Helen Mirren Talks Insecurities, Going Past "Sexy Campaigns"

Helen Mirren - Getty - H
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The Oscar-winning actress and L'Oreal brand ambassador spoke at the Cannes Lions about launching the "All Worth It" initiative to give confidence training to thousands of young people in the U.K.

In 2014, when L'Oreal asked Helen Mirren to become a brand ambassador for the cosmetics giant, the British Oscar winner, then 69, thought “it was about bloody time!”

“I thought at last there has been a shift [in the fashion industry] — I'm talking about age and beauty, but also diversity,” said Mirren, speaking to the crowd at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity on Tuesday.

She recalled living with acclaimed fashion photographer James Wedge in the 1970s when “he could not get a black girl on the front of a magazine. Now, finally, the breakthrough has happened. ... And now it's great to see older women, different genders, different religions — the whole diversity of the world we are living in.”

Mirren, joined on stage by L'Oreal Paris U.K. general manager Adrien Koskas and McCann Worldgroup’s Global chief strategy officer Suzanne Powers, praised L'Oreal for embracing diversity with its “I'm Worth It” campaign and, more recently, with the launch of “All Worth It” initiative.

The "All Worth It" campaign, a cooperation with British nonprofit the Princes Trust, started earlier this year. It aims to boost self-confidence among British young people, some one-third of which, Koskas said, suffer from feelings of self-doubt. The three-year program hopes to help up to 10,000 young people with workshops and training seminars on such things as public presentation and job interview skills. The campaign launched with a video featuring a diverse range of celebrities — from Hijabi beauty blogger Amena; plus-size model Jada Sezer and the author Katie Piper, who survived a sulfuric acid attack, speaking about their struggles with self-doubt.

Mirren herself admitted “the minute I'm not working” she is wracked with insecurity. “It's a worm in the brain. I don't think any of us are ever absolutely free of it,” the acclaimed actress said. “But it is particularly debilitating and useless in the young.”

From a corporate perspective, Koskas said the campaign was an effort by L'Oreal to “give something back” as well as to “walk the walk” when it came to the brand's message of diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity isn't a trend, it isn't a fad, it's a value,” he said. “You have to believe in it. You really need to put acts behind it.”

“It is no longer enough just to have the pretty words and the sexy campaigns,” Mirren added. “The young nowadays want something authentic. (They are) looking much more deeply into why do I buy that instead of that.”

The Lions conference, which runs through Saturday, features a who’s who of celebrities, buyers, agency execs, media and entertainment companies and tech giants. Among the other A-listers on this year's program are Alexander Wang, Run the Jewels, Sheryl Sandberg and A$AP Rocky.