Our Willowberry Age Without Apology Insta Live Series is held over on our Instagram page. These live chats with expert guests are designed to help you navigate age with confidence and style. Here are the highlights of our recent chat with beauty PR and model Nicola de Burlet of Silver Style Pages. Watch our chat in full here.
Having worked in beauty PR for over 20 years, Nicola @silverstylepages knows the importance of older women having a seat at the beauty industry table. As well as discussing the age narrative in beauty, our conversation was full of tips on how to rock grey hair, the joy of finding your alter ego and the importance of ‘reference points’ when it comes to evolving your style.
The beauty industry and the older woman
“Colleagues of mine have left the industry because they felt they weren’t being respected for their experience. They were being side-lined because their face didn’t fit any more. The idea is if you’re over 35 you can’t cut it anymore, you’re not relevant. It’s not necessarily said but it’s implied, you can feel it. We have experience, we have been in this industry for a very long time. We need to fight back.”
“We are not digital natives and I get that. We are Gen X; we are a small generation but we’re a mighty generation. Everybody has something to learn from different generations and I’d love to work in a multi-generational office. If people are collaborative and everyone is prepared to learn from each other then it means you can reach more people. I know the language that somebody of my generation would want to hear in a promotional message, but then I wouldn’t necessarily know how I would target a Gen Z.”
Find a ‘reference point’
“When I got to 45 I was casting about for role models to look like. My ‘reference point’. When I was at university I’d have pictures of all the supermodels on my wall and then when I got to 45 I thought, ‘Who’s my reference point?’. I couldn’t really find anybody I aspired to look like.”
Deirdre Barlow or J-Lo?
“There was a thing doing the rounds on Instagram not that long ago that said what 50 looks like now and what 50 looked like in the 80s. It was a picture of J-Lo swinging around a pole and a picture of Deirdre Barlow in her tabard. I know which one I’d rather be. Although I certainly don’t have the upper body strength to do any kind of pole action.”
On going grey
“I got my first grey hair when I was about 23. I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s fine I’ll just leave it’. But then there got to be more and more so I started home dying it, then I thought I probably need to go to a hairdresser and get it done properly. So then of course I got into that whole thing of 6-weekly trips to the hairdresser which are quite costly and a not insignificant amount of time in the hairdressers!”
Taking the plunge
“One day I said to my hairdresser, “What happens if we just let it go?” and Matthew Alexander, my hairdresser at the time, said, “I’m not sure. It could age you overnight”. Back then my reference point (I’m a big one on these reference points) was Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and I thought she looked bloody amazing. Matthew wasn’t sure but he went along with it. We just took it blonder and blonder so then when the grey came in it just blended into the blonde and before too long there was not much blonde and mainly grey."
I want what she’s got
“The other day I was at a work event and this lady came up to me and said, “What’s that colour called?” She wanted the colour reference so she could tell her hairdresser. I get that quite a lot, people saying to me, “Where do you go? What colour is that?” and I’m like, “It’s just 100% me. Home grown!”.
Go over to Shoreditch in London, there’s loads of girls with edgier hairstyles and colours and whatever and I get stopped in the streets quite a lot with girls saying, “How do I get that colour?” and I say, “Oh, I don’t know. Leave it about 20 years and you will probably be fine?!” and they’re like, “What do you mean? It’s not dyed?!”.”
Cut is everything
“My hairdresser always said to me, if you are going to go grey, make sure that the cut is on point. I took a lot of inspiration from the Scandinavian women. They are so chic and they do grey so well. They always have a very structured bob or a very close crop. If you are going to go grey, a really sharp cut is important.”
Things to consider when you go grey
“It’s forced me to look at my make-up. I’ve had to switch that up a bit because if you’ve got grey hair, it can really wash you out. So, I don’t dye the hair on my head but I do dye my eyebrows, because they give structure to the face. And bronzer to bring some colour. Keeping the grey sharp is really important so I use a silver shampoo once a week now and do a hair mask as well because it can get quite dry and wiry.”
Finding your mid-life alter ego
“It’s an opportunity to reinvent. I’ve worked in PR all my life and my uniform has been black. Now I can wear red and a really bright blue. Black all the time can really drain you and you end up looking a little bit monochrome. You can have fun reinventing yourself with a whole new wardrobe. A leather jacket with a white shirt or a slightly slogan-y t-shirt? That’s really fun. And a red lip. I never used to wear a red lip when I was 20! Now it really works with grey hair. I think you can find this alter ego when you change your hair and it’s brilliant!”
Top tips for going grey
“I love a Pinterest board for images of people I want to look like as my reference points. Have a little chat with your hairdresser about how to do it. For blondes it is easier because you can just go lighter and lighter like I did but I would say for darker haired ladies, get some advice from your hairdresser. Also check out Tracey McAlpine @fightingfifty because she is darker and she’s been doing it and she’s pretty much gone cold turkey.”
How to age without apology?
“We’ve always been a generation that talks and we are the generation that’s really started talking about menopause and that is brilliant: the more we talk about ageing the better it is.
Life is about balance. I’m not going to say there are hard and fast rules about anything. If you want to have that glass of wine, bloody have it! Just go to the gym the next day. If you want to go out and have a late night and eat pizza, do that too. Just keep moving, keep doing it, keep being out there, keep talking. The more we show up as ourselves, the more it becomes the norm and all power to us.”
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