There has been a lot of talk about British VOGUE's revolutionary non-issue and the fact that it's a good thing fashion is finally recognizing older women.
I call bullshit.
First of all, we are still not represented in the pages of Vogue. It is an advertising supplement produced by L'Oréal. The only women on the cover are both over 70. Not a woman between 50 and 70 years old in sight.
Don't get me wrong, I love Jane Fonda, an 81 year-old woman who looks amazing. But we know it's a feat only attained by Hollywood royalty (through surgery, stylists, trainers, chefs, beauticians, make-up artists, hairdressers and re-touchers). Jane openly admits to it all. She knows her audience.
We've grown up with her; she's like our cool, beautiful best friend, and we know we've never looked as good as her, but we are totally fine with that.
It hasn't been for lack of trying. There's barely a woman over 50 who hasn't at least attempted a Jane Fonda workout. She's never bullshitted us—looking that good is a lot of hard work. Some of us still put in the hard yards. But those of us who produce endorphins in other ways have decidedly slacked off.
Yet L'Oréal thinks we want a youth-activating serum.
What? Go back to a time where they made girls feel bad because we weren't as perfect as Barbarella?
That's me at 17. Even when I see this photo now, I can still remember looking at it as a teenager and seeing nothing but my enormous thighs. The beauty industry's hatred of "normal" was so virulent that it spread to all aspects of life. I was called "big girl" and "thunder thighs"; I got told that my jaw line was too soft or my favorite old chestnut, "If you lost [some weight], you'd be beautiful." And that was just from men I slept with.
I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by brilliant young career women doing amazing things from nine to five who were just as powerful and talented as Ms. Fonda.
But it was a different story for the women behind the camera: stories that played out in quiet, in tears, in the bathroom. Brilliant young producers throwing up expensive lunches because the creative boys thought their naturally wobbly thighs were hilarious.
We pretty much all hated something about ourselves. And we tried to do something about it. In our young womanhood we bought creams to get rid of cellulite, lift our boobs and ward off those dreaded laughter lines.
None of them worked. Now they want to keep selling to us, but are we going to keep on buying?
Apparently, most facelifts are carried out on women in their forties, when those terrifying laughter lines start appearing. By the time a woman hits her fifties she realizes the enormity of the job ahead—trying to ward off the inevitable. She knows the only way to try to look ten years younger is to spend a fortune and face a lot of pain.
She also knows she won't really look ten years younger—just rich enough to be nipped, tucked and to have had her face burnt off. And we all know if you have that sort of work you can afford the latest 'bee sting serum regime from the foothills of the Andes' that's peddled post-surgery.
Not a $25.99 cream on the top shelf of the beauty aisle.
Look, us mere mortals will always buy the cream. We like it. We like the way it feels on our skin. We like the way it smells. We feel better when we use it. We don't know if it makes us look better because we don't know what our skin would be like without it. But we sure as hell know it won't get rid of our wrinkles.
So stop with the snake oil salesmanship and start affording us the respect you show our daughters who you empower and portray realistically.
After all, we took our own anger at your deceptions and educated the next generation of women to define their own standards of beauty. They have forced you to show young women of color, women of size, trans women, disabled women, sports women and intellectual women.
But you're still trying to scare the shit out of them about aging. Which is ridiculous because it's going to happen. And for many of us it's the best time of our lives, something for younger women to look forward to.
Now they want to sell to us again?! Isn't it time the big cosmetic companies gave us a break from the impossible expectations and show us as the powerful, creative, intelligent, forthright, controversial, and time-marked women we are?
Not just the leading feminist on your cover. A woman we look up to and admire. A general in Gloria Steinem's army of grey-haired women.
We know Jane Fonda's laughing all the way to the bank, and she deserves it. She's worked hard enough—she spent most of the 80s jumping up and down in leg warmers FFS! We love her, and we'll buy a magazine with her on the cover because we want to hear what she has to say. We know her unbelievable good looks are the result of great genes and a lot of work. We also know all L'Oréal contributed was a big healthy cheque.
I know all about this, because Revlon was the biggest client of my agency for many years. I remember once a new independent cosmetic line was launching with brilliant packaging, an eco-friendly product and a really cool ad campaign. I asked my client if he was worried; he said, "Until they have a $50 million ad budget I'm not in the slightest bit concerned."
That was early this century. Now you can build an audience on a shoestring. With the right message and product, you can get the same exposure as a Vogue supplement. You don't even need to be in Sainsbury's to sell it anymore.
There are lots of smaller companies popping up that have formulated products designed to enhance the ageing process not deny its existence. Clever marketers who show beautiful older women realistically with messages to enhance our confidence not encourage us to criticize our reflections.
The most successful companies nowadays are those that take selling to the most powerful consumer group (women between 50 and 70 years old) seriously. If the big cosmetic companies want to compete, I suggest they forget this 'youthful' folly and celebrate our wisdom.
It's not us who need to Reset. Revitalize. Renew.
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.