On the sunny November morning I meet Trinny Woodall, I’m sporting an enormous pimple on my cheek and a mild seasonal hangover.
Trinny, on the other hand, is radiant in a full-length silver Saks Potts dress, sculptural No. 21 shoes and a long neon necklace by Liat Ginzburg. The contrast couldn’t be more apparent but – Trinny being Trinny – she’s all compliments, flattering me in the best kind of throwaway manner.
My skin is “peaches and cream”, she offers at one point in our conversation; my cool-blonde hair will go a good grey as I age, whereas hers is “a shitty, slightly warm grey, like the tail of a fox”.
I very much doubt that, but I’m grateful nevertheless – this generous, self-deprecating attitude being just one of the reasons she’s so universally loved. Many of us have grown up with Trinny. For a while in the 2000s, she seemed to be everywhere on TV and in newspapers as the host of What Not To Wear, alongside her equally plummy journalist mate, Susannah Constantine.
For a while in the 2000s, Trinny seemed to be everywhere
Looking back, What Not To Wear was pretty brutal, taking everyday British women who’d been deemed unfashionable by their friends and dissecting their wardrobes, before kitting them out in entirely new clothes. There was lots of talk of “saggy baps” and “fried eggs” (aka breasts), and other non-too-subtle body shaming. But it was also funny and joyful, at a time when it was still unusual to have two women fronting their own show.
Now, as the founder of make-up and skincare brand Trinny London, Trinny has amassed legions more followers – her so-called Trinny Tribes – who tune in several times a day to her social media posts for style and beauty advice. She’s as direct as ever, but she has softened, too. The Trinny who’s perched opposite me on a high stool at the Trinny London pop-up in Melbourne’s Westfield Doncaster has accumulated a lot of life since her What Not To Wear days, as well as a lot of loss.
At her age (59), she says, “I think you’ve learned more in your life, and you don’t worry about what people think the way you do in your 20s. I worried so much about what people thought. Now, I don’t. I wouldn’t be who I am if I worried.”
And one of the things she doesn’t worry about is ageing. Up close, she looks ageless – not over-filled or Botox-stunned, and her skin has enviably good tone and texture. Her make-up, applied by make-up artist John Corcoran, who accompanies her everywhere, is of course flawless.
Trinny doesn’t see a point at which she’ll just stop having tweakments, or dying her hair. “I don’t think in terms of stopping anything,” she says. “When I look in the mirror, I think, ‘Do I look full of energy, do I look alive? Do I feel that I can do whatever I want to do today? And I will do what it takes to [achieve] that. So it’s what I feed myself, the make-up I put on, it’s the treatment I have, it’s the Botox.”
She feels women’s access to Botox, fillers and other cosmetic assistance has changed where we feel we’re at in our lives. “So my mum, at 60, was an older woman. I don’t feel I’m an older woman, I feel I’m just at midlife. I mean, I’m going to be 60 soon. And I think, Could I live to 120?”
Brought up in an era and class where children were very much seen but not heard, Trinny reportedly had a strained relationship with her mother, who dispatched her to boarding school when she was six years old and the family moved overseas.
The experience made her determined to parent her own daughter differently. Lyla was a much-wanted child, conceived after nine rounds of IVF with Trinny’s then husband, musician Johnny Elichaoff. “The thing I do that’s most like my mum is that, when Lyla’s driving me insane, I retreat. For me as a child, that was the most painful thing… [Mum] would say, I don’t want to talk to you anymore, and I had no way then to express my emotion.” So, after tricky phone calls with her daughter, Trinny makes sure she calls back.
“Also, my mother was never very physical with me, so I’m very cuddly with Lyla – she still sits on my lap like a five year old. I know how important that is for both of us as I didn’t get that from my mother.”
I feel I’m just at midlife. And I think, Could I live to 120?”
Lyla is now at university in Spain, although they text and call several times a day. At a similar age, Trinny was living in London, somewhat adrift, at the start of a destructive period of drink and drugs that would see her spend several months in rehab (the first of which paid for by her parents, who sold a table at Sotheby’s to cover the fees).
“I was a late bloomer, because I didn’t really start my career until I was 35,” she says. “I came out of rehab when I was 27, probably with the emotional age of a 16 year old, so it took me a while to catch up. All my friends were ahead of me in terms of career and kids.”
Having established her TV career in her 30s, with What Not To Wear reaching a terrestrial TV audience of seven million at its peak, Trinny didn’t experience her next reckoning until her mid 40s, when she started to look for her next passion. There was a little bit of “Where am I now?”, she says, a feeling that’s common among members of the Trinny Tribes as they reach a point in midlife where children are getting older and the need for identity reasserts itself.
Part of that search encompasses makeup, she says. Suddenly, what worked in your 20s and 30s doesn’t quite fit.
Unlike today’s young people, with TikTok tutorials at their fingertips, “we never had education around make-up. So women get to 40 or 50 and don’t know how to apply it, and feel embarrassed to ask,” says Trinny. At Trinny London, “we talk about make-up being for life, not just ‘this colour for this week’ – we actually design colours to suit who you are and think about how, with skincare, you can build a routine.”
In her book, Fearless, Trinny devotes the entire first section to instruction on how to identify the colours that suit you, which sounds very 1980s but is actually revelatory, particularly as it stops you from buying unnecessary make-up based on just liking the colour and then finding it looks shocking on your face (just me?).
Another great tip? Putting on make-up after you’re dressed, so you can match it to your outfit, rather than applying the same colours whatever you’re wearing.
Colour is hugely important to Trinny – in Fearless, she writes that, “I sometimes think I will have ‘wear colour with colour’ written on my gravestone”. In her Instagram videos, she pulls together colourful looks from her extensive wardrobe, with sequins also making regular appearances. In ‘Friday Twinning’, Trinny and her video director Chloé Dall’Olio dress in identical outfits, with Chloé’s more voluptuous figure a nice counterpoint to Trinny’s slim frame.
“To me, social media has been a great tool to communicate with as many women as possible globally,” she says. “Facebook is where we interact with our Trinny Tribes – we have 34 in 17 countries. In Victoria, we have one with 6,500 women in it and they all chat, and support each other. So I love how social media works that way. For me, it’s about having a healthy sense of emotionally connecting while not forgoing my private life.”
I sometimes think I will have ‘wear colour with colour’ written on my gravestone
Over the years, Trinny’s private life has generated thousands of headlines, particularly surrounding her relationship with advertising guru and art collector Charles Saatchi, and the death in 2014 of her husband Elichaoff, from whom she had separated but remained close. Now, she lives in what she cheerfully describes as a frat house: “I have my nephew and my stepson living with me – my stepson said he’d stay with me for a few days, and he’s hardly left. They’re 30 and 33.
“They’re brilliant and shit in equal measure. I’ll get home and they’ll go, ‘We made you dinner!’ and then also there will be a shit on the floor from the dog just a few inches from the door.”
For now, Trinny isn’t in any rush to enter a new relationship. “I can close my bedroom door, and I’m on my own and I’m not beholden to anyone,” she says, adding that she’s not looking for a relationship to complete her.
“I know who I am. I have love in my life, I have friends in my life. I live in a home I’m renting but I’ve made it a cozy home. I feel a sense of community, from the people who work at Trinny London to my Trinny Tribes. So if it happens – and it will, I will have another relationship at some stage – it will bring something new to my life, rather than complete it.”