As a health and beauty writer I have often “ghosted” books for doctors. I love starting almost any a new project, but about ten years ago when an agent asked me to develop a book for Gisele, the iconic model, I got really excited. Most of the doctors had very similar information and here was a chance to do something really different. Like most women, I envied That Hair and Those Legs that walked so confidently on the Victoria’s Secret runway. I had so many questions– what did she eat to get that shape? How did she care for that glorious complexion? I couldn’t wait to talk to this oracle of all things beauty.
We met at her agency and because the conference started late, the assorted agents, editors and fashionistas decided to skip introductions. Looking around the room, I was a little bummed that I did not see Gisele at the table. I pulled out a notebook and tried to follow the rapid fire conversation which often dissolved into French or Italian.
It seemed they were talking as though Gisele was in the room, but I could not see her. Every time someone talked, I stretched out my neck to see who was speaking, but still no Gisele. After about 15 very confusing minutes, I realized that the slender girl sitting two chairs to my right (who I had thought was someones’ admin) was the famous beauty. I stared so hard at her that the agent who had brought me into the project dug her elbow into my ribs: “Stop staring” she hissed in my ear. Dressed in a baggy sweater and pants, her hair pulled back into a tight bun, she looked like a pretty upper east side school girl.
When the meeting took a 15 minute break, I raced over to pepper Gisele with questions-
ME: Do you have a special skin care plan?
HER: Hmm, sometimes I put toothpaste on my pimples
ME: What foundation do you use in the summer?
HER: Never wear it. Just get a tan
ME: Do you have a diet regime?
HER: I’m really trying to quit smoking
At this point, one of her handlers rushed over and pulled her away.
Gisele was charming, friendly and completely unpretentious. But this was the woman that set the standards of beauty that men expected and women measured themselves by.
My point, and I do have one, is that in real time, not even Gisele looked like the iconic Gisele. Comparing ourselves to unreal and unachievable standards only fuels painful insecurity about our appearance. And that is so unnecessary.