Before 2013, if you were to say the word vain, my first thought would be of my Grandma Bea. Obviously, now, I'd think of xoVain, but Grandma Bea, who would've turned 92 yesterday, is a close second.
By the time I was born, my Grandma Bea had essentially become a Jewish Dolly Parton, with voluminous wigs, lots of makeup, and a vanity-first attitude. As I grew up, I had a love/hate relationship with her vanity, but I was always enamored of the vintage photos of her my mother had, and how she evolved over the years--changing, but always obviously glamorous.
I mentioned Grandma Bea the very first week xoVain was live, discussing her unparalleled false-eyelash-applying skills; I also mentioned her decline into dementia, recalling how even the first signs were beauty-related, like the time we caught her painting her nails with lipstick. (When she passed away in 2004, she didn't know any of us and couldn't speak; but when my ex-husband came with me to visit her at hospice, she set her eyes on him like she was ready to flirt, in true Grandma Bea style.)
Needless to say, she was committed to her appearance. And while her look wasn't right for--or even admired by--everyone, she was confident in it. That's just one of the things that made her a beauty exemplar to me, and the following are a few of the other lessons I took away from our 25 overlapping years.
A TURBAN IS ALWAYS CHIC
Grandma Bea was a big fan of the original selfie, photobooths, and I have several pictures of her in them wearing her hair with a scarf that's been turned into a pretty turban.
DARK LIPSTICK LOOKS AWESOME AT THE BEACH
Fresh-faced is a great look for the beach, but so is a blood-red lip. You don't have to stop being glamorous just because there's sand.
BRAIDED PIGTAILS LOOK REALLY GOOD WITH A BOUFFANT
This look needs to come back NOW.
BEING A HOT MOM IS SO TOTALLY POSSIBLE
I know, duh, of course moms can be hot. But all of my friends with kids have expressed at least once or twice feelings of doubt about their post-partum sexiness. Let this serve as a reminder that you are still freakin' gorgeous, if not more so.
IT'S OK TO GET PLASTIC SURGERY
Plastic surgery is a personal decision, and your reasons don't have to be valid to anyone but you and your doctor. Grandma Bea got an eye lift in her late 40s, and a facelift later in life, but she never encouraged--and, in fact, discouraged--my mother and aunt, who had expressed insecurity about their noses, to get rhinoplasty. She did, however, encourage them to wear lipstick whenever they left the house.
THE HIGHER THE HAIR, THE CLOSER TO YAHWEH
Also, why not go ahead and match your party outfit to the venue decor?
CLEAVAGE IS ALWAYS APPROPRIATE
And now you know where I get that.
FAKE HAIR, DON'T CARE
As my grandmother got older, her hair thinned out quite a bit, and she couldn't achieve the voluminous styles she loved. So she started collecting Elizabeth Taylor-esque wigs that no one ever saw her without from the 1980s until the worst of her dementia.
Hey, if you love how you look in a certain hairstyle, why not?
BEAUTY ISN'T THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
When I was 14, the same week this photo was taken, I yelled at my grandmother for the first time.
She had a habit of referring to my two cousins and I as titles. Jonathan, a legit genius, was The Smart One; Mari, one of the sweetest and most creative people I know, was The Nice One; I was The Pretty One. It started to bother me, because each of our superlatives was, although unintentional, an insult in two ways: it seemed like she was saying we were just those adjectives, and that, by default, we weren't the other adjectives.
So I told her to stop. She was taken aback, because she really did value beauty and thought I'd love being seen as pretty. But she listened to me, and from that point on, when talking to her friends, she'd tell them all about how well I was doing in school and in theater instead of touting me as her cutest grandchild.
MAYBE DON'T TAN SO MUCH
Yeah, that's me on the right, age 15. It was around this time that Grandma Bea had a skin-cancer scare, and that was the last time I was ever tan.
AND JUST IN CASE YOU FORGOT: A TURBAN REALLY IS ALWAYS CHIC
Grandma Bea's dementia made many of her regular beauty rituals and habits a huge challenge. At one point, dealing with wigs became too much. So she returned to one of her old favorite hair accessories: the turban. (And as you can see, she never lost her flair for accessories.)
No one would be prouder of me than Grandma Bea, and I can only hope that she'd be glad to know she still has big influence on my life.
Which of your family members has been a beauty influence on you?