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Tinsley Mortimer has no concept of the undone look. But even though she rarely sails forth for an evening on the town without the reassuring touch of hair and makeup stylists, she’s no society windup doll.
After appearing on the red carpet at a social event in Manhattan, Mortimer seems more interested in hanging with her friends than working the room to connect with power hitters, always with an eye out for the next photo op. Neither is she afraid to try something different and experiment with her look.
During the New Yorkers for Children Gala in the fall, Mortimer wanted to try a new look — a departure from her signature loose blonde curls and demure pink cheeks and lips. While a hairstylist and a makeup artist worked on her simultaneously, Mortimer advised them on every detail — from the length of the black eyeliner on her top lid to the blending of her eye shadow shades.
“I almost wanted to make myself feel a little uncomfortable,” confided Mortimer. For the sake of change her hair was slicked back and pulled around to one side, while darker, more dramatic makeup was applied.
Reflecting on the change after the event, she said, “Overall I really liked it, but I definitely felt fidgety and I don’t like feeling that way while I’m out.”
Flexible she may be, but she certainly has her standards. In addition to being a fixture of New York Society, the 31-year-old blonde moonlights as Dior’s U.S. Beauty Ambassador, attending cosmetics events on behalf of the company and consulting on its product lines.
“For me, Dior is synonymous with luxury,” said Mortimer. “The Dior girl is someone who loves to get dressed up but isn’t afraid to have fun. It felt like a good fit to me.”
Mortimer feels comfortable in the role. After all, her first job after graduating from Columbia University was as an assistant in the beauty department at Vogue. What’s more, Mortimer’s mother starting giving her “beauty lessons” at a young age.
“I have a very Southern mother who loved her makeup and would remind me each time I left the house to have my lip gloss on, and she started reminding me when I was in fourth grade,” recalled Mortimer, who was raised in Richmond.
This story first appeared in the December 28, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I’m not afraid to dress like a girl with feminine details on my clothing from ruffles to poufs and puffy sleeves.”
Mortimer added, “I might be the girl who’s a little more dressed up, but it makes me feel more comfortable. I’ve never done effortless chic well. I do better looking very feminine with everything tucked into its place.”
She acknowledged that she is unable to control how she is perceived, or stop the stories that might appear in the tabloids, which she charged are filled with inaccuracies and lies. Mortimer — who is married to Topper Mortimer, the great-grandson of an oil tycoon and a descendant of John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — said she has learned to shield herself from media scrutiny by avoiding certain magazines and blogs. She admits, however, that she is flirting with the idea of a reality TV series with a fashion bent, but no plans are in place at the moment.
Over a recent lunch at Frederick’s, Mortimer said, “Comments scrutinizing my appearance and the way I dress don’t bother me, but people making up lies is difficult. You feel a sense of helplessness when people lie because you can’t even really defend yourself. But I guess it’s just something that comes along for anyone who’s involved and visible.”
The trouble is, she pointed out, the media attention tends to overshadow activities and causes that she feels strongly about. For instance, she said she frequently recruits sponsors for charity events. She sits on the associates committee for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Young Friends committee for New Yorkers for Children, while also acting as one of the chairs for the American Museum of Natural History’s Winter Dance.
Her biggest gripe is the negative press that portrays her as a socialite using the charity circuit to land on the invite lists of New York’s most exclusive events.
“This frustrates me, because I work hard — from helping with sponsorships to raising money and awareness. I pay for my own tickets, but on occasion I get invited as a guest to sit at someone’s table,” she said.
She has parlayed her high-profile social calendar into gigs in the fashion and beauty industry. In January 2006, she inked a deal to act as a spokesperson and a designer for Japanese company Samantha Thavasa, where she has her own line of handbags and clothes. She was named Dior’s Beauty Ambassador in May.
Despite her perfectly polished appearance at fashion shows and black-tie affairs, Mortimer unwinds by walking her two Chihuahuas in Central Park or attending boxing classes at her Upper East Side gym. What you won’t find her doing is getting a facial or massage, since she indulges in these luxurious treats only when traveling on business to Japan or on vacation.
Mortimer, who attends about three events a week, declared, “Believe it or not, I’m very low maintenance with my beauty regimens, although I always get my hair and makeup done when I go to events.”