Welcome to another installment of My Beauty Identity—a series set to explore the intertwining worlds of beauty and identity. We’ll be investigating how people from all walks of life use their beauty routine to empower and uplift and asking them to define beauty in the modern age. This week, we spoke to Ella, aka Miss Victory Violet, a New Zealand–born, vintage-inspired model and hairstylist now living in London. Here, she tells Byrdie UK about how finding the vintage style helped her out of a dark time in her life…
Where does your love of the vintage style come from?
In hindsight, looking back, now that I'm in the style, I think that there were a lot of things growing up that made me gravitate towards it. My parents never exposed me to any of the old movies or anything like that, but I did watch Grease on repeat as a child.
As I started to develop my own style through my teens, I definitely was one of those teenagers who tried to fit the mould, but that didn't go so well. But as I started to gain a bit more confidence, I started to gravitate towards the '50s aesthetic, although I didn't really think about it like that back then. And the time, it was just about how the clothing style—like a nipped-in waist and full skirt—fitted me and suited my shape.
"Then as I trained to become a hairdresser, I just loved updos and creating those really classic looks, and that's when I began to get more and more into the vintage aesthetic and wanted to do it on myself. I guess the clothes started first, but it was the hair that really got me into it. I'm a really all-or-nothing person, so once I felt that I could do the hair and felt confident to wear the makeup, that's when I thought, Okay, I can do everything—the full package. I felt like I wanted to be able to do the whole shebang.
Where do you find your vintage beauty inspiration?
As a modern woman, I use Google. That was how I found the style a little bit more because I was basically researching for hours on Google trying to find reference images of things I could replicate or be inspired by. And it was through that that I found a couple of models who were modelling for a vintage reproduction clothing brands. Growing up in New Zealand, there was not that much true vintage to find in thrift stores, so this opened me up to the whole community of other people following the vintage style.
How has carving out this vintage beauty aesthetic affected your sense of identity?
Once I'd taken the plunge into the vintage aesthetic, my confidence in myself grew a lot—it really helped me break out from trying to fit that modern mould and trying to be someone I wasn't. I started dressing vintage around a year after being in a pretty dark place with myself and my body. I had started developing an eating disorder, so I was kind of still recovering from that period, and the vintage style helped me break out of that, have confidence and be proud of my body. And I love that through the style, I can be creative and express myself and take pride in how I look, but it doesn't 100% define me, because I'm still happy to walk around with no hair or makeup.
It's liberating when you find a style you feel is what you were always meant to be like.
Do you do the full vintage hair and makeup every single day?
In the first few years, I did wear it to the full level all the time, but as I've gotten older and more and more comfortable within myself, I've become more comfortable with being a little more casual. No one expects me to be 100% all of the time.
Now I work from home a lot, and when I'm working from home, I don't do everything. When I'm going out, I like to get dressed up and do some level of the vintage look. But there are times when I might just put on my activewear and walk down to the local shops to grab some groceries. If I'm travelling, I might not do my hair and makeup, and only put on a nice dress. So there are different levels.
How long does it take for you to get ready in the morning?
Full hair and makeup take around about an hour to an hour and a half. That's if I'm doing full photo shoot hair and makeup and taking that little bit of extra care and time. I often actually set my hair at night, though, to reduce the curling time in the morning. I used to use foam rollers, but in the past year, I switched to flexi rods, which aren't as comfortable to sleep on, but they give a lot tighter a curl. I really enjoy the process of getting ready, so I always allow myself that hour every day, and I just cruise along and take my time.
Are your nails an important part of your beauty look?
They've become a really important part of my look. I got them done when I first got married about four years ago, and I ended up getting them taken off about four months, but I realized I couldn't live without them. So ever since, I've had them nonstop. I do love that really dramatic, long, stiletto shape, and when I don't have them on, my fingers feel so stumpy and short. I get a nude base with heart-shaped tips, so I can go three or four weeks without getting them changed because the regrowth doesn't show as much.
You definitely know your way around a beauty shop. What's your favourite lipstick?
"That one's hard because I have so many favourites. Currently, I'm loving Kat Von D Studded Kiss in Outlaw. That's really nice, a really good formula. I also love Besame Cosmetics—it's a small American company, and it does actual replica colours from the '40s and '50s. They come in these beautiful gold tubes, and the packaging is just gorgeous."
The formula to me is never as important as the brush. I'm always looking for a very, very fine, thin brush, not one of those fat felt-tip brushes. I've only been using it for a few months because I've recently started transitioning towards a more vegan lifestyle, and Nyx fits that bill.
I don't wear false lashes all the time, but when I do, I tend to buy the multipacks from Ardell. I always opt for a more natural-looking lash so they don't look too thick and like a curtain. I've also recently been loving their half-strip magnetic lashes. They were really hard to get the hang of, but once you do, they're actually really, really good.
I recently bought Urban Decay All Nighter. I've been trying to find a cruelty-free product, and after a bit of trial and error, this one has been amazing.
Who is your ultimate beauty idol?
I think I have to say Dita Von Teese. She's kind of the obvious choice. There are a lot of people I admire in terms of their beauty aesthetic, but because I didn't grow up watching the old movies, she was the modern-day influence. I always thought, Wow, this woman is amazing, and her hair and makeup are always on point, so I'd definitely have to choose her.
Feeling inspired? Why don't you read how Youtube star turned actress Lilly Singh has carved out her own beauty identity alongside the identity of all the characters she has played in this installment of My Beauty Identity?