Development Director of BRANDstand Communications, Millie Kendall MBE, tells 35 Thousand how she is juggling this role and her other as CEO of the British Beauty Council in lockdown. She talks us through her newfound love of Tai Chi, life as a workaholic and how she misses travel right now.
Q: Tell us about your work…
A: “I am a multi-tasker so I have two jobs currently. I am the development director of BRANDstand Communications, a boutique beauty PR agency. We have an office in central London where I have two partners, Andrew Perera who is the world's nicest guy and a successful and talented publicist, and Anna-Marie Solowij, former Beauty Director of British Vogue who I have known for over 25 years. We met when I was running the cosmetics brand Shu Uemura and she was the beauty editor at Elle Magazine.”
“I am also the CEO of the British Beauty Council, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising the reputation of the beauty industry by enhancing education and investing in innovation. We are pleased to support a successful, innovative and inclusive beauty industry. We have defined and valued the industry of the past year and it is worth an incredible £28.4 billion to Britain’s GDP which is something to be proud of. We create open source reports and hold events to showcase our industry to the public and future-proof it for generations to come.”
Q: ‘What’s your context outside of work?
A: “I have two daughters – one is Lucia, 13, who lives with me part-time and spends a few days a week with her Dad, and my older daughter Sadie, is 23 and lives in LA, which is where I grew up and where most of my family live. I live in Highgate, London, which I love. I like the vibrancy of life here, the 4 seasons a day, the nightlife and the people.
I have no pets – I can barely keep a cactus alive. I’m a workaholic and it is my downfall, but I am learning Tai Chi to counterbalance the work load and the fact that my mind never switches off. I also like going out – still at 53 if you ask me to go down the road for a drink and a chat, I’m there. I rarely say no!”
Q: What is your normal day-to-day life like?
A: “I am an early riser and I like the quiet time in the mornings. I like my own company, so a shower and half an hour at my dressing table is absolute bliss for me. It’s like my own type of meditation. I’m not much into staying home and watching TV at night, so I’m usually socialising or chatting to friends (though I can pull the odd coach potato day at the weekends).
I do try to cut my work week off on a Friday night and recharge over the weekends. When I became aware that all I did was work, I realised that if I didn’t make the disconnection at the weekends then I just wouldn’t live very long. I like long walks on Hampstead Heath, pretending I have a dog.”
Q: What is your day-to-day life like now currently during COVID-19?
A: “Well it has changed dramatically. I thought I worked hard before, but my goodness I’m up at 5am usually sat at my desk by 5.30am. I take a walk in the mornings, around 9am and then do Tai Chi in the garden at 10am for an hour. I work through lunch and try to finish at dinner, but lately, with trying to support an industry and workforce of almost 600 thousand people I find I am working until I go to sleep. I am also currently all Zoomed-out.”
Q: How has it impacted you personally and professionally?
A: “I have good days and not so good days. It’s hard because whilst I love spending time alone I can’t see my daughter in LA. I have cancelled a few trips abroad, so that’s a huge shame – I was meant to go to Jamaica, Bergerac, Iceland, Amsterdam, Paris etc…I had so much travel lined up and was really looking forward to it but am focused on rebooking those trips for next year.
Professionally I am just swamped. Our industry has really come together over this, but my role at the Beauty Council really means I am having to step up and remain calm and concise.”
Q: What are you finding challenging?
A: “Not being in my office, not being outdoors enough and the intense increase in work. Homeschooling and just motivating my 13 year old is also a challenge.”
Q: Where are you finding hope and optimism?
A: Just the thought of seeing my daughter really. I feel hope just watching her thrive throughout this awful time in a country 5000 miles away.”
Q: What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?
A: “Coffee made by someone else. Walking past the BT tower every morning. My call to my best friend on my way to work. Sleep! I am not sleeping much at all.”
Q: How are you getting through?
A: “Honestly the Tai Chi has been a life saver. I had a friend called the Barefoot Doctor who practiced Tai Chi every day. He passed away earlier in the year and I was really quite shocked by his passing. When lockdown started I noticed a group of people in my communal garden practicing – people of all ages, around 8 of them. I sort of longingly looked out my window hoping they would invite me to join and then one day they did. We are all spaced responsibly throughout the large garden and we practice Qi-Gong and Tai Chi every morning at 10am rain or shine. I love it.”
Q: What is your mindset about how to use your time at home (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)
A: “I thought I would relax more and have more time, but I am cooking, cleaning, homeschooling and working. I am definitely hustling. I haven’t found relaxing very easy.”
Q: Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing and that of your family?
A: “My beauty regime is a big part of my wellbeing, because it’s my personal time with me. I am not one to share my beauty routine on social media, because in a way it is so private to me.”
Q: Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus are there positives you feel are coming out of this – a silver lining perhaps?
A: “Gratitude and kindness. Hopefully a renewed respect for the NHS and our nation’s hairdressers too!”