We’re delighted to kick off our Meet & Greet by speaking to divine British-born actress and model, Vanessa Vanderpuye about her well-being secrets, beauty regime and career to date. It’s a Friday afternoon and we’ve chosen to meet at one of London’s finest contemporary hotspots, the Charlotte Street Hotel in Fitzrovia.
As we greet each other, it’s evident that Vanessa Vanderpuye is the personification of ‘natural beauty’. With her sun-kissed flawless skin (she is of Ghanaian descent) and has just returned from filming her final scenes for Sky One drama Bulletproof in South Africa.
Boasting lustrous, natural Afro-hair coupled with a vibrant casual-chic dress sense, this girl looks incredible! It is, therefore, no surprise that Vanessa Vanderpuye with her striking looks and svelte physique caught the attention of a top London Model agency which has seen her fronting modelling campaigns for Pantene, IT Cosmetics, Samsung, Orange France and Colgate just to name a few.
No stranger to hard work and with a relentless work ethic, after obtaining her HND in Criminal Justice from the University of Central England in 2008, Vanessa Vanderpuye decided to pursue her lifetime ambition of becoming an actress by attending full-time drama school. Soon after, she quickly secured the leading role in a West End Theatre Show and made her TV debut as Shakira in Sky Atlantic’s comedy-drama Venus vs Mars.
Supremely talented, her efforts to date have led to two nominations for Best Actress for her performance in the multi-award-winning Web series, Dreaming Whilst Black. Currently, for those fans who have eagerly awaited the return of Sky One’s cop drama Bulletproof, we see Vanessa playing Arjana Pike (the character previously acted by Lashana Lynch) partner of co-star Ashley Walters character, Ronnie Pike.
Commendably honest and open, here’s what Vanessa Vanderpuye had to share with Dr Natasha Berridge, our resident Medical Specialist;
You studied Criminal Justice at University, has this in any way helped you to prepare for your new role Arjana Pike, in the upcoming series of Bulletproof?
I chose to study Criminal Justice because law was the only subject that I could see myself pursuing as an alternative career if things didn’t work out with acting. My parents came from a traditional African background and being the eldest of three siblings, they wanted me to set a good example to my younger sisters by going to university. Unfortunately, that’s the old way of thinking so I’m pleased that over the years Mum has become more supportive of my acting career the more she sees me on TV. And yes, I do feel that having studied Criminal Justice it has definitely helped my ability to research acting roles, in particular my character Arjana Pike.
As a black female actress, what does beauty mean to you?
I believe that beauty comes in all shades and forms. It’s acknowledging that everybody’s beauty is unique and not one size fits all. And that’s ok. With time, I’ve learnt to choose the beauty products that work best for me; you know those products that give me that glow! I think that whatever ‘quirks’ you may or may not have, it’s about learning how to make that feature work for you. Ultimately, our beauty is reflected by having the inner confidence to shine and just learning to love being in your own skin.
Given your chosen vocation, do you feel any pressure to look beautiful or hide any signs of ageing?
Fortunately, I’ve been very blessed with good genes (thanks mum!) and so don’t feel under pressure to hide any signs of ageing. However, I do feel pressure in terms of needing to look my best. I suffer from hyperpigmentation, which is a common complaint for women of colour. It’s particularly more noticeable when I’ve had too little sleep, so trying to disguise my ‘dark shadows’ especially if I’m on set and need to get up in the early hours of the morning can be challenging. Like anybody else, I want to feel confident and look my best. I have to admit that many people don’t know how to camouflage hyperpigmentation or skilfully use colour correctors. It has been such an issue for me that I actually do all my own make-up now, even on set. My motto, if my base makeup is great then everything else falls into place!
What are your thoughts on non-invasive treatments such as Botox and Fillers?
To be honest, as long as you’re doing it for yourself and nobody else then it’s ok. I think people definitely need to do thorough research about the practitioner that they are visiting and ensure that they are appropriately trained and qualified. As long as you’re not going against your doctors’ advice or doing anything too risky. Personally, in terms of beauty, I feel that less is more just have the confidence to be yourself!
You have fabulous skin, what is your daily skincare regime?
Thank you! I keep my skincare regime very simple which is something that I’ve learnt from my mum. When I was younger, I would get the occasional spot and use off the shelf products like Clearasil to deal with them. However, using these products on my sensitive skin just worsened the condition as I’d also get a localised rash or blotches with their use. Since then, I’ve resorted back to basics and now only use the most natural of products. I like to cleanse with rosewater, use a Day cream by Clinique, followed by the use of SPF-30 and use a touch of olive oil on my skin for overnight hydration. I also exfoliate once a week and use a product by Dermalogica.
You were diagnosed two years ago with endometriosis, how has this impacted on your daily diet?
I’ve had to eliminate certain food types from my diet. I’ve cut out gluten, regretfully, as I was particularly bloated when I ate gluten-containing foods. I’ve also had to reduce my dairy intake and have started drinking almond milk which I absolutely love. I’ve introduced more fish into my diet Monday to Friday so that at weekends I’ll have no restrictions and will eat whatever mum has cooked.
I also believe that drinking water is essential, and I drink a lot, about 2-3L/day. I’ve really noticed the difference. When I first gave up fizzy drinks for water aged 19, I actually lost a dress size which is crazy and certainly wasn’t intentional.
My absolute guilty pleasure is plantain which I can eat all day every day! However, rather than frying plantain, I’ve had to learn healthier ways of cooking plantain such as grilling or boiling it. I’ve also tried to cut down on the amount of rice that I eat and find myself cooking dishes with sweet potatoes and more vegetables. I love my smoothies in the morning, especially when I’m on the go and need to get to castings. But admittedly with my sweet tooth, my protein shakes get additional sweetness with extra added apples, bananas or mangos.
With March having been Endometriosis Awareness month, are you doing anything to help support the cause?
Recently, I worked with Endometriosis UK and a photographer called Ester Keate (@esterkeate). We shot a campaign with M&C Saatchi in support of endometriosis which saw Ester bring together 20 different women of colour. The purpose of the collaboration was to educate and raise awareness amongst the general public about the symptoms of endometriosis which can be thought of as an ‘invisible illness’ and affects 1 in 10 women. The campaign really aims to portray that the symptoms of endometriosis don’t discriminate and despite how fabulous a woman might look on the surface she may well be suffering internally.
What are your well-being secrets for a healthy mind?
As a creator, I find it difficult to switch off. I find myself constantly thinking ‘what’s my next move, my next job or when will I get paid?’) so I do need to switch off. To zone out of ‘hectic life’ I dedicate at least one hour per day to self-care which means putting my phone away, maybe watching a movie or relaxing whilst listening to music. I’ve also just started doing yoga at home. There’s a fantastic online health and fitness resource called Fitness Blender that is accessible to everyone. It offers tailored full-length workouts programmes and lots more. Because I’m such a home bird and by the time I return home in the evenings there’s no chance that I’d be wanting to leave again to go to the gym! Fitness at home really works well for me and I find it’s the perfect way to ‘wind-down’ and relax me in the evenings.
As a successful actress and model, how do you achieve a good work/life balance?
I always make sure that I have time to touch base with my family and friends, even if that means catching up with them via social media. Obviously, it’s definitely more comforting seeing them in person so that I can have that personal touch with a hug for example. Admittedly, it was more difficult than I thought it would be working on Bulletproof in Cape Town as I didn’t have my immediate family and friends around to go for a coffee with or even go out for a meal. This was especially tough on the occasions when I wasn’t feeling 100% healthy due to my endometriosis symptoms. For me, it’s vital to make time for the people that I love on a weekly basis.
We’ve just celebrated International Woman’s Day; do you have any female role models that have inspired your journey thus far?
First would have to be Kerry Washington. I absolutely adore everything that she embodies as an actress but also the measured approach that she uses to share news of her personal life with her fans. I’ve been inspired by Kerry since she first stared in ‘Save the Last Dance’. I’m such an advocate for her as an actress that when she got cast in ‘Scandal’ I literally shed a tear. I was so excited for her. I genuinely thought we (black females) can make it as she has broken so many barriers. Kerry made casting history by being the first leading black lady in a role of authority on a primetime TV show. My second inspiration is without a doubt Lupita Nyong’o. As a teenager growing up watching MTV, I was hooked on the TV show ‘Sugar’ which Lupita stared in. I suppose I always wanted to be part of the show and loved the message that the show tried to portray. When Lupita was cast in ‘12 Years A Slave’ I knew instantly who she was even though most people didn’t. It’s just so nice to see how both of these fantastic actresses have progressed in their careers and the global success that they have since achieved. They both seem extremely humble with a great balance between personal and professional life!
Here at Salon Privé, we are in awe of the talented rising star that is Vanessa Vanderpuye. Vanessa is currently on our screens in Bulletproof series 2 on Sky One and NOW TV with co-stars former So Solid’s Crew rapper Ashley Walters and screenwriter Noel Clarke. We’re completely hooked on the show and after meeting her, on Vanessa Vanderpuye too!
Images: Kirk Newmann