Fashion: Changing Faces

For over three decades the Cover Girl has been the epitome of the clean, blonde, all-American look. Now five new faces, including a dark-haired English schoolgirl, are poised to change all of that

If you ever wondered what form of beauty the average woman has aspired to over the last 30 years, you could do worse than turn to the Cover Girls. For these (usually) blonde, perfectly symmetrical creatures have spent over three decades directly reflecting the changing face of cosmetics. They started with a natural look, moved through a glitzy- disco-and-big-hair phase and now - with the launch this month of a campaign featuring the "fresh faces" of two teenage English roses, Lucy Gordon and Sarah Thomas - they've come full circle. In the Nineties, if the new Cover Girls are anything to go by, women want to look innocent. Natural. And very young.

Since its launch, Cover Girl, a mass-produced, affordable cosmetics range which is not ashamed to be sold in supermarkets and chemists, has made good use of its advertising campaigns. (How else do you sell a lipstick that costs just pounds 4.49?) It has always made sure there is a strongly identifiable Cover Girl face, whose possessor often features in television campaigns supposedly doing a shoot for the cover of a magazine such as Vogue or Brides - the implication being that these are products used by professionals. Yet, far from being high fashion, from the Sixties on this has been make- up that reflects the needs and aspirations of Joanna Public.

For the first few years, models were used to sell Glamorous Liquid and Natural Powder. "Fights germs on your puff" ran the voice-over. These were the cold-war years after all, and germs of all kinds seemed to be a major threat; the face-powder was antiseptic, and that appeared to be all that really mattered. Then, towards the end of the Sixties, Cover Girl had the foresight to hire a very young Cybill Shepherd; sensing her star quality, every advert featured not only her face, but her name too. There she was playing table tennis, bouncing excitedly across the screen like one of her own ping-pong balls. "It looks and feels like no make- up at all," she gushed through creamy-coloured lips.

Shepherd continued to be Cover Girl's favourite saleswoman well into the Seventies, filmed on ski slopes in crocheted hats, or "at work" with some swarthy- looking photographer. After her came a decade of airbrushed blondes, so interchangeable that Shepherd's nose or Cheryl Tieg's eyes could have been superimposed on Christie Brinkley's face and few would have been any the wiser. What made each of them a Cover Girl was the possession of a set of features as even and symmetrical as a butterfly's wings.

The faces themselves may have been interchangeable but the looks were not. In the Sixties it was natural and creamy. Then came shiny eye-shadow, brown lips and Cheryl Tieg's hair getting bigger and bigger. As the Eighties arrived, the Cover Girl wore new Peeper Sticks, to make the lids of her eyes shiny blue or pink. "Clean is sexy" ran the catchline.

Thirty-six years after the brand's launch, the face has come back to the clean and natural, no make-up look. In 1991, Cover Girl was relaunched in the UK, following the purchase of its parent company Noxell by Proctor and Gamble. The brand needed an overhaul. The women who had grown up with Cover Girl lip softeners and nail slicks - not to mention the Cover Girl faces themselves - had married, climbed the career ladder, had children and prospered. They had moved on to cosmetics with classier packaging and inflated prices. A new generation of young women - who can choose from ranges designed with them in mind, be it No 7 or Urban Decay - had to be enticed to powder their faces and paint their lips with the brand their mothers once used.

The models Cover Girl chose to do this job are the first to have their own, indi- vidual look. Not only are there non-Caucasian faces and brunettes as well as blondes, but the girls themselves have a spark of interest about them. They look totally different from one another, and from the Cover Girl of the past - not least 16-year-old Lucy Gordon.

Lucy had thought that going to Cover Girl's video casting in London was a waste of time. "I don't consider myself an ideal of beauty," she says. "Not in any sense of the word. I don't think I'm beautiful." Similarly, two years ago, when Lucy and her mother were followed around the Clothes Show Live exhibition by agency scouts, she had never thought about a career in modelling. But within a few months she had signed up with Helena Christensen's London agent, Select; she won the Cover Girl contract, worth more money than most teenagers dream of, between taking nine GCSEs and starting study for three A-levels at the all-girls school she attends.

Lucy joins another British teenager, Sarah Thomas (who chose to leave her studies and concentrate on a career in modelling), three young Americans, and the veteran models Tyra Banks and Niki Taylor. The new stars all have one thing in common: fresh faces and innocent looks. Oh, and a clear complexion. Cover Girls don't have spots, even when they're teenagers.

Girls of Lucy's age are the target market. The one product Lucy, with her unblemished 16-year-old skin, doesn't need is foundation - but that is what she was chosen to advertise. "I am Simply Powder Foundation," she laughs. "Scratch me and it will fall off."

Like most of her school friends, when off-camera Lucy wears very little make-up. If she goes out it's a matter of a light dusting of powder, a little blusher and some mascara: the very look the ads are selling. "I don't wear much make-up, but when I do, it's Cover Girl," she says. Hardly surprising - she has boxes of the stuff. At the end of the shoot for the first campaign, she was told to help herself to products. Her friends at school now use Cover Girl too. "I just got armfuls of it," she says. "It was like Christmas." If the ads are a success, her new bosses will soon be feeling just the same. !

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