How I Faked It As A Beauty Expert

Vogue Body and Beauty book

Fiona Gibson wanted to be a beauty editor. Never mind that she hadn’t the first clue what one was.

It was 1984 and a new teenage magazine, Just Seventeen, had launched. Living in Scotland, I was keen to move to London and be part of it. Trouble was, there didn’t seem to be any jobs going. Like every other budding journo I pored over the media jobs section in Monday’s Guardian until there it was – a Situation Vacant on this sassy new mag. Just one small hitch – it was for a Beauty Editor, and I knew nothing about beauty. As far as make-up was concerned, taking it off was a hassle so I preferred not to wear any at all.


Anyway, no matter – a small detail like that wasn’t going to hold me back. I found a hefty tome called the Vogue Body and Beauty Book in a charity shop and shunned all invitations to go out drinking in favour of ‘studying.’ I learnt about mysterious procedures such as exfoliation and blackhead removal (eurgh) and memorised five recipes for home-made face masks (oatmeal, mashed banana etc). I became familiar with new anatomical terms – ‘T-zone’, ‘brow bone’,  ‘eyelid crease.’ I even tracked down an avocado – virtually unheard of in early eighties Dundee – and used its knobbly skin to soften my elbows. During those long, intense evenings, under the tutelage of Vogue expert Bronwen Meredith, I learnt how to use all three toning shades in an eye shadow trio. Finally, after a fortnight’s intense preparation, I was ready.


On Interview Day, I set my alarm super-early to allow time to apply an enormous quantity of slap. I actually thought I’d be grilled on the correct way to apply lip liner and what colour eye shadow ‘goes with’ blue eyes. And I was petrified. I felt like a fake with my troweled-on make-up which included brown facial shading and cheekbone highlighting. It’s a miracle I could move my face.


And of course, Just Seventeen’s launch editor – a non-scary Yorkshireman called David Hepworth – didn’t ask me a single beauty-related question. Pressed powders, spot zapping, how to ‘layer’ your scent – none of this even came up. He didn’t even look at my cuticles. In fact, he didn’t seem to be interested in beauty at all. He just knew there should be a bit about it in a girls’ magazine.


I was gutted, but sort of relieved. Without the pressure of being quizzed about eyebrow plucking techniques, I could relax and convey my enthusiasm for teen magazines. Luckily, even with my slowly melting face, I managed to convince him that I was the girl for the job.




Fiona’s latest novel, Pedigree Mum, is out now


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