Lucy Caldwell: The Story So Far...

If Dostoevsky is indigestible, try some beauty writing


Last week I was a judge at this year's Beauty Journalism Awards, alongside model Jade Parfitt, make-up artist Sharon Dowsett and AA Gill. (How I ended up on the panel - a tall tale involving Bridget Jones, literary soirées and, er, hairy legs - is probably best left for another time.) We were judging the best full-length features in magazines and glossy supplements, and we spent a day at Claridge's battling it out.

There are times when even Dostoevsky can begin to feel indigestible, and what you feel like reading is the equivalent of a Tunnock's teacake. You don't read beauty pages for their brains - or at least that was my preconception. But after spending a weekend studying two heaving-at-the-seams folders' worth of submissions, I was taken aback at how good the best writing was.

Sometimes you consult beauty pages precisely for information or advice: lazy beauty journalism, though, can begin to feel like little more than product placement. But the outstanding articles were sharp, unsentimental explorations of femininity, and of how we perceive beauty, in all its shifting political and historical contexts: our deserved winning entry was an incisive account of cosmetic practices at the court of Marie Antoinette.

The ceremony, at the Hayward Gallery, was very much a party-dress-and-Jimmy-Choos occasion. I flew in especially from Galway, where my play, Leaves, has just begun rehearsals. There should've been enough time for a turnaround - but the flight was so delayed I had to phone my sister (my Plus One for the evening) from Luton and instruct her to grab a dress - any dress - from my wardrobe, sling it into a bag with some stilettos and meet me in a cab.

As I tried to apply mascara in a jolting hackney carriage, I wished that Sharon was there, or that one of the hundreds of articles I'd read in the course of judging had been on how to make a scruffy, harassed playwright look glamorous while careening through the streets of London at hair-raising speeds.

The following day, slightly the worse for wear, but thankfully with twice as long to spend on my outfit, I was off to a party of a very different sort. It was my friend Gwilym's 30th birthday, and a merry little band of us - poets, academics and itinerants - set off into the Essex salt marshes, fuelled by Czech spirits and home-brewed sloe gin in hip flasks, reciting snatches of poetry to the babbling curlews.

So, although I may have begun the week on the right side of the looking glass, I ended it talking what might as well have been Jabberwocky to the kestrels and cormorants, dishevelled and wind-blown, looking as far from a credible judge of beauty as it's possible to imagine.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusias...

Maths Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusiastic Maths Tea...

English Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

SAP Data Migration Lead

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise  

The UK economy may be back on track, but ordinary people are still being left behind

James Moore
The Independent journalist James Moore pictured outside Mile End underground station in east London  

The true cost of being disabled goes far beyond just the physical

James Moore
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform