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We Asked Four Mothers And Daughters To Share What Beauty Means To Them

From finding friendship and gaining confidence to nicking each other's lipsticks.

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Talking to your mum about make-up is never just chatting lipstick.

It can be trading tips and tricks with a woman who knows your face better than anyone. Sometimes it allows you to reveal your insecurities to someone with whom you can be totally vulnerable and have your confidence boosted by someone you love the most. It's exploring how your shared history has contributed to your sense of identity today.

Growing up, whether you fought with your mum about how much make-up you were allowed to wear, bonded with her over a shared love of it, or perhaps felt her absence while working it out alone, chances are make-up has always been a part of your relationship with your mother. That's what we discovered, anyway, when we listened in on conversations between four mothers and their daughters about make-up, memories, and much, much more…

On early make-up memories:

Joan: I was 10 when my mum died in 1969. During the school summer holidays I had to go to work with Auntie Margaret at the Turkish baths on Picton Road in Liverpool, and she always had this big bag of make-up with her.

Laura: That must have been a really hard time.

J: Yeah. It was a very strange time, really. The whole summer was quite an escape from it all, but I really remember the smell of her make-up.

L: Did she ever let you put it on?

J: Oh yeah, and to me, being let loose with this big bag of make-up with nobody saying "no, you can't do that" was great. I'd put on eyeshadow and mascara and lipstick and all sorts of things. I must have looked ridiculous, but she just had to keep me entertained. I remember she took me home on the bus and was worried that people were looking at me, which they probably were because I was sitting there looking like a 10-year-old drag queen.

On red lipstick:

L: Was your mum into make-up?

J: She wasn't the sort of person who would wear make-up all the time, but she had this pillar-box-red lipstick in a gold case that she kept in her handbag, and she used to put that on for special occasions.

L: My love of red lipstick runs in the family then!

J: I always really liked it. I would have only been about 6 or 7, but sometimes she'd let me put the lipstick on too.


On copying cool older girls:

J: I've always really loved make-up. When I was really young I used to visit the girl next door, Sandra, who was about 18 or 19, and she would give me old bits of make-up, which I thought was great.

L: That's funny – when I was about 9 I was always hassling my friend down our road's older sister for make-up too. She was 16 and obsessed with Nirvana and I thought she was amazing. She cried for a whole day when Kurt Cobain died.

J: I remember her! She always wore red Dr Martens.

L: Sometimes she'd get bored and do my make-up. She had this red-wine-coloured lipstick called Blackcurrant from The Body Shop and a dark purple Spectacular nail varnish called Morticia, and I felt so cool when she put them on me.

J: Sandra was a real girl of the '60s so she would paint my nails bright orange, and she gave me this white, pearly lipstick that I absolutely loved.

On the closeness of shared experience:

L: I used to love it when I was little and we'd do each other's make-up and you'd show me techniques. You taught me how to do cheek contouring well before the Kardashians came along!

J: It's like a ritual for women, isn't it? A way of sharing something.

L: It was nice that it was always about the enjoyment you can get from make-up, without placing too much importance on it. You never made me feel under pressure to be beautiful or look a certain way.

J: Oh yeah, it's just a fun thing that can make you feel really good. And it's nothing to do with attracting men at all, it's just, I love these products, and I love painting my face!

L: Me too – I'm glad that's something we share!

J: I grew up in such a male environment after my mum died, so I never really had a lot of female company until I had you. And you were born old so you've always been more like my friend. It's lovely to have someone to share these things with now.

On teenage rebellion:

Remee: You were a bit of a rebel, weren't you?

Nila: Oh yeah, I did whatever I wanted. But being an Asian girl, there was total disapproval of me wearing any make-up. I was really into bright green eyeshadow and black nail varnish in the '70s, which my family thought was just awful.

R: I remember aunties would always be like, "If only she didn't put grease in her hair!"

N: I used to go and see Indian movies too, and the women in those always had the most amazing eyeliner, and you'd really study the fashions in that.

R: What's that eyeliner Indian actresses use?

N: Kajal, which you'd put under the eyes. So I went through the Western side of beauty and the Eastern side, trying to find something in between. If I went to a disco I'd wear Western make-up, but at a wedding it'd be something quite different.

R: Didn't you used to sneak out?

N: Oh yes, I used to wear those long maxi coats with hot pants underneath, so I could cover them up and then just take the coat off when I got out. It's sort of like the punks who made a stand with their hair and clothes – I maybe had a bit too much make-up on but I think beauty was my way of expressing that rebellion.

R: I never had any restrictions from you, so I kind of just did things when I wanted to, and I didn't really start experimenting with a bit of mascara and stuff until I was 16.

N: I'm the older generation now! So with you I never stopped you from doing anything, really.

R: Yeah, we just do what we want!

N: I should have been born now rather than born then. I wanted to do everything, have fun, enjoy myself, and I didn't like any restrictions at all.

On the difficulty of finding make-up for Asian skin:

R: You must have had hardly any choice buying make-up growing up, because even now you have to go to more expensive brands if you want colours for Asian skin.

N: Oh yes, and I'm lighter than a lot of Indian women so I could sometimes just about get away with the darkest shade from a lot of brands.

R: Yeah, you can just about get stuff on the high street with our skin tone, but if you were any darker it would be really difficult.

N: I tried to get the best colour of that Elizabeth Arden foundation compact that everyone had, but obviously you didn't have too many colours for Asian skin with things like that.

R: I remember stealing a MAC foundation compact from you and ever since then I've been wearing foundation, because MAC has a great range of colours, but they're expensive.

N: And you can imagine those light pink lipsticks everyone wanted when I was younger on our colour skin…

R: Yeah! When I was younger, a lot of my friends that actually wore make-up were white and they'd have all these amazing pink lipglosses, but when I borrowed them my lips would come out silver, because obviously their lips were a completely different colour to mine.

N: It just didn't work.

R: It was a frustrating experience because I'd imagined things would look the same on me, and that was all you could really get.

N: You just learn from experience.


On sharing a beauty haul:

R: We don't really talk about make-up specifically, do we? But we always go to MAC together, or Sephora if we're in America, and we go wild.

N: Oh, we do. And Bobbi Brown too – I love her make-up.

R: You always buy really nice stuff and then don't really use it, so then I take it and you're all, "Where's my Bobbi Brown?! You have your own!"

N: You are always taking things from my drawers! When I'm looking for something and I can't find it, I know it's in your purse.

R: But when I see you've got full stuff, I'm like, "She's not even using it!"

N: So you use up yours quickly and then nick mine...

R: We really do love make-up shopping together – that is a big thing for us.

N: Make-up and clothes!

R: Yeah, but at least with make-up, what you can buy doesn't change, whereas sometimes with clothes you're like, "I can't fit in this!"

On sharing tips among sisters:

Emma: With you and your three sisters, we all dip into each other's make-up. You've got the most.

Sicily: I like to see how they all do their make-up and to see what's different between us. I watch them and I'm like, "What does she do different to me?"

E: You're always asking me "can I do your make-up?" so I'm like, yeah, OK!

S: I like to do a nude eye and a red lip on you.

E: You've got to experiment, haven't you, to learn things?

S: Also I like to inspire people to do things that they've never really experienced before. Especially with my YouTube videos.


On discovering new things with each other:

E: Seeing you all get so many new products has sort of encouraged me to look around a bit more now.

S: I really love Benefit's Hula bronzer I got for my birthday.

E: I think sometimes you get to a stage where you just have the same old make-up, and all of a sudden it's "hey, I want some new make-up!"

S: You just bought that Benefit Hello Flawless concealer.

E: Yes! You know all about it. You see it on your skin and the difference is amazing, you've got to go with what looks good.

S: Definitely.

E: It's just the feelgood factor, isn't it? Make-up makes me feel alive in a way, and I love that feeling. I suppose you feel a bit special.

On the importance of proper skincare:

S: You always taught me to moisturise properly.

E: I've always taken care of my skin – that was one thing that I was really brought up to do, so I've taught all of you that.

S: I'd never done it, but then I started to get loads of dry patches.

E: Ever since I can remember I've moisturised my face every day. It's just been part of a routine.

S: It's started to make my skin much, much better.

E: It's nice that a love of beauty is something we share – it gives us that little thing between us. A little bit of special time.

On nearly getting expelled from school:

Deborah: I started wearing make-up to school when I was about 15, and it just became a part of me.

Christina: I nearly got expelled for wearing make-up to school on more than one occasion. I'd look like I was going out to the Star and Garter in Manchester, dressed in fake-fur and purple glittery lipstick, when I was actually just turning up to double maths!

D: Back in the '70s we had bright electric-blue eyeshadow and big red cheeks, so I always looked a sight.

C: I wasn't really big on subtlety as a teenager either.

D: We wore it to look grown up, because of course at 15 all you want to do is look grown up. And it helps a lot if you want to get into a bar without ID!

C: For me as a teenager make-up was more about being able to put on a different identity that made me feel more assertive and confident.

D: I enjoyed seeing you putting nice make-up on and feeling good about yourself, because you were really insecure.

C: I used to look at bands like Kenickie, with their glitter, eyeliner, and lipstick, and I loved that they seemed to be really empowered by it, and as a young teenager I thought, "Yeah, that's exactly the kind of thing that I want to emulate."

On make-up as a major mood-lifter:

C: I just love the fact that when I feel crap I can just go into Boots and buy a lipstick and I instantly feel better.

D: I've got a moisturiser that I got from Aldi, and it's wonderful. It's inexpensive, but it's remarkable. I don't know what they do, but god bless them!

C: My most treasured beauty product is my Tom Ford lipstick. It cost me £40 and I actually let out a squeak when the woman behind the counter told me how much it was.

D: I like it when you bring home the expensive stuff so that I can nick it! I tend to use inexpensive stuff like Avon, though. I don't begrudge you spending all that money but I'm on the cheap side!

C: I just remember I'd had a really bad day, and I felt this sense of, "I'm an adult now! I can afford to spend money on an expensive item of make-up!" I'll probably be buried with that lipstick. It was worth every single penny.

On a strong sense of self and building confidence:

D: Everything my daughters know about looking good, I've taught them. Don't you laugh, Christina, you know it's true!

C: I really admire the fact that you still look amazing in your late '50s.

D: Well, now I wear make-up to fill in the cracks, basically.

C: But you have this amazing sense of self and style that's quite unique. You're just yourself and I've always wanted to emulate that.

D: You and your sister look so spectacular when you put make-up on. Now that I'm older I feel like I want to have a nice natural look. if I put on eyeliner, I look like a raccoon.

C: I talk about moisturiser a whole lot more now – I just wasn't arsed in my '20s. But when I started seeing my eczema creeping onto my face, you were so good at helping me to manage it, and to feel a bit less self-conscious about it. So thanks, Mum!

D: All I wanted was for my daughters to feel good about themselves, so if make-up can do that, then great. Feel good, be yourself!