We know it, beauty is a wonderful industry to be part of. The products, the industry heavyweights in close proximity and, spoken a little less about, the fellow beauty editors we get to know. All talented, driven women (and some men) we learn so much from. But, one stands out from the crowd: Stephanie Darling. For decades she’s written countless (seriously, countless) pages, in print and online, on every facet of the beauty world. She’s written for Harper’s BAZAAR, Madison and Vogue Australia. And now, as well as being beauty director for Sunday Life and Daily Life, has written her first book, Secrets of a Beauty Queen. A memoir of her experiences, it’s the bible for beauty lovers, and a witty, hilarious read for everyone else. So, we went to visit her stately Eastern Suburbs home (where she has lived with her husband and two sons for 24 years) and office, brimming with products, to eagerly pick every last detail from her beauty brain, unlocking a Pandora’s box of loves, loathes and a life immersed in our favourite things…

“I started writing Secrets of A Beauty Queen two years ago. I always thought I had a book in me…

… and when [fashion magazine] Madison closed in 2013, that was the catalyst for me starting to think seriously about putting fingers to the keyboard. I got to chapter five and just couldn’t seem to get any further; I was busy with my column and the time just seemed to slip away. My husband organised a cruise from Venice to Singapore for our wedding anniversary so I vowed to myself to write the remaining five chapters on the sea days, 14 in total. I did that religiously, sitting out on our balcony watching the sea flow by and spying the odd pirate ship (no joke). I wrote up to chapter nine, which was no mean feat. The book writing process is unique. I have mastered the 500-to-1000 word beauty stories but an 80,000-word book is a different beast altogether. It requires lots of discipline and a reasonable memory for events, which fortunately I seem to have.

The best piece of live advice I ever received came from Jane Fonda…

…she told me this pearler when we were in Paris together: ‘It’s more important to be interested than interesting. I think staying interested keeps you young.’ I loved that. I also wish I could tell my 18 year old self to be more confident and have a belief in myself. I have always suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’ [but] I have finally overcome this with the launch of my book.

My mum lives in the back cottage, and she’s the one who receives all the [beauty product] deliveries.

My mother’s very good. I’m so busy and she tends to do a fair bit for us. She’s a machine at 82, she has more energy than any human being I’ve ever met in my life. We’re so lucky. We look after her too, of course. We all moved in together and then we renovated the cottage because that was like a studio, so she’s home to get the packages. My sons try to put notices out [for the couriers] to say, just leave the packages without knocking on the door. It’s so funny. It drives them mad. I’ve got my beauty cupboard and it’s organised chaos. I do a blitz of it, open it all up and cull every so often. I thought [organising products] would be the hardest part working from home, but I think because I’ve been doing it for so many years, my mind just knows what works and what doesn’t.

My morning beauty routine, for this week anyway, is an easy to follow Rationale prescription…

…for skin care that includes vitamins C and B an eye cream, moisturiser and a tinted SPF.  I follow it with Giorgio Armani Sheer FluidLaura Mercier Secret Camouflage on any red spots and under my eyes followed by Giorgio Armani Liquid Silk Foundation. I sometimes finish with a dusting of the ever-flattering Laura Mercier Star Dust Loose Setting Powder. I never forget the power of a pop of blush and at the moment, I am moving between two: Nars Liquid Illuminator in Adelaide and a limited edition MAC Prabal Gurung in Coral Lumineux. On my lips I wear the universally flattering MAC Twig Lipstick. And on my eyes MAC Paint Pot in Groundwork and my latest Dior mascara obsession. I know this sounds like a lot but I have it down pat and it takes roughly seven minutes.

After all the years writing beauty, my biggest beauty advice is wear sunscreen…

… SPF50+ every day on all the exposed areas like face, décolletage, backs of the hands. And remember to smile. Also, when I was younger, I allowed my hair to be dyed in the most appalling way. I looked like a racoon with a blonde fringe and brunette everything else. This was the beginning of the end of being bossed into doing what I didn’t want to do. The biggest mistake I see women make all the time is not exfoliating enough. Luminous clear skin is the key to a happy beauty life. Ensure it’s a gentle exfoliator though. My favourite is Dermalogica Microfoliant which is rice based.

When it comes to skin treatments, my motto is ‘no pain, no gain’…

The painful ones are working because they’re damaging, whatever, your collagen and making stuff work and reboot. The wackiest treatment I ever tried was the equine therapy [a psychotherapy wellness treatment that involves telling a horse your deepest secrets] is the wackiest thing I have ever tried. I was messed up after that, very drained emotionally. I think it was effective in that I spilled my guts, but whether that is helpful or not I’m not entirely sure.

It’s an almost impossible task, but if I was culling all the beauty products to just five, it starts from a base of having lash extensions…

at Amy Jean Eye CoutureShiseido Hydro-Liquid Compact because it has been by my side since I first started in beauty, it gives great coverage and is portable. Next, Naked Urban Decay eyeshadow Palette with 12 imminently wearable shades. Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey for its instant lip boosting effect and Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady for its show-stopping appeal.”

Story by Rikki Hodge-Smith; Interview by Sigourney Cantelo; Photography by Grace Alyssa Kyo

Comment (4)

  1. May 31, 2017


  2. June 1, 2017

    Fabulous! Thank you, Stephanie!

  3. June 5, 2017

    Equine therapy?! I’ve never heard of such a thing – wow!

  4. June 5, 2017

    ‘It’s more important to be interested than interesting. I think staying interested keeps you young.’ What a great quote, love it