> Zed Book Club / In ‘Fearless,’ Trinny Woodall Dispenses a Gentler Kind of Advice

Trinny Woodall attends the 'Mrs. Alice Christmas Cocktails at De Gournay', December 1, 2022, London, England. Photo: David M. Benett/Getty Images

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In ‘Fearless,’ Trinny Woodall Dispenses a Gentler Kind of Advice

The sharp-tongued former host of 'What Not to Wear' digs deep into the hearts – and closets – of her social-media super fans to pen a self-help beauty and style book / BY Leanne Delap / May 30th, 2024


Fearless, the new book by former British TV presenter and current makeup mogul Trinny Woodall, is a peek inside one woman’s very organized, very thorough mind, and covers all things beauty and fashion, along with solid tips for living a healthy, balanced life. 

Advice is old hat to Woodall, who dispensed a ton of it with journalist Susannah Constantine; the fabulous fashion critics went from a column called What Not to Wear in the Telegraph to a reality TV makeover show of the same name in the early 2000s, which has played in repeats ever since. (An American version, with Stacey London, followed in its footsteps.)

 

Trinny Woodall

 

The founder and CEO of the Trinny London makeup and skin-care line has published 11 British bestsellers with Constantine, but this book was informed by her social media interaction with fans she calls the Trinny tribe on @trinnywoodall, which has 1.3 million followers on Instagram. “Makeup and getting dressed are incredibly emotionally driven,” says Woodall in a recent Zoom interview from her English home. “This book is an extension, and an expansion, of what I talk about on social media. What I hear back from people that they want to know more about.”

On screen, Woodall is composed and perfectly made-up, wearing a bright-yellow blazer that matches her brand packaging and the cover of the book, sitting in front of a romantic-looking British country estate-type backdrop. But she doesn’t always feel as great as she looks. “I have a stye in my eye, and I’m tired,” she admits. “But if I take a step back and look at my life today, I say my life is the best it’s ever been.” The 60-year-old describes her second act as “less a reinvention and more of an invigoration.” Yes, she is known for her fashion and beauty expertise, but the core of her brand – and this book – is “what motivates me to be confident.” 

 

Trinny Woodall
In ‘Fearless,’ Woodall expands on the beauty, life and fashion advice she dispenses on social media to the fans she calls ‘Trinny’s tribe.’ Photo: Daniel Kennedy

 

Woodall is fairly private in Fearless, unlike Constantine’s rip-roaring 2022 confessional, Ready for Absolutely Nothing, which detailed her aristocratic childhood, international playboy boyfriends and celeb-strewn high jinks. Woodall slips a few painful personal details into the copy, from stints in rehab during her 20s to the 2014 death by suicide of her ex-husband and father of her only child, but only where they are needed to back-up her advice. She is never salacious; indeed, she lived with ad-legend art collector Charles Saatchi for a decade (they split in 2023), and managed to keep the high-profile pairing, by and large, out of the tabloids. 

“These are difficult subjects, but moving through them has helped me to move forward,” she says about the personal moments in Fearless. “Alcohol, money, imposter syndrome – these are things I think about quite a lot. It might seem random, but finding energy and motivation in life takes a lot of work.”

 

Woodall was very private about her relationship with billionaire Charles Saatchi, who was 20 years older,  which followed his headline-grabbing split from celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. Photo: David M. Benett/Getty Images

I normally wouldn’t gravitate to a book like this. The format is unusual, framed like manageable internet bites, or a blog come to life, with zesty typography and high-production value fashion selfies And yet, Woodall has a straight-forward approach that is really appealing. Perhaps my brain has been rewired by doom-scrolling, but it feels oddly satisfying to hold a book that breaks down all the things you read in magazines. It’s like a reference book for modern life, inspired by the online world, and the format makes it the opposite of ephemeral.

In mostly one-page bites, she covers subjects like hormonal changes in every decade; how skin changes as we age; why we avoid dealing with money; and the difference between instinct and intuition. The fashion and beauty sections hone in on styling and personal care, from how to organize your underwear drawer to eight ways to style a white shirt, and how to apply eyeliner to older eyelids. But it is the life wisdom that really surprises me. “Self-worth issues can stop us from moving forward,” she explains.

Woodall moved on in a dramatic fashion after she and Constantine broke up professionally around 2007, after their ITV series Undress the Nation caused a ruckus because it was deemed too “naked” for prime time. The boisterous, sometimes goofy, way the duo ambushed women in the streets  – who were “nominated” for makeovers by friends and family – along with the casual boob-grabbing, and advice that sometimes veered from sassy into sharp (the what not to wear part), was falling out of fashion. The internet was on the rise, and fashion police were left behind as the general mood favoured positive tips and tricks over critiques.

Trinny Woodall
Woodall (left) and Susannah Constantine pose naked, joined by hundreds of volunteers, to create a living sculpture near Lewes, Sussex in 2008. Photo: Press Association/Canadian Press

 

This softer-focus world suited Woodall fine. She had already been working on her makeup line while on the TV beat. “I had always done my own makeup. I was putting together colour blends in my bathroom,” she says, “mashing things up and customizing them. I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur.” But her greatest desire was “to be more in control in my life.” After 10 years together, she and Constantine were known as “Trinny and Susannah,” rather than separate people.

When she and Constantine wrote books together, Woodall would write bullet points and organize the structure, and Susannah “would fill it out with her beautiful writing.” 

This book sounds different, and there’s a reason for that. “I spoke it into a Dictaphone,” Woodall explains. “So when you read me, you hear me talking.” 

Trinny’s tribe, who are passionate about her products and her message, “are amazing women from all around the world who want to be a part of the conversation, to be connected.” The community is kind, and “it’s about not wanting to be with fake people. Like attracts like.” With Trinny London, Woodall introduced cosmetics in little stackable pots  – multi-use formulations for lips, cheeks, eyes and concealer – that you spread on with your fingers. It takes the fuss out of makeup application, and it appeals to older clients, because the creamy texture doesn’t settle into fine lines like face powders do. She later launched an expanding skincare range.

 

Trinny Woodall at the launch of the TRINNY London pop-up, October 5, 2018, London, England. Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Building a business is challenging, because “there is a set of benchmarks, you build up a team (hers numbers 220 people), and ultimately you are responsible for your own destiny.” She is trying to learn how to stop fiddling with the little things and focus on guiding the company – “to weed, to look to the future, to strategize.”

Perhaps that is why Woodall’s advice, after a career of handing it out, hits differently today. It is also why she expanded the content beyond her traditional fashion-and-beauty comfort zone. It definitely feels like she’s hitting the zeitgeist, once again, as people look for that much-cited, but elusive, quality in both content and product: authenticity. Her online charisma built the brand, much the same way it built the newspaper column and the TV show. That’s one thing about Trinny Woodall; she has always been genuine. Now she is truly in expansion mode. 

 

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