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Unlikely as it may seem, there was a time when Joan Collins flaunted her makeup-free face around Hollywood—but it wasn’t exactly a hit with her studio bosses. At the time, Collins was playing a famously beautiful showgirl in the 1955 film, “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.” On the set, her face was caked in Pan Stik, but in her free time, she took on the role of bohemian, wearing jeans, zero makeup and bangs that grazed her nose. The director was horrified: “Oh my God, I can’t even look at you, you’re so hideous!” she recalls him saying. “Put some makeup on….And what is with the hair?” The studio bosses agreed. “I was one of the last contract ladies at Twentieth Century Fox,” says Collins. “And the studios laid down the law.”
Collins eventually learned to love makeup—provided she was in control of it. The actress, who rose to worldwide fame in her role as Alexis Colby, the villainess with the lavish war paint from Dynasty, first learned how to apply makeup from Allan “Whitey” Snyder, Marilyn Monroe’s personal makeup artist. To this day, her contracts carry a proviso saying she must do her own makeup. “The only time I don’t is when I play a character role, like the Wicked Witch for the BBC. Other than that, I do my own,” says Collins, 81, who is now sharing her wisdom with the public via a new beauty line. Joan Collins Timeless Beauty, which launched in the U.K. in March, is a makeup, skin care and fragrance collection that’s currently sold on QVC and at Urban Retreat at Harrods. It’s Collins to the core: Colors are bold, the pigments are built to last and the packaging is high-shine gold with an Art Deco touch. There’s even a lip color called Alexis.
Collins spent roughly two years developing colors and formulations for the 40 launch products: Lipsticks, in particular, needed to be moist and long-lasting—“I’m still doing television appearances and movies, and there’s nothing worse than reapplying your lipstick,” she says—while foundations needed to be sheer but buildable.
Skin care is geared toward delicate complexions. The day cream, with SPF, is called Sun Hat; Collins says she “slaps it on” her face regularly when she’s having a makeup-free day. “Have you noticed people who drive a lot in California, as they get older they have spots on the side of their face where the sun comes through the window? It’s very important to protect yourself,” she says. Good skin care and makeup have long been integral parts of Collins’ beauty arsenal: “I’ve always said ‘base, not Botox.’ With the proper application of makeup, you can take 10 to 15 years off your age—easily.”
Collins says she’s learned a lot about the cosmetics industry from her new venture, but some things continue to amaze her. “You have all this makeup, yet 50 percent of women don’t seem to be wearing any! Is that true? Because that’s what I’m getting from just looking at people.”
Collins’ younger, bohemian self would surely have something to say about that.