Photo-shoot me

Me taking a pic of strange sleek me

I am interrupting this food blog to talk about my photo shoot. Here I am (see pic) looking strangely sleek with straightened hair and make-up. Even my mother did not recognise me when she saw me.

The backstory: I gave my ‘how I recovered from a slipped disc with the help of the Alexander technique‘ to a journo-friend for a woman’s magazine.

Next thing, the magazine rung me. Would I take part in a photo shoot with the two other female interviewees who’d survived injury? “Yes,” I said eagerly. It sounded relaxing and glamorous to be passive and preened for a change.

Everyone was a darling and on one level it was fun to play dressing-up; highly seductive to be a nano-star for a few hours for a Condé Nast publication…

But once the excitement was over, and I watched my unfamiliar shadow on the lamplit winter streets of west London, I kept thinking: “They straightened my hair” in a disbelieving way.

Pre-1967, everyone had to have straight hair. Everyone. My elder sister used to iron hers.  Then along came the musical Hair and overnight it became acceptable – indeed groovy – to have springy, wiry, untamed, natural hair.

I have always been grateful that my formative years were spent in Swinging London. I could embrace my ethnic curls, unmade-up face, hairy legs etc. No one made me feel bad about them. In fact they made me feel good!

But the status-quo soon reasserted itself and woe betide a female star with hairy armpits. Because, the thing is, girls, there is a multi-billion industry at stake: the beauty industry.

At my photo-shoot, more time was spent on on make-up and hair than the actual photographs. That meant an awful lot of Products; I have never had so many applied in one go. I became a walking chemical factory, as I fell in with some unwritten plan to look like ‘a woman’. I looked more sophisticated but I felt like a man in drag. (My mum said I looked harder and – note – older.)

Like an apple in a supermarket, I had to be sprayed with hundreds of chemicals before anyone would buy me.

Oh dear. Do I sound ungracious and ungrateful? In other words, unwomanly?

elisabeth-by-dan-stevens-cropped-again elisabeth-winkler-twitter-crop

March 2009 – and here is the article in this month’s Easy Living


19 responses to “Photo-shoot me

  1. The story of your shoot (is that a literal expression, in this case?) is making me angry. Possibly one of the most youthful characteristics one can have, is springy lively abundant hair, which RealFoodLover has. Not only did they straighten it, they somehow darkened it, giving that awful ageing American helmet look. Gone are the other youthful clues in your hair: shifting colors and nature’s highlights. They also managed to cover up that your other youthful look: freckles. Nitwits! And, somehow, they managed to shoot you with a harsh light and at the same angle as one of those unflattering webcam photos. Why didn’t they take you outside, in the soft light of the waning day, which, as as professional photographer once told me, is so much more flattering and natural? It’s as if they deliberately wanted to make you look like society’s version of a 40 plus woman.


  2. I did not recognise you myself when I saw the picture, mind you I think ‘man in drag’ is going a bit far.

    I am sure the chemicals will soon wash off ;0)


  3. Chloe the country bumpkin

    mmm, i mean they have to make you ‘palatable’ to the conde nast reader i’m guessing, and probably says more about their readership than anything else. How funny that thier readers won’t be interested if you don’t look elegant and preened. I’m sure it was a bit fun though I prefer your curls and un-dollied look personally :O)


  4. I hate what they did to beautiful you – how foolish of them not to see your gorgeousness and publish it for all to see how truly fabulous a 40+ woman can be – in all her natural glory!


  5. Just to settle any fears, I saw Elisabeth for lunch on Sunday and I can tell you that she’s back to being her good self again. Having seen the photo on her blog, I’m very glad to see that she is. I’m a photographer and I wouldn’t do that to anyone!


  6. Thank you for giving the interview to Angie for Easy Living, out next month I believe. I love the wild and free look, the hairstyle, of the Elisabeth I know and love. A little story here: Isabel’s godmother gave us all a free makeover in London in October so I can relate to Elisabeth’s experience–especially the hairdo, which was also straighter, much less flattering than my normal one. The makeup was great and I learned a lot, for which I am grateful. As Elisabeth’s Alexander teacher, I have to ask myself why I felt so snowballed, that I couldn’t be more assertive and demand that the hair be done to my satisfaction. Like Elisabeth, less time was spent on my photos. The good news, when I got back in my Alexander teacher seat, was that by my giving some impromptu Alexander coaching to Lisa and Isabel (breathing out/smiling with the eyes, etc) the photographer got some brilliant glam shots of them both. Am looking forward to seeing the article. Nice one, Elisabeth. X


  7. Oh dear Elisabeth. Your mum’s summed up the beauty industry in one clean sweep. Worrying about age and beauty sadly adds more frown lines than any topical creams and make up miracles can remove. I think you look lovely – although your curly hair is amiss. Will u let us know hen we can pick up a copy of the mag? Happy New Year!!


  8. Chloe, it was terrific fun too. And intriguing to be in a new club: a couple of girls with straightened hair gave me the once-over and I swear they would have overlooked the curly me! Seriously grateful for the experience. And yes, I agree, Mallika – worrying about looking older is very ageing!

    Thanks for all your wise and passionate comments.


  9. ooooh dear curly hair ,too ethnic!
    whats odd is they changed you,yet they wanted to do a piece on you!?
    i understand if you are a model and they change you to fit the brief but why would they transform the beautiful natural-ness of you instead of celebrating and showing you as you are. why did you let them?
    just goes to show that magazines are not interested in presenting things as they are!


  10. If the article was celebrating recovery through natural techniques, the “treatment” was somewhat ironic.

    I say, come back real Food Lover, all is forgiven. Your analysis was spot on, as ever.


  11. Geraldine, you are right. I am here with my Italian friend Christina, who says “gosh, Elisabeth is far more beautiful au naturel, and should not be standardized.”


  12. Long live your curls and smiles!


  13. Well, makeovers generally do try to make people look different so that could be a factor behind the straightening. Actually, in the professional pic at the bottom, I am not disliking the look. In fact it’s interesting how it does give you a more polished, even wealthier, appearance. So it is fascinating how a change to our appearance can influence people’s perception of us. And it’s nice to know you can play that part. But I definitely prefer your curls in general.


  14. What an interesting read Elizabeth…a change is always fun, as long as we can get back to familiar turf!!


  15. My hair is back to normal now but I am more aware of straightened (or relaxed) hair such as Michelle Obama’s and Oprah’s, and wonder about its potential significance…Paul, the photographer was lovely. The hair straightening was not his decision at all…


  16. Hey mummy I love you anyway however you look your beautiful and wise beyond your years and i think its good to see you looking different i must say i liked you with strait hair and also with your usual curly hair and i dont think it matters what other people think its what you feel inside i love you no matter how you look x x x


  17. Thanks Maude, that is beautiful.

    The other thing to add is: yes, Philippa, you are right – the hair stylist did darken my hair. I am so vain I thought it was natural – I had no idea at the time. I did not even know temporary hair dyes existed!

    Now I can spy temporarily coloured-hair on older celebrity males such as Michael Portillo last Thursday on BBC1. The hair stylist seems to leave the man-sideburns naturally grey, and colour the rest. It’s weird.


  18. too much of a shock. You actually look like your mother – not that that’s a bad thing in itself; but doesn’t look like you. KEEP THE CURLS.


  19. aaaaw……yeah yeah I know I am out of time as mike jagger put it…but I only just discovered your blogs ….am catching up on the old ones (no not you)…the ‘aaaw’ was for the comment your daughter made on the blog which incidentally made me chuckle as I spent years perming my dead straight hair into big hair and painting freckles on my nose with eyeliner!…it was des rigeur in the eighties to have ‘Hair’ hair….bless what a sweet daughter you have


What do YOU think? Do tell...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.