Anita B on why the beauty industry wants us to fear ageing

Today’s guest, Anita Bhagwandas, is that rare thing, a beauty journalist who’s prepared to call out the beauty industry.

Anita B, as she's known, is currently a beauty columnist on the Guardian. But throughout her career she has worked on some of the biggest names in women’s magazines and consulted for some of the most famous brands. It’s not exactly the CV of someone you’d expect to see campaigning to break free of prevailing beauty standards.

But Anita’s new book, Ugly, does just that, by examining how women are trapped by the way we’re supposed to look, regarded as lesser if our face doesn’t fit the norm. If we’re not white with caucasian features and hair, if we’re not size 10, if we’re not 25.

Anita joined me to talk about the first time she felt “wrong”, growing up in a world of Barbie and how her perverse inner masochist led her to end up working in the very industry that made her feel not good enough. Plus she takes us on a whistle stop tour of anti-ageing beauty advertising, tells us why otherwise smart women fall for the promise of “glow” (by which I mean me! And or probably you!) and why middle age is such an utterly pointless term. If you want to see off beauty anxiety, start right here! 

* You can buy all the books mentioned in this podcast at The Shift bookshop on, including Ugly by Anita Bhagwandas and the book that inspired this podcast, The Shift: how I lost and found myself after 40 - and you can too, by me.

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