My 9 Biggest Beauty (OK, And Entire Life) Inspirations

These are the influential people who guided me down the path of glamour during my formative years.
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These are the influential people who guided me down the path of glamour during my formative years.

There have been many, many people who, through their dedication to all things beautiful, guided me on my way to becoming the sparkly unicorn you see before you.

FILE PHOTO

FILE PHOTO

This is not a complete list of ALL my beauty inspirations; that would take years, and probably the entire internet. I decided to stick to the people who gave me truly “Aha!” beauty moments during my formative years; the inspirational individuals who made me the woman I am today.

David Bowie

If I conjured a beauty patronus and it was David Bowie, I would not be surprised. 

Photos from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Photos from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I was familiar with David Bowie because my dad had all of his records. I used to pour over them, studying his beautiful face and his makeup and his hair, wondering how he saw all of this and put it together into a character. He could be Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke, but at the same time, he was always undeniably himself. 

I think that this was my first experience with makeup as showmanship, which is something that has become very important to me. Not only can you change your outsides, you can explore different aspects of your insides, too.

Cher

My obsession with Cher has been well-documented. The cheekbones! The eyelashes! The gorgeous hair! The glowing skin! She is the dictionary definition of FLAWLESS, and the standard of beauty to which I will always aspire.

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I don’t even know where to start with Cher. Shall I talk about how her outsized confidence always inspired me to be braver and dream bigger? Shall I talk about her unflappable calm and sense of humour in the face of adversity? Shall I talk about how her unique beauty made me feel better about my own strange angles?

Photos from my giant collection of Cher photos saved on my hard drive.

Photos from my giant collection of Cher photos saved on my hard drive.

Shall I compare her to a summer’s day? I would, but she is so much more awesome. So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, so long lives Cher giving LIFE to me.

Yes, I just adapted Shakespeare. Cher is the only acceptable reason for this to ever happen. That’s how much I love her.

RuPaul

My ultimate beauty lightbulb moment happened the first time I visited the US when I was eight. I was watching MTV, which I had never even heard of, when a video came on starring the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. 

I told my mother immediately that I wanted to be RuPaul when I grew up. And that’s when she explained drag queens to me.

And lo, the heavens did open up. Up until that point, I had always thought of beauty as something God-given that you either had or you didn’t. I didn’t realise that it was something that could be created. As my mum explained it, RuPaul was a man dressed as a woman to perform. If he could use makeup, hair and clothes to become the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen, then maybe I could learn to do the same thing someday. I could MAKE beauty and glamour for myself, and I resolved that I would.

Image via NewNowNext.

Image via NewNowNext.

I’ve made pretty good progress on this front, but I still ask that Ru guide my thoughts, feelings and perceptions in all things. Amen.

The Queen

Once I had a dream that I was hanging out with Queen Elizabeth II. We were drinking Pimms and having a grand old time, and at one point she said “I’m the Queen! I have a hat made out of jewels! I DO WHATEVER I WANT!”

It was the best dream I’ve ever had.

Growing up in Australia, the Queen is present in almost everything that you do. Her face is on our money. She’s always on the news. The UK flag is a part of ours, a constant reminder of our symbolic head of state. Elizabeth has been reigning monarch for my entire life, and such a constant that I can’t imagine the world without her. She just IS, in the way that gravity is.

Images from tiarasandtrianon.com. Fun fact--this is the Ireland tiara in this picture!

Images from tiarasandtrianon.com. Fun fact--this is the Ireland tiara in this picture!

QEII’s defining beauty look is “immaculate,” and something in me has always responded to that. The undone, minimalist look was in full swing when I was growing up, but I always gravitated more towards set hair, perfect lipstick and well-coordinated outfits. And you don’t get more coordinated than Her Majesty.

The Queen is a beauty icon of mine, not just for her bold use of colour, but because she is always turned out perfectly for every occasion. It’s something that I try to emulate myself. And let’s be real: the woman can wear a HAT.

Images emailed to me by mum. Thanks mum!

Images emailed to me by mum. Thanks mum!

Poppy King

When I was little, I wanted a big life. The problem was that being a girl in rural Australia in the '90s, my options seemed pretty limited. I wanted glamour and excitement. I wanted challenges and fun. I wanted to be the biggest and brightest. I wanted the whole world.

I just had no idea if I could ever get it. The only women I’d seen doing things like that were actresses, models and singers.

Then I read an article about Poppy King, a young woman from Melbourne who started her own makeup line at 18. I remember the specific article so clearly, down to the burgundy shade of the lipstick in the picture. I remember reading how she marched into a major US department store with only the lipsticks in her bag, and told them that they definitely wanted to carry her products. They did. And she founded an empire.

The fact that she’s a unique beauty like yours truly didn’t hurt either. Photo from lipstickqueen.com

The fact that she’s a unique beauty like yours truly didn’t hurt either. Photo from lipstickqueen.com

This was so inspiring as to blow my little baby mind. She was so young! She was from Melbourne! If she could do something amazing like this, it stood to reason that I could, too.

I didn’t know that Poppy, my childhood hero, was behind Lipstick Queen until I was totally addicted to the line. I am so happy that she continues to bring her entrepreneurial spirit, attention to detail and addiction to glamour to the world of beauty. I continue to be inspired by her.

Tina Turner

My mum is a huge Tina Turner fan, so I grew up listening to her records and looking at pictures like this.

Mama always said “The less we say about Ike, the better.”

Mama always said “The less we say about Ike, the better.”

This woman was, is and will forever be FIERCE. She did not shrink. She did not bend herself to fit into conventional boxes. Her voice was a force of nature. Whether she was ruling the world with dramatic eyeliner and nude lips, or big hair, red lipstick and contour sharp enough to kill a man, she was in charge and dynamic. She showed me that you can take chances with your look without ever sacrificing your signature awesomeness. 

Photo via NPR.

Photo via NPR.

I love Beyonce, but Tina will always be my queen. Bow down.

Bewitched

I didn’t have a lot of access to pop culture as a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that Bewitched was my favourite TV show growing up. It had everything: magic, slapstick comedy, brightly printed dresses and nose-twitching.

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Mostly, though, it had Elizabeth Montgomery. As Samantha, her perfect blonde flip was incomparable, and I spent a lot of time trying to get my hair to do the same thing. 

But it was with Montgomery as Serena, Samantha’s dark-haired, wild cousin, that I truly fell in beauty-love.

I’ll take that dress, too.

I’ll take that dress, too.

Everything about her look is perfect. The dark eye makeup! The heart (I remember this was sometimes a star) on her cheek! This is also where I first made a connection between dark hair and rebellion, though I wouldn’t act on it until I was 17 and dyed my expensively highlighted blonde hair brown for the first time.

Whoever said blondes have more fun had obviously never met Serena.

Karen Elson

Once upon a time, I got a huge stack of old magazines at a swap meet. Mostly I chopped them up and made collages, but every so often an article caught my eye and I devoured it whole.

One of these articles was about Karen Elson, and it is still engraved on the inside of my heart. As a young model, she hadn’t had a lot of luck in the industry--people were telling her that she was too odd-looking to be “sexy,” which was the look they wanted. Then she shaved off her eyebrows and dyed her hair bright red--taking herself as far away from “sexy” as possible--and a star was born. 

Photos shot by Stephen Meisel, Vogue Italia, Feb 1997.

Photos shot by Stephen Meisel, Vogue Italia, Feb 1997.

This idea of being DELIBERATELY strange-looking was a revelation. I, too, had been called peculiar, a freak or ugly my entire life, and it never occurred to me to draw power from that. I never thought that I could aspire to anything but “pretty,” and maybe “sexy” if I ever grew boobs. Karen Elson made me realise that, OK, maybe I wasn’t conventionally beautiful in the way that my best friend was. But I could be something else instead, and that could be just as good.

That probably explains why I plucked out almost all my eyebrows and walked around looking like a glittery alien for several years. Maybe that wasn’t my best look, but it was MY look. And it started me on a path to accepting--and loving--my weird, atypical beauty that continues to this day.

She rocks the hell out of some bangs, too.

She rocks the hell out of some bangs, too.

Kevyn Aucoin

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out makeup. I grew up back in the Dark Days before the internet, so if I wanted to copy something amazing that I saw in a magazine, I would have to sit in front of a mirror for HOURS and experiment until I got it right. In some ways, this was really good; I certainly got a thorough cosmetic education. But it other ways, it was annoying as hell; it took me two years to learn how to do cat eye liner, which is ridiculous.

Kevyn Aucoin’s makeup books, Making Faces and Face Forward, changed everything. Illustrations! Clear instructions! Actual explanations of techniques I thought I had made up! And of course, GORGEOUS photos.

If you’ve never read these books, you need to.

If you’ve never read these books, you need to.

Beyond this, though, there was something in the writing that resonated deep down in my heart. I loved makeup so much because it was a way to carve out an identity for myself. It allowed me to show who I was, or who I wanted to be, and give the finger to all the people who got on me about how I looked. For the first time, in these books, there was someone who GOT that.

Up until this point, I only knew about the beauty world from reading Vogue, and since I didn’t look like Cindy Crawford, it had always seemed like a sphere I’d forever be excluded from. Kevyn changed that. He brought kindness and compassion along with his artistry, and I loved that. When people ask me who has influenced my beauty writing, he will always and forever be number one on the list.

From kevynaucoin.com

From kevynaucoin.com

When he died, I felt a true sense of loss. I still do. Although his books and his incredible makeup line keep his spirit alive, I still feel like something rare and wonderful went out of the world forever when he left it. I never knew him, but he touched my life in the best way, and I genuinely miss him.

Honourable Mentions

Every single older girl I ever went to school with (I thought teenagers were so cool), Dolly Parton, the ladies who worked at the Clinique counter when I was little, Crystal Gale’s hair, Anne of Green Gables, Bonita and Noni from Play School, Kylie Minogue, Dame Edna, the Wakefield twins, Claudia Kishi, Auntie Mame and Jessica Rabbit.

Who are YOUR beauty inspirations? Who gave you those honest-to-goodness lightbulb moments when you were younger? Who inspires you now?