Chatting to Stephanie Darling is a lot like going to lunch with your best, gossipy girlfriend – there are great stories, fun anecdotes and fabulous advice.
Beauty editor Darling has enjoyed a glamorous life filled with international travel, a fair amount of champagne as well as a few beauty treatments that range from the inspiring to the whacky. It’s a fun journey and it has all been documented in her newly released memoir, Secrets of a Beauty Queen.
From landing her dream job at Vogue, to the axing of Madison, it’s been called a behind-the-scenes peek at the exotic world of beauty and luxury magazines. Darling’s playful and self-deprecating tone permeates the book as she talks about trips all over the world with companies such as Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy for perfume launches and lipstick lunches.
It’s not a serious book – unless you regard the search for the ultimate nude lipstick a serious quest – but it is the perfect holiday read and there are some great beauty tips scattered throughout.
Darling's new book shares her trade secrets to looking good while still having fun (Photography: Justin Ridler)
Darling is now 56, a veteran in the beauty business, an industry that worships youth and the quest for perfection. She still loves it and wouldn’t have it any other way. As she says in her introduction, “Manicured hands down, I have the best job in the world”.
She’s done it all in the name of beauty – from facials and massages to obscure and faddish invasive treatments – and she loves sharing the results with readers.
“I think it’s about accessibility,” she says. “And I think that’s the real premise with the book, that I am quite self-deprecatory, because that’s how I have been all my life and that means people relate to me because they don’t feel I am on some strange pedestal.”
Her fellow beauty editors are usually much younger, she says, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I am surrounded by 20-year-old women, whom I love and adore and that’s what helps keep it fresh and interesting for me,” she says. “It’s quite cute, they call me Mumma, which is quite sweet.”
But does she feel the pressure to always look her best? “I guess you have to look all right if you produce a book with the title of Secrets of a Beauty Queen,” she says, laughing. “There is a little pressure on me.”
The first half of the book details Darling’s journey from graduating at university to beginning her career in trade journals before securing a job at Vogue and then onto the beauty desk, where her true calling began. The second part is devoted to sharing her favourite insider tips – and go-to beauty products. It is almost like having a personal one-on-one session with the beauty queen herself.
“A lot of people have said that they can hear me talking when they read it,” she says. “I think if you can write how you would talk, that’s the key to a good voice, certainly with a book. It has to feel natural and for people to feel that they know you and are getting to know you better through the process.”
Darling also opens her rather impressive address book, sharing secrets from top dermatologists, make-up artists and hair colourists, all celebrating a life spent in the pursuit of beauty.
“When I started writing the book I realised how many amazing people I have met and how lucky I have been to have access to all these incredible people in the field,” she says.
“It’s really about getting amongst it rather than just sitting in your office. It’s just relationships – that’s what life is about.”
Her key anti-ageing tip? It’s surprisingly simple – SPF 50+ sunscreen, she says, with the sun-safe message an element she reinforces throughout the book.
“Yes, it’s all about wearing sunscreen and building relationships.”
How do you feel about ageing? What’s your favourite beauty tip?