Location: New York, NY
Marital Status: Married
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from St. John’s University
Calling on people including makeup genius, Laura Geller, leading dermatologist, Dr. Patricia Wexler, and hair stylist, Frederic Fekkai, Barbara brings together their “high-priced advice” in her new book, “The Best Of Everything After 50.”
I don’t agree with everything (the book says not to get permanent makeup, but I did, and I love the way it looks), and some of it is what we’ve been hearing for years (have a little piece of dark chocolate every day), but there’s still lots to learn (your waist should measure less than half your height). The book is easy to read and follow and would make a great birthday gift for a friend about to be FOF or any woman who’s already part of the coolest club on the planet.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Georgia but my mother raised my sister and me in Brooklyn, where we lived with my grandparents. I come from a wonderful family, very tight knit. My mother worked as a secretary to support us and she’s been a terrific role model.
How old are you?
I was studying social anthropology at NYU graduate school and planned to work for a company like Pepsi, but got a job selling advertising for Paris Match and the magazine bug hit me. So I left graduate school and worked full time in magazines for a long time. I’ve always loved sharing information, bringing people together, having them engage.
Are you married? Kids?
This is my second marriage and we have 15-year-old and 12-year-old daughters. So I started a little late in life, for sure. I had my second child when I was 41.
What does your husband do?
He’s in commercial real estate.
How did you feel after so many years without children?
After I left publishing, I worked for The World Congress, which demanded more and more of me. I found it increasingly difficult to work and have a family and I said, something’s gotta give, I want something to change. I’d been working, working, working since I was 11 years old and I decided I’m gonna slow my pace. First I became a consultant from home and then I stopped working cold turkey, which was a huge thing for me since I thought I could do everything. But my children really needed me and I wanted more time for myself.
As I inched my way towards my fifties, I was starting to feel a little more physically tired and was going through menopause. I was on the Atkins Diet. It just wasn’t all working.
Is that why you decided to write a book?
Two years ago, I had the “aha” moment and thought that if I’m going to continue to live a vibrant, engaged life and not just be alive, I’ve got to really, really make sure I’m doing everything right.
That’s really what propelled me to start researching and going to the best of the best experts in beauty, health, finance, even sex, testing their programs, seeing how they worked and how I felt and what should be shared.
Should a woman younger than fifty read your book?
It’s never too late to start preparing to be FOF, especially when it comes to your health and your finances. There’s more to think about than your IRA. We think we’re invincible when we’re younger. I treated my forties like my twenties and thirties. I just worked, worked, worked. My hair was the same, my makeup was the same and my clothes were the same. Yes, I was gaining a little weight toward the end of my forties, but I wasn’t stopping to think about the next phase of my life.
How did you decide what advice to offer in your book?
I went to some amazing people, including Diane von Furstenberg, Dr. Doris Day, and Dr. Jennifer Mieres, one of the foremost women’s heart health experts in the country. I told them all I was putting myself in their hands. I followed their advice for two years, so I had plenty of time to assess what I should recommend.
I am like a curator. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there, and much of it is conflicting. It seems like everyday there’s a new diet, a new vitamin, etc. I wanted the book to simplify our decisions.
OK, so tell us about your skin care routine.
It’s so simple. I exfoliate every morning with a little bit of white sugar, which I keep in a jar in my bathroom, in the shower, or the sink. I take a gentle washcloth and massage the sugar all over my face. Done, your face is exfoliated.
I also use a moisturizer with sunscreen and put a little sunscreen on top of that before I apply makeup.
Where do you buy your clothes?
I am not a shopper, but I worked with Ginny Hilfiger, Tommy’s sister, who was his chief designer for about 15 years and has her own line now. We went to Target and got some basics, then I learned what brands best fit my body, what length to wear my skirts and when to have my clothes tailored.
Did you take estrogen?
No, I was one of the lucky women who didn’t need it. When I was 47, I ran the marathon in six and a half hours. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I got my period for the last time the next day. Then I started getting some hot flashes and sleepless nights and really just not feeling well, a little grumpy, but it only lasted about six months for me. It was never severe enough for me to take hormones.
But I’m using a topical estrogen cream, called VagiFem, prescribed by Dr. Clarel Antoine, to combat symptoms like vaginal dryness.
A woman should discuss hormone therapy with her doctor if she has severe problems that affect the quality of her life. The best approach is to take very, very low dosages for a very short amount of time and as close to the onset of menopause as possible.
Do you have a favorite hairdresser?
Absolutely. It’s Lorraine Massey, the founder and owner of Devachan Salons in New York. She specializes in curly hair but she welcomes everyone. Her philosophy is to let your hair go free, find the buried treasure.
I dried my hair straight for decades and decades and decades, since the blow dryer came out, and it looked like road kill. When I turned fifty, I knew I had to figure out what my hair should be.
So Lorraine was recommended to me and we eyed each other suspiciously, she wondering if I could really change my style and me wondering if she could convince me to change. But I did. I gave up my blow dryer and got my hair cut in a way that let it be natural. It took six months to grow in and to get healthy again. I’ve never looked back.
Women are so tied up with their hair. When you’re FOF, don’t try to be thirty. Be who you are, embrace your age. And that’s true of your hair. Don’t try to turn it into something it’s not. Don’t work against it. Let it be free.
Have you had Botox?
I’ve tried it and I totally get it. The crow’s feet around my eyes look amazing. I chose not to do it again when it wore off, but I’ll never say never.
Some fillers are quite effective so you don’t have to have invasive plastic surgery. They’re really perfecting these procedures now.
Besides your book, how will you share what you’ve learned?
Through my website, www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. It’s completely tied into my book. I list all my experts. I also blog every couple of days.