Black and Blue

On the 27th February, the singer Elisabeth Welch (1904 -2003)  was  commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque in south-west London.  She is the second black women to have received this hounour (the first was Jamaican born nurse, Mary Seacole).

Welch in her element (Image: BBC)

Born in New York, Welch had a rich cultural heritage through her father John, who was Native American and African-American  and her mother Elisabeth, who was of Irish and Scottish descent, however like many African-American performers of her time,  found greater success in Europe than in the United States.

After starting her career in New York, Welch performed in popular clubs in Paris and London, and, later, in British films.

She settled in London in 1933, which remained her  home until she passed away just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

The 1930s saw Welch become a trailblazer for black women in Britain. It was the decade where Ivor Novello wrote songs for her; Paul Robeson was her leading man in films; and Welch enjoyed popularity as a cabaret star of London’s cafe society.

In 1931  she introduced the famous torch song “Stormy Weather” to British audiences. Watch her singing it here many years later in 1980 (more about this performance is written below).

In 1934 she was the first black broadcaster to be given her own radio series, Soft Lights and Sweet Music, by the BBC. Her many radio shows include two guest appearances on Desert Island Discs.

In the later years of her life Welch stopped the show once again in the 1970 musical, Pippin, made new records, and also gave what was perhaps the most startling appearance of her film career in Derek Jarman’s Tempest (1980), at the end of which she sings a typically poised version of Stormy Weather surrounded by a chorus line of leaping, high-stepping sailors. There were those who thought she was the best thing about that controversial interpretation of Shakespeare.

In high old age, Elisabeth Welch continued to sing with great aplomb;  recordings from the mid-1980s indicate greater maturity of interpretation than ever.   In 1992 stars gathered at the Lyric Theatre in London to pay tribute to Elisabeth Welch in the Crusaid Concert; where she was given an unprecedented five standing ovations.

She was also known for her style and class as well as for her voice.

Recreate her classic old school, glamorous look.

Create a smooth matte base with Studio Fix compact foundation by MAC (£19)

For decades, a red lipstick paired with strong black eyeliner has been the vanguard of makeup for any showbiz starlet.  Accentuate the eye by sweeping a golden eyes hadow across the entire eye, right up to the brow bone.  I like Silent Night by NARS (£16.50).

NARS Single Eye shadow - Silent Night

Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen

Line the  eye with a  liquid eyeliner pen for ease of application  (Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen in black is ideal, £8.99 ).

Curl lashes and then apply lashings of thickening mascara.  I love High Impact mascara by Clinique ((£16) for its intense black pigment.

A show girl must have ruby red lips – and in my opinion Ruby Woo by MAC (£13.50) works well with a lighter skin tone such as Welches,  but for a darker tone such as my own, I prefer a deeper red with blue undertones – my all time favourite is Russian Red by MAC.  Apply with a lip brush, blot – then apply a second coat.

Russian Red by MAC

Finish with an illuminating bronzer, such as the cult classic Shimmer Brick in Bronze by Bobbi Brown (£30.50).

Who will be the next black woman to be recognised in this way?  I hope we do not have to wait to long to find out!

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InStyle Best Beauty Buys – Just for You

I am always in eager anticipation of the InStyle Best Beauty Buys supplement.  Now in its 12th year it has served as a bible to beauty enthusiasts like myself!

You Beauty!!

The winning products are selected by the great and the good of the British and international  hair and beauty industries, including eyebrow queen Vaishaly Patel, fragrance king Roja Dove, makeup mavens Mary Greenwell and Ruby Hammer and hair connoisseurs Philip Kinglsey and Daniel Hersheson.

Many of the winning products have stood the test of time and have made multiple appearences on the hallowed pages of the supplement  – yet every year there are a number of new products and brands to tantilise and excite!

This year I thought that I would give my opinion on the winning products that I think are the best buys for dark skin.

Best Under-Eye Concealer

Touche Elcat, YSL.

Now that the one of the most coveted premium   beauty produts is available in 7 shades, it can be enjoyed by women of all (or most) skin tones.

Best Flat Iron.

GHDs

Topping  the poll once again,  GHDs are great for smoothing out kinks in relaxed hair or  your weave! Make sure you use a heat protecting product too! I LOVE Frizz Ease Thermal Serum – it is not too greasy and  perfect for my hair extensions!  GHD also make a  flat iron for thicker hair, with wider plates. These work well with natural hair.

Best Lipgloss and Best Compact

Lipglass and Studio Fix by MAC

When I first moved to London some 12 years ago, I discovered the MAC counter in Selfridges and a long standing relationship was formed.

Return of the MAC

I am a gloss junkie!  The glossier, the sticker, the better!   I have tried umpteen brands – both mass and premium – and none really come close to the Lipglass collection …although Stila Lipglazes are a close second :-).

My top shades are ‘Wet, Wild, Wonderful’ and ‘Oh Baby’.  Last year, MAC USA collaborated with several leading US beauty bloggers to create a limited edition collection of glosses.  Afrobella (who is dubbed the ‘godmother’ of brown beauty blogging) created the most incredible purple Lipglass for women of colour called ‘All of My Purple Life’.

Oh My, Oh My! All Of My Purple Life. Afrobella for MAC USA

The shade was so popular that it sold out one week after the launch!!  Unfortunately the collection was not launched internationally….

And what can I say about Studio Fix??  Studio Fix NW45... it been a part of my life for oh so long!!  MAC dosen’t work for every woman of colour -so I am really pleased to see that more and more brands are launching products for dark skin – but Studio Fix has been a staple in my makeup bag…and will continue to be so!

Best for Pigmentation

Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Remover

For many people of colour , hyper pigmentation is a real challenge.  The over production of menalin as a result of trauma to the skin leave dark marks and an uneven skintone that can be quite distressing.    I did try this product when it first launched, but to be honest, I didn’t really give it a chance…products such as these really need time for you to see a result.

Even Better  has won many awards and was even voted as  the best ‘Prestige Hyperpigmentation Treatment’ by readers of the US African American women’s magazine, Essence. 

Remember! SPF is critical when treating pigmentation – so use a moisturiser with additional sun and UVA protection! 


Best Powder Blusher

Blush in Orgasm – NARS

This blusher is a cult beauty classic and it really does suit everyone.  If you are more of a caramel skintone it will look deligtful on you.

Personally I think NARS have THE best blusher range in the industry! The shades that  I own that are just sublime on my skin tone are Exhibit A , Angelica, Cactus Flower and Taj Mahal. 

So there you have it!  My round up of the Best Beauty Buys for Dark Skin!


Saturday Night Belles – Week 1

And we’re off!

12 weeks of fantastic TV are in store as season 9 of  Strictly Come Dancing kicked off at the weekend with the expected glitter and glamour and the thousands of hopefuls that applied, auditioned and sang their hearts out for the 2011 X-Factor judges have been whittled down to the final 16!

OK, OK… so we’ve seen it all before…but I have to admit that this is pure entertainment at its best and I am convinced that the next 3 months will not disappoint!!

As I mentioned in my previous Saturday Night Bells post, I will be commenting on the hair and make-up looks of Miss Rowland and Miss Dixon each week.

So, how did our leading ladies do in the style stakes this weekend? 

I really liked the pared down glamour that both Kelly and Alesha exhibited this week.

Kelly Rowland for the X-Factor

Kelly took the her final 8 contestants to her home in Miami, in the sunshine state of Florida (nice!!).

Her fun and flirty style epitomised the laid back vibe that Miami exudes.  I really like the tousled hair, funky beehive  and fresh faced make up  in the shot below.

However Kelly still worked the false eyelashes – a beauty accessory that is a staple in my daily armoury!

Bring me Sunshine! Kelly at home in Miami (Image: ITV1)


Kelly’s  black ensemble was classic, yet the relaxed feel was  still evident with her hair not to finished – an easy going, mussed up style was the look du jour.

Again, her makeup is natural yet visible, enhancing her pretty features. Her nude lip colour suits all skin tones  and you can get the look with the NARS Lip Lacquer in Babydoll.  I love this product – high shine and intense colour – the perfect combination!

NARS Lip Lacquer in Babydoll

Alesha Dixon for Strictly Come Dancing

Miss Dixon’s look for the inaugural weekend of SCD was delicate and demure.  Her pretty features were emphasised by her super straight locks…I  LIKE!

A classic centre parting never fails and coupled with a pop of colour on the lips, I give Alesha an 8 out of 10 for this premier look.

Strictly So Lovely! Alesha Dixon (Image: BBC)

Bonus Belle!! Jennifer Hudson!!

It was fabulous to see Jennifer Hudson on the X-Factor!  She looks incredible – her new figure is enviable – but is a testament to her hard work, focus  and dedication.

Her hair looked amazing – classy and sophisticated waves complimented her causal style.  She is a fan of the lace  wig – and hers was looking good!!

Jenny and Kelly...looking good ladies!! (Image: ITV1)

With the live shows of the X-Factor starting this weekend I await the style sensations that will be displayed with bated breath!!  Bring it on Kelly and Alesha!


Back to Basics

I was recently contacted by the fabulous  Kay Montano (Creative Director of MyFace cosmetics and Chanel Make Up ambassador) via Twitter…yes little old me!

Kay wanted to know about the choice of foundations for darker skin tones here in the UK.  As I reflected upon her question I really was gladdened by the fact that the choice HAS got better over the years…

….I remember my first foray into the world of make up as a young and exuberant 14 year old – I bounded to the local chemist with my pocket money in hand to purchase a concealer.   Imagine my UTTER disappointment when I found  not a single brand suitable for my chocolate skin tone!

I soon realised I had to save a bit more pocket money to fulfill my desires.  I discovered  the department store brand Fashion Fair at my local Debenhams!  That marble pink compact (yes it was pink back in the day!) was my pride and joy…but the option to experience other brands were few and far between…times have REALLY changed.

Now there are a plethora of brands to chose from.  The beauty landscape has changed beyond recognition.  It may be still a challenge to get your hands on some of these brands ..especially if you live outside of London –  however most are only a click away.

The usual suspects – MAC and Bobbi Brown have a loyal – almost cult like following – but there are other brands that one can consider when choosing a foundation to suit your  beautiful black skin.

Illamasqua

Now I just had to commence my list with a British brand! Illamasqua is the brainchild of the founder of the ubiquitous GHDs and boasts an abundance of shades and textures of foundations.

Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation

The latest range to join the line up is the Skin Base foundation which is inspired by the cult Asian market Beauty Balm creams (also called BB creams for short!)

The BB phenomenon has traversed from the East and has exploded in the West! A number of  brands have recently launched BB creams – including  Garnier and Clinique – yet Illamasqua  is the only brand to have launched a ‘BB-esque’ product suitable for darker skins.  Skin Base comes in 18 skin loving shades – 6 of which are suitable for Black and Asian skin tones.

 Try before you buy at the flagship Illamasqua store, Beak Street, London, Selfridges Oxford Street, London,  The Manchester Trafford Centre, The Birmingham Bullring, Fenwick Newcastle, Debenhams Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff or shop  online at www.illamasqua.com

BECCA

Australian brand BECCA is like a treasure waiting to be unearthed.    With 34 concealer colours and 34 (yes 34!) foundation shades there is sure to be a colour to match your skin tone perfectly.

The brande is loved by stars such as yummy mummy Beyoncè , supermodel Alex Wek and the ever so lovely Kelly Rowland (are you loving the X-Factor as much as I am??).

BECCA Stick foundation

I became acquainted with the brand when it was retailed in Space NK (alas, this is no longer the case.),  and I love the philosophy behind the brand – to enable ‘ ALL women, regardless of age or ethnicity, to achieve a natural looking, flawless complexion’.

Visit the sumptuous Becca Boudoir at 91A Pelham Road London  or shop online at www.beccacosmetics.com

black Up

I first came across this Parisian brand in 2006 but unfortunately I was put off by the name – it reminded too much of the infamous Minstrel shows of 19th century America!

However I have recently grown to love  the brand, mostly due to the exquisite, aspirational  imagery.

black UP SS11 campaign

black Up SS11 campaign

Available at Debenhams, the range consists of highly pigmented colour cosmetics, as well as a comprehensive foundation collection.

NARS

I am totally besotted with the brand! The sexy packaging, potent colours and evocative product names (the best selling item in the range is called..err…Orgasm!) make it a pleasure to use.  Created by make up maestro,  François Nars  in 1997, the line up included a shade of foundation called Jamaica.  The story goes that this product was conceived for the supermodel Naomi Campbell, who is a close friend and muse for the artisan.  The family of shades suitable for darker skin tones has grown to include globally inspired colours such as Benares, Khartoum and Trinidad, to name a few.

NARS concealer campaign AW11

Also, the NARS Concealer used to be available in only four shades but the line has recently been expanded to included 10 different shades to accommodate a variety of skin tones.

NARS is available at Space NK, leading department stores nationwide and at www.narscosmetics.co.uk

News Flash!! 

I have heard the  one of the chicest makeup brand of all  – Chanel –  will be launching Perfection Lumiere, its newest line of foundation, this September – and it’s something to talk about! The line, will offer the widest range of shades for Chanel yet – a whopping 23 shades to suit all ethnicities. Ooh la la!

image via WWD

Perfection Lumiere by Chanel

The face of the campaign is the beautiful Trinidadian born model Alyssah Ali, who is of Indian and Spanish origin

Christine Dagousset, executive vice president of fragrance and beauty for Chanel in the U.S. told Women’s Wear Daily, “This foundation was designed to be universal. Chanel’s creative director for makeup, Peter Philips, counts perfect skin among the most important features a woman can have and, since joining the brand in January 2008, had made it his goal to create a ‘perfect’ foundation: one that adjusts to the skin needs of every ethnicity and stays in place with a flawless finish.”  The company’s current leading foundation line Pro Lumiere offers only 6 shades.  The new launch will premier in the U.S …hopefully Chanel will bring the range to the UK and Europe too!!

image via WWD

Alyssah Ali for Chanel AW11

This is SO exciting, as for too long many of the leading designer makeup brands have been inaccessible to women of colour.  In my eyes this launch will mark a sea change in the beauty industry.   I will certainly do a review on this product!

Until then, a bientôt!