Beauty by the Book

Living Beauty
Thank the beauty goddess Bobbi Brown for her latest book, Living Beauty. In an industry focused on “the look,” she brings much-needed depth to the conversation, and she consistently cranks out products that make women feel like a million bucks—without advocating plastic surgery.

I’ve been theorizing since college that young is the new skinny. We see ads for misses clothes with child models, weighing in at a hefty 120 pounds. We witness the last gasps of women (possibly our idols) trying to cheat Father Time by erasing wrinkles and plumping lips. (Lisa Rinna, I’m talking to you! Please stop!)

Which led me to ask my twenty-something self, “So what are women my age supposed to think when we see our role models desperately clinging to so-called youth? That it’s scary, disgraceful, and ugly to get old? Oh, no.”

Recently, I’ve talked to people who’ve said they own their wrinkles—wrinkles are earned. They show experience, wisdom, strength, and laughter in their lives. They haven’t been frozen. They’ve lived.

I like that. I’ve made a promise to myself to not be afraid to grow older. I’m surrounded by glamorous, intelligent, beautiful, sexy, empowered, older-than-me women—who may have things they’d like to change, but have set powerful examples.

Take my grandmother, Jeanne, who’s in her eighties. Her nails are always perfectly manicured, her hair styled, and her fuchsia lipstick on. She’s not afraid to look fabulous. She’s a confident woman—and she still gets hit on. My mother, who I can already see when I look in the mirror, is amazing. She says, jokingly, “I’m sorry this is what you have to look forward to.” I don’t feel sorry. My mom is beautiful. Her mother, who has passed away, remains my style icon. She was a trendsetter, a fashion maven, sophisticated, and loving. When my mom tells me, “That’s so Marion,” I’m thrilled. And my sister, Susanne—I have always aspired to be as pretty, sweet, and generous as she. They are just a few of the amazing women who have touched my life.

But not everyone has my women. Or maybe they don’t rank them above celebrities they worship. Or maybe they just really are afraid of “losing” their looks—many women believe it’s where their power lies. Why live our entire lives in fear of always not being good enough? In swoops Brown to give us all a little instruction on how to feel better about how we look.

First, she shows celebs we can believe in: Susan Sarandon, who practically defines sexy; Ann Curry, who takes on scary foreign leaders; and Vanessa Williams, whose life is a lesson in perseverance.

Then there’s Brown’s makeup tips. The main thing to keep in mind—we lose some of our definition as we get older. That’s OK. We can draw it back on, without looking creepy! And all her models are regular women! Beautiful, middle-aged women, of all ethnicities! The steps are well-illustrated—you don’t have to be makeup artist to make it happen at home.

I repeatedly had these exclamation-point thoughts as I read the book. Finally! A book about how women become more gorgeous, wise, and compassionate as they age! About how getting older, although fraught with challenges, is, as Debra Winger puts it in the forward, “an ascension.” There are so many mini-epiphanies in this book—from how to understand makeup to noninvasive treatments, menopause, celebrity culture, even accepting ourselves and being confident about who we are. I was inspired. After all, I look much better than I did ten years ago, so why shouldn’t that be the case moving forward?

So what are we to do? Be impervious to—or at least fight—impossible beauty standards. Set a good example for aging, starting now. Project dignity, grace, and confidence, instead of our self-perceived and media-perpetrated flaws.

Bette Davis once said—and Susan Sarandon quoted—“Old age is no place for sissies.” It’s not. But let’s be brave, strong, confident women together. We’re beautiful. We deserve it. We’re movin’ on up. 

Living Beauty is available at Bobbi Brown cosmetics counters, including at Macy’s, 700 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-375-2200.