An Exclusive Festive Interview


Today I bring you an interview with my friend Clare. Here she is, second from the left.

Happy Christmas.

We have been friends for 15 years. We were flatmates at university, and actually took a train up to London once to buy the last two bottles of Rouge Noir in London. Ours is a strong bond, built on a mutual respect of Virgil’s bees and Chanel’s nail polishes. We still have much to discuss. Enjoy the below.

1)   Hallo Clare. Would you like to introduce yourself to readers of The Definite Cuticle? Hallo. I am Clare Bennett. Student flat mate of Alexandra Heminsley, fellow Classicist and Nail Scholar. Trained from a young age by my grandmother, who did her nails every day and made me start to do mine from the age of about 10. ‘I can’t see your moons’ was her most frequent comment, this meant I’d have to go and do them again. I bit my nails for a week once and when she found out, she hit the ROOF. I now judge as she judged – I don’t ever pay for professional manicures because I’ve never had one better than I can do them myself.

2)   How did you come to be a Video Vixen? I worked for Richard Curtis for years, which included the entire process involved in the creation of Love Actually. It was customary for me to barge my way into various things we worked on (I can be spotted staring crossly at Claudia Schiffer over a pretend cocktail in the Westlife video for Uptown Girl), but was surprised when Richard said he’d already thought of a part for me in the movie. It was an appearance in Billy Mack’s music video for his horror single ‘Christmas Is All Around’. At the time, the script described ‘robotic girls, like the ones in the Robert Palmer video for Addicted To Love, but in Santa outfits’ which sounded easy enough. However, I almost pulled out. This was for many reasons – a lot of them to do with varying levels of potential humiliation -most prominent amongst them was that I was ten years older and six inches shorter than these gorgeous girls. Richard thought this was deeply wet and hilarious, which was enough to make me gird my loins.

3)   Did you enjoy the costume/make-up? Actually, NO! The whole process took two and a half hours – I was buried under an avalanche of foundation and powder and had my face painted like someone decorating a house. We all had long, heavy hair pieces that were pinned, coiled, curled and sprayed until they were like marble to touch. I emerged from the make up trailer in a dress so short that everyone could see my arse, heels I would only recommend to people interested in torture and more make up than a drag queen. I was awesomely embarrassed to begin with in front of the openly laughing crew, but after a while I just thought, ‘Well, they’ve all seen my pants now – really, this is just like being at a party at University’.

4)   As someone who has very firm ideas about your nails, how did you find the experience of surrendering them to someone else? I really struggled with this. I was 27 when we shot the movie and usually had quite long nails, but for some reason, I’d hacked them all off (one must have broken and I don’t do uneven lengths).  I seem to remember one of the make up team saying they were ‘too short’ for this look, which I immediately argued against as a/ we were meant to look quite forties and b/ everyone knows that unless you are Joan or Jackie Collins, long red nails are an offense of epic and unforgivable proportions.

Clare, looking uncomfortable with breaking the Joan/Jackie Collins rule

5)   What exactly did you have done? I had nightmare false nails glued onto my real nails. They were really long and I want to say already painted, although I can’t remember. But honestly, it was like being fitted with claws – and for some reason, I was the only person who was given them. I have NO idea why.

6)   Did you like how they looked? Not even a little bit? The whole look in the flesh was so completely ridiculous and over the top, I really thought I looked stupid – but on screen / in photos, it was sort of miraculous. The nails, however, I still think were weird and incongruous. You can see them in the famous group shot of us hanging down my side like blades. I look like Wolverine.

7)   The pictures you have shown me suggest that you found the falsies rather awkward – is that correct? Yes, I literally couldn’t use my hands – and I was the one on keyboards. Fortunately, the idea was for all of us to be really bad at our instruments, so my spasticated thumping on the keyboard is actually me ‘acting’. Going for a pee was out of the question, I would have ended up mutilating myself, let alone trying to scratch my face or anywhere else for that matter.

8)   Did you find it dainty in a semi-disabled Victorian lady-in-a-corset way, or did your feminist hackles rise at the prospect of effectively being rendered incapable of doing your own thing? My residing memory of them is that they were just UNCOMFORTABLE and made my hands feel totally weird and like the enemy. We were all wearing Wonder Bras with extra padding, but we ran out of chicken fillets and Joanna the costume designer had to have another pair biked over for me as I was the one most in need of them. However, when they arrived, Joanna and I went behind a screen and I held up my clawed, Edward Scissorhands and said, ‘You’ve got to be joking, you’ll have to do it!’ So there was this bizarre moment where Joanna had to shove yet another pair of boobs into my bra and hoik up the other ones as I stood there incapacitated– I ended up with eight in total. Like a mutt.

Clare at her keyboard

Clare at her keyboard (note Wolverine hand dangling below)

9)   Would you ever consider wearing them again? I really wouldn’t. They had to melt them off at the end of the day and sort of bend them back to get them off and the whole thing was quite traumatizing and a bit George Clooney in Syriana.

10) Anything else you’d like to share? I donned the same outfit again a year later when we shot an entire music video for the single release and DVD extras and then again for the premiere a month later. Fortunately, they weren’t able to outfox me and I made sure my nails were a bit longer so I wouldn’t have to go false again. The nail varnish we wore was something super cheap and verging on what I thought looked orange – but once again, like the cement make up, it worked on camera. It is not often I am wrong, so in this case I will concede and say I wasn’t entirely right. And also that it was one of the most fun things I have EVER done.


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