Lucy Caldwell: The Story So Far...

If Dostoevsky is indigestible, try some beauty writing

Share

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

Recruitment Genius: Partner Manager - EMEA

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Partner Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - OTE £100,000

£45000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Sales Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manager is for a successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

We all have a problem with drink, not just Charles Kennedy

Simon Kelner
Jilly Cooper  

Jilly Cooper’s Riders: You actually can judge some books by their covers – so don’t meddle

Rosie Millard
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific