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Dame Helen Mirren, acting darling and ambassador for L’Oréal Paris, talks about dealing with insecurity, managing bad hair days and the beauty secrets she swears by…
Did You Know? Helen is married to American film director Taylor Hackford. She splits her time between their homes in London, the US and Italy.
Have I ever had moments of self-doubt? Oh, every day! I used to be so terrified of parties and, although I’m much better than I used to be, I still have spells of massive insecurity. Sometimes it’s so extreme that I have to lock myself in the toilet to get myself together and talk myself into going out and dealing with what’s in front of me. I think that’s partly why I’m an actress because when I’m acting I can pretend to be someone else – it’s when I’m dealing with just being myself that things get tricky.
I grew up in that era when, as a young woman, your voice was just dismissed – your opinion and your thoughts weren’t considered important. It wasn’t until I did Prime Suspect in 1991 [Helen won three consecutive BAFTA Awards for her role as Jane Tennison] that things started to change. That was the first time I felt as though people were actually listening to what I had to say and they were interested in my contribution to the work. It gave me a huge boost of confidence, so now I’m very careful to make sure I listen to people – whoever they are.
I now know that the best way to deal with insecurity is to remember that you’re not the centre of the universe; you’re a part of a whole. And the likelihood is that everybody else is probably having their own moments of low confidence, or self-doubt, or difficulties at home. It’s particularly difficult for the younger generation, what with the Internet and social media, so the work I do to support ageless beauty campaigns is really important to me. We’re helping young people overcome these confidence issues early on, and it’s great to see things moving in a positive direction – at last.
I really do believe that beauty comes from within. It’s those moments when you’re well rested and you feel that the world is a wonderful place to live in that you’re at your best, isn’t it? It’s not an outer beauty, it’s an inner feeling of peace. Having said that, I also feel pretty beautiful when I’ve just spent two hours in hair and make-up!
I look back at some photos of myself and think, “Oh my god, I look awful!” Ninety-nine per cent of time, it’s because I’ve been wearing too much make-up. I’m finding that as I get older, I wear less because make-up is so advanced now that you can do more with less, can’t you? And when I need a quick fix, I get out the red lipstick and a pair of sunglasses… the secret is very red lipstick and very dark sunglasses! There’s a L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Rouge Lumiere lipstick called Flaming Carmin that I never leave the house without.
I’ve learned that the big mistake people often make is to take one colour and put it over their whole face. That just doesn’t work. If I’m putting quite a lot of foundation on, I’ll often use a slightly darker one on my cheekbones and a lighter one down the middle. Then I’ll use a cover-up wand to touch up any little imperfections. I find it much more flattering when you do it like that.
I’ll tell you what I had done recently, which I love – I got my eyebrows tattooed. I was fed up of my brows barely being there, and when one of my girlfriends got it done, I thought they looked great. They’re very lightly and delicately done, but it means when I get up in the morning and I have no make-up on, at least I have eyebrows! It’s made a huge difference.
I have beauty woes of my own – we all do, don’t we? I have redness across my cheeks, which I’m always trying to overcome. But actually, the things that drive you crazy when you’re young, you grow up and you realise they’re not all that bad. I bet every one of us goes “I hate this” or “I hate that”, even “perfect” women; we think they’re perfect, they probably think they’re completely imperfect. But in the grand scheme of things, does any of it really matter?
I have crappy hair days too, I just know how to cover it up! I’ve discovered cloche hats – there’s a shop in New York where they make beautiful ones – and you just stick one on and they make you look instantly chic. Or I’ll use a scarf and wrap it round several times. My husband always makes fun of me when I do that, “Look at you with your rag on your head” – but I don’t care, I love a rag on my head!
I only spend five minutes on my skincare regime. I take my make-up off with a cleanser, then splash
my face with water before wiping everything away with a flannel. In my bathroom at home, you’ll find a big pile of flannels (about 10), all stacked by the sink because I use one and then put it straight in the wash. I’ll then finish with a moisturiser – I like to mix it up and keep trying new things, but L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Re-Hydrating Day Cream always makes my skin feel good.
I’m still saying yes to as much work as I can because the excitement of it hasn’t worn off yet. Whenever I get offered a part, I still think, “Wow, they want me and they want to pay me.” I’m not sure that feeling will ever go away and I can’t imagine my life without variety now. I’ve rarely slept in the same bed for more than three or four months at a time – in fact, it’s usually a lot less than that. I’ve led a very gypsy life – but I love that.