Life & Culture

Why beauty is a feminist issue

A new podcast aims not only to fill your commute with interesting discussions and interviews, but also to empower women, working from the outside, in


With every celebrity from Kim Kardashian to Benedict Cumberbatch stating their feminist credentials, the zeitgeist is all about empowering women. And where better to do that than with an industry that has always been associated with women but not always in a positive way: beauty.

This is where Nicola Bonn comes in, with her podcast Outspoken Beauty.

Bonn, a Smooth Radio presenter, has always been interested in beauty in the past she has written a blog and had a syndicated monthly beauty columns in many lifestyle magazines but now she thinks that podcasts are the perfect medium to get her message across.

“Podcasts are very exciting. Even though they’ve been around for a while they’re still seen as an exciting thing.”

And she has a “very important” point to make, both when talking to me and through her podcast: “I don’t think beauty is a shallow thing. It’s fine to be interested in beauty; it can be a hobby for women, it can be very empowering, it can make you feel good, it can help you face the day, and I don’t think anyone should feel ashamed or think they’re in some way shallow or stupid because they have a love of beauty.

“For me, collecting beauty products is a bit like collecting fine wines, every one has a history. Especially perfumes. The amount of work that goes into them, it’s an art form.” With her background in radio, a beauty podcast was the next logical step.

“I looked at the way my friends and I spoke about beauty growing up, talked about periods, the fact that we were insecure about our spots. I found, as we got older, people closed up. I’m a very honest person that’s why [the show] is called ‘outspoken’ beauty.”

She describes beauty as “the ultimate feminist industry”, recalling the number of women who work in beauty, are employed by the science labs, make-up counters and more. “No women should be ashamed as they apply their make-up or get excited about a toner. I think they should celebrate it.”

The show has so far only had a handful episodes, but guests include luminaries from the beauty world including Guardian beauty journalist Sali Hughes, singer Myleene Klass, editor-in-chief of Style magazine Lorraine Candy and Elle “the body” Macpherson.

By inviting celebrities on to her podcast to talk about their insecurities, Bonn aims to show that “life isn’t all Instagram”. On her wish-list is the journalist Bryony Gordon, famous for speaking out about her mental health issues and how she overcame drug addiction and eating disorders.

“I’m not just recommending products,” Bonn is adamant. “I’m unearthing the issues that surround beauty and looking at the empowering side of beauty”.

Bonn herself has used beauty to help build her confidence. Always a make-up lover and enthusiast, after having children she found it served a different purpose. Following the arrival of Poppy, four years ago and Louis, now two, beauty took a back seat “you don’t really do beauty when you have newborns” but gradually, as the fog lifted, an idea was born. “A lot of women on maternity leave become entrepreneurial,” she says.

Bonn describes herself as a woman with a signature look: her go-to makeup is a flicky cat’s-eye. However, as her life changed so did her beauty needs, and it was thinking about the power and purpose of make-up at different points in a woman’s life that helped her build the podcast.

“When you’re pregnant, you glow but also your body changes, your skin changes. And for many women there’s a moment, it normally happens a year after, when you think: ‘I want to look good again; I haven’t looked good for a long time’. For me, having the kids was a time when I was exhausted and my glow had gone, so skin care became a big part of things after I had my daughter.”

Outspoken Beauty isn’t just for women, however. Bonn wants all beauty enthusiasts and users (including men) to come away from her podcast feeling empowered and confident. She says that she plays make-up games with her son Louis as well as her daughter.

“It’s not only little girls [who like to watch their mums put on make-up] little boys are interested, too. It’s fun, it’s a game”.

And she uses make-up to bond with her children just as she bonded with her mother and grandmother.

“I’ve always been surrounded by very glamorous women. My grandma was a fashion designer; my mum was always just beautifully turned out. She had a love of make-up as well: I’m sure would have done a podcast if she’d had a chance.”

If you recognise the name Bonn you might be one of small band of matzah fans. “Apparently Bonn matzah was the big thing, then Rakusens took over and we went bust!” Bonn laughs (a laugh that family folklore says is inherited from the actor Sid James, a “distant cousin” of her grandfather).

“I want women who listen to the podcast to go away feeling very excited about beauty and that they can be whoever they want to be.”


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