Today’s beauty uniform is: My mom! We spoke to her about everything from perfume to aging. (I discovered things about her that I hadn’t learned in 37 years!) Here are her beauty secrets, including what it was like to move abroad while pregnant with twins and a hair-experiment-gone-wrong…
Your own mom died when we were very young babies. What was she like?
I always adored her and thought she was lovely in every way. When I look back at pictures of her now, especially when she was dying of cancer, I think, oh, she was so strained and suffering. But at the time, I didn’t see it. She was wearing a wig and had a puffy face from chemo, but she never, ever looked like that to me. I just thought she was always so beautiful.
Growing up, did you and your mom talk about sex and periods and all those things?
She was really chatty — like Daphne from Frasier — but she never talked to me about bras or makeup. She never told me about periods. One afternoon, she left a box of sanitary napkins and a belt on my pillow, and I thought, “Oh, she’s leaving this for me.” She never said anything else. I remember walking to my bus stop in England in sixth grade and thinking, “When I’m 21, I can buy a bra whether she likes it or not!”
What was it like moving to the U.S. as a young teenager?
My family moved from England to Alabama when I was starting ninth grade. I wore braids and white knee socks, but in Alabama, everyone was much more sophisticated. The girls styled their hair and wore makeup. No one was wearing knee socks! I was completely a fish out of water. During recess, I would hide and try not to cry because it would make my eyes look red. In tenth grade, it got better, I found my place. But that ninth grade year was tough.
You got married during your college senior year. Did you do anything special for your wedding?
I just wore lip gloss and mascara! I was so tan that I didn’t need much makeup. I was a lifeguard and got tons of sun. At the time, who knew? Now, one of my best pieces of advice is don’t get any sun.
Have you ever had any beauty experiments gone wrong?
When I was in college, I put Sun-In in my hair while working as a lifeguard, and it turned crazy blonde. It was not a success. And I got a perm in my thirties. I actually thought it looked cute, but when I got home, my kids were like, “Mommy, you look like a lion!”
After college, you guys moved from Virginia to Paris. Did you like the French style?
Totally! Every woman in France seemed perfectly put together every time they stepped out of the house. When the woman across the street would come to the mailbox at 8:30 in the morning, she was totally turned out, with a beautiful skirt and her hair perfectly coiffed. Meanwhile, I was wearing a T-shirt with a ponytail and was bleary eyed with newborn twins. I did start getting into that French look, though. Mostly I wore jeans and a flannel shirt — I was, and am still, an American girl — but I would wear dresses more often to dinner and I had a long wool coat with a scarf and brown boots that I liked to wear. Also, I still wear Chanel No. 5 in small, wispy doses.
Nowadays, what’s your daily skincare routine?
I use Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover to take off mascara. (When I travel, I use Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes to cleanse my face. They’re so convenient.) My beauty routine got a huge upgrade last year when I started using True Nature Botanicals and fell in love with their products. The two I can’t do without are the Night Serum With Retinol and the Topical Vitamin C Treatment. You mix them together and apply at night to plump up fine lines and tighten skin. It’s magic! I do this only two or three times a week to make my supply last longer.
Do you wear makeup every day?
Yes, I always wear Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. I love it because it doesn’t sit on the surface of my face; it looks very natural and neutralizes the pink tones in my skin. After that, I use a makeup brush to dust my face with Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Foundation Powder. I recently started using Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Brow Set in Quiet Brunette. It’s like mascara for eyebrows! My eyebrows are starting to sprout a little gray, and this covers that beautifully. I wear Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips Eyeliner — I bought the trio and mostly use the black one. Most days I also wear Laura Mercier lip liner in Natural Lips and lip color in Brown Sugar.
How do you change it up for special events?
For special occasions, I love love love Laura Mercier’s Caviar Stick Eye Color in Cocoa. I put it on under my top lashes by sort of moving the pencil back and forth across my lashes from underneath. I was shown how to do this at a department store beauty counter. It makes my eyes look naturally dark and smoky. And I always wear Revlon Super Lustrous Shine Lipstick in Plum Velour. It’s a lovely color — not too red but definitely more dramatic than what I usually wear!
Are there any foods or drinks that help you feel your best?
A glass (or two) of Sauvignon Blanc every night! I used to drink Chardonnay, but Joanna converted me! I love to cook. Mostly I make old-school dishes like bouillabaisse, chicken cacciatore or just classic roast chicken and potatoes. My husband cooks, too, so we are always shopping and planning menus.
When’s a time in your life when you felt really beautiful?
I felt beautiful at both my daughters’ weddings. They were such happy events. I loved planning with them and sharing their excitement. It was great fun, and I felt beautiful as the mother of the bride.
What about times you’ve felt insecure?
In the photo above, I’m in England with Dad’s family, when we were dating, and I thought his four sisters were so much more beautiful. They were English and vivacious. I didn’t feel pretty. Now, when I look back, I think, “Oh my gosh, I was so pretty in that picture, what was I thinking?” I think a lot of people feel like that in retrospect. Women compare themselves to these Hollywood stars, but really, everyone is so beautiful. Everyone has something wonderful about them. It’s a shame not to realize that. Later, when you’re 64, you look back and think, “Wow, I was such a dynamic person and so kind, and that was so attractive.” Love yourself now, not just later.
It’s true, you’re never as hard on other people as you are on yourself.
When you hang out with loved ones, you never analyze how they look. You don’t expect them to look a certain way. We really overanalyze ourselves. I have this thing under my chin, where one half kind of sags down. I don’t like it. But I don’t think anyone else notices at all.
I have never noticed that. Do you have any non-beauty rituals?
I play tennis and golf and even pickleball. I never played sports growing up, but am an addict now! In the evening, I love to watch TV — especially House of Cards, Fixer Upper and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. After watching a show, I’ll read my Kindle. I love it because I can read in bed without disturbing my husband. Right now I’m reading All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister.
Last but certainly not least: do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
Embrace who you really are. Be kind to others and to yourself. I also try to accept my age. I think lines and wrinkles just add character and interest. I can’t look 20, so I try to be happy as I am and grateful for being healthy enough to play the sports I like and babysit my grandchildren.
Thank you so much, Mama! I love you!