As a freelance beauty journalist lots of my time involves going to product launches and fancy central London hotels. In any given day I can be in the Dorchester for a fragrance launch, in Soho Hotel to see new Spring/Summer make up colours and I can end my day in Claridges having tea with some lovely PRS. Today was one of those hectic days and I decided to jump in a black cab (the rain and thought of frizzy hair pushed me over the edge). As I sat in the cab I said, “St Martin’s Lane hotel please” and then it came. The nudge nudge, wink wink and old twinkle in his eye.
Have you seen Billy Piper in ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’? She describes this moment perfectly as every time I jump in a cab at 3pm in the afternoon all black cab drivers assume I am a pro and by that I don’t mean a freelance journalist who has been working for a decade in the beauty industry but a P for prostitute.
Every bloody time I get the same banter from male black cab drivers and today was no exception. The conversation went something like this- he goes, “business or pleasure, darlin’”, and I go, “business”, which makes me look like a right slapper. Then he goes, ohhhhh I hope it’s more pleasurable than just business”.
Now what really makes me angry is not that this man thinks I’m a ho but that in 2010, the only reason a woman in her early 30s is going to a posh hotel for work is because she is working on her back. At this point I then say,” I am a journalist, a beauty/ fashion journalist”, because saying just beauty gets confused, dazed looks. They wonder is that really a job or is this prostitute in the back of my cab really inventive.
Anyway, today after I convinced him I was not an escort he asked me, “what is beauty?”. We had a really interesting chat about this highly controversial topic, in the end I said that depends on who and where you are asking the question. In India, being fair is still seen as the height of beauty, I personally get stalked by Nigerian traffic wardens because of my gigantic boobs and junk in my trunk and up North the pale and interesting look just doesn’t wash, it’s fake tan all the way. I also said beauty changes with time because 60 years ago if I showed him a picture of JLO or Alek Wek he wouldn’t think they were that attractive but culture and historical changes also shape our perceptions of beauty. The taxi driver’s response to this was really interesting in the way he rationalised what I was saying as he said, “what you’re saying is that if you look at someone long enough your perception of beauty can change, like when the new Mini came out, I didn’t like the look of it but now I quite like it”. I loved our chat and my black cab beauty discussion, hopefully if I ever get in the back of his cab again the first thing he assumes won’t be that I’m a happy hooker with well applied make up on.