“There are all these Wonderful Older Women [WOWs] in the beauty and wellbeing sector and I’m going to sing their praises,” says the pearly skinned Josephine Fairley.
First, though, let me sing Jo’s. True, she’s a fellow journalist, and we’re a famously uninteresting bunch. But she is, I think, an exception; because, for all her formidable and influential output, she’s so much more than that.
Jo is a Bloomer heroine (56 next month) with fingers in so many mid-life pies that she almost embodies the female wing of brigade50. To extend the military metaphor, she is also a seasoned campaigner. But we’ll return to that.
As it is, there won’t be room to go into her best-friendship with the late Paula Yates. Or her pretty, and pretty big, home in Hastings. (I’d say she was queen of this high50 hotspot if she didn’t have competition from many of our other star writers.)
Jo Fairley’s many hats
For now, then, let’s hear what she’s been doing for the last decade or so, apart from writing for Psychologies, Yoga, Green, Healthy, Beauty and Waitrose Kitchen magazines. (She has also preserved her status as the longest-lasting contributor to the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine.)
Well, one of things for which Jo is best-known is co-founding Green & Black’s chocolate in the early Nineties, along with her boyfriend (now husband), the visionary wholefood entrepreneur Craig Sams. “We sold the company a few years back, though we’re still involved,” she says. “Since then we’ve been based in Sussex, where I’ve opened a bakery, which has won all sorts of awards, and the Wellington wellbeing centre.”
She has also launched a beauty newsletter and website, another blog about scent, and has co-authored the burgeoning Beauty Bible series since 2001. Most recently, she has published a book about yoga (see our excerpts).
This is not to mention her public speaking, addressing audiences ranging from book groups to City bankers, nor her charity work at Centrepoint, where she gives makeover classes to homeless girls. (“You can immediately see the effect it has on their confidence and sense of self-worth.”) Nor her next, top-secret business idea – and I can’t even tell you which sector she’s about to invade this time.
Keep calm and carry on
You’d think Jo would be at least mildly frazzled. Instead, as anyone can testify who has seen her presenting High50’s make-up videos, she exudes calm and competence. Which makes one wonder: A, how does she manage? and B, why does she do it?
So, how: “As one of my yoga teachers says: Flexible spine, flexible mind. Yoga is really important to me, and meditation. I’m being constantly interrupted, of course, but I’ve learned how to both focus and switch off without getting stressed or distracted.”
As for why: “I like the excitement, I like not knowing what’s round the corner. I don’t think so much as feel, and I can’t not feel the way I do. I take care of myself so that I can work hard.”
And – cue the campaigning – so that she can make a noise about it. Jo has, she says, “a message that everyone should hear.
“Most women in the beauty business, far from being airheads, are extremely competent, thoughtful, positive people who are trying to make the world a better place. The business is full of female entrepreneurs, because it’s an area where they have real insights into other women.”
Such as? “That most women are extraordinarily obsessed with beauty.”
Before one can scoff, she continues: ”People who care about their outsides tend to care about their insides, too: nutritionally and spiritually. I can show you so many women who work in wellbeing – and cosmetics is a part of women’s wellbeing – who are a credit to the human race.”
Wow. Indeed, WOW. Starting with Space NK’s Nicky Kinnaird, over the next few months Jo will be introducing us to a regiment of such Wonderful Older Women, passing on their tips about life, love and lipstick.
It’s a big job. But knowing Jo, she’ll make it look effortless. Because, let’s face it, she’s quite a WOW herself.