She’s just turned 40, but in a world where the needle fixes everything, Lisa Snowdon on why she’s having none of it…
Photography by Mark Hayman
They’re a strange breed, these early morning DJ types. Considering she’s been up since 4.30am, Lisa Snowdon is freakishly lively and showing no signs of flagging.
Arriving at our shoot straight from her Capital FM Breakfast show (via a clothes fitting for Marks & Spencer), she immediately injects her superhuman brand of energy into the studio. And she looks like a goddess.
“Sleep!” she says simply, when asked what her secret is. “I’ve only just realised how important getting eight hoursa night is. Everything functions better with a decent amountof sleep – my skin, my brain, my whole body.
“It’s quite tricky, and in the summer it’s even harder because everyone’s having fun and you just want to go out and drink wine all night. But I have to be really disciplined.”
That discipline is clearly paying dividends. Lisa might have celebrated the big 4-0 in January, but there’s little evidence of it on her still-youthful face. And (so far) she’s 100 per cent natural.
“There are days when I’m like: ‘Right, that’s it!’ I’ve actually got as far as booking appointments for fillers and Botox. Then I chicken out at the last minute because I’m scared of rocking up to work and everyone going: ‘What have you done?!’
“My face isn’t as full as it was. I’d like more puppy fat. That chubby cuteness and the bounciness has gone.”
A few weeks ago she came across a newspaper article comparing a picture of her now to one taken a decade before.
“I was like: ‘Oh my God!’ And Dave [Berry, 33, Lisa’s co-host] said: ‘What are you on about? You look better now!’
“When you see photographs, obviously you’re confronted with the way you’ve changed. But I don’t obsess and I do try the whole self-acceptance thing.
“Obviously I’ve got more lines than I did before, but in a way, it doesn’t bother me. I’m older, yes. My face has changed a little bit, yes. But I work with what I’ve got and make the best of it rather than thinking about getting it all sliced and pulled up. I don’t want to erase the lines and the life that I’ve lived.”
Wrapped in a huge dressing gown as her nails are painted nude ahead of our sun-kissed shoot, Lisa says she’s thrilled to be the cover star of the Fabulous beauty issue, a poster girl for older women who want to age naturally.
“I’m not nervous at all, I think it’s great,” she says. “I hope I can do it justice! I love the process of a shoot and seeing how make-up artists work, the hair, the lighting, everything. Love it.”
Some years back, Lisa declared an end to what she described as her big drinking, smoking and partying lifestyle. After hitting 35, she was determined to rein in some of those not-so healthy excesses in favour of a more clean-living routine. So, exactly how saintly is she?
“Weeell!” she says, laughing. “Y’know… Ha ha! You’ve got to let off some steam now and again. I can’t do it as much as I used to. If I go out with my girlfriends, it’s more a once a month thing now.
“I started going to the gym because I thought I needed to start looking after myself. But it’s about balance. If you work hard you’ve got to play hard, and vodka’s my poison.”
She squirms as she confesses to still enjoying the odd fag.
“It’s not an everyday thing. It’s more a social puff now and then. I gave up a couple of years ago for a year and then went back to it, but in a much stricter way.”
True to herself
Despite over 20 years in the modelling industry, Lisa’s sanity remains very obviously intact. She knows herself absolutely, is secure in her skin and, with a realistic, healthy attitude towards her 5ft 10in, size 10-12 figure, seems unaffected by the scrutiny and judgment that often screw people up.
“I’ve always tried to rise above all the bulls***. I’m not interested in succumbing to the pressure. Modelling is testing because you’re working with fickle people. It’s an industry where trends change season to season, so it can affect you.
“There have been occasions where I’ve been pressured to lose weight, and whereas some people are fine with that, I wasn’t. I’ve tried to be quite true to myself and go on my gut instinct on what feels right.
“I guess my family have instilled it in me. We didn’t have motivational talks around the dinner table or anything, but for me, to be accepted was about being funny, academic or knowing things.
“I’ve seen some models where I’ve thought: ‘Oh dear, that’s not going to end well.’ But the industry isn’t all bad. I can’t bad-mouth it in general – there have been some wicked highs.”
Lisa’s big break came in the mid-’90s when she starred in a series of Special K TV commercials. From there, she moved into presenting, hosting on MTV and VH1, and became a regular on FHM’s Sexiest Women list. She’s gone on to front Britain’s Next Top Model and star in Strictly Come Dancing but, of course, it was her five-year on/off relationship with George Clooney, 51, that made her a household name. The Hollywood movie star and the then little-known Essex girl, who met on the set of a Martini ad in 2000, were massive news.
“We’re occasionally in touch,” she says of him now, seven years after they split for the final time. “We’re friends.”
It’s not hard to see what George (and fellow exes David Walliams, 40, and model Paul Sculfor, 40, for that matter) saw in Lisa. She’s sexy, up front, engaging and fun – there’s a naughtiness in those eyes that suggests she’d be a riot on a night out.
The girl next door
Like Davina McCall, Sara Cox and Emma Willis, she’s managed to win over the toughest crowd of all – other women. Men want to sleep with her; girls want to invite her over for a bottle of Pinot. It’s a rare gift.
“With men, you put a bikini on and you’ve won them over,” she says. “It’s different with women, so to be accepted by ladies is fantastic. It makes me so happy.
“When I first did the Special K ads, I started getting letters from women saying how refreshing it was to see a figure like mine on TV. Someone who was more attainable. And that, to me, was just amazing. It made me tick, doing it for the girls.
“I can be self-deprecating and I’m honest. I bring my experiences to the table and sometimes I look like a bit of a plonker, but I don’t really mind that,” she says.
“I know I’m not as beautiful as some other models. I’m always referred to as the girl next door which I quite like. I’ve been blessed with good height, but I don’t ever think I’m a beauty. I don’t consider myself that type of girl or model.
“Up until four years ago, when I started on the breakfast show, my career had been based on what I looked like. Now some people don’t have a clue what I look like, so that’s a chance to prove myself in other ways.”
Turning 40 has been a positive milestone and Lisa approached the big day with excitement rather than dread.
“I feel like it was almost as if the whole way through the end of my 30s people were reminding me that I was nearly 40. So by the time I reached 40 I felt like it should be my 50th!
“Because everyone had been talking about it for so long I was actually so prepared for it. I think I went through the whole ‘F***! I’m 40!’ when I was about 36, so when it came to it I just felt really happy. It absolutely hasn’t affected me negatively at all. I don’t feel any different.”
The party in an exclusive private venue in London’s West End – attended by actors Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon, who she met through George – was a raucous all-nighter.
“I think I got to bed at about 7am. Actually, I don’t remember, which is the sign of a good night.
“It was so pretty in there, like the ballroom in Eyes Wide Shut with lots of tea lights, drapes, uplights and chandeliers. It was glamorous and decadent. It was brilliant.”
Lisa says there’s no man in her life at the moment –not one she wants to talk about anyway – and she’s quite contented that way, thank you very much.
“People say to me: ‘Ooh, 40, no children…’ And I think: ‘Oh, really? I didn’t notice that I had no kids! That’s weird that you’ve pointed that out.’
“I just haven’t found the right guy. I’ve had some great relationships. I’ve had some crap ones too, mind. Twenty years ago I was in a nasty, [physically] abusive relationship, but I don’t wallow in it. I love the independence and the freedom I have with being single. Is that really bad?
“I work really hard, I love my family and friends, and at the moment it suits me down to the ground just to have those people in my life.”
It’s not like she’s ruling out a relationship. If someone came along tomorrow and swept her off her feet, she’d be delighted.
“I’m hoping to find someone who’s my soulmate, who makes everything so easy that it doesn’t feel like commitment or having to check in with them.
“I’m a romantic and I’m very giving. But it has to be the right person. I’m not going to compromise any more.”
Apart from the day job at Capital, where 1.26 million listeners tune in each morning, and a TV makeover show she is recording for the Discovery Network, Lisa is also working on a swimwear line and will launch her own tinted moisturiser later this year. On top of this, she continues to be a key player in the Marks & Spencer ad campaigns, and recently returned from South Africa where she was shooting with Myleene Klass, Dannii Minogue, Twiggy and Jamie Redknapp.
“It’s so fun, and we have such a giggle,” she says. “A lot of the time we’re like passing ships, but I see Twiggy a lot. Me and Dannii had a great time on the 2010 Christmas ad when we had to learn how to Charleston. It was hysterical.”
She also harbours ambitions to return to work in the States.
“I might end up there because I love LA. Although their attitude to beauty is quite different – there’s a cosmetic surgeon on every corner. But my friends are quite natural – I’m not hanging out with the Bride of Wildenstein.
“But my life is very much in the UK. My sister’s just had a baby boy, Finley, who is seven months and I am obsessed with him. I have to show you photos.”
The next few minutes are spent cooing over her seriously cute nephew.
“So, who the hell knows what will happen and where I’ll end up? It’s really exciting and that’s how it’s always been. You never know what’s round the corner.
“I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, doing all sorts of stuff, and making proper money. That, for me, is an achievement. I’ve had a good run.”
How Lisa does it
Tell us how you stay in such good shape!
In an ideal world I like to go to the gym about three times a week and work out with a trainer. It makes all the difference. Not just in posture and the way you carry yourself, but all the endorphins it releases. You feel so much better. I come out of the gym and I’ve cleared away the cobwebs.
What’s your daily beauty regime?
I cleanse, tone and moisturise religiously. Scrubbing, masking, all that stuff. My bathroom is full of products.
Any beauty must-haves?
I love Sisley, the foaming cleanser is fantastic. And there’s a great company run by Anne Semonin. She’s got an amazing eye make-up remover and eye cream. I love Dr Perricone, Skinceuticals, and I like L’Oréal Plenitude eye make-up remover, too.
What’s your top beauty tip?
I love witch hazel for any blemishes or breakouts.
Do you have any strange beauty treatments?
I’m curious about the Dracula treatment, which sounds brutal. They take your blood, separate out the good bits then re-inject it into your face. It’s supposed to boost collagen, fibres and something else. I need to research it.
What’s your biggest skincare worry?
I get pigmentation quite badly, which is brilliantly covered with make-up today. I’ve actually got a map of Africa on my forehead, especially when I’m in the sun. It’s really, really not attractive.
Have you had any health scares?
There’s a history of breast cancer in my family, and I went for a routine check a year ago. They found a little something. It turned out to be a microcalcifcation [tiny deposits of calcium in the milk ducts] which is common and nothing dangerous. But it was really good to have had the check and now I go every year.
● Tune into the Capital London Breakfast show with Lisa and Dave this week for exclusive backstage gossip from the Summertime Ball.