The secret of staying young is live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”
My first adventure into the beauty world was when my daughter came home from Beverly Hills High with the business card from a scout from Eileen Ford. At the time, The Ford Model Agency was the most prestigious modeling agency in New York City and maybe the world. My daughter was barely fifteen. And yes, a naturally beautiful long legged young girl, very photogenic and very understated. I was crushed when she said, “Nope!” I kept the card.
That summer when we went back East to spend time on Long Island with my parents, we decided to do a day trip into the city. Taking the card out, I asked my daughter one more time, if this was something she wanted to pursue stressing the fact that I didn’t want her ever to think that because I didn’t push her, like so many Stage Moms, that she lost an opportunity of a lifetime especially since only 100 girls a year are invited for an interview. I called and they gave my daughter an immediate appointment.
Twisting her arm, we went.
Arriving at the address, a very dynamic woman opened the door into a very intimate, private and elegant space, more like an old English library, dark with poor natural light, not at all like a modeling agents office. Mrs. Ford was very polite yet business like. I felt her thoughts as she carefully eyed my daughter and at the same time explained the hard work it takes to be a model including the fact that she would have to move to New York City. It was a very exciting and scary moment for any young girl, but I was pleased with how my daughter handled herself. When it was all done, Ms. Ford asked my daughter for her height.
“Five-6 and ½“. My daughter answered.
“You’re too short!” Ms. Ford clearly responded.
I remember thinking, wouldn’t that have been the first question? As we walked out the door, I saw exuberant relief on my daughter’s face. But then, in the doorway Eileen Ford stepped in front of me.
“I’m the Mom.” Startled! It was the first words she said to me.
“We want you!” The deep voice, again.
“But, I’m only 5’-4”. Thinking to myself, can’t she see that? “I’m forty.”
“It’s your look. You’re the perfect woman.” She looked surprised that I didn’t see that. She wanted me to move immediately to New York. She had actually been watching me all this time.
That was never going to happen. I was a single mom, would never move my daughter from her friends and besides, it wasn’t my thing. However, after that experience I became more aware of my “look”. At forty, I became aware of my skin, my hair, my body, the way I walked–my whole persona. Eileen Ford never said I was pretty. Or even made any mention of any particular physically attractive feature. It was an overall look that caught her attention. Her acknowledgement was all that it took for me to change my mindset about myself and feelit throughout my body. I never shared Eileen Ford’s comments with anyone, but I felt differently after the interview.
As a ten-year old I was called, Fatso. It hurt. I stayed home, read a lot and became introverted. I was overweight, but I was young and didn’t know what to do about being fat. Coming from a traditional Italian family, I was surrounded by wonderful homemade Italian foods. And it wasn’t that they were fattening, it’s just loved to eat. When I went off to college, everyone was dating but me. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to be fat anymore. And not knowing where to start, I got books about nutrition and put myself on a low-carb diet, which seemed impossible living on dorm food. After six months I lost some fifty pounds and being afraid it would come back, became “mindfully” aware of everything I ate. Yet, after being thinner I saw myself as unattractive—to me, I was still “Fatso”.
It was Eileen Ford’s single comment: “You are the perfect woman”, that changed my life; it was the trigger that empowered me. I looked at myself differently, became mindful of my behaviors and wanted to f-r-e-e-z-e myself in that role; unknowingly I became more youthful. I know how awful it’s like to be called “Fatso” and how wonderful to be acknowledged. Leaving Eileen Ford’s office I felt like I had just won the Olympic Self-Esteem Gold.
I’m happy with my empowered self and with my unique persona. I trust myself to make better choices. And I owe a big thanks to that moment in Ms. Ford’s office. It was the “trigger” to opening my eyes and I began to understand how health and fitness and personality are intertwined forming your unique persona. It is this unique persona that is the answer to my understanding of agelessness.