. I had to explain that what I really wanted was a full-on drape, a proper right-from-the-back fringe that could break a mouse with its weight. I remember looking in the mirror as he was snipping away and thinking, ‘I love it! My hair finally has its own attitude’.

I’ve never changed my hairstyle since. My fringe immediately makes me feel good, even if what I’m wearing is dull or the rest of my hair is out of control. The most I do in terms of styling is the odd trim. While my fringe has never grown as long as Chrissie’s, there was a point where mine got so long that I genuinely couldn’t read the autocue, and someone had to have a word with me because I looked like a disgruntled sheep-dog. 

But the real love of my life is black eyeliner. I’m a massive believer in more is more. It’s a bit like butter and cooking, you never eat a brioche or a risotto going “Do you know what, I wish it wasn’t quite so creamy, I wish it was less tasty.” When I was first approached about a beauty line, all I said was, “Um, did you see me turn up at the GQ awards? Do you know how I apply make-up? Are you sure you want me to come in? I should warn you I’ll want to create an eyeliner that is similar to a SHARPIE.” And god love Marks and Sparks, they said: “We are aware of all of this, come here tomorrow”. My black eye liner set ‘The Joystick, A true Stick of Joy’ is happiness in a pack – a very black shiny liner with an unapologetic smudge stick. I don’t like those tiny scratchy sponges that are fiddly and don’t work. I wanted a smudge wand, a joystick if you will. Stick on more eyeliner than you think you need and then smudge it. Subtle eye-liner is not for me. The perfect look is, “I put this on yesterday and slept in it, possibly with a rock star.”

A lot of my friends who are in their 40s still experiment with their looks, which is good for some but not for me. I’ve never been worried about keeping up with the latest trends or sticking to a strict beauty regime. I’m not one of those people that cleanses and tones, changes my make-up look daily and goes “ooh maybe I’ll try this brown liquid eyeliner”. In fact, I’ve often thought that a sign something’s gone a bit pear-shaped in my life would be me leaning over the sink with a cotton pad soaked in toner. If I’ve ended up there, I’ve got too much time on my hands and I’ve become seriously vain. I’m not alone in feeling like that. I can’t imagine Kate Moss sitting there for 17 hours going, “Oh my God that’s the perfect blush. Hallelujah!”

Rather than a sign of a lack of imagination or effort, I reckon finding your ‘look’ is the smartest move you can make. It’s quicker to do, easier to stick with and then you’ve got more time to eat macaroni and cheese and read books. So even when I’m old and my coordination goes and I end up with eyeliner all over my face, I’ll still be sticking with it until the end.

Above: This is an undisputed classic but Claudia keeps hers modern with a high short sharp flick that lifts the eye. Use Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner in Carbon Black, £13, Stila, to draw dots along the upper lash line, marking the end of the flick with a dot about 1cm from the eye’s outer corner towards the temple. Then join the dots together and check for symmetry, correcting any mistakes with a cotton bud dipped in make-up remover. Pull Fat Brush Mascara, £15, Eyeko, through the lashes upwards and outwards to emphasise the cat-eye look and finish with an icy pink lip like ‘Thank You Wendy’ lipstick (part of the ‘Let’s Go’ Lip Set, £15, Claudia). Shop the range at

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