Kate's beautician reveals buzz on bee-sting secret that made Duchess a blushing bride
23:55 GMT, 21 April 2012
A year ago, Kate Middleton – more than any other bride – knew everything had to be perfect on her wedding day. As she prepared to walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey, she was under no illusions: her dress, her hair and, in particular, her classic ‘English rose’ complexion would be scrutinised minutely by millions of television viewers across the globe.
Luckily, Kate had been prepared by another new Royal for whom the unflinching gaze of high-definition cameras has been something of an ordeal – her stepmother-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla, like Kate, was not born into the protected world of the Royal Family.
She knows the slightest grimace or spot, or a bad hair day can be the subject of spiteful comments for months, and took it upon herself to make Kate’s transition from commoner to Royal as pain-free as possible.
Graceful: A glowing Kate on her wedding day. Deborah had treated her a few days earlier
The close relationship between the two was revealed in February last year – two months before the wedding – when they dined together at three-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Koffmann’s restaurant in the Berkeley Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge.
And Camilla’s most valuable advice was to share the beauty secret that has transformed her appearance.
Shortly before her own wedding to Prince Charles, Camilla discreetly began using an organic alternative to Botox – a face mask containing bee-sting venom pioneered by beauty therapist Deborah Mitchell that claims to be a needle-free shortcut to youthful, line-free skin.
Camilla gave Kate her first pot of Heaven Bee Venom face mask soon after her engagement – and later encouraged Kate to have her first 165 bee venom facial with Deborah Mitchell herself.
Deborah, 46, is a softly spoken, calm blonde and has a gently infectious sense of humour. She is known for developing her own organic, locally sourced beauty treatments and – most importantly – for her discretion. Her celebrity clients include Kylie and Dannii Minogue, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow.
She works from a small salon, called Heaven, in the Shropshire market town of Shifnal, and from a room at London’s Hale Clinic, and usually refuses point-blank to talk about her work.
But she agreed to speak to The Mail on
Sunday to mark the first anniversary of her biggest achievements –
giving Kate a bee venom facial at Clarence House a few days before the
wedding and treating Camilla on the morning of the ceremony itself.
Regular client: Beautician Deborah Mitchell with Dannii Minogue
Speaking for the first time about her Royal and celebrity clients, Deborah says: ‘It was extraordinary watching the wedding on television, knowing I had been chatting to Kate a few days beforehand. What I still find amazing was the lack of tension at Clarence House in the run-up to the ceremony.
‘It just shows how perfect the couple are for each other and how happy the Duchess of Cornwall was to be gaining a new daughter-in-law.
‘Everybody was just so excited. It was like looking forward to Christmas.’
Deborah will be at Charles and Camilla’s Scottish home, Birkhall, this weekend and has been a regular visitor to Clarence House and Highgrove since she first started working with Camilla in 2005.
She says her introduction to Camilla and her enduring relationship with the Duchess came as a huge personal boost at a time when she was struggling with low self-esteem after the death of her father, from whom she had been estranged since he walked out on the family when Deborah was six.
Her mother, Sheila, later remarried and Deborah adored her stepfather Peter Brown, but says that she spent years trying to please her absent father.
‘I was never close to him and I don’t think he ever thought much of me,’ she confided. ‘He had loads of affairs – you couldn’t catch your breath counting them all – and I was always striving for his affection.
‘I tried to be perfect for him but I missed the mark.
‘Luckily we were reconciled before he died. He found out he had got mouth cancer and said to me, “Is there anything I can do for you Can I lend you some money for your business” I said, “No. I’m all right.” But he insisted so I said, “OK.”
‘He lent me 5,000 and kept in touch to find out how I was doing. I’m sure he’d be proud of me now but it’s sad that he never knew that I got to work for the Royal Family.’
Deborah, who has two children Ella, 14, and Christopher, 13, is in the throes of a divorce herself – from her second husband Chris Cox, who owns a meat processing firm.
She says she started right at the bottom of her profession after studying at Telford College of Arts and Technology, travelling from house to house in the Midlands as a mobile beauty therapist, before opening her first salon in 1998, ‘I started off with one 10 pack of nail extensions and my first customer gave me a 1 tip,’ she recalls.
‘I invested that and eventually I bought my own couch and rented the beauty salon at the Holiday Inn in Telford.’
Special ingredient: One of Deborah's top skincare products is made using bee venom
Her first celebrity client was Tracey Taylor, the wife of Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, who introduced her to the other band members and their wives.
She was a regular visitor at Taylor’s home, the Grade II listed mansion Beckbury Hall in Shropshire.
‘Duran Duran had a recording studio
there and I would often encounter musicians such as George Michael and
Rod Stewart jamming in the hall,’ she said.
would call me “Bookworm” because I was quite shy and didn’t talk much. I
would just wander around watching them all. I remember encountering
their bassist John Taylor in the kitchen when he had just found out that
his wife Amanda de Cadenet was cheating on him. He was really shattered
and crying his eyes out and I gave him a big hug.’
Later, she met Kylie and Dannii Minogue. ‘Kylie first came to me at the Hale Clinic about ten years ago,’ she says.
was very inconspicuous. She arrived in a taxi, wearing no make-up,
glasses and with her hair scraped back underneath a hat. Dannii came to
me just before she was made a judge on The X Factor.
‘I remember telling her that I thought Simon fancied her, and she just smiled.’
But Deborah’s big breakthrough came when she was summoned to treat Camilla Parker Bowles.
remember the first time I went to Clarence House,’ she recalls. ‘I was
wearing a shift dress – I don’t wear a uniform – and I arrived in a
taxi. The Duchess’s lady-in-waiting Jackie Meakin met me at the police
barrier and walked me inside. I was taken to a private reception room
where I was offered tea or coffee and Duchy biscuits, which I love.
‘Then I was shown to Her Royal Highness’s bedroom, which is a beautiful cream room full of amazing antiques with the Royal crests on them, and wonderful paintings. I felt so honoured to be somewhere that the public never gets to see.
‘I had taken my own treatment couch from the Hale Clinic. I set it up while I worked out how to curtsey and put her on the treatment couch at the same time. I wasn’t nervous – I never get nervous with celebrities because I’m confident of my treatments – but I was stunned how relaxed and comfortable it was working for her.’
Camilla loved the effect of the treatment and the favourable press comments about her appearance that followed. Deborah was soon a key member of her wider entourage. That Christmas, Camilla gave Deborah a signed photograph in a leather frame.
Gift: The Duchess of Cornwall introduced Kate to The Bee Venom Mask, which is made by Deborah's Heaven skincare company
Since then, Deborah has regularly treated Camilla. She looked after her when she broke a leg while hill-walking at Birkhall and it was one of Deborah’s Heaven Scent candles that helped revive Camilla after she was caught up in last year’s riots.
Deborah says: ‘It was by the side of her bed – I was thrilled. But she didn’t light it until that terrible experience with the riots. It calmed her down.’
She adds: ‘I’ve been all over the place now. The first time I went to Highgrove, I was looking out over the gardens from her bedroom when I saw Prince Charles and the Duchess land on the lawn in a helicopter.
‘On another visit, I was given a guided tour of the gardens, which was even more special. Once, when I went up to Scotland, the Duchess was wearing a brown cowl-neck sweater and I said, “That’s a lovely jumper Ma’am.” When I finished the treatment, she gave me an identical one in my size.’
Unlike some of Deborah’s demanding celebrity clients, Camilla is very thoughtful and considerate.
‘Once I shifted around some of my other clients to fit her in, but she was most upset anybody would be put out on her behalf,’ says Deborah. ‘She said to me, “Please don’t do that again.”
Demanding: Victoria Beckham once called Deborah asking why she hadn't been given the Bee Venom mask
‘She is very different from clients such as Simon Cowell and Victoria Beckham. The first time he came into the Hale Clinic, he tried to persuade one of my clients to swap her treatment for X Factor tickets so that he could have her appointment. And once I got a phone call from Posh Spice wanting to know why she hadn’t got my Bee Venom mask.
‘Her close friend, the make-up artist, Maria Louise Featherstone, had a pot and she was a bit put out that she hadn’t had it first. So she asked me to send her six jars.’
Deborah has met most of the other members of the Royal Family and has treated both Camilla’s daughter, Laura, and her daughter-in-law, Sarah Buys, and, of course, Kate.
‘Prince Charles always says hello,’ she says, ‘either when I am treating his wife or beforehand. He and the Duchess are totally in love. It can give me goose bumps to see them together. I remember him once coming into the room while she was having a facial to give her a present.
‘I met Princes William and Harry one day when I was on my way to treat the Duchess. I walked through a door and practically bumped into them. “Hi Debs,” they said, before running down the stairs like normal lads. I was so surprised that they knew who I was.
‘On another occasion I ran into Catherine. She was all wrapped up and about to go through the door and I just went, “Hi Kate,” before I realised what I had said and gasped. ‘But she was fine about it and just said, “Hello.” ’
It was only after her engagement that Deborah began treating Kate.
‘I feel very proud to have been one of the first people to know the name of her cocker spaniel. He ran up to me when I was doing a treatment for her one day so I began stroking him and she said, “Come on Lupo.” ’
The success of her Heaven beauty products, developed using organic ingredients, have seen her named International Businesswoman of the Year. She now has salons in China, Taiwan and Japan, and is launching in New York this autumn.
But until she met the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005, she was not a household name. A year after the wedding that brought her work in front of an incalculably huge global audience, Deborah still values the Royal connections that she sees as the crowning glory of her career.
Kate and Camilla, meanwhile, still draw on her expertise to help them face the world as two of the most photographed women on the planet.
The Heaven salon is at 13a Market Place, Shifnal. Deborah’s website is at heavenskincare.com