Interview with Madeleine Spencer

Well my dear lovelies don’t I have a coup for you today! Now before I get into the marvelousness of this new post where I chat (virtually) to a well- known beauty journalist and podcaster, it’s time to give you all a little update.

Now, if you follow us on Instagram (if you don’t, shame on you!) you will have seen that I recently spent 2 weeks driving across Italy. I’m hesitant to say it was idyllic as the Italians don’t believe in speed limits, road signs, road markings or vegetarians! Dannazione! Despite being very fair skinned, thanks to harbouring the ginger gene (dannazione!), I did manage to get a tan and so of course, I’ve been parading my brown sausage-like leggies around Central London with the smugness of a Cheshire cat. Whilst I was away, I received lots of messages and emails asking when our new products will be launched.

Darlings, I wish I had a concrete date!

We were planning to launch new stock this autumn but thanks to the pandemic everything grinded to a halt. Our tech specs are finished, leather and suede skins are ready, and photoshoots have been arranged but our factory in East London is still closed.

We aren’t sure when they will be able to resume production safely. I did toy with the idea of manufacturing somewhere else (yet still in England) but I don’t want to risk or compromise on the quality of my products. Rest assured, new products are coming and as soon as I have a definite date I’ll be shouting it from the roof tops like a crazy – but bronzed – woman!

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Rightie O, on with today’s post! You will know by now that I am a huge champion of entrepreneurialism; of people taking a chance, following their passion and creating products which bring something new to the table. I salute you all! So, for this month’s post I reached out to Madeleine Spencer, former beauty director at InStyle UK, podcaster, dog lover and all-round nice person, to ask her all those questions you want – and need to know! She's written for Glamour, Get The Gloss and Elle to name a few and has interviewed a plethora of stars for her podcast including Kylie Minogue, Zoe Sugg, Wendy Rowe and Caroline Hirons, again just to name a few! I shall deter no longer so grab yourself a biscuit (plain digestives are not allowed on account of them tasting like cardboard) and make yourself comfortable.

Please note: as always, my responses are in Italic.

You have a podcast called Beauty Full Lives (great name!) but where did you get the idea to do it? And what has been your biggest learning curve since your first episode?

I really wanted to host a podcast that wasn't just about people in the beauty industry but also about how beauty dovetails with life for people from lots of different walks of life. I felt an interview format, taking guests through their childhood and to the present day would be the best way to unearth those visceral memories of moments where beauty had resonance, and where their appearance (or those of other people around them) affected them positively and negatively. The biggest learning curve has been how much time it takes to pull together all the different elements and how multifaceted the job of being a podcaster is.

I suppose you have to be the presenter, booker, editor and researcher all at the same time when hosting a podcast so it’s very entrepreneurial in that respect.

It’s somewhat controversial to say writing is a career for the privileged. The pay is pretty poor and with the cost of rent ever increasing in London it seems as though only those with generous parents or partners to subsidise their income can afford to write full-time. Would you say this is a fair statement to make?

In my experience, absolutely. It's hard, hard graft to keep your head above water even when you've done it for years, let alone when new to the industry. When I started out, internships were paid at £10 a day, which doesn't get you far in London. I was enormously privileged as my family lived in London, and that allowed me to work the necessary internships to get my foot in the door.

£10 a day now will only get you a couple of rides on the Tube and a bottle of water! If that!

I was desperate to secure an internship within publishing but for me, born and bred in Devon with no one in the city I could stay with and parents who were vehemently against paying rent for me, landing an internship was always depressingly out of reach. One could argue I am very privileged having grown up by the seaside, spending the summers in Salcombe and having a very outdoors childhood but for most of my teenage years I viewed Devon as a prison - very dramatic I know! I was so enraged that I couldn’t simply hop on a train to London (don’t get me started on fares nowadays!). I think – nay, strongly believe that all unpaid internships should be banned across all industries. As you said, even if internships are paid, they’re so abysmally low that they’re simply not an option for people who live outside the city or who don’t come from the ‘right’ background. As a businesswoman I see the advantages to companies by paying a young person very little whilst expecting them to work a lot. I see both sides of the coin but getting your foot in the door is the hardest part and the industry needs to do more – not just say they will but actually pull their finger out and help those people out. For an industry to thrive you need great writers, great entrepreneurs and great artists; you need diversity but not just concerning gender or race. Proper diversity with talented people from all walks of life, originating from the seven corners of the globe. I’m off on a rant now! #AbiForPM


(Madeleine backstage at Temperley London for a shoot for Marie Claire)

When you began writing and forging a path in this industry did you experience any hurdles or setbacks getting editors to view your work?

ALL the hurdles. All of them. Nobody was interested in the slightest. It's changed a lot though in that respect thanks to digital - now, interns are more often than not encourage to write stories for online to build up their profile, whereas I did internships where I wasn't asked to write a single word.

Hahaha I love that you emphasised ‘all’!

Speaking of editors, what tips would you give to rookie lifestyle writers who lack contacts? How should they go about pitching articles to magazine editors? And does ‘cold-emailing’ work?

All bets are off now. It's a completely different landscape. Start your own platform if possible, and absolutely cold e-mail, but make sure you know the publication prior and have a feel for their tone and style.

I totally agree with you. They need to create their own platform even if it’s just an Instagram account. A decent website is pretty cheap to set up nowadays so they could write a couple of articles a month then at least when they reach out to editors they have a portfolio of work and can show they have initiative. In this digital world content is king so most publications are as desperate for articles as you’re desperate to write them, right?

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(Madeleine co-presenting with Denise Van Outen)

If you could change one thing about the beauty industry what would it be and why?

It is the best and worst parts of a group of very clever, very driven, very competitive people clamouring for a piece of the pie. And the pie is pretty huge, but when those with big appetites and egos get involved, it can edge out or silence others.

Over the years I’ve seen that it’s very much the same within fashion. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the person who shouts loudest that gets the recognition instead of the diligent worker bee. Of course, this depends on which part of the industry you’re in but unhealthy appetites and raging egos make for the worst work environments.

As a beauty journalist you are faced with the notion of what the industry and wider society considers ‘beautiful’. How do you navigate the pressure to conform to industry standards? Do you believe the markers of female beauty are really changing?

I grew up surrounded by really beautiful people - my mum and brother both modelled, and my Dad was a restaurateur in London, so his crowd were fairly glittering. I was always very aware of the effect beauty had on other people, how it shaped perspective. But I think that young exposure made me hardier and more aware that being beautiful or 'perfect' actually means very little at all, and that if all the facets of life aren't tended to, it has minimal positive impact whatsoever. The industry and trends therefore don't really affect my view of my own appearance, though I do get concerned about the idea that it's important to look a certain way. That said, I think people have probably complained about that for centuries, so maybe that element of youth culture always looks a bit worrying, unless you're right in the thick of it.

I was listening to one of Joe Rogan’s podcast episodes (trust me this will become relevant) and he was chatting to Bret Weinstein. The topic of beauty came up and they dissected the difference between what’s considered hot and beautiful in society. Bret, an evolutionary theorist and scientist, explained that hot is frivolous and is finite. Whilst being beautiful is associated with grace, dignity and experience which normally comes with age. I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to listen but at the crux of it he said that society mixes the two but it’s very rare to find someone, men and women, with both qualities – he believes they’re uncorrelated. Hotness is unfortunately what society strives for because it is pitched as ‘the only standard possible’ by advertisers and this is where it becomes very problematic for women.

It’s just like you said, being considered perfect by the standards of magazines doesn’t mean anything – there’s no substance. Ok, there’s a debate about whether one has it easier in life if they’re more than uncommonly attractive but I’m unsure about that. Now the intersection of social media is presenting challenges to both men and women that centuries ago you never had. Go back to the 1800s if you lived in a village of three hundred people you could only compare yourself to the most attractive person you knew who was probably a farmer’s daughter or the like but now the scope for comparison is endless.

If you want to listen to Joe Rogan and Bret Weinstein talking about Hotness Vs Beauty (in the first five or so minutes) click the link below:

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(Madeleine photographed with Trinny Woodall)

For a freelancer starting out networking is key but many will find the idea of talking to a room full of strangers incredibly daunting. Moreover, expensive if one doesn’t live in London. What tips would you give on networking?

I think networking well comes from being brave and reminding yourself of your value. Don't be put off because someone in the room has done more; all career ladders in this industry are different, and everyone progresses at a different speed. I also always think manners are important, so introduce yourself, be polite and enquiring, try to learn, and hope that it might help. And remember that if someone is rude or standoffish, that that's a significant failing on their part, irrespective of who they are. 

Very well said! A quiet confidence will see anyone through anything. I always believe that having a great anecdote about your day – even if it’s made up – up your sleeve is a sure-fire way to start networking. You’ve got to remember that most of the people in the room will be feeling the same sense of dread as you so an ice breaker will be welcomed by everyone.

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You’ve been honest on your Instagram about suffering from mental health problems and wrote a piece for Get The Gloss in 2019 about suffering from anxiety. So, with that in mind, how do go about protecting yourself mentally whilst making a living in such a competitive, cut-throat industry?

I keep my blinkers on as much as it is possible to. I know what I've set out to do, and I don't want unnecessary noise in my head. I mute Instagram accounts when I need to, only socialise with people I genuinely like and who have my best interests at heart (and vice versa), and my friendship group is comprised of people who work in many different professions and come from a variety of backgrounds.

The ’always on’ aspect of social media is a double-edged sword and I find Instagram exhausting at times. I went through a phrase where looking at Instagram and the hordes of influencers parading their skinny legs, endless holidays, enviable wardrobe and lifestyles would put me in such a foul mood. So, likewise, I cut the unnecessary noise out by routinely going on an online detox and only look at Instagram for twenty minutes a day.

Is it really as cut throat and cliquey as Estee Laundry say it is?

Yes and no. It depends on who you spend time with. But there are some pretty awful stories I could tell which sound so out there that my friends outside the industry can barely believe grown people behave like that. Lots of bitchiness and entitlement, in certain quarters. But my answer to that is just not to seek those people out; there are plenty of incredible and truly fascinating people, too. It is, like every industry, I suppose; a mixed bag.

Unfortunately, there’s just too many horrible people in this world and they’re not confined to one industry! However, beauty and fashion’s predisposition for glitz, glamour and celebrity will inevitably draw some of the most egotistical people. Obviously, I there are some fantastic people too; real salt of the earth types who deserve praise and recognition. Thanks to current movements I think employees are getting more support for speaking out against nasty bosses and co-workers. You do get the Devil Wears Prada types but now people have a chance to speak out and be heard because bitchiness and entitlement shouldn’t be accepted anymore. No matter who you are or your position within an industry there’s no excuse for acting like an a*******.

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When I spoke to digital creator Lydia Tomlinson, she explained there is a darker side to Instagram and some of the drawbacks of opening your life up to strangers online. Have you experienced any negativity? If so, how do you deal with that?

I have - more so recently. I try to remember that someone bothering to message or comment nastily is more a reflection of the commenter than anything to do with me. But it's pretty rubbish and actually sad too because it would be great to have more debate and discussion on social platforms minus the slurs and assaults on character or criticism of appearance.

I remember you got trolled online for a piece about wellness in The Times back in 2019. [READ HERE] You were called ‘delusional’ and ‘self-indulgent’ because of your routine; a routine which included the very sensible tongue scraping. The fact that a total stranger would never come up to your face and say something horrid but online? Of course, it’s fair game! Social media has bred a new form of entitlement where people (the minority, hopefully) believe that their opinion is worth more than fact. Newsflash: it isn’t. Ricky Gervais once said ‘twitter is like reading the graffiti on the back of a toilet door’.

Magazines are dying. Influencers are the new editors, models, photographers and stylists, creating magazine-quality content – the good influencers that is. There is a raft of beauty influencers who like to promote a different ‘favourite’ skincare product each week. Cutting the hot air BS, few will take the time to research, trial and compare products. Do you think the art of writing consumer advice has gone?

I hope not. I think - or maybe blindly hope? - there'll always be a place for considered, authentic, quality, investigative words, irrespective of the platform.

The challenge isn’t producing relevant content but for people to find it through the barrage of noise, nonsense and nepotism on social media platforms like Instagram. Gosh I sound like a whiny old person!! Perhaps that’s me being a bit of a cynic but maybe there needs to be a new platform…

Are there any female entrepreneurs that you admire and why?

Loads! Nikki Tibbles especially springs to mind; she has had such a huge career and now devotes so much time and energy into helping stray dogs through her Wild At Heart Foundation, which is where I adopted my dog, Monty, from. Pam Marshall, who owns Mortar & Milk, is also so inspirational: her knowledge of skin is second to none, but she is calm and compassion personified, and spends her work life debunking myths and trying to genuinely help people with their skin. Leanne Pero is someone I look to when the going gets tough - she has faced some huge hardships and somehow turns everything into a positive initiative that'll help others.

And finally, if you can steal anyone’s wardrobe – dead or alive – whose would it be?

I'm sorry but there's no way I could answer this with one person so: Kate Moss for casual mooching around, Grace Kelly in all her Hollywood era dresses for events, Elvis in the late '50s for perfect androgyny, and Ginger Rogers whenever I wanted to lounge while feeling fabulous.

Grace Kelly always tops the list of best dressed women for me. For years I would beg my mum to recreate Grace’s outfits for me and she did. My mum’s fantastic at sewing and managed to adapt various Vintage Vogue patterns to make knock-off versions of her dresses.

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I hope you guys all enjoyed this latest in my entrepreneurial series. A huge, HUGE thank you to Madeleine for taking the time to answer my questions! Of course, check her out on social media:

Instagram: @madeleinelovesthis

Listen to her podcast here:

And you can view the articles she’s written by clicking here:

Rightie O’, that’s nearly enough from me today but let’s do a round up of Madeleine’s best advice for aspiring writers and bloggers.


1)     Create your own platform

Be it a blog, YouTube channel or an Insta account, growing your own audience will help you to hone your craft and get you noticed by editors.

2)     Don’t underestimate your time

There’s lots of moving pieces and skills you have to master so be prepared to spend longer than you think on every project.

3)     Be brave when networking

Remember your manners! And don’t be offended if someone is being rude; it says more about their failings than yours.

4)     Focus on what you want to do

Keep your eye on the prize, get rid of toxic people and toxic thoughts, and be kind to yourself.

5)     Keep at it!

Keep working those socks off and you’ll get there


If you found this article helpful then please share it, follow us on Instagram (@tamara_harvey_official) and stay tuned for the next instalment in my lifestyle entrepreneurialism series!