EXCLUSIVE: Trinny Woodall on not being defined by age

"We should never lose visibility as women."

There are scientific rules when it comes to style, says Trinny Woodall. But it’s important to know which resonate with you – and when to break them if they don’t serve.

Certainly that’s true of the advice she both offers and takes today. She many have come to fame by teaching women what not to wear, but she’s since built a brand which is all about rejecting outdated conventions and empowering women in the process.

“It’s never too late and I do think we should always be challenging ourselves,” she says of her attitude to life and what she hopes to inspire in others. “I think it’s incredibly important we don’t define ourselves by age because the parameters of age have changed so much. We should never lose visibility as women.

“I love women who live life to the full, whatever their age. I love people who challenge the norm and put things out there. And I respect women who take a risk.”

That’s the attitude she took when founding Trinny London in 2017.

If you’re wondering who owns Trinny London, she is indeed the founder of her namesake beauty brand, which has been a runaway success. It started with an idea, and got its foundations at her kitchen table. Today she’s gone from being a one-woman operation to heading a business valued last year at over $352 million.

She runs her own social media outlets. There, she dispenses advice, wisdom and tips to devoted followers who have branded themselves ‘the Trinny Tribe. All of which, she says, was learnt the hard way over her 59 years.

Trinny Woodall with fans

“I know I have been put here to help women, I am driven by it,” she says of her passion to share. Today that extends to giving talks to female small business owners to help them leverage their own success.

She’s warm, she’s thoughtful and, overwhelmingly, she’s real. Our chat traverses the spectrum, from her addiction, to grief, to friendship building, to helping her daughter deal with anxiety. And all of this she addresses without fear or any sense of hesitancy. Which is appropriate, given we’re here to discuss her latest project, a self-help book called Fearless.

What has happened to Trinny Woodall?

The book addresses a range of topics from friendship to family, beauty and fashion, mindfulness practices and more. But at its very core is the idea of learning to break free of fear – no matter what aspect of your life it impinges upon.

“We can feel fear throughout our lives; I probably first felt it at school,” she explains. “I felt fear all the time in school because I didn’t really love it. I went away very young. My parents lived abroad, and my sister was at the school, but I didn’t see her all the time. She ran away three times, and the school wouldn’t tell me where she was. I remember that fear; fear based upon not feeling secure in my own environment.

“Fear of the unknown is one of my hardest ones. Fear of what is going to happen as opposed to what has happened and the results of it. When I started my career, I was in a contract-based industry. You didn’t know if you were going to get renewed. There was a feeling of living in this hiatus of not knowing.

“I had fear of not being able to get pregnant and have a child, because I spent such a long time trying to do that. And then probably my latest fear was, ‘Will I be able to parent Lyla by myself?’.

“You can say, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. It’s an acknowledgement while knowing you can still move forward.”

Are Trinny and Susannah still friends?

For those who are new to Trinny’s journey, let’s backtrack. Born in London’s upmarket Marylebone, she attended boarding school from six until 16. Then she strode out in her fashion journalism career back in London soon after graduation. But it wasn’t just an impeccable sense of style she acquired during these years. In addition she found herself gripped by drug addiction, entering rehab in her late 20s with a hellish battle followed by sobriety that she retains today.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19: Susannah Constantine( L) and Trinny Woodall with Poppy the dog attend the Dogs Trust Honours 2009 at The Hurlingham Club on May 19, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage)
Trinny and Susannah in 2009

“When people say, do you regret that you had to go through addiction or through different things in your life, I think everything adds up to give us strength,” she says. “Some of them I didn’t love going through. But no, I don’t regret them because they are part of exactly the mosaic of what we are.”

Trinny and fellow fashion scribe and stylist Susannah Constantine have collaborated since the mid-1990s. They captured attention in 2001 when they hosted BBC2’s What Not To Wear, a series in which they gave straight-talking style advice – raising more than the occasional eyebrow along the way.

G6P9MM TV fashion critic Trinny Woodall and her husband Jonny Eliakoff arrive at the launch party of the Dogs Trust, where there is an exclusive exhibition of photographic portraits of celebrities and their dogs held at the Royal Academy, central London.
Trinny with her ex-husband, Johnny Elichaoff

Is Trinny Woodall married?

In 1999, Trinny married former drummer and entrepreneur Johnny Elichaoff. After nine rounds of IVF and several miscarriages, the pair welcomed their daughter, Lyla, in 2003.

Their 2009 split was amicable, and Trinny went on to date art collector Charles Saatchi.

And, what happened to Trinny Woodall’s husband? After a long mental health battle and addiction issues, Johnny took his own life in 2014. Trinny and Lyla were devastated, and the tragedy very much explains Trinny’s most recent parenting fear.

“It not that she’s a difficult child to parent,” Trinny explains, “but you are a permanent single parent. You are not a divorced parent that gets on well with their ex-partner. It’s very finite. It’s that fear of, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ because you haven’t got anyone else to share with or bounce off.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 12:  Trinny Woodall (L) and Charles Saatchi attend the Spring Gala In Aid of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital hosted by QBF and Kerzner Calliva at Claridge's Hotel on May 12, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Quercus Biasi Foundation)
Trinny with art dealer Charles Saatrchi

But after Johnny’s death, Trinny did what she does best – she carried on regardless. She kept up a ferocious work pace, channelling her own grief into raising Lyla whilst steadily building her empire. Was it hard to shove those feelings down?

“I think, actually it’s not,” she says after a long pause. “When you have something else to focus on, it allows you not to focus on what you are scared of addressing. And for me, that was the case because it was complicated. It allowed me to just focus on Lyla and not think about it.

“Oddly, I didn’t deal with the grief with Johnny until I moved in March because I just then had the space.

“When somebody dies, it is always complicated, but it was just so extra complicated. He left not the easiest situation to deal with. So, you need time away from that to just miss the person. And that’s what it is – it’s acknowledging that you miss them in your life.”

Is Trinny Woodall still with Charles?

Trinny’s recent move came in the wake of her split with her partner of 10 years, Charles. Today Lyla is 19 and taking her own steps into an independent life. She’s moved away to start university and it’s an adjustment for both mother and daughter.

“She’s experiencing a bit of anxiety,” Trinny says. “She has this 11-year-old inside of her who is probably the most vulnerable part of all her years of growing up. So that’s the voice inside her head when she’s scared.”

2R8JMC6 London, UK. 21st June, 2023. London, UK. June 21st, 2023. Lyla Elichaoff and Trinny Woodall at the V&A Summer Party, Victoria and Albert Museum. Credit: Doug Peters/Alamy Live News
Trinny and Lila in June 2023.

A chapter in Trinny’s book is titled ‘You are not your thoughts’. It’s an important reminder that the dark and negative thought patterns we can be trapped in are not intrinsic to who we are or what we are capable of.

In rehab, she shares, she looked at hers as a dark raven who she would tell to “just shut up” when the noise became overwhelming. At first, she would tell Lyla to deal with her voice in the same way. Then she realised that this vulnerable part in her daughter needed to be nurtured rather than shut down.

“It’s important to know the difference between the two voices in your head,” she explains, quick to add that she is not a therapist but has learnt this through therapy of her own.

“Some of them need to be told to shut up. And other ones are the vulnerable part of you that only acknowledges itself inside your head and you need to take care of it. It’s knowing the difference between those two.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Lyla Elichaoff and Trinny Woodall attend the Lady Garden Family Challenge 2023 in Hyde Park on April 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Hoda Davaine/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Lyla and Trinny speak multiple times a day, their closeness apparent. To help her daughter adjust to her new home, Trinny has placed strategic post-it notes around the walls. The hope is they can act as counsel when she’s not there.

“I know the worst thing to do is to lie in bed festering,” Trinny explains. “If Lyla lies in bed, she will become paralysed with anxiety. So there are post-it notes by her bed that say: ‘Get up and get moving’. ‘One day at a time’. ‘99 per cent of everything you worry about doesn’t happen’. On her bathroom mirror, I have, ‘Don’t pick your spots’.

“It’s also helping me to not think how much I am missing her. I’m really loving this expression right now because it resonates: ‘You’ve got this’.”

With business booming and Lyla away and newly single, Trinny is finding the time to put her focus into other areas of life which are important to her. Friendships are chief among those.

“I want to re-engage fully with my friends,” she says. “I missed a few years of not being in their everyday life. It’s lovely to play catch-up, but it’s nice to nurture the relationship as we’re going along and do some watering.”

Her nearest and dearest consist of a group of 16 women – many of them friendships she has nurtured from her teens – with only a few new arrivals.

“We have a choice to actively analyse the friendships we have in our lives,” she explains. “We can have people who – not even knowing they are doing it – want to bring down people around them because it’s the only way they can haul themselves up. If you have too many friends like that, you’ll feel low. And you know, friends should be there to make you feel great. I’ve got drama in quite a few other areas of my life, so in my friendships I don’t need drama. I just need wonderful female companionship.”

Can I buy Trinny London in Australia?

Which circles back nicely to Trinny’s current raison d’être, empowering women. And as well as raising awareness for the new book and Trinny London (which you can buy here locally), she hopes to continue to help women of all ages in business.

“Women in Australia find it very difficult to raise money,” she says of her observations over multiple recent visits. “I did a dinner in Melbourne for CEOs. The number of them who literally had to go to Singapore or London to get financing – it’s even more behind than in Europe. And I just thought, it’s not right.

“I want to think about how I can help women who are starting businesses and do a lot more around that. It’s never too late, it’s never the wrong time, ever, to think about that. It’s incredibly risky, it can be traumatic. You can feel very alone … but it can be thrilling.

“It’s important to always challenge your trajectory. Where are you heading and is that where you want to head? And to always be open to learning something new and doing something new. We have to practise that. It’s so integral to feel the world is fascinating, that we want to be in it and we’re excited to wake up each morning.”

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Fearless by Trinny Woodall, HQ Books, is on sale now.

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