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An audience with the Queen: Dame Helen Mirren on age, beauty and L’Oréal

July 29th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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“No, I certainly don’t look better. Of course I looked better when I was younger without a doubt, but the great thing that happens is you don’t give a flying fuck.” All hail the Queen.

Mature women have long been under-presented in the beauty industry. Until now.

We’re on the cusp of a pretty exciting time, where women of all ethnicities and age groups are starting to be given the representation they deserve in the worlds of advertising and entertainment - and about time too. One of the figureheads of the movement is Oscar winner and national treasure, Dame Helen Mirren - the perfect choice for highlighting how age breeds confidence and comfort in one’s own skin.

Fronting L’Oréal Paris’ Perfect Age campaign, she brings a refreshingly frank, honest and relatable approach to beauty. “So, I have just spent an hour and half in makeup, just so you know in the name of transparency,” she exclaimed before her interview yesterday at London’s Soho Hotel. With research released early last year by the brand showing that 50% of women over 50 feel that they are overlooked by society, culture, brands and advertisers, despite the fact that over 50s make up over 80% of the wealth in the UK, the partnership couldn’t have come at a better time.

Dressed in a striking orange Victoria Beckham dress with her hair home-dyed herself using the brand’s Excellence Age Perfect Hair Colourant, she sat down with Sali Hughes to talk all things beauty; from its redefinition to how mature beauty can and should be better represented in the media today.

On her thoughts on the Excellence Age Perfect range wanting to change the way people view mature beauty...

“Unbelievably perfect skin was often offered as the image that we should we aspire to and obviously as we get older and wiser, you start to get very cynical about it. I think it’s great that finally - but I have to say it has taken rather a long time for the penny to drop, because people have been 50, 60 and 70 for a very long time! But finally, the penny has dropped that women are financially secure, but not all of them are. I don’t approve of insanely expensive ‘miracle’ products that have pure gold or caviar or whatever it is in them and cost £200. I think that’s terrible, [I prefer] things that are within a reasonable financial range.”

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On redefining the word, ‘beauty’...

“I hate the word, ‘beauty,’ because we’re not all beautiful. Very few of us are. Some are - Kate Moss is beautiful, David Beckham is unbelievably beautiful! I recognise beauty and I love beauty when I see it.

“I think we have to be allowed to appreciate that, but at the same time I think we need to be able to recognise that the majority of us are not that. We’re something else and I’d love to find a different word for it. I don’t know what the word is and maybe you wonderful wordsmiths out there will come up with a good one! I have a slight issue with the word, ‘beauty’ and then therefore, the beauty industry.”

On whether she feels she looks better as she’s gotten older...

“No, I certainly don’t look better. Of course I looked better when I was younger without a doubt, but the great thing that happens is you don’t give a flying fuck. Yeah I don’t look so good, but I don’t care.

“I want to be honest because in my job and profession, obviously I have the opportunity to work with some wonderful makeup artists, I get to wear beautiful Victoria Beckham dresses and I’m incredibly privileged. I try to live the rest of my life in a more normal way and I go to the supermarket and take the Tube and so forth and very often the paparazzi will take pictures of me with no makeup on. That’s the great thing though about getting older - you lose the incredible insecurity of youth. I think it’s very true that youth is wasted on the young because yes, you are young, but you are also incredibly insecure and feel that you’re insufficient. There’s a huge pressure on girls nowadays - much more than women to look a certain way and be a certain way.”

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On at-home hair colour...

“I was never particularly into colouring my hair. Although my husband may take issue with that and would say that I was always trying to dye it red...I would only do something a little bit outrageous. Actually even now, I’m not that into colouring my hair, but occasionally I get fed up with it and want to change it, so then I will colour it. I think because I haven’t coloured my hair a lot, the quality hasn’t changed although the [natural] colour has (it's silver-white). I have Age Perfect in my hair which I have to say I did myself in my bathroom.

“I can’t be bothered to go to the hairdressers in general - it just takes too long. So a lot of what happens to my hair happens in my bathroom, for good or bad. I whacked it on for 25 minutes, got in the shower, off it came and in all honesty it did what it said on the box. It was tonal and that’s the big thing for me. I think that’s why I’ve always been a bit wary with hair colour, because I hate that one-block thing that happens. I put streaks in occasionally with a toothbrush - my sister and I used to do that to each other. But the great thing about it is that it has this fantastic little brush of its own which is really good. I have to say it was incredibly easy - it didn’t drip.”

On keeping her expectations realistic...

“I do love cleansers, body creams and face creams. I don’t know if they do anything really and I shouldn’t say that! What I do like though is the way they make me feel. I feel fresher and my face feels more comfortable, clean and ready for the day. I think that’s really as much as you can ask any beauty product to do for you really.”

On the beauty advice available for older women and the new tutorials that L’Oréal will launching on YouTube and its website in September...

“I think this is invaluable incidentally. I’m lucky in that I get to work with amazing makeup artists and I love doing makeup myself, but I think a lot of women don’t know where to start.

“I think that happens [people falling of the radar as they get older because brands aren’t speaking to them] and also people get stuck with the way they looked great when they were in their late twenties, early thirties and they can’t find another way of looking great as they don’t know where to start. I do think every person is different and individual and what works for one person won’t work for another, but I think help and guidance is a really good idea.

“I think a new lipstick and a new hair colour is not going to make you more visible than you were before - unless it’s bright green or something! But what it does do is make you feel up for the world. You’re out there. So it’s not the lip colour, it’s the way it makes you feel.”

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On getting older and saying, ‘It’s taken me over 60 years to look this good’...

“The reality is you either die young or you get old. There’s nothing in between. I don’t want to die young, well, I’m not going to now! [laughs]. That’s over.

“I thought about Kurt Cobain the other day. He never saw the internet. He never knew the internet was coming. There are good and bad things about the internet, but it’s awesome! I’m so glad that I didn’t die young and I got to see the internet and I want to know what’s coming next. I can’t wait. I’m blown away by the advances in technology. It’s terrifying but it’s incredibly exciting too. It’s one of those huge movements in the history of humanity on this planet. It’s as important as the invention of the printing press, maybe even more so. So if the price I have to pay is getting older, then I’m happy to pay that price - it’s a great price to pay.

On being a role model for mature beauty and women of all ages and one of the few older beauty brand ambassadors out there...

“Let’s hope there are more. Well, there’s Jane Fonda and a few others, but not that many. More will come though.

“When Prime Suspect first came out, it was about women in the workforce and even then, they were saying how interesting it was to have a woman in her 50s on the television, especially leading a TV series. In a way though, Prime Suspect was already out of date, because women had actually entered the workforce in the 60s, spent the 70s and 80s gaining ground, quietly putting their heads down and not making too many waves because that wasn’t the way to get ahead, not complaining and incrementally doing better. Then suddenly, they were the heads of universities, heads of hospitals, Mrs Thatcher appeared and then all of these women started popping up in the police force. Then Prime Suspect came out and told the story of what these women had had to put with in the past 20 years and it was kind of ground-breaking. There was a huge sigh of relief amongst professional women saying, ‘Yes, that was what it was like and that was what I had to put up with. I couldn’t complain about it because if I did, I wouldn’t have progressed.’ Well that story has continued.

“I’ve always said when actresses have complained about the amount of roles in drama - and there is a complaint to be made - put that to one side and put your energies and your work into changing roles in real life because as night follows day, when roles make a real life change, you will see a change [in drama]. The same goes for the advertising industry. The reason you’re seeing me in the wonderful position of being a face for L’Oréal is because life out there has changed for women. There are women who have money and who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s and they don’t want to be side-lined and want to be a part of culture, society and the fun of life.

On being named ‘gran bod of the year’ and what she thinks of the word, ‘gran bod’...

“Disgusting. It’s horrible. I’m not a grandmother, but I could easily be. I love Southern Italy so much and one of the reasons I love it is that no woman there doesn’t wear a bikini - they do not wear one-pieces. It’s all about the tan and it doesn’t matter how big you are, how thin you are or how old you are, they all wear bikinis. It’s just the greatest thing and I love it.

“I don’t like that term, I think it’s insulting and a classic sort of tabloid-y thing - reductive and horrible. I think women should be free to wear whatever they want without people coming up with stupid terms like that.”

Dame Helen wears L’Oréal Paris Excellence Age Perfect Hair Colourant in shade 9.31, Light Beige Blonde, £7.99. Buy online.

Check out Helen in action in this fantastic commercial here.

Follow us @getthegloss and Ayesha @Ayesha_Muttu.

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