September 20th, 2022
Ann Marie Harper – aka Glamour Gran Ann – is a beauty influencer, mental health advocate and motivational speaker. Her mission is to be a positive influence and help everyone reach their true potential by sharing life skills alongside makeup. You may have seen her on the Warpaint stage at the Scottish Beauty show in June this year.
After spending 40 years in the makeup industry, she took the plunge at 66 and launched her own beauty brand – GGA Cosmetics – aiming to create products that delight and sparkle. She is also in the process of launching a virtual academy with online masterclasses and collaborations with her favourite MUAs.
Glamour Gran Ann just joined TikTok with over 20,000 views of her first post, proving you’re never too old to learn something new. We caught up with Ann to talk beauty and Glasgow.
You’ve been in the makeup industry quite a while – can you give us a brief history of your beauty journey?
My mum was very much into make-up. She was a manic depressive so my upbringing was erratic. School for me was horrendous – being dyslexic and not knowing it, combined with mum’s mental health issues – made it difficult. Mum bought me up as my dad died when I was two and she did the best she could but she was very unwell.
I left school at 16 and went into hairdressing. A year so so later I remember walking along the road and my mum encouraged me to go in to [department store] McDonalds Wylie & Lochheads and ask if they needed anyone. I walked in and smelt all the perfume and just looked around in awe. In those days you could just go in and ask if there were jobs, and the lady I spoke to sent me up to HR as they were desperate for staff. I was only a wee lassie but they took me on, and I remember standing at the counter selling perfume thinking I was great!
All my life I believed I was a nothing as that was planted in my head at school, although my personality helped me and took me places. The customers loved me, but doing figures or organising things was not my strength. I’m still not very good at that, but I had this magnet for people, and I loved helping them. That took me through. I remember someone saying to me “you should go to college and become a Makeup Up Artist” and this other person said “she could never go to college!” and I listened to that person as I was young and didn’t have any confidence in myself.
I next worked as a consultant for Yardley – I loved it! I went down to London for my training. I also worked for Helena Rubenstein… I should write a book! I ended up working for Boots the Chemist, I spent 18 years working in [department store] Frasers in Glasgow. I also worked for Oleg Cassini, who designed for Jackie Kennedy and dated Grace Kelly.
While I worked at Frasers my mother died and I had a severe mental health episode. It just came upon me, complete blackness. I couldn’t even lift my arms, it was horrific. I had suicidal thoughts. I didn’t care, everything was black. I am living proof that you can get through it. It’s amazing how you find the strength. I believe someone looks after me; even in my darkest times I felt someone was there.
Makeup was my saviour – I love it. I love making myself up. I can look 90 or I can look a healthy 60 (I would say 30, but not sure I’d get away with it – laughs). I really look after my skin – I’ve had fillers and botox – as it’s important for me to look nice.
My biggest thing now is going out to do motivational talks – there’s so much I want to share with the world. Talking on stages at beauty shows was amazing – the feedback was incredible and has encouraged me to follow that too. A college in Ayr have asked me to speak to their students and I’m going to take some of the young ones from GlamCandy Academy, where I study myself, with me.
I’m very lucky, I’ve had many wonderful experiences. However things change as you get older and you have to keep working at it. I’ve started doing videos on Instagram, chatting to other people in the industry. At the Scottish Beauty show I met Miki Evue, a college lecturer and co-founder of Shelen. We hit it off straight away, and we had a great chat on instagram. You are never too old to embrace new technologies, meet new people and learn new things.
What’s your first makeup memory – has this influenced your later beauty choices?
The very first thing I remember – and I can smell it now – is Inoxna Leishna. I was in Lewis’ in Glasgow and I remember I was very young, standing at the Leisna counter and I couldn’t stop staring at the consultant. She asked if I wanted to try anything and I stuck my finger in the pots and tried the lipsticks – as that’s what you did then. All the consultants were gorgeous, little did I know then I’d end up working there for Helena Rubenstein!
Later, as I left Arnotts where I’d worked for Helena Rubenstein, Lewis’ were looking for a number 1 on their counter. My manager encouraged me to apply and showed me the counter. I was petrified – but it was an amazing account, particularly as I was so young. Anything is possible!
You’ve recently created your own palette – The Glam Goddess Collection – what was your inspiration for this – and what took you so long?
Not believing in myself is why it took so long. I always had this spark in my head. I used to go to the PLouise Makeup Academy in Manchester for training. At a palette launch Paige spoke about someone who was a complete inspiration and had done a Facebook live that had blown up and gone viral. I suddenly realised she meant me and she called me up to the stage.
My daughter knew it was going to happen but had been sworn to secrecy. I was stunned, but went up on stage and shared a bit of my life story. People loved my honesty. When I left the stage I told them that Glamour Gran Ann would launch her own range.
And now I’ve done it – with the backing of my son and the rest of my fabulous family. I couldn’t have the big launch I’d planned as the pandemic hit and that has impacted sales, but I’ve been promoting them online and selling them at beauty shows. I’m just about to start selling them on TikTok too.
I love TikTok – I talk about mental health and beauty, and I do some dancing (I’m a trained latin dancer!) all kinds of things. I’m learning how to use TikTok and I love it – everyone is selling there – it’s definitely the place to be.
My older followers have fed back that the colours in the palette are too bright for them, so I may do a more subdued palette at some point. I’ve realised my road is helping the older people – as much as I love the young ones – my niche is with the older consumers. I show them the real me with no make-up on and talk about everything – including the glue I use for my false teeth!
You were born and raised in Glasgow – how much has the city shaped you?
It made me strong. My upbringing didn’t make me very streetwise – unlike my husband who is from Maryhill. I was born in the Gorbels, my mum, my sister and brother and me. My brother was a chronic alcoholic – he’s now in AA and has been for 20 years – growing up with that was horrendous. That has a lot to do with the Glaswegian part of me.
We went to South Nitshill. I remember we did a moonlight flit – my brother had broken into the meter and we had to leave. My mum could have got help with the bills but we didn’t know anything was available. We went on the bus – left everything behind, including our furniture – we ended up going to this flat in Queen Margaret’s Drive as someone had told my mum she could rent a flat there. It was an awful area, I saw things I’d never seen before. A lady there told my mum she shouldn’t bring her girls there and gave her the address of a flat across the road in Clouston Steet – where we went instead and it was a beautiful flat.
I’m now in a fellowship which supports people living with an alcoholic in the family and that’s helped me realise just how sick my brother was. Luckily things have improved as time has passed and there is now help for everyone and everybody – they just need to seek it out. If you need help, speak out. I hope my story can help people.
I was recently interviewed by The Scottish Sun, which was so exciting and has helped get my story to more people as well.
What do you love about the city – what makes it different?
Glasgow is a place where you can talk to everybody. I only moved out of the city to Ayrshire 20 years ago, any my son is still in Maryhill so I spend a lot of time in the city. I’m never out of there! I go to college and dancing classes all the time. I don’t drive there any more though, I don’t like driving in the dark so I use public transport. There is something magical about Glasgow. There is another side as well – there are a lot of homeless people, which breaks my heart.
How much of your client base and followers are based in and around Glasgow?
Lots of them – hundreds and hundreds. I have followers all round the world too. I’ve met so many wonderful people on line. I get so many messages and being able to help them gives me a mission.
As you get older it’s harder to know how the technology works – but I’m continually learning about new things.
Is there a good community of makeup and hair artists in Glasgow? Do you have a creative network you collaborate and consult with?
Yes, absolutely. I know lots of them – I’ve been very lucky. The BPerfect shop are selling my Palette. I never gave up – even when people said no. I was so thrilled when Brendan from BPerfect said he’d sell it. The lady in the post office also asked if she could sell some – so it’s available from there too!
My first day at GlamCandy college I was working with a young autistic girl – we were paired up to do each other’s makeup. She was really nervous and I encouraged her to do a live with me on Facebook. Now she’s doing her own and is getting really good feedback. You need to never give up on your dreams and help other people achieve their goals too.
I work more in Ayrshire now, but I do go up to BPerfect and do classes for them. I also have my website as well. When I was planning the photo shoot for my palette, my son asked who I wanted to take the photos. I had previously done a photoshoot for BPerfect- they called me the Queen of Makeup – it was such a lovely experience. We did that in London, and I just clicked with the photographer, James Rudland. So when I was talking about my own photoshoot I really wanted James to take the photos.
My launch was going to be a big event with lots of big name MUAs there. However the pandemic hit and that couldn’t happen. I contacted James about taking the photos for me – and I nearly fell off my seat when I heard the price. I hadn’t realised just how expensive everything was. I told him it was above my budget but that when I made it (not if!) I’d book him to do my photoshoot. He messaged me back and said he’d do it for my budget – so my son and him worked it out and it all happened! Dreams do come true – and you meet some lovely people on the way.
What advice do you have for up and coming artists wanting to maximise their potential and build a client base in Glasgow?
Go and ask experienced MUAs if you can help them. Do it for nothing – attend events with them, help with anything, clean brushes, whatever it takes. Take the opportunity and get yourself known, start building a network. Go to charity events, use social media. I’m going to work at a charity event and I am taking some of the GlamCandy students with me to give them some experience.
What are Glasgow’s hidden gems – what should a first-time visitor not miss?
Princes Square! I love George’s Square too. There are so many different things – the transport museum for example. So many places but I’d definitely see the big stores like Frasers. The Corinthian is amazing, I’ve done lots of events and photoshoots there, it’s beautiful.
What’s next for Glamour Gran Ann?
Being back at college has given me the passion and fire back in my belly to reopen the doors of my salon for one-to-one or group lessons for older people (young people are welcome too!) to help with lessons or doing makeovers. I can do before and afters to show the difference. I mentioned this on my TikTok last night and had such a good response.
When I first found out I could learn in college I went to learn nails. NSI in Glasgow – they’ve just retired and closed the college. I didn’t pass first time, but kept trying and passed at the third attempt thanks to the teacher really helping me. I then did lots of other courses with them. My husband set up my salon at home, and I did practically every beauty course going. Now my priorities are helping people with their mental health and encouraging them to get help if they need it, and secondly showing people that they can look good regardless of their age, and share my hints and tips on repurposing what you already have.
I love studying at GlamCandy college, meeting the younger people and hearing their world view is so interesting and refreshing. Everyone is important. I have a lot of experience, but being back at college has given me a calmness. The biggest thing it’s done for me is giving me the confidence to reopen my home salon. I will be targeting older people to show we can look good and feel better.
I’ll be doing online training too – being dyslexic can be an additional challenge – but it has helped me keep pushing on. I struggle to do the organisational side due to my dyslexia, but I’m a strong believer that something will happen or someone will come along and help me to do that. The universe always delivers!
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