Even makeup maven Bobbi Brown had a hard time as a teen-ager, feeling inadequate and "unpretty" compared with the popular tall, blond girls in her school.
In fact, Brown remembers the feelings of insecurity so well that she decided to help teen-age girls today. She recently published "Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty: Everything You Need To Look Pretty, Natural, Sexy and Awesome," (Harper Collins, $25). The hardcover book, written with Annemarie Iverson, features not only chatty chapters dispensing makeup tips and hairstyling advice but also sections where Brown and celebrities like Brooke Shields and Martha Stewart talk about their own awkward teenhoods.
We chatted with Bobbi Brown about her new publication, which has been on the New York Times' bestseller list for hardcover children's books.
Q. What made you first think about writing this book?
A. There was a real need for a straightforward information book for teen-agers, one that was focused on positive self-esteem. It's very hard being a teen-ager today ... with MTV, Britney Spears and the WB channel. All these young girls, you look at them and you think, "Oh my god, they're so perfect." And if you think you don't look like that, it makes you feel insecure. I wanted to create a beauty bible for teens, with information on how to cover a zit, going to a prom and how do I play with my eyes. I wanted it to just basically be an updated reference guide that was also inspirational.
Q. You mention that you wish there had been a book like this when you were growing up. Which chapter would you have found most useful?
A. The role model chapter (where celebrities discuss their teen-age insecurities). I think it's really nice to hear from other people who are not teens any more about what it was like when they were a teen, that Brooke Shields had it hard or Phoebe Cates didn't think she was pretty, and it's normal to have those feelings.
Q. How was your childhood and do you think you had the experiences of the typical teen-age girl?
A. I had great parents, and my mom, to me, was a great beauty role model. I remember when we would have "Beauty Night" when my dad was out of town or working late. We would eat cereal for dinner then put on nail polish and masks on our faces. I was about 11, and it was fun.
Q. How are teen-age girls today different from the ones you knew when you were growing up?
A. I think there is more pressure today. There was no MTV, there was maybe one teen-age magazine, and everybody was definitely a lot more simple back then. Now, I personally think it's out of control. Every teen-age magazine talks about things that we would never talk about, sexual things at a very young age.
Q. You mention feeling like you didn't fit in with the general ideal of the cute blond girl when you were growing up. How did that affect you?
A. When I was a kid what role models did I have except Barbie? And who looks like a Barbie doll? I certainly don't. My parents and grandparents told me, "You are beautiful." But I never believed it. It wasn't until I was about 15, and I went to see "Love Story" and I saw Ali MacGraw and I thought, OK, here was a brunette, olive-skinned girl with strong eyebrows, and she was stunning. I just remember feeling, OK, I can start to appreciate my beauty now.
Q. Are you targeting any particular age group within the teen range?
A.Teen-agers to me aren't just 13 to 19. There are some 9-year-old girls who are like teen-agers. They're starting to explore. It's also been bought by a lot of mothers and grandmothers for their daughters.
Q. Which part of the book do you think is most useful and relevant to teens today?
A. How to cover a zit -- that's the number one beauty question that girls ask. When you're a teen-ager and you get a blemish you certainly think your life is over. You can't leave the house, you can't go to school.
(Bobbi's advice in the book: 1. Spread oil-free moisturizer all over your face. Use your finger to pat a little extra moisturizer on blemish and give it a second to absorb. 2. Use your finger or a thin brush to cover blemish with foundation. 3. Set with yellow-toned powder on a cotton powder puff.)
Q. What are the top five beauty tips that you wish someone had told you when you were a teen?
A. 1. Don't over-pluck your eyebrows.
2. Play up your features; don't try to change them.
3. Own a foundation that matches your skin exactly.
4. Use sheer colors rather than opaque colors. When you're young, a little bit looks like a lot.
5. Don't smoke.
Q. What is the biggest beauty mistake teen-age girls make today? And what was your advice in the book regarding that?
A. The biggest beauty mistake is trying to be who you're not. A lot of Asian girls want to be Caucasian, but once they realize their beauty is so strong they look a lot better. When you feel better about yourself, you look better.
Q. Some people might think this book is a tool for grooming the next generation of Bobbi Brown cosmetics users. What's your take on that?
A. I don't think people need my products to be beautiful. I think it makes it easier.
Q. You emphasize "just be you," resisting the urge to fit in and acknowledging that sometimes people peak later than others. How many teens do you think will heed this advice?
A. I've heard a lot of mothers say, "My daughter doesn't listen to me; maybe she'll listen to you." I'm not a psychologist, I'm not their mother. I just think this is a great role model book.