When Frances Burscough was stuck in a rut and wanting a new glam image, she called in a team of top professionals. Did it work?
Under normal circumstances there is absolutely no way I would agree to be photographed with no make-up on and with my hair scraped back unflatteringly; for a national newspaper no less. Heck, a girl's got standards to maintain. And this girl wouldn't normally even answer the door to the postman without full slap on.
But these weren't normal circumstances. This was the beginning of a complete makeover courtesy of Belfast's most prestigious fashion and beauty professionals — a chance in a lifetime opportunity — and I was going to milk it for all it was worth.
My mission (should I choose to accept it and, let's face it who wouldn't?) was to be totally transformed into a photographic model for a day, to be pampered and preened to within an inch of my life and then to reap the benefits with a studio session like a proper supermodel.
As a fan of TV reality shows such as America's Next Top Model and The Swan — and a long career as a fashion catwalk correspondent — I'd seen it happen so many times before. They take an ok-but-not-exactly-stunning-looking girl and utterly transform her into a drop-dead gorgeous version of her former self.
It's like colouring-in for adults, but instead of wax crayons and felt-tips they use a concoction of costly cosmetics and every trick in the book.
However, in this case, instead of getting a fresh-faced, lithe-limbed, 18-year-old aspiring model as their blank canvas to work on, they had a tired, vertically-challenged single mother with curves in all the wrong places and a big birthday looming. So big in fact that there'll soon be make-shift signs planted on every strategic roundabout in Bangor.
Add to that the fact that I've always been meticulous about my looks and like to do everything “just so” until I'd become stuck in a bit of a rut, then I'd say I wasn't an ideal subject for any kind of transformation.
But in the spirit of laissez-faire and with a Christmas do only a few days away, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they could make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
So there I was. Stage one in my journey of self re-invention. 8am on a freezing cold December morning, the busiest and most stressful time of the year, with little sleep and the dark shadows to prove it; hair scraped back, no make-up on, with an unforgiving digital lens zooming in and out of my face at point-blank range. This better be worth it! Here's the sequence of events in order...
1. the hair ...
As an award-winning hairdresser, the official stylist for Belfast Fashionweek and owner of one of the country's most popular salons, it really had to be Michael Quinn to take firm control of my fine and flyaway hair.
Michael's salon is on the corner of Royal Avenue, directly opposite the Belfast Telegraph's head office, so I could literally wave at my newspaper colleagues as I was getting my hairstyle sorted.
After some consideration and a chat about the overall look I was hoping for, Michael decided to maximise both the volume and glamour-potential of my long blonde hair using a heated ceramic wand to create individual cork-screw ringlets which, after they had cooled and set he would then back-comb into a large and bouffant confection of tousled curls. Big hair with a big attitude.
Wow, it sounded fab! There was just one slight problem. Once Michael had finished spraying and coiling the whole head into pristine springy ringlets (this took about 40 minutes) he wanted me to leave them untouched by hand or brush until my make-up had been done. So, like a cross between Shirley Temple doing Riverdance and Jason wearing his Golden Fleece (on his head), I had to walk down Belfast city centre's busiest street at rush hour to get to our next port of call.
Boing, boing, boing all the way there.
It felt like I had one of those slinky springs attached to my head! Oh well, I decided to make a joke out of it and jumped all the way there like Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout while bus drivers and taxi passengers looked on bemused.
2. the face ...
As the official cosmetic cognoscenti at Belfast Fashionweek, Paddy McGurgan is not just the most well-known and successful makeup artist in Northern Ireland, he's also a fellow columnist in our Saturday Weekend supplement, so getting a new look done by such a luminary was something I'd really been looking forward to. Of course I wasn't disappointed.
At his brand new salon and professional cosmetic store on Royal Avenue, Paddy has every possible colour, shade, texture and style for every skin type and mood imaginable. Plus, he has the expertise and experience to know instantly what will suit you and how to go about it.
Altogether it took 25 separate stages to create my finished glamorous new look. But to cut a long story short, he went for a soft and dewy ivory-toned complexion; he re-shaped my eyebrows to give them a finer outline; contoured my face with strategic blusher; enhanced my blue eyes with a smoky warm chocolate palette and then defined my lips with a strong and vivid red. Caboom! From single mum to sex siren in less than an hour. Come up and see me sometime!
3. the outfit ..
I'd never have thought of using a personal stylist before, but Rebecca from Victoria Square seemed to know instinctively what would suit me out of many thousands of styles they have on offer for the new season. Although I'd only met her fleetingly a few times at assorted fashion shows, she arrived laden with bags of gorgeous designer dresses, shoes, jewellery and accessories, all with me in mind.
What a treat! And what a pity I wasn't allowed to keep any of them!
Oh well, I did the decent thing and tried them all on anyway, knowing that amongst this array of high fashion I would find the perfect complement for my dramatic new look. Her brief had been to go full-on festive for the Christmas season and she had come up trumps. I chose three different ensembles to be pictured in, two in holly-berry scarlet and one in glittery fir-tree green.
My personal favourite was the latter, a cocktail dress in sparkling sequins, as I've never worn such a shade before, usually opting for classic LBDs on a night out. Teamed with iridescent charcoal stilettos and a matching clutch bag, I really felt like the proverbial million dollars once I'd negotiated it carefully past my hair and makeup and smoothed it over my curves.
Phwoarr. I even fancied myself when I saw the reflection looking back at me.
What a babe!!
4. the photo shoot ...
Lights, Camera, Action! Now this really was the fun bit. Once I'd got my glad rags on and my confidence was sky-high I was introduced to the wonderful Khara Pringle, photographer to the stars, whose brand new salon is directly above Paddy's Makeup store on Royal Avenue.
Khara is an absolute perfectionist and, like her fellow professionals on that day, knew instinctively what she wanted from me and how she was going to achieve it.
Having seen so many beauty shoots myself, I'd always wondered how I would fare if the limelight was ever turned on me. And guess what? I loved it!
Recalling tips I'd heard Tyra Banks and co say time and time again on America's Next Top Model, I knew to “smise” (smile with your eyes), to elongate all the short bits and straighten all the bendy bits; to lift my chin and tilt my face and generally be a bit of a diva. Khara was absolutely brilliant at giving direction which made it even more rewarding.
By the time we had finished the shoot Khara was certain she'd got all the poses she was hoping for and a few extras to be on the safe side.
Now, all that was left was for her to do a bit of trickery on her editing suite, to iron out a few lumps and bumps, to airbrush away a few blemishes, then my complete makeover was finally done and dusted.
So, four hours and as many professionals later, all working together to make me a supermodel for my fifteen minutes of fame. What do you think of the new me? Is she a keeper?
.... so what’s in Paddy’s make-up kit to get that look?
- Balance Me Cleanse & Face Balm to cleanse.
- Hydrating Facial Mist to tone the skin.
- Balancing Face Moisturiser.
- Lait Creme Primer by Embroilysse to hold the makeup.
- T Le Clerc Foundation in beige sable to cover the complexion.
- Senna Concealer in medium for shadows and blemishes.
- Decoderm ‘Invisible’ Loose Powder to set the foundation and eliminate shine.
- T Le Clerc Bronzer in ‘Soleil’ to add warmth and Rose Blusher no. 35 by MakeUp Studio for colour.
- Senna Highlighter in ‘Flair’ for cheekbone definition.
- Senna Form-a-Brow in ash blonde to shape eyebrows.
- Flair highlighter over the eyelid.
- M.U Studio shadow in No 422 cinnamon, No 29 apricot, No 425 sable, No 60 chocolate and No 5 black.
- Decoderm Eyeliner in black to line the lids.
- Makeup Store Liquid Liner in black to define the upper lashline.
- Mascara, Senna Volume Lash in jet black.
- Lipliner by Decoderm in brick red
- Lipstick by Decoderm in rosetto and lipgloss by Senna in crystal clear.
- To Finish: ‘Fix It’ Spray by De Pre in rose scent.
All of the products are available to purchase from Paddy McGurgan's MakeUp Pro Store, 108-112 Royal Avenue Belfast.
- Michael Quinn hairdressing, 123 Royal Avenue, Belfast, tel: 028 9043 4003
- Paddy McGurgan, 108-112 Royal Avenue, tel: 07745 572 249
- Khara Pringle 108-112 Royal Avenue, tel: 028 9182 6000
- Rebecca McKinney, personal stylist, Victoria Square, Belfast tel: 07850 208 442. All outfits from Victoria Square, Belfast