Claire King is on a mission – to let women know that the world doesn’t stop turning once they hit 40.
The Yorkshire actress, who shot to fame as scheming Kim Tate in Emmerdale, has launched a new venture called Fabulous Over Forty, offering everything from skincare advice to bra fittings and menopause remedies for women in middle age.
A series of makeover days begins this month, featuring stands, talks and demonstrations on things like make-up, hair, nail care, lingerie, HRT and supplements.
Claire, 51, had the idea while chatting to her make-up artist friend, Goldie O’Hara. “We were talking about the menopause, how it’s generally brushed under the carpet and not talked about. It just grew from there,” says Claire.
“The menopause is a passing phase – it can have its problems, sure, but it needn’t be looked at as something to dread or mourn. Instead of seeing it as the end of something, it can be seen as a new chapter of life, something to embrace. Like many women, I’ve had a hysterectomy, but I refuse to let the menopause rule my life.
“I was getting fed up with this general misconception that once you turn 40 you’re somehow invisible. That’s how women are often made to feel, with so much emphasis on youth culture these days, but it doesn’t have to be like that. We’re not invisible – we are still vibrant, sexy women!”
While any woman over 50 was once expected to fade into the background wearing curlers and a headscarf, today’s older women are looking fabulous; taking care of themselves and showing that they still have a lot to offer.
“Look at Joanna Lumley, Lulu, Helen Mirren – all in their 60s and looking fantastic,” says Claire. “We want to show women how to make the most of themselves, without overdoing it, and address issues connected to body shape and ailments. It’s a full, glamorous ‘re-inventing yourself’ day with a team of advisors on hand.
“Goldie will be doing make-up demonstrations on models, I’ll be talking about skin care and alternative supplements for menopause, and there’ll be a female GP talking about HRT.”
The first makeover day, in Leeds on April 26, will feature skin care, nail beauty, hair styling and extensions, semi-permanent make-up, underwear fittings, fashion, supplements and Magnetix jewellery, which aids wellbeing and eases conditions such as arthritis and period pain.
Events will be held monthly at Yorkshire venues, offering seasonal advice and fashions. The next one, in Harrogate, will include swimwear and hats for the wedding season, and future events will address issues such as dating.
“It’s grown with word-of-mouth and we’ve now got businesses coming to us wanting to get involved,” says Claire. “There’s be a light lunch and the emphasis on fun and support. We want it to be a good day out; something you can do with a bunch of friends for a bit of a treat. It really helps to get together with other women going through things like the menopause, we can share advice and pick up tips.”
As an actress, Claire has grown tired of the dwindling range of parts for women over 40. “And even then it’s usually the same faces that are being used,” she adds.
“The industry has changed, it’s all red button now, with viewers taking control of what we watch. It’s all reality TV now. I live in hope of new drama being created – with decent roles for women of all ages.”
Born in Harrogate, Claire has Bradford connections – her grandparents lived in Tong, her grandfather was a mill-owner in the district, and her father appeared on stage at the former Bradford Civic theatre in Little Germany. In her autobiography, Confessions Of A Bad Girl, Claire wrote of going to see bands play in Bradford when she was a teenage punk, wearing outfits made from feathers, ripped tights and safety pins.
A keen horsewoman, Claire played soap villain Kim Tate in Emmerdale before making a dramatic exit in a helicopter over the Yorkshire countryside. She went on to play prison governor Karen Betts in ITV’s Bad Girls and appeared in TV’s Hollyoaks and The Royal.
In 2006, she took part in BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, and managed to learn demanding ballroom routines while battling pain due to the rheumatoid arthritis she was diagnosed with in her early 30s.
“It was a shock. I thought it was something older people got,” says Claire. “I’ve learned to live with it but it can be very painful. Strictly was great for keeping fit, but tough on the feet. I was in a lot of pain, but I’m a Yorkshire girl – I’m made of strong stuff!”
The first Fabulous Over Forty day is at Weetwood Hall, Leeds, on Saturday, April 26, from 10am to 4pm. Tickets, on a first come, first served basis, are available on 07976 178424 or (0113) 3509843 or fabulousoverforty.co.uk.