What Trinny did next
As co-host of one of the UK's most-watched TV shows back in the noughties, Trinny Woodall told women what not to wear. Now she's the one who's had the reinvention - back with a huge social media following and a new make-up range. Louise Gannon meets her
Trinny Woodall is sitting on a grey-blue velvet sofa surrounded by the cornucopia of gleaming beauty products that has taken over her chic south-west London home. She is talking - at the speed of Usain Bolt - about skin tones, highlighters, her 'vampire' face lifts, a wonder vitamin A cream from South Africa called Dermastine, which she got her former PA's uncle to send her from Cape Town ("I asked for 10 tubes. It's miraculous for crepey skin").
Her forensic knowledge of the 50 shades of red is extraordinary. As for eye bags, we are talking Mastermind specialist subject. But there is a point to this tsunami of beauty tips. After years of co-hosting BBC's What Not To Wear, the style show that regularly had four million viewers tuning in to see Trinny and her equally posh friend, Susannah Constantine, give women makeovers, she's transformed into a beauty guru as well as a style queen.
Thanks to her blogs, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, weekly Facebook Live sessions and her regular advice slot on ITV's This Morning, Trinny now has around a million followers in the UK, America, Australia and Europe. With her latest project, Trinny London, she's created a customisable beauty range, and one that will particularly appeal to older women. "I wanted to change the way women bought make-up," she says. "So many get stuck in a make-up rut. And I am passionate about the over-40s market - no more solid black lines under the eyes!"
Since its launch in October, Trinny London has swiftly earned a cult following among beauty aficionados and writers. Featuring 56 products, from eyeshadows to foundation to lip and cheek colours, it is not so much a make-up line as a beauty concept. With its easy-to-use individual stackable pots ("that click together like Lego bricks"), her online-only range aims to streamline your beauty routine. Once you've registered on the website, Trinny's Match2Me system will ask you a series of questions, including hair and eye colour, and skin tone, before matching you to your individual colour palette.
"Most women just buy a colour they like," says Trinny. "But I wanted to come up with an algorithm that finds the colour that properly suits you and can really make a difference to your face. I also knew that once you have your colours, you want them to be convenient - hence the stacking - and small enough sizes to fit in your bag. Also, they are all cream-based, so you can put them on with your fingers - it's entirely fuss-free."
Trinny says there was never any thought that the brand would be sold in stores. "I wanted an online brand because that way I could interact with my buyers through my blog and show how the products can be used."
It is too early to give sales projections, but clearly business is booming. As we speak, women flit up and down the stairs of the home she used to share with her partner of four years, Charles Saatchi, until her stacks of products, make-up chairs, make-up artists, and a pop-up makeover studio took up every room of her three-bedroomed Chelsea cottage, and they had to decamp to his place. Every so often, Trinny, with that fantastically plummy chummy manner of hers, goes to check on the ladies who have arrived at her HQ to find out how to use their bespoke stacking bundle of colours (spaces are reserved only with a £45 deposit, which is redeemable against products on the day). "Oh Freddie looks fantastic on you," she enthuses (all her colours are named after friends).
"I think you trust Trinny because she knows exactly what she's talking about," says one of the women - a 40-something mother of three from Surrey - as she surveys the effects of a cheekbone shader. "And she looks fantastic. I want to look fantastic too."
We move on to the subject of Charles Saatchi, whose investment helped Trinny London come into being. She met Saatchi through mutual friends in the wake of his highly publicised divorce from Nigella Lawson. "I wasn't aware of any of the details of what had been going on, as I was out of the country," she says. "We just saw each other as friends initially, and then it turned into dating. He listens to me. He gives me good advice. He's been amazing as far as Lyla [her 14-year-old daughter] goes because he has a great relationship with his daughter, Phoebe [aged 23, from his second marriage to Kay Saatchi]. He's a very good thing in my life."
Reminiscent of the famous words of the late Caroline Aherne who, as her comedy alter ego Mrs Merton, asked Debbie McGee what on earth she saw in multimillionaire Paul Daniels, there is an assumption that Trinny's new success is down to the 74-year-old art collector. She wants to put me straight on this. "Charles put in four per cent investment into my business. He believes in it, but he is tough. The rest I got by going to financial backers and people in the cosmetics industry. I pay my mortgage and school fees, I buy my own clothes. I don't spend as much money these days because I don't have as much. Every year I will buy a Celine coat, three pairs of Prada brogues and three pairs of Stella McCartney shoes. The rest of my clothes come from Zara and Cos.
"I went out with a very rich man [her exes include the late shipping tycoon Constantine Niarchos] when I was an addict," says Trinny, referring to the 10-year drug addiction that began in her teens. "He paid for everything and it added to my feeling of never being good enough. After I went through rehab [aged 26], one of my vows was that I would never rely on anyone else. I pay my own way. If people think I live off Charles then that's up to them. People who really know me, know how fiercely independent I am."
Trinny has not always been happy though. The real reason behind her quest to make the best of herself, with clothes, beauty products and extreme treatments, is because she spent several decades believing she was deeply unattractive. "I felt so f**king ugly until well into my 30s," she says. "As a teenager I had chronic acne and was completely miserable. I don't think anyone realises how long that feeling of repulsiveness lasts. I spent years hiding my face or covering it with thick, orange foundation. In my late teens I finally had Roaccutane [an acne treatment], which got rid of the spots, but left scarring on my face, which I was horribly self-conscious about. It completely affected the way I lived my life. I spent fortunes on beauty treatments and I'd always go to Como Lario (in Chelsea) to meet people to eat because the lighting slanted so you couldn't see the bumps and flaws on my skin.
"When we were filming What Not To Wear, there would be nights when Susannah and I would have a bottle of wine and 20 fags. [Trinny still smokes - and drinks - but has Botox and a retinue of products and regimes to tackle the 'cigarette lines' round her lips.]
"Susannah would do her night-time routine of Trilogy Rosehip Oil and cleanser and wake up in the morning with skin like a baby. I'd be in there for an hour [Trinny's night-time routines involves cleanser, soap, balm, exfoliator, oil and a skin roller] and wake up with skin like an ancient wreckage."
A few months ago, she sent the 'very low-maintenance' Susannah a package of her newly minted goodies. "She sent me a picture to show me she'd put everything on," she laughs. "And there was no bloody difference. I needed to get down there [Susannah, now an author, lives in Sussex] and show her how to use it properly. Classic Susannah."
The two women are as close and as loyal as ever. Susannah recently called out Victoria Beckham on Twitter for 'ripping off' Trinny's beauty videos, 'and not doing them nearly as well'. Trinny's online response was, 'How much do I love you?'
It is impossible not to like Trinny. At 53, she has retained that same blend of Ab Fab-glam and gung-ho enthusiasm with an underlying core of a no-nonsense nanny, and will unashamedly hoist another woman's ill-fitting bra or tackle head-on the issue of facial hair. Regardless of what you see on the outside (the lovely house, the glossy hair, the posh voice and the Stella McCartney silver brogues), her views have never come from a position of smugness but from vulnerability.
The sixth child of the hugely successful banker Bruce Woodall - who died last year aged 88 - Sarah-Jane Woodall was sent away to boarding school at the age of six, where her mischievous behaviour earned her the nickname Trinny (after the St Trinian's films). At 16 - largely due to her self-consciousness over her acne - she began experimenting with drink and drugs, and by 18 she was part of a rich and reckless set whose appetite for designer clothes, hard drugs and partying had no limits.
By 21 - after nights of drinking vodka and endless lines of cocaine - she did her first stint in rehab, but was kicked out (for screening a soft porn film). It took her five more years to get clean and to this day she follows the 12-step programme. Three years later, after working as a commodities trader, she met Susannah at a dinner party thrown by her then-boyfriend, Viscount David Linley. From their mutual obsession with clothes came a career as style writers for The Telegraph. Six years later - in 2001 - they were the presenters of one of the biggest shows on TV.
Their books sold in the millions - "The first book we did sold more than Nigella and Jamie Oliver's cookery books," Trinny says - and Oprah Winfrey secured them as style advisers on her show. In 2006 they moved to ITV in a £1.2m deal to front Trinny & Susannah Undress the Nation... but after its initial success, they left two years later to take their show around the world. This coincided with Trinny's split from her musician husband, Johnny Elichaoff, the father of Lyla. By 2011, Trinny had serious financial issues and in 2014, Johnny - struggling with addiction and financial problems - took his life by jumping from the roof of a building. Trinny, who had remained a close friend, was distraught. They had married in 1999 and been through nine courses of IVF together and two miscarriages before having their daughter.
Asked if she had had any idea about her ex-husband's state of mind, she replies firmly, "No. But if someone is on a mission to take their own life, no one around them has a clue. They hide it because they don't want to be stopped. There's a difference between someone who is doing something as a cry for help and someone who is hell-bent on suicide." She pauses. "It's only later that you start to link little signs together. It is a devastating thing to deal with.
"My life is one of constant ups and downs. From going through rehab to losing Johnny, there has been so much that has happened in-between. But one thing I've learnt in life is that you just have to get through stuff.
"There are times in your life that are amazing. When our show was one of the biggest on television, we had fantastic moments. And then there was the joy of earning a huge amount of money. I liked the fact that people knew who I was. I like it now. Most people treat me as if I'm a friend."
After the show left British TV screens in 2008, Trinny and Susannah spent several years doing spin-offs in countries from Poland to Australia to Israel. "It was exhausting. We worked five days a week because we insisted on being home at weekends - unless we were in Australia. We spent our lives on planes, but we just couldn't keep living like that. Susannah wanted to write books, I had this germ of an idea for a make-up brand. We decided to just stop."
But her route to Trinny London has not been straightforward. She began working on the project in the midst of a legal battle with her ex-husband's creditors for his debts (she recently won her case), and in order to fund herself and her business, she moved out of her large London house and rented a smaller one. She sold all the clothes she had amassed over her TV days. "I kept a few pieces I loved and some I'd like Lyla to have," she says. "But to set up a business I needed money. So I sold them and raised £70,000."
Her 50s are, she believes, her absolute prime. She looks great. Long and lean, she has lost that uber-thin look of the What Not To Wear days. She nods: "I used to weigh around 9st, which was too thin for my height. Now I'm just over 11st, which is my Christmas weight. I have boobs and a bum."
She continues, smiling: "As soon as I hit my 50s I started to feel great. I had a very early menopause which made my late 40s completely traumatic. I think my IVF treatments brought it on early, but it robbed me of my confidence and my emotions were all over the place. The best thing was coming through it.
"I'm still having Botox - I started at 35 - and I love it," she says. "I'm not ashamed of wanting to look my best and of wanting other women, of any age but particularly of my age, to look as good as they can.
"I have always paid for my treatments and so when I write my blogs they are completely honest. My products are the result of years of trying to make the best of myself."
Mission accomplished, we'd say.
Sunday Indo Living