Growing up in the center of the beauty-culture in Southern California had its pressures and pitfalls, says Sharrie Williams in this conversation with Dr. Nancy. The area is so beautiful, it makes you want to aspire to be the best and the most beautiful you can be. Sharrie has a unique perspective, because her great aunt inspired the cosmetic giant and first company of its kind, Maybelline.
The company was founded in 1915 and The Maybelline Story is an America tale of rags to riches, determination and perseverance of the people behind it. But it is also Sharrie’s story of surviving a complicated childhood amidst strong-willed people who made selling beauty their way of life.
Beauty Culture and Perfection
She recounts a memory when she was 5 years old. Her grandmother (Nana) took her into the bathroom and showed her how to put on makeup. She enjoyed the attention and understood that her goal in life was to be beautiful. She developed an eating disorder in pursuit of staying thin and tirelessly practiced with the sample boxes of makeup that arrived so she could apply everything perfectly. Under it all, pursuit of perfection was the real issue throughout her teen years.
Dr. Nancy and Sharrie discuss the effects of the beauty culture on today’s youth. Sharrie admits that she had to grow into an older woman before she could finish her book. Not only because it gives her more credibility in having lived it, but it took maturity for her to understand that there is so much more to life than beauty.
Virtue versus Vanity
The irony is that before silent films and Hollywood really started to impact our society, the sought-after quality that made a woman wife-material was virtue. Today it’s vanity, and Sharrie’s uncle was the first to sell women on the idea of vanity. We had to be taught to care about our image.
Dr. Nancy and Sharrie discuss how pervasive this has become and how even very young girls undergo cosmetic surgery and how actresses and models get thinner and thinner. Today, the images have become so impossible to achieve, these women represent skeletal icons instead of human possibilities.
Check out Sharrie’s blog and her book, The Maybelline Story, for the complete fascinating story, voted runner up for New York’s Best Beach Read.