Susannah Taylor meets 'half woman, half fringe' Claudia Winkleman to talk Percy Pigs, pants and her new beauty collection for M&S
I just met Claudia Winkleman, and she is, as I thought she would be, totally brilliant. She also LOVES Get The Gloss, which makes me like her even more. Side-splittingly funny (“I like to look like I’ve just had it behind the bins”) enormously self deprecating (“I said to M&S seriously, have you seen me when I do my own face, I look disgusting”) and clearly extremely clever; she’s so quick it’s hard to keep up.
It’s the funny, quip-a minute chat that strikes you bang, head on, but so does her beauty look, which really is probably one of the most striking to have ever hit our TV screens. Claudia is totally happy and unapologetic about it – the dark rock chick eyes, the whited out lips, the heavy black fringe and glossy mane of hair (she says Jack Sparrow and Steve Tyler are icons) are her ‘thing’ and she says her makeup artist gave up trying a long time ago to get her to change them.
Rather cleverly, M&S understand the breadth of her appeal, and have brought her on board to inject some humour and colour into their makeup offering for Christmas. “They told me they thought I was hilarious, and so I went in to meet them,” she tells me, “I told them ‘I’m only here for a free pack of sweets.’” Together they have created a Claudia collection of total brilliance and a lot of fun. “I was very specific as to what I like and don’t like,” she says. “I said I’m not going to create an eye gel because I don’t believe they work. What I was interested in was creating a look - shedloads of eye makeup for example, but never ever a peacock blue, and never, ever a lip gloss. Lip gloss makes me almost want to openly weep,” she winces.
So Claudia said she wanted to create a black eyeliner, white lips, and something for shiny hair since she gets hundreds of fan letters asking what conditioner she uses. “I thought I’d get letters from hunky fishermen out at sea with big hands asking to marry me, but I just get questions about my conditioner.” She also insisted on having a bag of Percy Pigs in the Claudia collection.
There are various offerings in Claudia’s brilliant beauty collection, each of which she has created and hilariously named herself. The main product is called ‘My Favourites’, a beauty box set containing everything you need to be Claudia’d “in under 8 seconds.” There’s an all-important black smokey eye pencil with the ultimate smudger on the end called rather brilliantly, The Joystick, which she is particularly proud of. “It is unapologetically black – I don’t do chocolate brown, or dare I say it pale grey,” she says. “And many eyeliners come with a tiny smudger which is quite frankly just embarrassing - that tiny bit of foam could just take your eye out.” Instead Claudia has created a whacking big smudger that she says “will smudge your eyeliner into space.” On the back it says, “When you think you’ve put enough on, you haven’t.”
Then there is the perfect lip balm called First Base which she says is a “life changing lip balm” and the perfect pale lipstick which she wanted to call Tippex, but M&S wouldn’t let her (“They told me I wasn’t Adam Ant”), a deep conditioner with wide toothed comb called Freakishly Good Hair which she says “Is like meeting ‘the one’ - not too light nor claggy. You comb it through, rinse, towel and dry and your hair will be like glass, I promise.” Other excellent products are a small nail varnish collection in the perfect red, a nothing nude and smokey navy which she considers to be the only shades a woman should ever be allowed to wear. “I told them if they mentioned emerald green or lilac metallic I would be a bit sick in my mouth.” (Thank god I was wearing bright red when I met Claudia.)
Then there are two eyeshadows called Base and Not Base - the former being a nude shade and the latter being a deep twinkling brown which she says quite frankly is ‘For when you want to have sex. You’re not going to wear this eyeshadow and not have sex, it’s in the bag.” Other products are a ‘Get It On…Get It Off’ nail set and a face and body illuminator called Shine On. “It’s for the clavicles, the arms and the legs, and isn’t too sparkly,” she says. “It doesn’t look cheap, it just looks like glossy sexy skin with no sparkle. Never sparkle, dear God.”
Clearly Claudia doesn’t take any of this too seriously. “It’s not about looking immaculate,” she says, “It’s not about standing at your mirror for hours and making something just so. It’s about being with the girls basically. Being quite drunk, in December in a rickshaw, with loads of eyeliner on. You then find a packet of Percy Pigs in your bag. I think that is the answer to Christmas.”
Here are some other things I asked her:
ST: What are the top things you have always bought in M&S?
CW: 1. Macaroni cheese – it’s brilliant for when you are hungover, pregnant or sleepy, it’s almost lifechanging.
2. Percy Pigs.
3. Chocolate Milk – this stuff is amazing and it just hits the spot. It also comes in nice packaging so you almost feel like you could be eating an organic olive.
4. Underwear, always – is there anywhere else to buy underwear? Does anyone else sell it?
ST: What was your first memory of M&S?
CW: My mum once brought home a Mushroom Medley when I was about 11. It was garlicky and buttery and quite frankly one of the best things I have ever tasted.
ST: You have described yourself as half woman, half fringe. Tell me about that?
CW: I’m more half cat because I sleep all the time. I love sleep and could curl up and sleep anywhere.
ST: What about the fringe? Or is the fringe off limits?
CW: When I first had my fringe cut the hairdresser tried to do something horrendous – it was (she winces) almost wispy. I immediately told him that it needed to be like a helmet, from halfway across the top of my head. The fringe is more about the fact that I have a disgusting forehead though. I haven’t actually seen my forehead in years, I have no idea what’s under there. Squirrels maybe.
ST: What was your worst hair mishap?
CW: I discovered Sun-In when I was a teenager and my hair went orange. I love the colour orange and I like my skin being orange, but orange skin and hair wasn’t a good look.
ST: You really have a signature look – does your makeup artist try to get you to try new things?
CW; Yes but she’s given up now. The poor lady loses work over me because she has a reputation for doing ‘My Look”. I wore red once last year and it created a furore in my household – they still talk about it. It is a signature look though, it’s like a uniform for me. It’s the same thing for me with clothes. I wear big thick coats, boots, grey jumpers and black skinny jeans. I love winter and don’t like summer, I tolerate July and August but I don’t know how.
ST: How much of a beauty addict are you?
CW: Well, to be honest it’s not really what’s important in life is it? What’s important is your family and your husband, eating a big lasagne and being clever (In the M&S collection is a makeup bag that says on it Clever Girl). Put it this way, I’m not going to use a toner ever or anything that uses up too much of my time. Skincare wise though I love my Rodial cleanser and I love Eve Lom and Crème de La Mer.
ST: How do you stay sane amidst the madness of family life and work?
CW: I swim. I don’t do it for the body, I do it for my mind – I find it really meditative. I hate sweating, so I’m not going to go to the gym and I tried yoga and it was a bit slow. Not only that, I found it was a bit too pleased with itself.
ST: What fragrance do you wear?
CW: There is only one fragrance in my mind – YSL Opium. It’s sexy and powerful.
ST: Whose style do you admire?
CW: Kate Moss is the queen – she can just wear stuff that other people can’t. A big black wingy eyeliner and a fringed boot – she can get away with that stuff and make it look great which I think is amazing.
ST: What’s more important, clothes or makeup?
CW: I think you need a pair of skinny black jeans and a rocking black eyeliner, so you can’t have one without the other.
ST: Have you ever had a M&S Gin and Tonic in a can?
CW: No I haven’t, but mine would be a vodka and tonic. Great advice - next time I go on a train I will get one with a big bag of crisps!
Priced from £7.50 to £40, Claudia will be available from over 300 M&S stores throughout the UK and online from 21 November.