Friday, 25 December 2009

London Calling Avon: Punk Rock Girl Turns Avon Lady
Above: the Avon Lady of popular imagination

And Now--Miss Justine Brown in Conversation with Miss Calla Jameison!

When Miss Brown first met Calla, they were teenagers on the punk rock scene. Miss Brown remembers a lively, witty, pretty girl with glowing skin-- skin that sticks in the mind of Skool-goer Miss Laura Watson as well. Laura, a gal with a great complexion who has always had a keen for others, rated Calla's as the best of all the girls.

Then there was the time she went bald. How many girls can pull off this look? Not many.

Lynn, Ageita, Calla, Eve, and Dawn at a gig (pic by Eric Foto)

But Calla could. All these years later, who knew that pogo-dancing Calla would be a poster girl for the legendary cosmetics firm we call Avon? Can the one be reconciled with the other? When Miss Brown talked to Calla again, it all fell into place. The common ground here is a certain DIY ethos.

Q: Punk rock girl to Avon lady-- it's a dramatic transformation. Let's start with the girl. What drew you into the punk scene?

Calla early-mid 1990s

I met some people who were punk and quite willing to challenge the status quo-- both in music and politics. I was very much affected by the threat of nuclear war, so those punks' refusal to just blindly accept what our politicians told us really resonated with me. I was also very keen on the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

Q: Tell us about your style back then-- makeup, hair, clothes, attitude...Best described as Original Dirty Girl. Lots of heavy eye makeup, hair bleached blond or dyed black. Black jeans. Sneakers. Half bras. Plaid mackies [super thick, soft lumberjack shirts, a Canadian classic --Ed.]; leather jackets. Safety pins. White out. Kilts. We used to party at my friend Lisa's apartment in the West End. She had the best makeup stash! There was a host of punk girls and boys and great parties. We would listen to the record player, drink sweet wine with straws and play with makeup. Great fun!

Later I caught politics, but cured it with history.

Q: Would you like to relate a salty punk anecdote or two?

A: I actually met Simon Snotface [a notoriously rowdy fellow, to say the least --Ed.] at Lisa's. I entered the elevator and there was this nice young man wearing only a towel and a grin! So okay, I thought, this is the West End; whatever. I was more concerned with the missing button number 23, Lisa's floor. I took a Ramones button out of my lapel and, God knows why I thought it was a good idea, stuck it straight into what turned out to be a hell of a lot of power. Simon was very kind, given that he was laughing so hard. He helped me up-- I had been blown across the cage! It was my first taste of power... but not my last! Anyway, it turned out that he was washing the clothes off his back in the basement, and was headed to Lisa's place too.

A recent visit to the Science Museum.

Another time I was cast in a movie by accident. I was living at the YWCA and a headset/clipboard type grabbed me and asked if I wanted to be in a movie-- Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue (1980). I got shoved into this trailer with a bunch of other punks: we were to walk down the street surrounding this chick, whooping it up, maybe taunting her. Dennis Hopper briefed us. He was quite aggressive and profane, as I recall. I've never seen the movie, but I was the one wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket with safety pins and NO FUTURE painted on the back with whiteout.

Q: You know quite a bit about the origins of Avon, which was founded in 1886. As you know, the first Avon Lady was a certain Mrs Albee. Imagine you are explaining the company to young punk Calla.

A: Successful Avon Ladies are quite independent and stubborn. They are not quitters, generally, even if they don't have the time to take it to the top. Pity the poor District Managers-- it must be like herding cats or witches!

I like to think about what a woman's life must have been like in, say, 1920. I'll bet there were a lot of single mothers and grass widows, what with their men having been killed in World War I, the complete lack of effective contraception, on top of the general difficulties of everyday human life. Contrast that with the heady, intoxicating rush of earning your own money.

Q: What is it like being an Avon Lady today?

A: I love being an Avon Lady. I've tried several other business models, but Avon stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to value and customer satisfaction, support and technical presence. The quality of the skin care and makeup is good. Avon stands behind its product, and Avon Ladies are the most important customers that the company has! We get the best deals, really reasonable cost-of-business expense and excellent support.

And the best thing, the thing that I love, is that Avon walk the walk. They don't tolerate shady dealers, and the deck is stacked in favour of the good guy. And I love knowing my neighbours-- who they are, their kids, who needs help with the lawn mowing and snow removal, who bakes the best cookies; that kind of thing.

I'd say to anyone looking at Avon as a business prospect, put down your $20 and try it. There are District Managers whose job it is to answer ALL your questions and happily drive all over hell's half-acre for you. So yeah, go for it!

(continued below)

At an Avon conference

Insider Tips by Calla 

If you've ever negotiated a family melt-down, an employee freak-out, or even just played poker, then you'll know how important it is to use your face and your body language to encourage calm, trust, and love. Moreover, sometimes a woman prefers a little more privacy, a little remove from the intimacy bare face implies.

Technical make-up, paired with good self-care, can help a woman put her best face forward. There are a few things you have to do to maintain optimum “face.” Luckily, they are easy to do. You can do these in any or no particular order.

Technical Makeup for Everyday Life
Film actors have long used products to fill in the worry lines and crows feet. Big cities have technical make-up stores: I recall going into the one on Robson Street as a teenager with some vague notion of buying green under-foundation to even out the red and purple tones. Holy Hannah Montana! Let me tell you, sisters, I have been struck dumb by bigger 150% out-of-my-league moments since, but that one has really stuck. Make-up like you would not believe. It was like a clown factory! I think I actually may have turned one slow circle and run out the door.

Recently, however, specific products that can be used at home have come on to the market. They are still technical, but the skills needed to apply them are easily mastered.

Now I am only going to talk about Avon products, because that's what I know. 

Crows Feet Corrector
Application time: including futzing around, 4 minutes
Number of steps: 2
What it claims to do: resurface and fill crows feet around the eye area

Does it? Yes. Bonus-- gives a massage to the area under your eyes

Often overlooked by the uninitiated, a thick firming cream called

Dramatic Firming Lotion is beautiful under foundation. It has a light almond scent and does not contain any of the anti-aging ingredients such as retinol, which are irritating to some skins.

Anew Wrinkle Zone Line Smoothing Duo is a skin-coloured treatment that fills the wrinkle zone. Loose powder sets it. 

Use Magix and/or foundation if you want before the setting powder. I love this product.

Bounce light off the area you want to soften. Use subtle shadows to reflect light. Employ light concealers over foundation. Keep your skin as smooth and matte as possible. Avon's Magix is a nifty little cream that lays down like a gel and provides and excellent base for foundation. Bonus: taking off your makeup later is a breeze. A final note: The best thing I've found to take off years is forgiveness. Laugh. Smile. Open your heart and mind wide open to wonder.

Thanks, Calla! You've provided a strong sense of your experience with an an iconic company. In addition to being iconic, Avon is well-respected in the beauty industry, not least because, in 1992, they became the first company to mass-market an alpha-hydroxy night cream, bringing one of the new generation of treatments to the public-- an anti-aging cream that actually works.

Over the past few weeks Miss Brown has been testing Avon's Anew Reversalist Night Renewal Cream, which she obtained through a half-price special in the UK. (It retails for $32 in the U.S.) The cream is billed a rejuvenator, and features a patented ingredient called Activinol.

Reversalist smells good and is a pleasure to handle, which is more than she can say for a lot of similar creams: Roc's retinol-based night lotion works, for example, but provides zero ritual pleasure because it smells and feels so medicinal. There are creams that do one (smooth the skin and restore even colour) and creams that do the other (feel fantastic), but Avon's does both. And without creating a cavern in the pocket. Miss Brown will be going back for more-- half-price sale or not.


  1. a true icon of perserverence and ethic. Th

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