Trinny Woodall is turning pots of foundation and eyeshadow into pots of cash. The 57-year-old’s makeup business, Trinny London, made £27.4m in profit in the year ending March 2021.
She sounds familiar
In the early 2000s she was barely off our television screens. “Trinny and Susannah”, as Woodall and her presenting partner Susannah Constantine were known, dispensed no-nonsense, acid-tongued fashion advice to women all over the world. Then in 2017, Woodall sold £60,000 worth of old designer clothes and used the cash to enter the makeup game. Today her business has 750,000 customers and 175 employees – two pots of its £26 Miracle Blur concealer sell every minute.
How did she do it?
Mainly through social media. Woodall has one million Instagram followers and nearly two million on Facebook and makes a point of liking and responding to comments. She posts witty, informal videos at least once a day, which touch on makeup, fashion and her personal life, and feature her singing, appearing with no make-up, and in one case, hiding in a coat on a clothes rack. In one Instagram live stream, she accidently flashed her audience while removing her top. The posts are invariably captioned with details of Trinny London products – only available online through the brand’s own website.
Canny. Why is Trinny called Trinny?
Woodall was christened Sarah-Jane. The name “Trinny” was bestowed on her by Ronald Searle, creator of the St Trinian cartoons and a friend of her banker father’s. Searle happened to drop by on the day Woodall, then aged five, was sent home from school after cutting the plaits off a fellow pupil she disliked. Searle compared her to one of his mischievous characters and the name stuck.
When did Susannah enter the picture?
Woodall developed an early taste for business – a hair bow company she launched at the age of 16 was stocked at Harvey Nichols before fizzling out. She dabbled in financial PR before a short spell as a commodities trader. “I hated it,” she tells the Daily Mail. “It was me and 60 men.” There wasn’t much chemistry when Woodall first met Constantine at a dinner party hosted by Lord Linley in 1994. “Susannah was the snobby English aristo; she thought I was Eurotrash,” Woodall recalled. They were reintroduced later by a mutual friend, and the pair started Ready to Wear, a style column for the Telegraph, in 1996. Woodall was tall and thin while Constantine was curvy – together, they had all bases covered.
And then came stardom?
Not quite. An online shop they launched in 1999, Ready2shop, quickly collapsed, losing their backers £10m. But What Not to Wear, their BBC makeover show launched in 2001, was a huge success, drawing over seven million viewers at its peak. The format involved unsuspecting women being nominated by friends who disapproved of their dowdy style. Enter Trinny and Susannah, who’d explain in unsparing detail what mistakes their subjects made. Remedial shopping trips and makeup tutorials followed. Celebrity participants included Jeremy Clarkson, who later said he’d “rather eat my own hair than shop with these two again”. A spinoff book outsold Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver.
Exactly how blunt were they?
Blunter than you could get away with now. The pair would grab and pinch their subjects all over; Susannah once pulled down a participant’s underwear. Breasts were “tits”, and in some cases “torpedoes” or “fried eggs”. One vicar’s off-duty outfit was summarised thus: “Just because you wear a dog collar during the day doesn’t give you the excuse to look like a dog’s dinner at night.” Not everyone took their criticism lightly. When they called Carol Vorderman an “Eighties nightmare”, she retaliated by labelling them “the anorexic transvestite and the carthorse”.
That would be a good name for a pub
Indeed. But Woodall has endured far worse. She battled chronic acne until the age of 29 – partly why she’s so obsessed with makeup – and was addicted to cocaine and booze before quitting both at 26. After two miscarriages she had a daughter (Lyla, now 18) with her then-husband Johnny Elichaoff, a drummer turned businessman. They split in 2009 and he committed suicide in 2014 – creditors hounded her for £285,000 of his debts until a judge dismissed the case.
Are things sunnier now?
They are. Woodall and advertising whiz Charles Saatchi, 78, who have been dating since his divorce from Nigella Lawson in 2013, have a combined fortune of £146m, and share a £12.3m, seven-bedroom home in Chelsea. Woodall’s only apparent gripe is that people assume Saatchi bankrolls her business. “I pay for every single thing in my life, apart from the roof over my head,” she told the Telegraph’s Imposters podcast. He has made one rather memorable contribution to Trinny London, however. In 2020, Woodall was doing a livestream on Facebook in their bathroom when he wandered into shot stark naked.
Thank goodness for low-res computer cameras
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