A beauty book is a rite of passage for today’s supermodel, but Stephanie Seymour’s friends were horrified when she told them about hers. It’s called Beauty Secrets for Dummies –Weight Watchers spokesman Sarah Ferguson, a.k.a. the Duchess of York, wrote the foreword–and it only costs $19.99.
Ms. Seymour, on the other hand, has a sense of humor about her how-to book’s tongue-in-cheek style. “A lot of pretty pictures of beautiful women with beautiful makeup just don’t do women any good,” she said over tea at the Four Seasons Hotel on Jan. 12. There are only 15 pictures of Ms. Seymour inside the book.
The Victoria’s Secret spokesman, Ford model, wife of polo-playing publisher Peter Brant and mother of three sons–ages 9, 5 and 2–had arrived at the hotel early. (A supermodel who is early!) She wore a short-sleeve gray cashmere pullover and black trousers. A shearling coat was slung over an empty chair. Subtle gold hoop earrings, a bit of mascara on the lashes of her emerald blue eyes, some blush, long brown hair; no big whoop, in other words.
As businessmen filled the hotel bar at the end of their business day, they couldn’t help looking at the lingerie icon in their midst. Oblivious to the gray flannel fury she excited, Ms. Seymour, 30, was 95 percent Audrey Hepburn, 5 percent Gidget. “Sometimes I wish I could bathe myself in the idea that I’m some kind of sex symbol,” she said. “But I don’t unless I’m working and that’s what is required for the photograph. I’m understated. If I wear anything too bright or too sexy, I feel like everyone is looking at me.”
Ms. Seymour, a native Californian, moved to New York at age 15 and started modeling. She became a franchise at Victoria’s Secret and gained infamy as the girlfriend of Guns ‘n’ Roses front man Axl Rose. “I woke up one day and decided it was time,” she said of her decision several years ago to clean up her act. After a long courtship with Mr. Brant and the birth of their first child, the two were married in 1995. When she is working, she commutes from their home in Greenwich, Conn.
Thanks to her status as one of the Ford agency’s top models and as the wife of a very well-to-do businessman, Ms. Seymour lives the good life. Her Christmas holidays were spent in Switzerland where, down with the flu, Ms. Seymour recuperated in her chalet bed reading David Remnick’s King of the World about Muhammad Ali. Her holiday was immediately followed by several days of modeling work on St. Barts.
Ms. Seymour’s style is fairly conservative. Except for a spell when she got “heavily into highlights,” she has never been a blonde. As far as high fashion goes, she wears Helmut Lang; for evening, she prefers vintage couture, 1950’s dresses she began collecting from Christie’s International in London and William Doyle Galleries in New York several years ago. According to fashion watchers, she launched the trend for vintage couture followed by models such as Naomi Campbell and Amber Valletta, and actresses like Winona Ryder and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Is Beauty Secrets for Dummies the beginning of Stephanie Inc.? She says No. “I love giving beauty tips,” that’s all, she said. “Love giving beauty tips! I wanted to do a book that wasn’t for the coffee table, but something women could actually use.”
Is she after a socially-responsible-model-as-charitable-human-being role? “I think if I were to become a social leader, it wouldn’t be because I had tried, but rather that I had looked back over the course of my life and realized I might have contributed something,” she said.
Nor is she in a rush to go Hollywood.
“Oh, if I was offered the right part–sure. Although,” she offered, “I’m offered parts all the time: lesbian, stripper, murder victim, murder victim naked in a shower, or some combination of all of the above.”
She does have that model-turned-businesswoman act down though. The book has the academic tone of being researched. Ms. Seymour said she spent several months last year interviewing doctors and makeup people with a then-newly acquired microcassette recorder. The tapes were transcribed, and she dictated her text to an assistant editor. “I assume most people will think I didn’t write the book,” Ms. Seymour said, “but I did. Read it, and it sounds just like me.”
In 322 pages, Stephanie Seymour’s Beauty Secrets for Dummies is a textbook of everything from hair (“How do I remedy a bad perm?”) to pedicures (“Stephanie’s Home Spa Regimen”). The book’s top-10-plus list of must-have drugstore items is low-budget: “Aussie Miracle Shampoo and Conditioner, Bonne Bell Lip Smacker, Caress Body Wash, Cetaphil facial cleanser, Clearasil Tinted Cream, cotton rounds, cream or powder blusher, Epsom salts, humidifier, loofah, Lubriderm lotion, manicure and pedicure kits, Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, Pantene Pro V Shampoo and Conditioner, Revlon eyelash curler and super-moisturizing body creams.”
Names such as Naomi Campbell and Dr. Patricia Wexler are dropped, but not too heavily. François Nars took many of the photographs. The section on how a facial of organic yogurt helps calm troubled skin rings true, as does Ms. Seymour’s advice about classic red lipstick: “Wearing red lipstick is all about finding the right shade. You’ll find blue-reds, orange-reds, even reds with brown undertones. Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t found the right one. You may have to try several variations, but you will find one for you.”
Despite her enthusiasm, she said she had not read Lipstick: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Cosmetic , by Jessica Pallingston (St. Martin’s Press), which came out last year. Ms. Pallingston’s description of Queen Elizabeth I’s makeup routine all those centuries ago is riveting. For hair à la Elizabeth I: “Take some fat from freshly killed puppy dog and mix it with apples, then grease it over your hair. Next, mix in a small pan: egg white, powdered egg shells, alum, borax and white poppy seeds. Spread over forehead to kill wrinkles. Then, after applying powder and rouge, put on lip dye and cover with a glaze of egg white. You may use the same rouge on your lips that you use for your cheeks. For chapped lips, take some sweat from behind your ears and rub onto mouth …”
” Eeew ,” Ms. Seymour shuddered on hearing this. ” Eeew ,” she shuddered some more. “And how do you spell Eeew ?”
Billy’s List: Quiz time!
1. Discussing her kundalini yoga guru, who recently told Women’s Wear Daily , “It’s better for me than Prozac–and the clothes are nice, too”?
a. Donna Karan.
b. Courtney Love.
c. Meg Ryan.
2. When Prince Edward marries Sophie Rhys-Jones later this year, he will likely receive which of the following titles?
a. Duke of Cambridge.
b. Duke of Cornwall.
c. Duke of Surrey.
3. Who is Cindy Kick?
a. The co-author of Georgette Mosbacher’s new financial guide It Takes Money, Honey .
b. A new children’s superhero character.
c. She runs the catering for the Senate during the impeachment trials.
Answers: (1) b; (2) a; (3) b.