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Lush founder Mark Constantine opens up about the reality of being homeless

The ethical cosmetics boss said that employed homeless people are too often forgotten

Mark Constantine

Mark Constantine, the co-founder of cosmetics giant Lush, spoke to The Big Issue about his own experience of homelessness – describing “an emptiness that is quite beyond bleak”.

The 66-year-old bath bomb entrepreneur was left without a home aged just 16, after his relationship with his mother and stepfather broke down.

He was forced to live in a tent in an area of woodland while working days, evenings and weekends to afford food and clothes.

Constantine was eventually taken in by the parents of lifelong friend Jeff Osment. He said he learned “compassion, friendship, the benefit of charity” from their selflessness.

Speaking to The Big Issue this week, he said: “I often think about the epidemic of people with jobs who are homeless. I didn’t have addiction problems, that wasn’t an issue for me. The lack of family was. I was homeless because nobody cared at home. And that is an emptiness that is quite beyond bleak. It’s a sheer, blank absence.”

Jeff also penned Dear John: The Road to Pelindaba, a biography covering the winds and twists of Constantine’s life, from homelessness to working in an Elizabeth Arden salon frequented by David Bowie to grafting to get his ethical, handmade cosmetics business off the ground. The biography also covers Jeff’s secret quest to track Constantine’s father down, who left when he was two years old, in the hope of providing some closure for his friend.

Despite a troubled family life growing up, the Lush boss now keeps his family close. All three of his children work for the business, which he says is important to him but can be intense. “It’s like an episode of The Archers every week. We’re muddly and messy and trying our best.”

You can read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue, on sale now.

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
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Lush and The Big Issue Foundation

From December 10-16, all proceeds from UK and Ireland sales of the perfume will be donated to The Big Issue Foundation, which helps us support vendors so they can take positive steps forward in their lives.

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