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Debbie Leigh: Getting glam gave me power of speech

GLAMOROUS: Kelly Brook.

GLAMOROUS: Kelly Brook.

To anyone else, stripping off in the street on a freezing cold night might suggest something had gone terribly awry with their plans.

But in fact, as I wrestled with my Spanx and prayed a nearby streetlamp wasn’t illuminating too many lumps and bumps, I congratulated myself on a day that I had managed to run with military precision.

The goal was to get to my friends’ mum’s 70th birthday party, having adhered to the “1940s glamorous” dress code, ready to deliver a speech in 10 minutes.

We’d had the invite for months but the speech had been a rather recent – and somewhat alarming – addition to the timetable.

My friends had asked if I would write a little something about their mum to help with a This is Your Life presentation they were doing.

I agreed as I thought all I was being asked to do was just that – write something.

It wasn’t until a few days before the party that the word speech was even mentioned.

So faced with the challenge of not only composing something sufficiently interesting and ensuring I could deliver it in a suitably entertaining fashion, I decided that if I was going to stand up in front of around 80 people I was going to have to look the part.

At this point, two of my most stylish, wonderful friends came to the rescue.

One loaned me a floor-length dress that was sheer Hollywood glamour, while the other emailed me the contact details of a Leeds make-up artist and hair stylist who specialises in vintage looks.

I was terrified by the idea, fearing a “vintage” look might end up making me look like I too had been born in the 40s. But I needn’t have worried.

After two hours of curling, setting, brushing and hair-spraying and the life-changing revelation that is red lipstick, I was transformed.

When I looked in the mirror I was as giddy as a schoolgirl but felt as glamorous as a 1940s screen siren, or even better – Kelly Brook.

Clearly, this lady knew her stuff.

My makeover was so successful my own dad didn’t recognise me.

But everyone had gone to town. The room was awash with Victory rolls, red lipstick and stockings with seams running down the back.

One guest took the prize for authenticity for getting her husband to use an eyeliner to draw a (slightly wobbly) line down the back of her legs – just as women used to when nylons were hard to come by.

I was so caught up in the red carpet feel of it all that when it came to my turn to approach the mic, it was all I could do to stop myself from launching into a gushing Oscars-style thank you speech – namechecking everyone I’d ever met, from my mum to my university lecturers, and “most importantly, my make-up artist Natalie Willingham”.

Thankfully I managed to stay rooted in reality, despite my legs wobbling in their vintage heels, beneath my gorgeous Pearl Lowe dress.

Instead, I focused on this wonderful woman, who had already crammed three lives’ worth of activity into her 70 years, looks about 20 years younger, and as her grandson perfectly put it, “is so full of energy she makes everyone else feel lazy”.

How many other 70-year-olds wouldn’t hit the dancefloor until 12.30am, then invite people back to hers until 4am for more drinking, dancing and karaoke?

It’s not hard to see where her daughters got their partying genes.

I just hope we’re still as full of energy when we hit 70.

By then we won’t just be wearing vintage, sweetie – we will actually be vintage.

 

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