Wednesday, 26 August 2009

To dye or not to dye? or Is Grey the new Blonde?

Let's begin at the beginning.

I'm having a hair crisis.
Again. (No need for panic though as it only scores a measly 5 on the IGIS*.)
Short hair is fantastic: youthful, showcases your features, makes you stand out from the casting crowd (why do they all have shoulder length hair?), no split ends. The downside is that it has a recurring tendency to grow out very suddenly. You can go from elfin to matronly literally overnight. Thank goodness Luigi is on hand to work his magic in a few days' time.
But never one to await rescue, I felt I had to take action. So I thought I'd dabble with dyeing my hair. Nothing too daring. Just a slightly lighter shade of brown. Now, apart from an aberrant and short lived forray into red in the late 90's, I haven't really explored the world of hair colour. It's no wonder that those 10 minute claims on home colouring kits proved too much to resist. In spite of the professionl advice to first timers never EVER to do home colour, I went ahead.
It was quick and painless, with none of that repulsive amonia smell. Unfortunately, the result looks rather cheap. I was aiming for medium brown, but it's gone a bit henna red. And combined with my short crop having outlived its shelf life, I feel like one of those short haired Mediterranean matrons who waddle around in slippers and pinafores and carry big shopping bags full of groceries.

Photo: Diego Cupolo


The thing is, this whole dyeing experience wasn't as impulsive as it appears. Dyeing has been on my mind for a while - I mentioned it to Luigi last time he cut my hair. His perspective was refreshing: it doesn't matter what colour your hair is, as long as you've got some. He then added, you'll look fantastic with grey hair when you're older. It'll really suit your skin tone. It's going to be so striking.

Well, we're nowhere near that yet although I'll admit to yanking out the odd silver strand from my head here and there.
So why this fixation on hair colour? The truth is, I always wanted to be blonde. My mother maintains that with very few exceptions, we are born with the hair colour that suits us best - tough nuts if it's mousy brown. So I've always admired those women who look so incredibly and iconically sexy when they change their hair colour: Marilyn, Madonna, and more recently Scarlett Johansson in those D&G adverts, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce! In other words, why oh why can't I look drop dead fantabulous in platinum blonde? Why does it make me look grey and all washed out?
I tried to go blonde as teenager. I used SunIN. Remember that stuff? I ended up with a mop of orange hair. Tragic. My mother still talks about it.
So it got me to thinking that maybe grey could be the new blonde. I hear you guffaw. Silent in the ranks! I have 5 words for you: Meryl Streep Devil Wears Prada. And another two words: Helen Mirren. (That's at least 3 Oscars. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, and reflect on your prejudices!)

So the question is. Would I dare go grey as a fashion statement, before my hair actually starts to grey naturally?
Is the world (read the Film Industry and Casting Directors) ready for grey as a fashion statement or would I suddenly find myself in casting sessions lumped in with retirees and geriatrics?
What if the experiment didn't work? Would I be able to go back to brown and my own casting age or would I find myself irrevocably locked out of roles below the age of 60?
Thank goodness for Luigi's ultra short crops... my current dye job will most likely grow out before my next big audition.

It'll have been - dare I say it - a close shave.

*IGIS stands for Isabelle Grooming Issues Scale. The scale goes from -19 to stratospheric. (The negative scores correspond to issues that are not yet relevant eg deep frown lines, drooping breasts, drooping nose, ears and eyes, feathering lipstick, motled skin, post menopausal facial hair, adult acne, old lady flat bottom, hot flashes... hey, it sure puts things in perspective.)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Pin Up or Peanut?

It's official. I'm a pin up!
What I mean is I had my first upmarket fashion/art magazine interview ever... commissioned by a contributing editor to Vogue.
Need I say more...
Yes actually, I do! The magazine is called GLASS MAGAZINE, published by CondeNast. And I'm in rather good company: last month they had an interview with Michelle Yeoh.
Want to know what all the fuss is about?

A Cast of Thousands - Gregson on Mary Selway

Isabelle Gregson is a name you'll be hearing a lot more of in the next few months. Not content with being an actress (Law & Order: UK, Wire in the Blood), playwright and novelist (look out for her book 'As the Actress said to the Bishop', out next summer), she is putting her multifaceted talents to filming a biographical documentary on the late Mary Selway, the uber casting director of films like Indiana Jones, Aliens, Notting Hill and Gosford Park. Glass catches up with Isabelle during a brief gap in her hectic schedule to ask the whys, hows and whats of her latest creative endeavour..

Now go read about it!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Skinny, The Pudgy and the Ecto/Mesomorph

Is there any middle ground in the physical department for a woman after her late twenties? Leaving aside models and certain athletes, and Angelina Jolie, is there anything left between being unappealingly skinny (sunken cheeks, dull complexion, lanky hair, concave chest and absent rump) and deliciously endowed (overflowing bosom, rosy cheeks, luxuriant locks, full lips, and welcoming hips)? Is there? After your late twenties? Without counting Botox, lipo, reverse lipo (where they inject your own body fat into your face for example), or retouching on photoshop?

Show me. That’s right show me. No, she’s still in her mid-twenties. And that one's just turned 21. And this one doesn’t count. She used to be a man – they age better.

So what are we supposed to do? Until some clever boffin comes up with a way of re-engineering our DNA and turning us all into Mesomorphs (well those of us who want it – there’s no accounting for taste.) are we to be lamentably torn and tormented between these two archetypes?

So which one would you rather be? Sexy and size 14 (God knows all the good theatre parts seem to be written for them) or pinched and a size 0 (they have loads of parts for them in Hollywood, but then they expect you to have monstrously disfiguring plastic surgery: cheek bone implants, bigger eyes, smaller nose, and big big lips)?

- So what’s it gonna be?

- Somewhere in the middle.

- There is no middle after 28, you have to chose, take sides. Skinny or pudgy? Your call.

- Do I really have to make a choice?

- Yes. Stop wasting my time Lady, can’t you see the line behind you? If you don’t choose, we’ll choose for you.

- No!!

- OK then. What’s it gonna be?

(I don’t know where this exchange has come from, I appear to be channeling a strong African American lady with links to the US Immigration Services at JFK. “Stand behind the yellow line!” Let’s see where it takes us.)

- I’ll be sexy and size 14. But only if I can dress like Marilyn.

- What do I look like to you? The Fairy God Mother? Grab a boiler suit.

- A boiler suit? I don’t want to be a size 14 in a boiler suit! I want to be a size 0 in a boiler suit. What am I saying? I don’t want to wear a boiler suit. Period.

- Silence from the other girls waiting behind me in the queue. Stern gaze from the Matron. She’s a cross between Mama Morton and Meryl Streep in Doubt. I know, terrifying.

- Are you and me going to have a problem?

I’m shaking my head no.

- Cos it looks to me like we’re having a problem.

- Not really.

- Are you calling me a liar?

- Oh no! I just need a minute to make up my mind. It’s a difficult question.

- Let me get this straight. (She’s now referring to a bunch of note in her red notebook.) You’re the girl who always wanted to be thin from when she was like 7, the girl who obsesses about the size and shape of her belly, the girl who won’t buy new clothes because she’s terrified she’ll have to go up a dress size, the girl who periodically starves herself or goes on detox diets. It’s you we’re talking about. Right?

- I nod sheepishly. The queue behind me is straining forward and all ears.

- I’m giving you the choice, the opportunity to be a size 0, but I’m saying you can also be a size 14 if you like. You know, so that there’s no pressure. And you can’t make up your mind? What have you been secretely wishing for for the last 25 years every time you blow your birthday candles, or see a shooting star, or eat the first fruit of the season?

- (Me, in a whisper.) To be a size 0.

- What’s that? I can’t hear you. Quit mumbling!

- (Me, louder.) To be a size 0!

- Alright then, so is that what it’s gonna be. Size 0?

- I’m not sure.

- Excuse me?

- I don’t know anymore. I’m all confused. I want to be a size 0 because that’s supposed to be attractive but now you’re saying I can be a size 0 and unattractive or a size 14 and sexy and well see I had my mind set on being both a sexy size 0 and now you’ve turned it on its head so I’m confused. I’m not sure what I want.

Sigh from the Matron who’s got a heart of gold underneath that stern exterior. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but you can make one choice today, and then if you change your mind, we can accommodate that. Legally, you’re entitled to switch as many times as you want. At no extra charge.”

I bite the inside of my lip the way I do when there’s too much information for me to process.

- So what’s it gonna be, just for today?

I smile. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? And run to the back of the queue.

Monday, 3 August 2009

First Time

I did it! I finally got my first ever invite to dine at The Ivy!

On my quest to gather material for the book version of this blog, I landed myself the busiest Saturday in living memory. And I'm going to name drop shamelessly over the next few paragraphs, so brace yourselves and gird your loins...

Borough Market in the morning. Which was a challenge because I'm still on my detox diet. (It should be over by now, but it got interrupted by 5 days in the West Country with delicious pub food, irresistible puddings, and the odd Twister.) Determined to keep the weight off I've gone back to the beginning. This is week 2...) So the market consisted of me wondering around trying not to inhale the various cheeses, cookies, organic flap jacks and almond croissants on display. I also narrowly avoided killing the poor fellow manning the juicing stand: it was 9:45 and it said he wouldn't be ready for another 15 minutes...

Still, we managed to keep it all civilised. I resisted the German hot dog and the Turkish falafel and the chicken wraps (the chicken wasn't cooked yet) and slurped on my grass green kiwi/spirulina juice. I even managed to convince myself that it was nice and filling and contained all the energy I would need for my hour and half long dynamic yoga class...

Having survived yoga class, I went home for a quick lunch of green salad and a banana.

The plan was to then take an hour long nap before my casting workshop with BBC casting director Ben Cogan. But it took me ages to print out copies of my Spotlight CV (something to do with trying to cram 2 pages into 1) and so I ended up with a 20 minute cat nap which didn't really do the job.

Anyway, off I went to the workshop: starving and pretty tired. We had to do some scenes in pairs. We were first up and I felt really rusty and rather incompetent... I hadn't felt that way since drama school... Still, ego aside, I learnt a lot and Ben Cogan is a delightfully engaging man. (Please please cast me in one of the BBC series...)

After the workshop I headed home, narrowly avoiding purchasing a Classic Cornetto from the convenience store near Old Street tube. (And I do mean narrowly, I had my hand on the lid of the freezer...)

Once I got home, we had to get ready for an evening at the Theatre followed by said dinner at The Ivy.

"I'm thinking about wearing my mini-kilt from Edinburgh." (It's purple and pink and my trophy purchase at the end of my stay in Edinburgh last year.)

"I thought you'd be wearing your Thai trousers with the pin stripe."

Me - a tad defensive. "You don't think the kilt looks good?"

"It looks great, but the Thai trousers are more dressy."

So we headed off (me in my Thai trousers with the pin stripe, Repetto grey top and faux
purple snake skin Rock Chick jacket) in the pouring rain to the Soho Theatre to see "Dreams of Violence." It was fantastic! And all the more enjoyable because we sat in the second row, real close to the stage.

Then afterwards I got to meet Paula Wilcox, the star of the show as it happens that her husband was the one who'd invited us along to The Ivy for dinner.

Then we made our way The Ivy (the rain had stopped) and I got to meet the rest of the party.

The funny thing about The Ivy is that because it's a notorious hangout for celebrities, anytime someone walks in, all heads turn, scanning for a famous face. So we walked over to our table under the scrutinity of the other dinners. Very odd. I'm sure they recognised Paula.

Apparently, Sienna Miller was sitting across from us. Well, I completely blanked her because I wasn't wearing my specs and everything beyond our table was a blur. I hope she wasn't put off. (When I went to the loo, I think she might have been standing by the basins, but as I said, it was all a bit of a blur.)

We finished dinner around quarter past midnight. Before I forget, I had yellow tail sashimi and salmon fishcakes. I got to chat to our host, Paula's husband who is a very engaging American business man, as well as to a British captain of industry and his glamourous blonde American wife, and a romantic British lawyer and his partner, a quietly posh and very charming young artist who was wearing a fabulous dress; understated Boho chick, but classy. (I can't tell you what Sienna was wearing. Sorry about that.)

I don't know how else to describe it except it was a bit like being in a scene scripted by Julian Fellowes. I savoured every minute of it. It was a real treat. And I was aware of it being a treat as it was happening, rather than appreciating it only in hindsight (if you follow me).

Then we all said our goodbyes and headed home.

And that, as they say, was that. My first night at The Ivy.