Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


Jean Stilwell: Redefining Beauty

Opera Star and Radio Personality Speaks

Jean Stilwell

Oh my goodness—where did October go? I looked up and realized the whole month has passed by, and not a single post from me. Daniel Thompson Beauty was all-consuming this past month, what with the launch of my new Lipstick, my new Absolute Colour and of course getting Holiday into all our stores; I seem to have neglected writing.

Well let's fix that right now with some words of inspiration from one of Canada's most loved opera stars.

I have had the honour of creating make up looks for Jean Stilwell for many years now. Together, she and I have collaborated to create fashionable looks for her to use both professionally and personally. Jean is such a fantastic muse because she is always looking for ways to push the boundaries of her style. As a mother (of an eighteen-year-old), a professional singer, radio personality, TV personality and cabaret performer, Jean could easily use the excuse of time constraints to become stagnant with her style, but this is not the case. Always fashion-forward and extremely cutting edge, this woman is the epitome of style. I love working with her to create looks that speak the immense volume of her personality.

Normally her days begin at three in the morning and the demands on her time are intense. After co-hosting a five-hour radio broadcast (Good Day GTA on Classical 96.3 FM in Toronto), she then fills her day with musical practice and lessons for her singing career. Jean is a world-renowned mezzo-soprano who has been performing since 1982. She has appeared in operas on four continents and in capital cities from Budapest to Sao Paulo performing some the most iconic roles in the classical repertoire. She is best known for her portrayal of Bizet's Carmen, which she has sung over twenty-five times across the globe. An acclaimed cabaret performer as well, Jean has re-imagined the classical cannon in her show Carmen: Unzipped. Jean has also performed in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, Roy Thompson Hall, and at The Stratford Summer Festival. Most recently, Jean won accolades for her performance with the American Symphony Orchestra. The New York Times called her work "seamless and ravishing."


I recently asked this incredibly busy woman what beauty means to her.

"Beauty is self permission. It starts with self acceptance but not in a cliche way. I simply look around at the things and people surrounding me and find the place where style meets my personality. While I like to be dramatic and unique, more often than not, I find the connection point in honouring all of who I am and not just the dramatic side. The easiest way to do this is to not seek the permission of other people and give myself permission. At a certain age, the permission to be daring and obvious is taken away and women are often relegated to a role of being dependent—either on a spouse or children or some such convention. Self dependence and reliance on my own opinion allows me to express myself in a beautiful way, both emotionally and physically.


Beauty is about understanding that honesty is the best reality. I use make up and hair and clothes to express where I honestly am in my life today, not where I was twenty-, thirty-, or forty-years-ago but where I am today; what I have accomplished, what I look like, how I live. It's not static, but rather evolving. Real beauty is finding the space to be comfortable—sometimes that means being centre stage; sometimes that means quietly watching as others are the star. 


I think once a woman understands she is the sum of all the parts—not just a mother, not just a singer, not just a whatever—once she understands that she is a result of the many aspects of what she offers, then the space where she is most comfortable can adjust with need and desire. Beauty can then be expressed in any way she wants."


You can hear Jean every weekday morning from 5-10 am on Classical 96.3 FM.

Beauty: BUSTED! will be profiling a Canadian celebrity once every month. Do you have a favourite performer you would like me to interview? Let me know and I will contact them.

Next Month: Louise Pitre