With her tenth recipe book out and the accompanying BBC series beginning last night, you might imagine Nadiya Hussain wants to talk about cooking.
But rather than chatting whipped cream and baking powder, we’re here to talk about moisturising cream and translucent powder, as the 2015 Bake Off winner has just signed her first ever beauty contract with IT Cosmetics.
Hussain, whose Nadiya’s Everyday Baking was published last week, is in many ways an unlikely ambassador for the brand.
’I came to makeup very, very late in life,’ she says. ‘My mum never wore makeup, my aunties never wore makeup. My sisters did but I had no interest in it.’
Hussain admits that ‘maybe it’s because I didn’t have confidence in myself. I felt like I would look silly if I put makeup on’.
But part of it was also because growing up in the UK with darker skin meant that ‘makeup wasn’t as accessible’.
‘My older sister’s got really fair porcelain skin, my second sister has the same skin colour as me, and she could never find a foundation,’ she says. ‘Seeing my sister struggle to find makeup for herself meant I never really went into that world.
‘I was 29 before I bought my first lipstick – it was pretty bold and that says a lot about me. I went from not wearing lipstick ever to wearing this deep, deep purple, almost black. It was from a brand called Black Up – I don’t know if it exists any more – but I still didn’t own a foundation that suited my skin colour, and the reason I stopped at this stall was because it was made specifically for darker skin. There were foundations that looked like my skin colour, and lipsticks in tones that would suit my colour. And when I wear it, it makes me feel powerful.’
Hussain, 37, neatly articulates two aspects of the beauty industry that have come to the fore in recent years: the fact that while makeup is often dismissed as superficial and fluffy, it can be a vehicle for self-expression, a form of art and a means of confidence-building. And also the fact that for a long time it excluded many women.
‘Unless you’ve been in a position where you’ve not been able to access a particular shade of makeup, you would never really understand what that means for women like us, who can now go into a shop and find every shade and everything in between to not only suit your colour but suit your skin type,’ she says.
‘There’s a freedom and an inclusivity in that, and there are lots of us who haven’t been able to express ourselves in that way until very, very recently.’
It’s not the first time Hussain has spoken publicly about the colour of her skin and the racism that she has experienced. She says it has taken her time to come to terms with her skin tone and the way the outside world perceives her.
‘It is not always easy to celebrate the thing that makes you different,’ she says. ‘It has always been my skin. The colour that my body is enveloped in has made me feel excluded and unsure of the thing that I am most proud of today.’
What prompted that shift from self- doubt to confidence?
‘Age! Getting older, having children, watching my own children go through those insecurities and knowing no matter how much you pep talk them and prepare them for the world, accepting having insecurities is part and parcel of growing up.
‘I took a long time to get there. And I tell my children it’s OK to feel not confident or left out because that’s just part and parcel of life – perhaps more so for children like mine than other kids. I always remind them that that is the thing that’s going to make you stronger.’
One person who is undoubtedly thrilled about Nadiya’s diversification into cosmetics is her daughter, Maryam, 11.
‘She expresses herself with makeup in a way that I’ve never, ever seen anyone do before,’ says Nadiya. ‘For me, it’s looking fresh and glowy and feeling confident. For her it’s an art form. But I do have to hide some of my makeup, otherwise it all gets “borrowed”.’
I’d assumed Hussain’s introduction to makeup had come during her time on Bake Off. However, she tells me they weren’t allowed to wear makeup on the show at all.
‘I look back sometimes and think “Girl, you should have put some Vaseline on at least!”’ she says.
Now she’ll rarely be seen without her signature hoop earrings and minimal makeup.
‘I truly believe they have special powers,’ she says. ‘I could be wearing tracksuit bottoms and whack on a little bit of CC cream, a little bit of foundation and mascara, and walk out feeling like the most powerful woman in the world. Very few things can give you that. And if something does make you feel like that, you should never, ever let go of it.’
Nadiya’s IT Cosmetics picks
Bye Bye Pores Blush in Sweet Cheeks – £25
‘It’s amazing because when you sweep it on, you genuinely cannot see one pore.’
Buy for £25 from Cult Beauty
Bye Bye Lines Hyaluronic Acid Serum – £21
‘Literally gets rid of your lines. I cannot rave about that enough. It is unreal.’
Buy for £21 from IT Cosmetics
Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer in Rich Golden – £26
‘A really lovely, thick formula that sits on your skin without creasing.’
Buy for £26 from IT Cosmetics
Superhero Mascara – £23
‘You can just rub it off and it doesn’t get stuck so you don’t get panda eyes.’
Buy for £23 from IT Cosmetics
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