For every mouthy actress who wins a contract to represent a cosmetic giant, a supermodel goes hungry... James Sherwood advises Emmanuelle Beart to leave it to the professionals
Imagine the uproar in the movie industry if Anthony Minghella cast Kate Moss instead of Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient. It's bad enough if you're a singer trying to break into acting - ask Madonna - but models making the crossover are doomed to failure. So it must be so galling for the "Supers" to see The English Patient's Juliette Binoche as the face of cosmetics giant Lancome, Liz Hurley at Estee Lauder, Emmanuelle Beart at Dior, Andie McDowell at L'Oreal and Carole Bouquet at Chanel.

"The big cosmetic houses did their market research and concluded that women are less intimidated by actresses than models," says Elle beauty director Charlotte-Anne Fidler. But actresses, it seems, are less intimidated by the cosmetics houses. It was reported this week that Beart was close to losing her contract as the face of Dior. Last August, she was caught in a Princess Diana-style scuffle while protesting for rights for immigrants in Paris. In February this year, she was photographed on an anti-government march without make-up (quel horreur!), hair unwashed and wearing Swampy- style attire.

Dior deemed it "not appropriate behaviour" for their ambassadress. A spokesperson for Dior would not confirm whether it would renew Beart's contract and would only say, "Contracts don't last forever." Like all billion-dollar industries, the beauty business can turn ugly.

When it comes to professional integrity, the beauty industry could give Piers Merchant a run for his money. The latest anti-ageing creams are advertised by girls who won't experience HRT for at least 40 years. "They are blank canvases," says Fidler. "I don't use girls over 25 for make- up shoots. You need incredibly fresh, young complexions to carry off close-up, beauty-page shots. The trouble with actresses is that they won't see 30 again and the cosmetics companies have to use all the tricks of the trade to make the pictures work."

Some models obviously don't fit these criteria. However, another beauty journalist says of Liz Hurley, "She may be paid $2 million to model for Estee Lauder, but it's got to the point where all that's left is a pair of lips, nostrils and eyebrows. They have bleached the photos so much poor Liz looks like Jack Nicholson as The Joker."

The same source also believes the industry first questioned the wisdom of using actress/models after the Hugh Grant debacle threw Hurley into the spotlight. Before the ink was dry on her Lauder contract, Hugh Grant was caught with Divine. Inappropriate behaviour, even by proxy, is seen to be damaging to the image of the cosmetics house.

To a layman, Emmanuelle Beart's political beliefs and personal statements may seem refreshingly honest. When asked if she wore perfume, Beart replied: "Very rarely. I like to be natural. I like the smell of skin." It's the equivalent of Jennifer Aniston telling you Pantene isn't a patch on Vidal Sassoon. Cosmetics houses pay their "face" fees beyond the dreams of avarice. In Faustian return, they expect total control. If actresses like Beart aren't prepared to sell their body and soul to a cosmetics house, then they can be replaced. Ironically, Dior is rumoured to be looking at actress Isabelle Adjani.

The beauty press is 100 per cent behind models reclaiming their rightful place. "Take Cindy Crawford," says Fidler, "now there's a pro. As the face of Revlon, she is primed to answer every journalist's question. She will not only tell you she wears Revlon but also recommend specific products. She is their ambassador, she is paid well to do it and she does her job brilliantly." She may also privately swear by Lancome, but the beauty industry is all about appearances.