Photo: [Grace Woodward]
Grace Woodward admits her brain is “noisy” and after spending an hour with her sipping matcha lattes, we’d probably be more inclined to call it deafening.
Fizzing with drive and energy, the 40-year-old is a mother to a toddler, a leading celebrity stylist, a ‘The X Factor’ alumnus, a business owner, a wife and a mentor. She’s spinning a lot of plates and is not about to drop them anytime soon.
“I’m on my fourth job title right now. My whole career has been a process of elimination, if you’re lucky enough to try a bunch of stuff, do it– I’m either brave or foolish,” she says in an exclusive chat with Yahoo Style UK.
“I want my son to have two working parents – I know my routine influences him and I want him to see me as healthy and ambitious.”
A self-confessed “ideas person”, Grace speaks honestly with purpose and doesn’t bother with wasting words. She’s introspective while being self-assured rather than arrogant. Her confidence is infectious and empowering.
It’s easy to see why she’s recently been scouted by the GRL PWR collective – a group who, as old hands in the creative industry, look to support women up and coming and basically just teach them how to be as awesome as aspirational as they are.
[Photo: Grace Woodward]
Feeling struck by a ‘dichotomy between performing and creating’ Grace narrowly decided against drama school to study a Fashion Promotion BA at London College of Fashion. Here it was a module in styling that led to her to become top of her field, styling the likes of Pharrell Williams and Florence Welch.
But, her desire to perform herself continued to burn and thanks to a host of famous styling clients, Grace’s TV debut came in the form of the ‘Britain’s Next Top Model’ judging panel.
Outspoken Grace was quickly billed as BNTM’s answer to Simon Cowell’s Mr Nasty and garnered a reputation with viewers as the harshest of the panel.
“The show invented a character for me and the producers worked hard to make me appear nastier,” she explains.
However, Grace knew what she was doing. “It was my first foray into TV and I knew that the fashion establishment thought that TV is naff and trashy so I trod a fine line so that I wasn’t eaten up, spat out the other side with no career to go back to.”
“I felt like I had to be true to the industry, I was never nasty but I was tough – only because I knew the industry is far worse than anything that we threw at them on that show,” she says.
Her performance caught the eye of the original Mr Nasty himself, and in 2010 she landed the biggest styling gig on telly - fashion director on ‘The X Factor’. Avid fans of the singing contest will know that this was the year One Direction was birthed.
Having never watched the show herself and after years of being immersed in the ‘bubble’ of the fashion industry, Grace says she was “unprepared” for the backlash she received.
“My God, did the armchair stylists get vicious and at the time I took it desperately seriously and came away from the series a nervous wreck,” she says. “Behind the scenes I told Simon that the general public don’t always like high fashion because it can be challenging – and all he said back was ‘I don’t care just so long as people are talking about it’.”
Simon definitely didn’t agree with all of Grace’s fashion choices. He famously said live on the show that contestant, and eventual winner, Matt Cardle, “looked like he was dragged from the loo on to the stage.”
[Photo: Grace Woodward]
Booked to “whip the public into a frenzy”, Grace was unprepared when this quickly became reality in front of 20 million people a week.
“Creative people are generally very sensitive but I didn’t expect the rollercoaster – I’d never had my work commented on before. I didn’t realize quite how much it would affect me personally. I’m glad I did it once but I would never, ever, ever do it again.”
Being so exposed in the public eye was a struggle for her and prompted Grace to take a break from her social media accounts. “I’m not a huge celebrity with an entourage, I’m a gang on one – so I just stopped with the Twitter because it hurt,” she recalls.
“The thing that makes me feel most destabilized is being judged on my looks – I’m not a model, I’m like a wobbly table anyway – I don’t need pressure on me, I will crumble.”
[Photo: Grace Woodward]
Nowadays, Grace has got a new venture on the go – a fashion boutique called Graceland. Funded by inheritance gained after the death of her mother three years ago and spurred by her desire to do something other than grieve, Graceland has become a success story in its own right.
The boutique, which sells designer vintage pieces for (relatively) affordable prices, is a favourite with the fash pack and Grace is content for the time being.
But, as Grace herself admits she’s “always thinking what’s next”, we hazard a guess she’ll have a new style venture in the blink of an eye.