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How Australia’s leaders have transformed their appearance since the coronavirus began

Australian state premiers, ministers, health officials, and even the PM himself have radically transformed their hair, makeup and dress sense since first appearing on TV screens to share coronavirus news in February.

Before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Australia on January 25, 2020, the nation’s leaders and top officials were only required to front press conferences on the odd occasion.

But since then some of them – particularly state premiers – have been broadcast into millions of lounge rooms every day to give eagerly anticipated updates on the crisis.

And with those more frequent appearances there has been a noticeable transformation in the way they present themselves, with personal branding experts describing the changes as ‘purposeful’.

 

With her signature dark brunette bob and love of a colourful blazer, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, 49, has made some small but refined touches to her aesthetic over the past five months.

She has been a fixture on television screens since the beginning of the pandemic, and continues to update her state on daily case numbers as New South Wales tries to avoid a ‘second wave’ like the one being experienced in neighbouring Victoria.

On March 30 Premier Berejiklian sported a stoney-faced expression as she appeared before the media, wearing a pale pink dress, pearl earrings and red lipstick that had left an accidental smudge on the edge of her nose. Her hair was tucked behind her ears.

In contrast, her bright red blazer, bronzed skin and matching lipstick on July 17 lifted her complexion considerably, with the colour said to evoke action, confidence and courage. Her hair was straighter – blow-dried – and covered more of her ears to soften the face.

Director of New Work Consulting Julissa Shrewsbury told FEMAIL that Australian politicians have increased their use of ‘power-dressing’ to impress the public since February.

‘This includes the use of high-contrast block colours in bold shades, structured suits and neat and crisp hair styling for both men and women, as well as bold, classic-style makeup for women,’ she said.

‘A big trend is shorter, smoothed-out hairstyles, both in men and women. Gladys Berejiklian has opted for one colour rather than a softer look combining different hair tones. The overall look is “together”: confident, polished, intelligent and in-charge.’

Dr Kerry Chant has been charged with helping the public understand the signs and symptoms of coronavirus, and regularly explains how hospitals and medical staff are responding to the pandemic.

On July 27 Dr Chant debuted a brand new haircut during a press conference in Sydney, turning her wispy blonde hair – which sometimes obscured her face – into a bob cut.

She followed this on July 28 by matching her hair with a red blazer, a glowing complexion and her eyebrows more groomed than usual. She was also wearing contact lenses.

The change has given her a sleek new look and highlighted her cheekbones. On March 20 her hair was longer, she sported a pair of thick black glasses and next to no colour on her face or in her clothing.

‘It is no coincidence that so many of our leaders are moving to this hairstyle right now, and in fact it is an important move because with non-verbal cues make up over 90 per cent of how we communicate, so leaders need to ensure they appear strong, decisive and capable in order for the public to feel they can trust our leaders in frightening times,’ Shrewsbury said.

In addition she started a Twitter account on July 27, saying she wanted to give her followers ‘access to accurate, timely healthcare information’ during the pandemic. 

‘I’m looking forward to sharing important health updates with you here and complementing NSW Health.’

Personal branding expert Suzie Lightfoot told FEMAIL she thought Dr Kerry Chant had undergone the most rigorous physical changes. 

‘Her new haircut is chic, short, and modern, giving her a fresher, more youthful appearance. She has matched it with a simple lick of lipstick, which is understated and classic,’ she said.

‘She looks super comfortable and confident with her new look, and it shows in her energy and presence. I’d love to go shopping with her though to buy a new pair of statement eyeglasses to complete the look.’ 

 

Annastacia Palaszczuk, 51, was forced to defend her decision in May and June to keep Queensland’s borders closed to Australia’s other eastern states, but has since re-opened them to select regions in NSW – although Victorians are still barred.

She has allowed her hair to grow longer since the coronavirus pandemic began, blow-drying it on July 15 to address parliament in Brisbane. Normally it is flat against the back of her head.

Like her New South Wales counterpart, Ms Palaszczuk has stopped tucking her hair behind her ears as often as she did in March, and has even been trialling a chic low ponytail.

She is keeping her blazer and coloured shirt look on heavy rotation but is choosing more complimentary colours to go together – like black and pale blue, or hot pink and black.

‘Annastacia Palaszczuk is making use of bold colour beyond the red jacket she wears on her official Twitter page,’ Shrewsbury said.

‘She has worn a structured white-on-white outfit as well as contrasting a pink blouse with a black jacket. The structure and contrasting, block colours, rather than soft cuts or printed fabrics, give her the “power” look.’

Victoria’s Chief Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, 51, has a premium role to play in the spotlight now that the state is experiencing its second wave of the coronavirus.

But despite the extreme pressure she is under, Ms Mikakos hasn’t allowed that to impact her style, and has been accessorising with bold necklaces and scarves in recent weeks.

Before her regular TV appearances Ms Mikakos was keeping jewellery to a minimum and wearing a lot more black.

‘Jenny Mikakos balances prints with structured jackets and bold eyewear. She appears smiling broadly in many images, which gives her a friendly, caring and approachable look that doesn’t take away from the impression of authority,’ Shrewsbury said.

According to Shrewsbury only seven per cent of what we communicate is in what we say, while 38 per cent comes from how we sound and a huge 55 per cent is visual. 

So it’s natural that when people start working in the limelight, they also start to think about their visual appearance.  

‘I have also seen a recent increase in this concern with the increase in our communication online, such as video calls and meetings. It’s not about looking “perfect”; it’s about being the best version of you, and ensuring the way you look helps people hear your message,’ she said.

More eyes have been on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, 48, than ever before, with his state recording 384 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths in the past 24 hours.

And while he may have started his COVID-19 addresses with an air of trepidation, there is no mistaking the confidence he has gained in just five months.

He has upgraded his striped business shirts for block colours and opts for a navy suit now, replacing his signature black attire.

Premier Andrews has also been wearing less of his famed North Face black jacket – which he used to wear over his shirt when he was cold. All of this is a sign of ‘power-dressing’, Shrewsbury said.

‘Power dressing is very effective in giving your audience the impression that you are an expert or a trusted professional,’ she said.

‘The most important thing is that you project confidence through direct eye contact, a straight posture and a smile. 

‘Beyond that, it’s helpful to demonstrate that you take pride in yourself and that you pay attention to detail, by polishing up your appearance and choosing classic, structured clothing in strong, block colours, with minimal fuss when it comes to jewellery and accessories. 

‘Ensure the clothing you choose suits your body type and is well-made – it doesn’t have to be designer, but it needs to fit you well if you want to appear and feel confident.’ 

Lightfoot said Premier Andrews needs to be seen as both a compassionate and reliable leader to get through the second wave of the COVID breakout in Melbourne. 

‘Opting for a suit over just a business shirt shows he means business and is not casually tackling the crisis,’ she said.

With the nation’s health having been talked about on a near-constant basis since February, our Minister for Health Greg Hunt, 54, has been appearing on all manner of media to talk about how prepared Australia is for the after effects of COVID-19.

On February 29 Minister Hunt was snapped with ruffled hair, but that had been replaced by a well-groomed mop of locks by July. 

‘Greg Hunt has upped the use of a bit of product in his hair by the look of things, and it’s not a bad result,’ Lightfoot said.

‘He has a good head of hair for a man his age! He’s also wearing a tie more often, again giving the perception that he means business.’ 

Australia’s prime minister has done more than keep the country afloat during a raging bushfire season and global pandemic – Scott Morrison, 52, also appears to have grown his hair out.

The Liberal leader has regrown the top of his hair, but continues to sport his treasured navy blue suit.

‘Scott Morrison’s best asset is his authentic leadership presence,’ Lightfoot said. ‘He is very consistent with his wardrobe and chooses the right accent colours for his ties for all the right occasions to add another dimension to his leadership presence. 

‘Leaders at this level are usually all over it as they have people advising on their wardrobe choices. But I think it’s his natural energy and presence that sets him apart.’     

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