My recent photo shoot for Vogue’s September issue was an experience I will never forget. To me, it was one of the best and most significant days of my life thus far. At any age, it’s an honor to be featured on your own page in Vogue magazine, but meant even more to me as I approach 39 this year. It’s one of those pivotal and surreal experiences that leaves you forever changed, in such a way that there is now the pre-Vogue and the post-Vogue. I know that this sounds incredibly superficial, and I feel a bit like Teresa Giudice on Real Housewives of NJ who keeps mentioning on the show that she’s “a nice person”, but I really am deep, introspective, open and authentic, as I hope my readers have figured out by now. If you don’t believe me, ask writer, Cathy Alter who wrote in the Washingtonian:
Rodgers is more than she first appears. With her halo of blond hair, shiny Cupid’s-bow lips, and pinup girl’s body, she may look like a computer-generated avatar of Marilyn Monroe, but behind her veneered shell, Rodgers is a funny and warm woman. For all her artifice, she is, paradoxically, genuine.
With that preamble in place, the point is that I got to peek behind the curtain of the beauty and fashion industry much beyond watching the documentary, The September Issue. One thing that truly surprised me was how down-to-earth and genuine everyone was, especially after seeing the total opposite in The Devil Wears Prada. Another surprise was learning what this group of fashion and beauty elites see as “beautiful”, because we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and based on cultural preference. Being a writer, I enjoyed meeting everyone and learning as much as possible about this industry.
I had arrived at the shoot with makeup on. Being raised by a European mother, I am quite familiar to the European approach to beauty. My mother has amazing skin and was never one to wear foundation — just rouge, and of course, beautiful eye makeup and red lipstick — the shade would vary but always an iteration of red. Even though I was born in The Netherlands and Dutch was my first language, I was raised in the South, so I’m not European — I’m Southern in my approach to beauty. I wear foundation, and wouldn’t think of going to the mail box without makeup on, let alone to Vogue! I learned so much from professional makeup artist, Alice Lane who did my makeup for the photo shoot. I was wearing what I consider day time makeup by Giorgio Armani, but Alice called it “full makeup” and seemed to think it was too much. I watched everything Alice did and took notes on my Blackberry, and have since decided to do my best to replicate the look she gave me as my new daytime makeup, and am starting to turn back a bit to my European roots.
I also learned a lot from Marina Burini, who is originally from the South of France and selected the fashion for the photo shoot. She told me to “think French” when it comes to beauty. Marina has beautiful, tan, poreless skin and the classic French low-maintenance brown hair. Being from the Mediterranean, she loves the sun and won’t give that up. I’m not sure if she was older or younger than me, but whatever her age, she looked amazing. Alice is a Brit and quite the opposite of Marina — beautiful, super pale, poreless skin and curly red hair. Marina enjoyed tanning, and Alice kept out of the sun completely, but both looked amazing and unique.
The women I met at the Vogue photo shoot are all about natural beauty — not ideal beauty. So many of us strive for the American ideal of beauty that we end up looking artificial, generic, and a bit “Barbie”, or worse “aging Barbie”. Perhaps those in the industry are so tired of seeing perfection, that they crave what’s natural, imperfect, and unique. I can relate. I lived in Phoenix for almost two years, and ended up craving weather – rain, snow, and a good thunderstorm! It’s a bit ironic because isn’t it the fashion and beauty industry that has created this deep longing in women for perfect, ideal beauty.
As I wrote a while back, I have been thinking quite a bit about how to age gracefully, as I approach the big 4-0 next year. It’s a defining point for a woman. Will we age gracefully, and elegantly, accepting ourselves, and letting go of some of the things we enjoyed in our youth, which are no longer appropriate? Or, will we clutch these things tightly in our fist, and refuse to let go and end up with that dreaded Cougar appearance?
I found a great article in the New York Times on how to age gracefully as the French do. Ann M. Morrison quotes Françoise Sagan who once wrote, “There is a certain age when a woman must be beautiful to be loved, and then there comes a time when she must be loved to be beautiful.” This brings to mind something my Dutch grandfather once told me. He believed, quite sadly for me, that there was no use for expensive jewelry, and said, “Young women don’t need it, and for old women, it doesn’t help.” This is true about a lot of things — not just jewelry.
It’s not that the French spend less money in their attempt at looking natural. They actually spend as much as Spanish, British and German women combined! It’s how they spend the money that is key. They do Botox–look at Carla Bruni– but most French women do Botox and other treatments like I do — in a subtle natural way without our eyebrows being “jacked to Jesus”. French women don’t exercise, they diet, and do a lot of walking. Take a look at the article for other tips, and let me know what you think about American vs. French beauty.
– Miss A