With International Woman’s Day on Sunday, this is a month to celebrate strong, determined and accomplished women. What better way to do this than catching up with the inspirational and hugely successful Donna May, professional makeup artist to high-profile celebrities and entrepreneur.
With over twenty years’ experience in television – and currently working on the award-winning daytime panel show Loose Women – she has also written for numerous magazines offering advice on makeup application and giving honest and informative product reviews. Donna says: “It’s all about getting the Million Dollar Look without breaking the bank.” I couldn’t agree more! Here’s what she had to tell us when we caught up with her.
Can you tell us about Donna May London – your motivation and how it all began?
It's a long story about how DML came about – but it all grew from my having to take some time off work to recuperate after a foot operation! I started hand embroidering again and that’s when I came up with my red lip logo ... the rest is too long a story!! I'm super passionate about ALL women having access to beautiful products, not just the lucky few who are ‘well off’. It really shouldn't cost a fortune to own beautiful things, or to make them – the mark up some companies put onto their products is shocking. I'm really against that.
Is there a typical working day for you or are no two days ever the same?
I'm Head of Makeup for ITV'S Loose Women and Lorriane – I’ve been at ITV for 21 years (surely only old people say that!) – so three to four days a week I’m at the studios. It’s a four hour round trip on the train so I take my laptop and use this time to work on DML. The other days are either filled with having meetings regarding DML or working on photo shoots, product development, trips to my factories in China (one to two times a year) and various beauty exhibitions. Seriously, I never have a day off ... the business is 24/7!
The trademark red lips now synonymous with the Donna May brand – how did this come about?
I've worn red lipstick ever since I can remember – Bobbi Brown’s Art Stick in Sunset Orange or Harlow Red are my faves! Everybody associates me with it. In fact, on the days I chose not to wear it, people always ask me if I’m feeling okay and that I don’t look well!! The red lip logo was never a question!
Do you think the beauty industry – and particularly within television and the media – is moving forward with more midlife and older female representation?
Absolutely I do. The fact that the menopause is an everyday subject now means that we have moved on in leaps and bounds. The embarrassment just isn't there anymore, and women who are going through the menopause today are still interested in fashion, makeup, working and taking care of themselves. We are all holding our heads up more and owning our midlife phase rather than sinking into insignificance – which is how midlife women used to feel.
Hardest challenge in your career – particularly as a woman – that you’ve had to overcome?
Deciding to really make a go of DML as a serious business! The first year was kinda fun – me playing on my own, making the products myself and having no real pressure to sell. Moving into year two though, I either had to up my game and take on a partner or quit as it was becoming too big to run alone. Taking that leap to say, ”sod it ... what's the worst that can happen?” is my mantra! I leapt and I survived – and every day is a continuous survival act!!!
If you could go back, what advice would you give to your younger self?
To stop rushing! I've rushed from the minute my mum gave birth to me! I want everything done immediately, ticked off and filed away! I have serious OCD and sometimes this benefits me, but most of the time I put myself and others under massive pressure to have it all ‘just right’. I've learnt that rushing can lead to things being ‘not quite right’ and then having to correct them later – which completely defeats the object! My partner Sarah really slows me down and makes me ‘think’ before I ‘do’!
What is the one piece of makeup advice most women need?
Lose the powder! And put some eyebrows on! It takes 10 years off you!
Favourite travel destination?
South East Asia – anywhere East I love!!!
Best beauty travelling tip?
Not exactly beauty ... but use First Defence on planes, trains and automobiles! It really stops you picking up germs when you are in a close environment. And take Optibac Travel Probiotics one month before you go and keep taking them while you are away. Nothing ruins a trip more than a dodgy belly! My husband and I took our two sons travelling for three months to South East Asia and Malaysia and none of us picked up a single bug or tummy ache!
Oh and use sun cream every day on your face! At least Factor 30!
Top beauty ‘must have’ in your makeup bag?
Cream blusher – it transforms your whole face!
Desert Island top disc, book and luxury item?
My desert Island disc would be Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – particularly the tune How Long do I have to wait. I can dance forever and ever to this song!
The best books are the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrente. I could read these over and over again and still feel amazed at the author's ability to pull you in.
My luxury item would be a photo of my family – I’m a photo addict!
And finally – your favourite quote?
‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Oscar Wilde
I love this! Jo Malone also used this in her autobiography and it made me cry. It's only really in my 40s that I've truly learnt to completely be myself. Before then I never thought I spoke well enough (I've a North London cockney accent!) and was always embarrassed by this. For some reason it's either cool to have an accent now, or once you reach your 40s you just don't care!
Enjoy an exclusive 20% off Donna May London until Wednesday at midnight with code: GRACE20