Before I started The Outspoken Beauty Podcast in 2018, I spent 15 years working as a radio broadcaster. I presented on Classic FM, Heart, Magic and Smooth. But even with all that experience, I was pretty terrible at interviewing. In fact – I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this – Dermot O’Leary once told me that the interview I did with him about The X Factor. which he presented, was the strangest he had ever experienced. I think I asked him a lot about his fish and chip restaurant which wasn’t exactly related to the show.
I also remember interviewing the cast of Chicago the Musical when I was in my twenties. It was one of my first interviews and I’d been doing a radio night shift on Heart and was both exhausted and really nervous. My opening question was “So where is the musical set? New York?” I mean, WTF?!
If I was to launch my own podcast, then I needed a bit of help. I sat down with the broadcaster Steve Allen, who hosts the cult early morning show on LBC and who I've always admired as an interviewer – he makes things seem so effortless and always manages to get so much out of his guests. The key to a good interview, he told me, was to really, truly listen to your guest. It sounds so simple, but when you’re nervous you often spend more time thinking of what you’re meant to be asking next so you forget to listen and the interview is a failure.
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So now I spend time curbing the need to fill a silence and instead focus on providing the space for my podcast guests to think, pause and express themselves. As their stories unfold, I allow myself to become engrossed, rather than thinking ahead to my next question. The result is that people open up more and we end up having really natural, revealing conversations.
My younger self would never have imagined that I’d end up having chats about abusive relationships with Mel B, ageing with Elle Macpherson and anxiety attacks with Jodie Kidd. I’ve learned the power of listening in real life too. If you give people space then they often reveal more. I’ve found this especially with my six-year-old, who confides in me a lot more these days.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, one of the most brilliant bits of what I do is being able to learn from top people in the beauty and wellness industries, who combine inspiring stories of success and ambition with honest conversations about their vulnerabilities. There is always something inspiring and uplifting to take away. I wanted to share some of the wisdom that I have accrued thanks to learning to listen to my guests. I hope it inspires and uplifts you at a very strange time.
Jane was born in the UK where she trained as a skin therapist. She eventually moved to LA where she discovered that skin therapists weren’t receiving sufficient training and their careers were limited. Jane started an affordable training centre called the International Dermal Institute where she trained aestheticians to an extremely high level.
She then started producing skincare that wouldn’t irritate or cause the skin to break out. Now Dermalogica is one of the most trusted skincare brands in the world. I loved her career story but what stuck with me was her personal advice. Jane was adamant that no one should allow themselves to be stuck in a rut. She took her passion for skincare and made it into a hugely successful business.
If we are not happy with our career and going to work each day feels like a chore, we must do everything we can to change that. Life is too short to waste it being unhappy at work, she encouraged. Jane, who I interviewed quite early on, was one of the people who inspired me to give up my well paid and reliable radio job and focus solely on the podcast and beauty which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Natalie is one of my favourite digital creators. Her body positivity, outspoken nature and incredible dress sense have led her to have more than 80k followers on Instagram. I love her honesty about her body, sex and the challenges of being a woman and a mother of daughters, one of whom has a rare genetic condition. She tackles everything with positivity and energy.
In her second podcast appearance about sexual wellbeing, Natalie taught me that it is important to talk openly about female sexual desires and masturbation because as women we often don’t make our sexual desires heard and often play a porn-inspired role in the bedroom. Through sexual empowerment, we can become stronger women who express ourselves in all areas of our lives.
When Florence (‘Flow’) left college at 18 she made the decision to decline an offer to study pharmacy in favour of a cosmetic science course at The London College of Fashion where she learned the ins and outs of formulating and launching a beauty brand. At the same time she felt disenchanted with the beauty industry with its limited offering for all skin tones. She was tired of trying to find a foundation shade for black skin only to be told that the department store did sell it but it wasn’t in stock due to ‘lack of demand’. She also struggled to find the bold, highly pigmented lipsticks that suited her. So aged just 22, Flow created her own makeup brand, MDM Flow , making beauty products to suit all women and all skin tones. It's been heralded as the UK's answer to Fenty.
Nine years on, her brand has been stocked in Nasty Gal and Lookfantastic and is most famous for bold, brilliant lipsticks with empowering names that suit every shade of skin. She is an example of a woman who didn’t like what she was seeing so she took action and made things better herself.
Hollywood actress and star of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace came on the podcast after she launched her own collection of unisex perfumes, NCP Olfactive . The idea was that you could layer the fragrances in different ways to suit your mood and I was fascinated to learn that when Noomi felt vulnerable, for example when she was walking out on the red carpet, she used her fragrances as a type of protective bubble that made her feel safe. She also wore a different fragrance mix for each character that she played.
Noomi told me about how she likes to fight the Hollywood ideals of beauty and femininity, never wanting to be seen as a ‘cute object’ and will speak out if something about a script or role doesn’t sit right. What inspired me was her confidence to stand her ground in an environment where many fear that one wrong word means they will never work again.
Listening to strong women make me feel strong, that anything is possible. Now more than ever I want to keep broadcasting their voices and giving them a platform from which to speak, because it is only by listening that we can truly learn and make changes to our own lives and to society as a whole.
Nicola Bonn is a columnist for Get The Gloss and the host of the Outspoken Beauty Podcast . To hear the individual episodes featuring the women above, click on their names in the heading.
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