Our stunning cover star Lorraine Downes takes a moment away from our cameras to share favourite fashion looks, tips from her own beauty and wellness regime and the styling approach she’s taken with her Balinese-inspired home renovation.
Our beautiful cover star reveals what’s coming up in her big year ahead – while knocking our photo shoot out of the park!
Lorraine Downes is standing still as the make-up artist gives her golden-girl hair a final brush and the stylist smooths her pearlescent blouse just so. The photographer calls out direction for the next pose from the other end of the patio, while a TV crew hovers expectantly by the pool’s edge at the hired location. Her style squad stepping back, all eyes and lenses on her, she strides forward, flashing that winning smile.
This year is turning out to be a busy one for Downes. She’s launching her memoir, Life, Loss, Love – an honest retelling of her well-publicised personal highs and lows, from being crowned Miss Universe at the age of 19 to the untimely death of her soulmate, Martin Crowe – while in the midst of putting the finishing touches to her newly renovated home on Auckland’s North Shore.
It’s surely an emotional time in her life – but you’d never perceive this on the day Simply You photographs her for the cover at an art-filled private residence the crew is calling home for the day. Sharing a laugh with her team and doing whatever it takes to get the perfect shot, she’s the composed centre of the shoot as everyone rushes around her. At 53 and with a calm confidence, she’s a true professional who can outshine any younger model.
Of course, Downes is no stranger to being the focus of attention. From her divorce from All Black Murray Mexted, with whom she has two children, to the devastating loss of her second husband – beloved Black Caps batsman Martin Crowe whom she cared for as his primary caregiver for the four years following his lymphoma diagnosis – she’s used to the public watching every step. “Naturally, there are times when you don’t want to have your life shared with strangers,” she says. “But it is something I have just learned to live with, and I accept it for what it is.”
When you live your life in the spotlight, you need somewhere to get away from it all. Fittingly, Downes’ new home, she reveals, is modelled on a Balinese retreat – the Indonesian island captured her imagination after she spent time there enjoying the nurturing natural landscapes and welcoming, friendly culture. “It’s my spiritual place,” she says. “It’s home to the kindest, gentlest and most loving group of human beings I have encountered.”
Her aim with her new home was to capture a serene Balinese feel through a colour palette of white walls and dark floors. Natural fabrics and a few décor pieces she picked up while over there have ensured the house both looks and feels comfortable and authentic.
Keeping the spaces simple and avoiding clutter was key to the look, with colour then added through her art, ornaments
and cushions. Antique and secondhand stores have also helped her find unique pieces with soul, she says.
The home’s ambience has in large part been created through thoughtful lighting, a process which saw Downes become a frequent visitor to Auckland lighting shop Murano Plus – “It’s like being in a fairyland, that store.”
Like many Balinese dwellings, her new home has a life of its own at night, she says. “That’s when the magic happens.”
White flowers are a favourite accessory and greenhouse plants fit the tropical brief. Scent is also very important to enhance the sense of relaxation she wishes to nurture. Calling herself the “queen of candles”, Downes burns soy candles and is always on the hunt for new diffusers. “I hope my visitors leave feeling like they have rested a little,” she says, before catching herself. “There’s one exception to that, as my close friends know. I love turning up the music and dancing in the evenings!”
The DJ of the Simply You shoot, Downes makes sure her music keeps things rolling. With a tap of her iPhone in between shots, George Benson’s Love X Love single from his Give Me the Night album fills the room. “I have to have music in my everyday existence,” she says. “Anything with a bit of soul just makes me want to dance.” Earth, Wind & Fire, Sister Sledge and Chic all make the playlist. “I could not imagine life without music.”
Energised by her smooth tunes, Downes turns away, off to try on the next outfit from an enviable line-up of designers. A few minutes later, she steps out in a mesmerising Diane von Furstenberg dress from Muse Boutique – vibrant yet refined – ready for the cover shot.
While she’s more than happy to be draped in statement gold jewellery and strut in impossibly high heels for Simply You, she admits to being more of a jeans person for day-to-day. Downes’ favourite outfit at the moment is a pair of white frayed jeans paired with an oversized white cotton shirt. She’s currently coveting monochromatic looks with a mixture of textures. “I love natural fabrics against my skin,” she says. “I feel comfortable in a simple colourway of white, black, navy, and every now and then I will wear colour, such as fuchsia.”
No stranger to ball gowns, the beauty queen looks as comfortable lying on a couch in a whimsical Marco & Maria dress for the photographer as she does later in her denim off-duty wear.
“Every now and then I like to wear a beautiful evening dress,” says Downes. “But my preference is a more relaxed way of dressing, such as a tailored jacket with jeans and sneakers.”
The media personality considers herself very fortunate to have been dressed by her favourite designers, including Yvonne Bennetti, throughout her career. However, her all-time favourite dress was her aqua blue wedding dress by Jane Yeh, which she wore to marry Crowe.
For everyday wear, Downes is a loyal Country Road shopper, while for jewellery she likes to go to Silk & Steel. Asked what she has bought recently, she mentions her buttery-soft, black handbag – her first from Deadly Ponies.
Leaning back in a smooth-to-stroke velvet armchair from Studio Italia during the photo shoot, she looks the picture of contentment and ease. Holding this particular pose for more than an hour, however, is much more gruelling than it looks.
A life member of Les Mills (“since 1983!”), Downes has a stamina that belies her slight figure. Her workout regime consists of a walk for 45 minutes most days, and a weekly yoga session and spin class. After her walks, she tries to fit in a few sit-ups and push-ups.
Hooked on the Argentinian tango since her winning turn on
New Zealand’s Dancing with the Stars in 2006, she also dances once a week. Last year, she even went to Buenos Aires and spent three weeks studying the tango. “I love it because it is a dance which is ageless and you don’t have to have a partner. You can dance tango anywhere in the world.”
Having owned modelling agency Care of Lorraine Models, and worked as a style and image consultant, Downes is a firm believer in the power of appearance. “It speaks before you have said your first word.” However, she’s not worried about ageing. “I think the most important thing is to find your peace about ageing. Don’t fear it; accept it and enjoy life because some don’t get that opportunity.”
Her secrets to ageing gracefully are at one with a healthy lifestyle – hydration, sleep, stress management, exercising regularly and eating well. And if all else fails: “Laughter and having great girlfriends is the best way to navigate most things.”
Marco & Maria dress, $5998, from Modes.