You've reached that 'certain age' and launched your own business, so what's the next step? Our guest blog takes a look...
A photo shoot the phrase conjures up a misty world of glamour and celebrity that is a million miles away from the usual daily routine of chiselling encrusted Cheerios off the kitchen floor, choosing which Frube to put in a pack lunch or negotiating UN style with a five year old about why you should keep your school uniform on.
A few months ago I was lucky enough to be contacted by Woman and Home magazine about their business feature New Directions. Woman and Home has a massive circulation and is Britains best womans magazine. The focus of the piece was on women with traditional careers who, at a certain age, (in another 24 years I will be a Beatles song) had completely refocused and launched their own business in IT.
As a qualified solicitor who has recently released an iPhone app called Legacy Organiser, I seemed to fit the bill pretty well. During part of my career I had worked as an in-house lawyer for Virgin Atlantic, and much of the inspiration for starting my own business had come for working for Richard Branson and the Virgin Group.
After an interview over the phone, I received an email peppered with exotic words like stylist, professional photographer, studio and nude underwear. Like many people I had never experienced being the subject of a photo shoot before. The closest I had come to it was watching the re-runs of Americas Next Top Model on SkyLiving +1. Altogether now: I have eight beautiful women standing in front of me and only seven photographs in my hand.
I was given details of where to go and when, and apart from my flesh coloured bra and pants, the team would do the rest. This was a massive relief to me as I am pretty rubbish in the hair and make up stakes. Having spent the last few years working from home and bringing up a young family, my clothes are a weird collection of suits circa 2003, Henley tops and rather unspeakably bad tracksuit bottoms. I have one token Boden dress that is worn every time I need to "look smart" as my mum would say. To cobble something stylish and presentable for a magazine shoot out of that lot would have given Mary Portas a run for her money and Gok Wan a minor nervous breakdown.
The address of the studio was in Battersea and I was told to take a taxi from St Pancras. I arrived at the building and felt pretty nervous climbing the stairs. The photoshoot director could not have been more friendly when I (a civilian as Liz Hurley would say) arrived, and she immediately put me at ease. I was introduced to various members of the team. The stylist was an extremely cool and chic woman who had selected the outfits for Purdy in the Avengers. So for a day, I shared a stylist with Joanna Lumley (although I would sincerely doubt JoLu is saying the same about me).
The photographer, Trevor Leighton is a celebrity in his own right with the largest collected of portrait shots at the National Portrait gallery. His most recent commission was the cover for Kate Bushs new album. The last professional photo I had taken of myself was the team photo in my school hockey kit in 1989 when spiral perms still reigned supreme. Needless to say, I didnt mention that to Trevor.
I spent the first part of the shoot with the stylist who chose some outfits to wear. The whole experience was fascinating. She chose two outfits that I would not have thought suited me but that looked fantastic when put on. I was also given a pair of towering platform shoes that I could not walk in. In fact, to be honest I couldnt really stand in them either and needed to put both hands on the shoulders of the stylists assistant to just to get into them.
Next was hair and make up. The make up artist was brilliant and asked me what style I would like? Given that my usual style hasnt evolved much since I learned how to apply bright blue eyeliner and No 7 Twilight Teaser lipstick (anyone remember that?) in the 1980s I was more than happy to delegate all creative input. The transformation was amazing. I have never worn false eyelashes before but I absolutely loved having them on and batting my eyes Betty Boop style around the place.
The best moment of the day came when he was doing my hair. Ill give you big hair just in case they use the wind machine. You heard me. THE WIND MACHINE. I nearly fell off my chair. Now even though the wind machine wasnt actually used, the very fact that someone thought I was glamorous enough to even consider using it will stay with me for ever. From now on, I will always be 3% on my way to being Beyonce.
When the time came to have the actual photographs taken, I was more nervous than I thought. It is hard to look natural when everything is so unfamiliar. Particularly when you feel that you have a set of scaffolding on each foot. However, with the professionalism of Trevor and all the team I soon relaxed into it and really started to enjoy it. I had also taken off the shoes by then which helped my poise and meant I could unclench my teeth.
The results in the magazine are amazing you can see for yourself and I can promise you that I dont actually look like that in real life. As a friend said to me You look like a reject from Charlies Angels.but in a good way. It was a fantastic experience to be pampered, buffed, and tonged to within an inch of my life and I loved every minute of it. I really felt like a superstar walking back through St Pancras station although I did look slightly over dressed for the school run later on. And I nearly cried when I had to remove the false eyelashes.