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American Beauty

by Hilary Rose, Australian Sunday Telegraph, October 2004. Transcription by Catehope

As the face of Givenchy, actress Liv Tyler is breathing new life into a makeup-classic. Even if she would rather go sledding ...

Radiant and immaculately groomed, Liv Tyler is sitting in a black Philippe Starck chair in a spectacular 24th floor room in the LVMH Tower in New York. Behind her are breathtaking views of midtown Manhattan with the Hudson River glinting in the distance. Not for nothing is this called the Magic Room.

Commanding Mrs. Tyler's attention, however is neither the view, not the speeches being given to the assembled beauty journalists, but the platters of exquisite canapés with which improbably handsome waiters are plying her. In the 10 minutes it takes the artistic director of Givenchy make-up to expound on the merits of new blusher, his company's "face" demonstrates her appeal to ordinary women; she gleefully takes delivery of her second large platter with a grin that owns everything to appetite and nothing to guilt.

Welcome to the face of cosmetics "branding" in the 21st century, when women don't just buy a lipstick, they buy a piece of Liv Tyler. Tyler,27, has been the face of Givenchy make-up since 2003. Her arrival was the latest in an ongoing trend among cosmetics companies to hire actresses to front their multi-million dollar advertising campaigns: Elizabeth Hurley at Estée Lauder, Uma Thurman at Lancôme, Catherine Zeta-Jones at Elizabeth Arden and Nicole Kidman at Chanel No.5. All are on hugely lucrative contracts (Kidman reportedly got $12 million for Chanel), for which they generally work matter of days each year.

Today, Givenchy is relaunching for the all-important American market, and the pregnant Tyler's presence is thus required. Flying the corporate flag in head to toe Givenchy-pale pink pleated dress, black cardigan and black heels- with minimal jewellery. She looks incredibly pretty with none of the airy-fairyness of her most famous acting role to date, as the elf princess Arwen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and says that being involved with a big cosmetic house is a dream come true.

It was Paulina Porizkova, the one time face of Esteé Lauder and among the most successful supermodels of the late 1980's, who showed Tyler the joy of products. "Her bathroom is filled with every product Esteé Lauder ever made," recalls Tyler. "I've always been a big product person and I remember her saying, 'Get yourself a cosmetic contract and you can have all the products you want!'"

As a child, both Tyler's mother and grandmother instilled in her the importance in taking care of herself, insisting that she moisturise and floss her teeth regularly. It was, she recalls, "a pain at the time, but I'm really grateful now, because if you aren't raised to do that kind of stuff it makes it more of a chore". But pregnancy has taken its toll on her beauty routine. "Normally, I'm quite strict with my skincare regime," she says, "but suddenly, when you don't feel well all the time, it's really difficult." As for make-up, forget it. Until today, she hasn't worn any for months. "Today is the first time in a long time that I look like 'Liv Tyler'. My husband was shocked!"

Givenchy relaunched its make-up last year, with Tyler's face on the adverts. Sales tripled almost overnight, and for good measure. Givenchy brought out a new perfume as well, "Very Irresistable". In a nutshell, with Tyler on board (and a vastly improved range on counters), Givenchy make-up went from being unloved to loved. Women didn't just aspire to look like Tyler, they liked her, and, in the weird world of women and their make-up bags, that translates into buying a Givenchy lipstick. The collaboration did not, however, start so promisingly. "It was Boxing Day, there was 90cm of snow and I was running off into the woods to go sledding with my husband," Tyler recalls. "My agent called to tell me about this Givenchy campaign and I was like, 'Uhhhhh ...' [she sighs and gestures as if swatting a fly]. I said, 'I don't want it, I'm going sledding' and I hung up on them." Sledding over, she accepted. "I thought, OK, it's a great payday for four years and that's it. Then I went to Paris and I realised they wanted me to be a part of the company. They didn't just hire me to be a face, they actually cared about my opinion."

Yet for someone with the fortunes of a cosmetics giant on her shoulders, Tyler remains down-to-earth. She says she even gets excited if she sees one of her adverts on a billboard. For now, though, she is living quietly at home in New York and today's launch marks her first day of work since she became pregnant. As for future career decisions, everything has been put on hold until after the birth of her baby, due December. A film with Casey Affleck, Lonesome Jim, is in the bag (a release date is yet to be set), but its star is more worried about her acne, the size of her bottom and the "strange waddle" she has developed. As the main bread winner of the family, she also frets about how pregnancy and motherhood might affect her career but is trying to "embrace" the moment, "I really don't know what's going to happen," she says, sounding rather less than frantic with worry. "For the first time in my life, I don't really have any kind of a plan." And with that she addresses herself to more pressing matters at hand; the remains of her third plate of canapés.