IT’S ironic, isn’t it, that Louise Redknapp agreed to be photographed wearing not a scrap of make-up for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal this year?
The campaign, which also featured a bare-faced Lulu and Heidi Klum captured by fashion photographer Rankin, was all about persuading Britain’s women to ditch their mascara and lippy for a day and help raise cash for disadvantaged children. And the irony is that the former singer, TV presenter, celebrity mum and footballer’s wife is also, most recently, the high-profile face and business name behind one of the country’s newest cosmetics brands.
But then, perhaps it isn’t so ironic after all, considering Wild About Beauty’s range contains, controversially, no foundation, only the most muted of neutral colours and, as its name might suggest, is made from natural ingredients.
“For me, it was a brand I wanted to work on a couple of levels,” she says. “One, for women to be able to put it on in five minutes for the school run. Two, any colour they buy would suit them. I don’t know about you, but I have been sold so many make-up products that when I look in the car mirror I think, ‘Who would let me walk out looking like this?’ The amount of money I’ve wasted on products I’ll never wear. And that was something I felt really strongly about. I wanted to make products that everybody could wear and it’s very hard to get wrong.
“I’m a big fan of that just-off-the-beach look,” she adds. “Less is more when you get older, but you should also celebrate having gorgeous younger skin while you still have it. Our range is about taking it back to basics and saying, ‘Don’t cover up all your skin. Use make-up to enhance what you have and not completely change it’.”
When we meet, Redknapp is in the corner of her cramped London offices, computer screen in front of her, desk strewn with make-up. But right now she has more important business to take care of. Like attempting to track down a last-minute ventriloquist for her son’s birthday party, arranging childcare with her mum and fielding calls from her husband, former footballer Jamie, who is stuck for birthday present ideas for his missus.
Now, just turned 38, she still looks surprisingly girlish. Teeny-tiny, fragile almost. And I can’t keep my eyes off her gleaming white teeth and glowing just-back-from-the-Caribbean skin (I have no idea if she really is just back from the Caribbean but you’d have to think that ad campaign she and Jamie did for Thomas Cook would have some perks).
However, I suspect that fragility is deceptive. Redknapp comes across as a pretty tough cookie, a lioness guarding not just her boys, but also her hard-won image. What you see – that happy marriage, the kids, the girl-next-door cutie – is carefully controlled. Not necessarily fake, but fiercely protected none the less.
“You have to hold something back,” she says. “It’s a bit of a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you can get chewed up and spat out at any time. You need your home life as secure as it can be, it’s something you have to nurture.
“My secret is never talking about it very much,” she adds. “It’s that thing – if you talk about it lots you’re a smug married and if you don’t you’ve got problems. People will come to their own conclusions. Jamie’s my world and that’s pretty much it, really. It’s about prioritising – the boys are my priority and I’m his. I think that is key.”
The result of that philosophy is that she’s less likely to be seen on the red carpet, and more likely to be spotted doing the school run, or picking up a frozen pizza in Waitrose, or standing on the sidelines of a school football game yelling her support. Both boys are, by the way, massive football fans and hope to follow in their dad’s bootsteps. “I thought I’d have kids, I’d buy them all these cool clothes. I love my fashion. But it’s football kits. That’s all they ever wear.”
Football. Though she may not care much for the tag or its connotations, Redknapp is the poster girl for the footballer’s wife. The original WAG. But, as she is quick to point out, when she first met Jamie (the pair have been married now for 15 years), the phenomenon didn’t exist. “It wasn’t even considered cool to be married to a footballer at that time,” she says.
“The word WAG is always used as such a derogatory term, which is really sad. I have lots of very good girlfriends who are married to footballers and they’re amazing women: doctors, paediatricians, four kids running around, karate, football, they’re bright and intelligent and they completely support their husbands in the job they do.
“People can be very quick to judge, but when you have four kids at a school and your husband comes home and says, ‘We’re moving to Newcastle on Friday,’ you have to be some woman to uproot. I know they get paid well and all the rest of it, but at the age of eight your kids don’t care about things like that, they just want to be with their friends. There’s such a lot of negativity that comes with being married to a footballer and not many people look at the bigger picture.”
Indeed, though she gave up the music business – first as part of the girl group Eternal then as a solo artist – to bring up her two boys Charley, eight, and Beau, three, she has strived to be more than a mere bauble on her man’s arm.
“I’ve always been incredibly hard working and self-sufficient and quite driven,” she says. “But realistically, doing music with two children, something had to give. For me, being around for them was far more important than a music career, even though I loved it and I miss it. It was part of my life for so many years but the boys come first, and TV can fit in. I can say yes or no to things, opportunities come along, but then equally I can take a month off to be with the kids.”
Her main line of work has been presenting – as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, The Farmer Wants a Wife and replacing Amanda Hamilton on the Sunday morning show Something For The Weekend, for example. But she is perhaps best known for the extreme diet she underwent for the experimental The Truth About Size Zero documentary in 2007. “That was incredibly tough,” she says. “I took on the challenge because I believed in it and I thought it was something I could talk about very honestly. I had a friend who suffered badly from anorexia. But I didn’t think for once I would suffer so much trying to lose the weight.
“The hardest thing,” she confesses, “was that, once I lost the weight, I liked the look. It really shocked me. But it was impossible to stay that way ... and eat cake!
“My husband finds nothing sexier than when we go out for dinner and share a meal, so it infuriated him when I was just pushing food around my plate. I was very governed by what I ate – it became so obsessive. And spending time with young girls who suffered from eating disorders broke my heart. It’s one of the things I’m most proud about doing,” she says, adding carefully: “After I’d finished.”
The experience, though, hasn’t prompted her to join calls to ban skinny models from the catwalks. “You have to separate it,” she says. “The people we see on the catwalk are very aspirational: they’re 6ft tall, they look incredible, they’re models. In real life there’s no reason we shouldn’t enjoy looking. I love Vogue. I love Elle. I love high fashion. But we have to remove ourselves and be realistic about who we are. We’re not them. It’s a different world.
“Look at Beyonce, at Jennifer Lopez, Adele, women with incredible figures who are really curvy, gorgeous. There are plenty of people we can aspire to who are not catwalk models.”
She paints her life as terribly ordinary, hanging out with the friends she’s had since school, washing the boys’ football strips, but there comes a time when a girl has to put on her glad rags and hit Mahiki. She and Jamie were recently papped on a night out with Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall – “that was such a good night, we sang karaoke together”. Then they were spotted on an impromptu double date with former Spice Girl Emma Bunton and her partner Jade Jones. “Now and again, through work, you find yourself socialising with celebrities and it’s great,” says Redknapp. “You meet so many interesting people. But every week is different. One day I might be trick or treating with the kids or taking them to Pizza Express, it’ll be school run, Waitrose, picking them up, making dinner, doing homework, bed. The next I might be at the Pride of Britain awards. That’s what makes me happy. I get the best of both worlds.
She’ll be taking some more time away from the family soon to film two new documentary-style television programmes for 2013 (as is the way with these things, she’s not allowed to say what they are). But, for now, she’s concentrating on Wild About Beauty. “Between that and the boys and Jamie there’s not an awful lot of time to do anything else.”
Redknapp began working with make-up artist Kim Jacob following the birth of her first son Charley, when she suffered badly from a skin pigmentation disorder. “Kim had the ability to cover up my pigmentation but still make me look natural and glossy. That was when I realised I was struggling to find products that do the job for me. Kim had already been working on formulations she used on me, I would be asking her if I could buy them and she said, ‘You know, we should maybe think about doing this together’. We have a lot of the same ethics, a lot of the same understanding of fashion and editorial looks and it all just clicked into place. There seemed to be a gap in the market for what I call your really cool essentials.”
She insists she’s “really low maintenance” and doesn’t believe in expensive face creams and serums – the price point for Wild About Beauty is deliberately affordable with, for example, the tinted moisturiser coming in at £22 and an eye colour at £14. “I never understand why people spend a fortune on their skincare regime then they’ll put any make-up on their face, something they’re going to wear all day and evening.”
She’s a regular client of London skin specialist Dr Frances Prenna Jones who, she says, “describes lots of creams as like putting boot polish on your face – just shining it up for a few hours. I don’t think you should have to invest huge amounts of money to make your skin look good”.
Indeed, make-up isn’t even particularly high on her agenda. “I certainly don’t do anything like hard work to look good; I don’t have the time, with two kids, the make-up business and what I call my day job, which is TV and things like that. I look rough some days. I have good and bad days like every other woman. When you see me publicly I’ll have gone through a process of turning into that. I don’t get out of bed looking that way. I have pigmentation in the summer, I have marks on my face from having children, I face every challenge every other woman does. And that’s partly why I came up with this, because I want to make the best of myself but in a really natural way.”
Her beauty idol is Danish supermodel Helena Christensen. “She’s just gorgeous and effortless. There’s such celebrity pressure nowadays where all women are expected to look a certain way. I find it really uplifting when I see someone who looks great just because they look great.
“This whole thing about looking younger all the time – everyone around me is getting older, my husband is getting older, the friends I hang out with every day are getting older so we’re all in the same place. I just try to look the best I can as a 38-year-old instead of trying to look 28.”
Wild About Beauty is available from Debenhams and wildaboutbeauty.com
LOUISE’S FIVE MAKE-UP MUST HAVES
Multi-purpose Tint in Lynne or Sandra
Louise calls this creamy pot of deep brown or pink (right) her “multi-tasking marvel”. Use it on eyes, lips or cheeks. It contains anti-oxidants, and vitamins. £14
Smooth Cover Concealer Kit
A double pot that saves the day when dark circles, blemishes and skin imperfections come to call. The two tones allow you to create the perfect shade for your skin. £19.50
Lightweight and colourless, this product contains sea whip marine extract, an anti-inflammatory calming ingredient that can smooth out the skin’s surface and solve the problem of oily patches. £20
Golden Skin Glow
Is this lightweight bronzing gel (left) the secret to Louise’s glowing complexion? Applied on its own or under foundation, it contains vitamin E and extract of German chamomile to soothe and hydrate the skin. £21
Nutrilips Balm in Rosaria
A lip balm in a subtle plummy shade, the rich moisturising comes courtesy of shea butter and vitamin E. £13