Meet Candida Royalle

Location: North Fork, New York
Age: 59
Marital Status: Divorced
Education: Parsons School of Design, Majored in Fashion Illustration, City College in New York Majored in Psychology and Art.

So Candida launched her own film company, Femme Productions, which set out to produce adult films from a female perspective. They have since become wildly popular with women around the world, and Candida has been praised as a pioneer by feminists as well as leaders of the adult film industry.

“I think it’s important to show women who have grown up with so much shame and poor body image that sex is beautiful and every part of us is erotic and lovely.”

The warm, confident and spunky 59-year-old has produced over 20 films, authored a book, and owns her own line of intimate products.

Candida is, unabashedly, a woman on top.

Where are you from?

Manhattan. Now I live out in the country, on the North Fork.

Are you married?

I was married. I’m divorced. A few years ago, I fell in love and experienced the most fulfilling sex of my adult life…in my fifties! I was with that man for five years and engaged. I broke it off because I felt we were incompatible in other ways. But, I think it shows that one is never too old to have a fulfilling intimate life. And, I’m sure there’s another great love affair in me.

You’ve been called a pioneer in the world of erotica… Do you agree?

ImageI do. Women had been left out of the equation in erotica. Then, in the mid 80s, because of the women’s liberation movement, women were receiving much more permission to explore their sexuality. They were curious. They wanted to look at movies and sexy pictures but there was nothing really for them. I thought this would be such a great challenge, to come up with movies that were sexy, much more egalitarian and that represented a women’s point of view.

How have things changed in the erotica industry since you started your company?

There’s definitely a very strong market for women viewers now. It took the daughters of my generation, growing up with mothers who were more open minded, to be comfortable with it. It took women’s studies programs in colleges.

How is what you do different then adult movies produced by men?

I was lucky. Since I was funded independently, I didn’t need any backing from existing adult film companies. I was able to break away from your typical porno formula with a certain number of scenes, sex acts and camera angles….I focus on sensuality, foreplay and afterplay rather than on the acrobatics of sex. The sex is less graphic and the scenes do not end with the typical “money shot” of men’s gratification. My films portray fantasies common to women. They have more involved story lines because I believe women like context, they want to know, “Why are these people here?” They feature women who seem intelligent, have lives, careers, real issues. It’s more egalitarian.

What do you hope women take away from your films?

My aim is to help women feel comfortable with their sexuality. It does get hot and heavy. To omit the genitals is like saying, “Nah, you don’t want to look at that,” and that’s not what I’m about. Real love-making is part of life and can look very beautiful if it’s shot in a certain way.

Is there ageism in the adult film industry?

I think there is ageism in entertainment in general, in Hollywood, in the fashion world. I try to challenge that. In one of my movies, Urban Heat, I featured a woman named Chelsea Blake who was probably between 45 and 50. There’s a scene where she has to take a freight elevator because the main elevator is broken. She ends up seducing the young freight elevator operator. Women love this scene because she was so comfortable with her body, despite her age.

A film I did called “Three Daughters” was endorsed by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists for positive sexual role modeling and for representing people of all different ages. There’s a lovely scene between a husband and wife. Gloria Leonard, who was about 50 at the time, plays the wife. She is in the attic, upset because her daughters are leaving home. Her husband finds her up there and she tells him why she is upset. He tells her to think of all the times they will have to share together and they proceed to have the most tender sex.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new line of movies called Femme Chocolat. It’s the same concept as my other films but featuring couples of color. The last one I did was actually in 2007. I’ve been on a hiatus from producing while I help launch the careers of other women directors. I’m finding the most innovative movies are coming out of Europe. I’m taking on the distribution rights and launching them in U.S. and Canada.

What about your line of products?

My product line, Natural Contours®, is ongoing. Natural Contours® follow the same concept as my movies. They’re erotic, sexual products with integrity. I wanted any woman to feel comfortable owning one. We just launched the BonBon. I’m pushing it as a great Valentine’s Day gift. It’s better than chocolate–more fun and zero calories.

What is your passion project?

Animal rescue; I cleaned up my entire neighborhood in Brooklyn of the feral population. I placed about 30 cats and kittens in homes. I donate to a lot of animal organizations and environmental groups. I also donate 10 percent of proceeds from one of my products, Petite Pink , to a group called Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco.

How would your describe your style?

ImageEclectic, stylish and sophisticated. I went to college for fashion, then I became a women’s liberation hippie for a while and cast it all off. Later in life, I got involved with a very colorful group of theatrical performers in San Fransisco. We were very campy; we wore clothes from the 40s and 50s. Slowly, I evolved back to my fashion roots and lately I’ve been more streamlined, classic and elegant.

Who are your favorite designers?

I like Donna Karan a lot. I’ve always loved Valentino–sophisticated, long lines, classic style that will stay in fashion for a really long time. I don’t like frilly or too much color.

Beauty routine?

It’s all very holistic – you have to do it from the outside in. I haven’t eaten red meat since 1985. I eat a lot of fish, vegetables, grains and drink tons of water. I use only natural beauty products. Every year we go to the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim to display our Natural Contours® line and I get to see all these wonderful new products. There’s a line that’s very lovely called BeeCeuticals, it’s taken from royal bee jelly and very good for your skin. There’s also one called Madara, and it’s taken from plants that are harvested in Latvia. It’s beautiful, beautiful quality. I love Dr. Hauschka products. I use her facial toner. It’s like a dream on my skin; beautiful, pure, organic, herbal stuff.

What is your exercise routine?

I’ve danced since I was ten and studied yoga for ten years. I’m not a freak that goes to the gym 6 times a week, but I think dancing is the most healthy, joyful thing you can do for your body. I have my own hybrid workout that I do at home that includes dance, yoga, calisthenics, body toning, and free weights to protect my bones.

Do you have a signature fragrance?

My favorite for last few years is Olene from Diptyque’s flagship boutique in Paris. It’s from the Oleander flower. It’s just lovely; not heavy or weighted down – it’s just pure flower essence.

What’s your advice to other FOFs on looking and feeling your sexiest?

Men don’t have a scorecard where they are checking off what parts of your body are good and what aren’t. What turns a man on is seeing his partner in the throws of passion; that he can actually bring her to ecstasy. They just want a woman who gets into it with them. Embrace who you are with all your uniqueness and quirkiness. None of us have perfect bodies.

Meet Jan Daley

Location: Hancock Park, CA
Age: 65
Marital Status: Single
Education: Two years at Glendale College before pursuing her acting and singing career

Since that day, Jan has cheerfully blown away skeptics with a combination of luck, talent and will. “Even though I worked very hard, I was standing on the right corner at the right time,” she said about her first big break into the music industry.

At the age of 29, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and told she would never have a child. Two years later she gave birth to a “miracle baby.”

A few years later, a hysterectomy threatened to halt her career. She was told to take it easy, but had just signed a contract to act in twenty-five commercials for electronics giant, Sanyo. “My physician would come on set and give me B12 shots to get me through filming. They said that they never saw anyone heal faster.”

Now, at the age of 65, she’s released an album tribute to Bob Hope, and has begun a nationwide tour. The verdict is still out on whether or not it will be a success. Do you dare doubt her?

Where do you live?

Hancock Park. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles and kind of a well kept secret. I’m a native Californian, born and raised here.

How did you break into the music industry?

At an early age I got into musicals and then I was Miss California which opened a lot of doors. I think when you’re young, you get offered a lot more. I got picked up by a studio and began doing a lot of television work and commercials.

Did you attend college?

I went to Glendale College for two years and then I got an offer to travel with a band. I had so much support from my college and the opportunity to make $150 per week which sounded like a whole lot of money at that time. So I went on tour. I got homesick after about nine months and came home. After that, I ended up doing a lot of television acting. I thought ‘Gee, this is better than packing and unpacking all the time.’ I did about 150 commercials.

What kind of commercials?

For Raid, Texas Instruments, AT&T, Home Depot, Kraft Cheese, Folgers, Canada Dry and Chrysler to name a few. The most fun I had was as a Murel’s Cigar Girl for a year. They probably went through 5,000 girls to find three of us.

You sang; you acted; you were Miss California; and you even trained for the Olympics…. What was the best experience?

While doing variety television, I met Bob Hope. He asked me to go on tour with him doing the U.S.O shows, entertaining troops during the Vietnam War. It was the highlight of my career thus far. But, I think it was also a turning point. On tour I was getting maybe two hours of sleep each night and we traveled the world in 14 days, performing. After that, I think I was really worn out. I kind of stepped back to question where my priorities were and what I really wanted in life which was to get married and have a family.

Did you settle down, get married and have children?

Yes. I got married at 29. That year I was also diagnosed with cervical cancer and was told I’d never have children. When I had my daughter, at age 31, it was like a miracle. At that time, I was still heavily involved in my music career. I was working on a Christian album in Nashville. I came back and met my husband and baby daughter in an airport. My daughter didn’t recognize me. That was it. I said, ‘There is no way i can do this. I have this miracle baby and I need to be with her every second.” So, I basically gave up touring and that album was never released. I continued with the commercials because that allowed me to be home with my daughter.

It must have been a tough time for you. How did you get through it all?

I really believe if your going through a tough health issue if there’s anyway to plan a trip or to plan something to look forward to, it’s really a great incentive to get well quickly. The mind can heal your body so much quicker when you are in a positive mental state.

How did you get back into touring?

I focused on acting and songwriting while I raised my daughter. I had a wonderful mentor, Jack Seegel, and he’s really the one who got me back into singing. When my daughter grew up, I began facing empty nest syndrome. I evaluated by life, and asked myself what I always wanted to do. For me it was my music career.

What are you working on now?

I am on tour promoting my new album, “Where There’s Hope.” It’s a tribute to Bob Hope and his love songs. It was an amazing research project because I had no idea how many beautiful songs came out of Bob Hope’s wacky movies. In the 30s and the 40s, all the great American composers like Gershwin and Cole Porter and Jerome Kern came out here to California to write music for them…just wonderful songs.


Is your daughter musical?

She took piano, has a wonderful voice and really loved acting. When she was seven years old, she said, “Mama I want to get an agent like you.” I said to her, “Let’s make some chocolate chip cookies.” I really wanted her to have a normal life. She is in the entertainment industry now, but as the head of marketing and licensing for Lionsgate Films. She has the best of both worlds.

Are you still married?

I’ve been divorced for about five years now. I’ve maintained a really positive attitude and found it’s been a wonderful opportunity for growth. Online dating kept me uplifted in the beginning. I think it’s the way of a future. If you live in a big city, its great because you meet people you would never meet in your circle. It helped me pass those first couple of years where I didn’t even know who I was because I had been married for such a long time.

You were in a play called, “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother,” what was that about?

It was a New York Times best selling book for a year and then it was a play. There were three of us in it, and none of us were grandmothers. The premise is that our generation’s grandmothers looked like grandmothers; they had gray hair, spectacles and baked cookies. The play was about modern grandmothers. I played one who took Pilates and ran a business. It’s funny because now I am a grandmother, and it really prepared me.

How would you describe your style?

I tend to buy things that are a little more on the conservative side–solid colors and streamlined cuts–then I accessorize with trendier shoes, purses and scarves. This makes the most sense when I’m touring. There’s not enough room to pack much.

Who are your favorite designers?

It changes from decade to decade. I’ve never been much of a designer person. If I find pants or a dress that works really well, I buy it in three different colors. I don’t say, ‘Oh this is Cavalli or Chanel?’ When my daughter names designers, I say “What? Huh? Who?; However I admit, I did invest in some Jimmy Choo shoes, which I love.”

What is your favorite restaurant?

I’m a total foodie, but ambiance is also a big thing for me. Because I’m single, I like romantic places. I love the Little Door on 3rd St. in Los Angeles because it’s candlelit. Sur in West Hollywood is great too. It’s all white and feels very South Beach with big candles, white, flowing drapes and beautiful antiques.

Do you have a signature perfume?

Hermes Caleche. It’s wonderful. It just matches the oils in my body. It’s not sweet or flowery. I tend to like more masculine scents, even men’s colognes.

Do you have a nutrition program?

When I was in my 20s and touring, I ate like crazy and was 30 pounds heavier. I must have been on ten diets and found that diets don’t work. You just have to eat healthy.

What is your exercise routine?

Every morning I walk for thirty minutes to wake up. Then, at least five afternoons per week, I use weights. I think in the afternoon, you have three options, you can either eat, sleep or drink and all those things are not good for you, so I exercise instead. It really lifts my day.

Meet Julie Shifman

Location: Cincinnati, OH
Age: 52
Marital Status: Married
Education: M.A. in Tax Law At New York University

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” But he didn’t live to see women today. Women who have careers, who then may choose to stay home to take care of their kids, and then might want to re-enter the workforce.

To one such woman, Julie Shifman, that’s a full three acts. A few years ago, Julie started a consulting business that helps women jump start careers after leaving them to take care of their families. The company’s name—Act Three. We chatted with Julie about her three acts, and how she helps women like her find their new calling.

What was your first act?

After college at Indiana University, I went to law school at The University of Colorado in Boulder. After law school, I went for an additional year at NYU, getting a masters in tax law. While I was in New York, I met my husband, Steve. Then we got pregnant, and didn’t want to have babies in New York City, so we moved back to Cincinnati. I started practicing law in Cincinnati. And I quickly ended up having babies number two, three and four. Four boys within five years. It was a lot.

Is that when Act Two began?

Basically. One firm in Cincinnati had given me a part-time offer. So I worked part-time for six years. And when my youngest was six months old, I went back full-time.

Who raised the kids?

It was a team approach. I had au pairs. I had university students. I had cleaning help. I was able to do it—because I had a lot of help. But by the time my kids were in middle to upper school, it wasn’t as easy to manage. Three of the four had behavior or learning issues, which became more problematic as they got older. So I left my law practice, both to spend more time with them, and also because I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do next. At that point, I had been a lawyer for almost twenty years and it had been a great career. But I knew there was something else out there for me. I didn’t know what it was.

What did you end up trying?

I struggled for several years, while I was home with the kids, trying lots of different things. I was the executive director of a non-profit. I started a family business consulting company. Did a huge amount of community projects on a volunteer basis.

But nothing took.

Then about four years ago, I started realizing I wasn’t alone trying to figure this out. In fact, most of my friends, who were highly educated, who had had interesting careers, and chosen to stay home for 10, 15 years, were all saying, “What am I going to do now?” And I thought, “There’s no one out there helping people like me or them.” I guess there’s a market here. That was the beginning of what turned into Act Three. The idea started percolating four years ago and the business started three years ago.

How did you come up with the name?

In Cincinnati, we have the best branding company in the world—Proctor & Gamble. I hired an ex P & G branding guru and we sat in a room for two days throwing names out and eventually decided that Act Three was a great name for what I was trying to do with women. Because my demographic had an Act One which was their career. And we were the first generation to have a career. Most of us worked for about ten years. Then they had their Act Two. Many, many years of the important work of raising children. This is Act Three, the next stage of your life. Women today will lead healthy lives into their 90s. This can be a 40 year Act.

What separates Act Three from other consultants?

There are career coaches, but they don’t specifically focus on women in their 50s. There’s life coaching, but this really isn’t life coaching. We don’t get into your relationship with your husband. This is making sure you lead your life in an interesting and fulfilling way for you. I have really good experts that work with me.

Who are the experts?

For my clients that want to start a business, I have a really good women who’s a business coach. For my clients that want to go back to work, I have a woman who’s been in the career coaching field for 25 years. And for those that don’t want to go back to work or start a business, but just want to make sure they’re spending time in a productive way, those are the women that I coach.

What are the steps you take with a new client?

Some women know exactly what they want to do. They’ll say, “I’ve been out of work for twelve years. I was an accountant, and I want to go back to being an accountant.” That’s relatively easy. They go right to my career coach, and she’s masterful at making their resume as strong as possible, using all of the things they’ve done in her time off. And she’ll create a networking plan for them. She’ll practice interviewing, because if you haven’t interviewed in twelve years, you don’t want your first one back to be the real one. And then they’re on their way. Unfortunately, that’s very rare.

What’s the more common scenario?

Most of our clients come to us with absolutely no idea what they want to do. They’ll say, “I’m not even sure what I’m good at.” We start at the very beginning, with assessments, like “Who are you today?” “What do you love to do today?” And we either do this in workshops, or individually, depending on what the woman wants. Eventually they get to the point where they figure out what they want to do, through this process. And then, some women need to go back to school, some women are ready to go with their resume and start looking for a job. Some women don’t want to go back to work, they know what they’d like to do, and they’ll do it on a more volunteer, flexible basis. But with all our clients, one of the main things we provide is accountability.


For women that have been out of work for a while, raising kids for many years, they haven’t been accountable to anyone for a while. So they don’t have that muscle built up. They think, “I said I’d get this done in three weeks, now it’s three weeks and it’s not done.” But they’ve never had anybody care. One thing we can provide is that accountability. Tell us why. What kept you from accomplishing that goal? Just having that person checking up on you can keep you moving towards it.

What are some of the motivations of the women who come see you?

A lot of them are recently divorced. It used to be, if you got divorced 30 years ago, and you were married 25 years, the court would rule that women had to be supported the rest of their lives. That’s just not the case today. They’re told to get a job and they haven’t worked in 20 years. It’s really scary. These are the most motivated of our clients.

There are also a lot of women who need to reenter the workforce because of the economy. Their husband lost his job, or took a pay cut. Or they need to send a child to college.

Can you give us a couple of examples of two of your clients’ Act Threes?

For one client, Laura, who had been a graphic designer before staying home for many years with her children, we translated her artistic talent—as well as her passion for helping children—into a future career as an art therapist. She is currently in her second year of getting a master’s degree in art therapy. Another client, Martha, as a mother of five, had a great skill for organizing. We also uncovered that she had a passion for helping the elderly. Martha has decided that she is going to start a business helping elderly people organize their houses.

What is one of the biggest challenges women run into in this process?

The biggest challenge that these women run into is not having strong enough motivation to change. Because you’re asking yourself to do something really different. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Changing the way your day runs. Having to learn something new. My typical client gets up in the morning, goes to Pilates class, meets a friend for lunch, helps out somewhere in the community, then spends the rest of the afternoon driving her kids somewhere. So this is a really big change. If you’re not very motivated, you’ll slip into your old patterns. You’ll find a way. “I didn’t really want to do that new thing.” Or “My mom is sick, I have to take care of her.” I find that happens a lot.

What is the first step a woman who wants to start her Act Three can take?

If you have that gnawing feeling that you know you want to do something new, but you haven’t done it, you have to figure out why you haven’t done it. Sit down and be honest with yourself. “Is it because I’m scared? What am I scared of?” And I recommend doing this with a girlfriend. Because if you do it with a spouse, there are too many other things at play. Some spouses don’t want their wives to go back to work. “Who’s gonna pick up my dry cleaning?”

If you have the feeling you want to do something new, but you don’t know what exactly, that’s tougher. For those women, sit down with a girlfriend and talk through everything that brings you joy. Everything from gardening to reading to children. “What are all the things I can do involving these activities?” Maybe you can read to children at the local church for instance. Brainstorm. All kinds of interesting ideas come up.

What is your favorite rest in Cincinnati?

Via Vite.

Favorite place to shop?

Lulu Lemon. They sell athletic clothes.

How do you rejuvenate?

I get on my bike. I love being with my bike.

Favorite stylist?

Sean at Alpine Hair Design.

For more information on Act Three, and to contact Julie about speaking at your women’s group, please visit

Meet Beverly Johnson

Location: Palm Springs, CA
Age: 58
Marital Status: Divorced
Education: Pre-law at Northeastern University

Some mornings I wake up and say, ‘Why wasn’t I born rich, instead of beautiful? But I am thankful to be blessed with what I have.’” And most would agree this bold beauty has it all: an effusive personality, a remarkable modeling career spanning three decades, a great relationship with her daughter, and her own burgeoning haircare line.

In 1974, you made history as the first black model to be featured on the cover of Vogue–what was that like?

It was an amazing time… but there were still challenges.

Challenges? You didn’t have it made after those two features?

Not quite…I did a 10-page spread for Glamour in 1972, and I still had to have a part-time job to supplement my income. I went around New York looking for an agency and they all said no. I didn’t tell them I had just finished shooting for Glamour. I didn’t know I was supposed to tell them that! Eileen Ford of Ford modeling agency said, ‘You’re too fat.’ I weighed around 130 pounds at that time. I was a swimmer, I had a lot of muscle.

But Ford Agency eventually signed you?

Eileen found out I was freelancing for Glamour and Vogue and called me back. She said, ‘You lost so much weight.’ I hadn’t lost any weight. It summed up the industry. At that point, I knew what I was getting into–a lot of B.S. But I was with Ford, the best agency. And funny, now I’m back with Ford. It’s some operation there. They represent about 10,000 models today, they represented 100 when I first started.

How do you stay grounded in the modeling business?

I’ve been doing it for a long time. But it wasn’t always easy…my midlife crisis was at age 26 where everyone else has theirs at 40. My girlfriends were buying their first homes and I had to kind of catch up. I think when you focus so much on your physical appearance at the age of 17, it stunts your growth.

Were your parents supportive?

Once I was on all the magazine covers, yes. But at first, no. They wanted me to go to school. I was the only one of five children that didn’t graduate college. My mother actually went against my father’s wishes and took me to New York. It was only later that he realized it was a legitimate profession.

You’ve worn many hats–author, actor, musician and now you own your own haircare line. What’s been your favorite role?

I loved the acting, but the dedication you need to become a serious actress has to be in your blood. I just didn’t feel passionate about acting like I did about modeling in the beginning, maybe because I already had money. I loved writing, too. I wrote two beauty books but they were real labors of love. It took three years and then I sold four books…on the Internet… after someone else already bought them. I’m kidding, but it was hard. I also worked in the music industry. I did an album with Clive Davis. It was fun, I toured and did the club thing but realized that wasn’t for me either.


How did your haircare line come about?

What brought me to modeling was the money. Sharing my expertise is what brought me to my haircare line. The products have been in Target since March. I own the line–it’s not mere licensing–so it’s a lot of work. But I’m ready for it now.

What’s different about your haircare line?

The products are paraben-free. Parabens are in a lot of cosmetics and have been linked to breast cancer. It was challenging to create products without them but they came out even better in the end.

Do you have children?

I have one daughter, Anansa, who is 28 years old and just got married. She’s a plus-sized model and a financial analyst. She is from my second marriage, to Danny Sims.

Were you married after that?

No, I’m not married.

Do you have any passion projects?

I’ve always aligned myself with education causes. I recently met Dr. Michael Lomax, the president of the United Negro College Fund, and have been inspired to become more involved.

What’s your haircare routine?

I’ve actually had to build shelves in my shower for all the products I keep. Guests see my bathroom and say, ‘Whoa what a treasure trove!’ Presently, I’m liking this Pantene Pro-V ‘Shine’ Conditioner.

Beauty routine?

I’m a big drugstore products junkie. For skincare, RoC has some really beautiful products. I like their microdermabrasion products – they’re not super, super pricey but they are high-end.

Signature perfume?

I’m actually developing one, but we are not quite there yet. My favorites today are Paris by YSL, Chanel No. 5. and Bulgari cologne.

YWhat’s your exercise routine?

I work with my trainer, Tanya Evans, via Skype. She’s so fabulous, she’s one of those people who stays on the cutting edge of everything. She was a former Ms. Fitness and she really knows the woman’s body. And she can see everything on Skype. I can’t cheat!

YWhat’s your biggest indulgence?

I like anything that has to do with indulging. Penny candy, chocolates, laying in bed, eating candy while laying in bed, watching television. My most favorite indulgence is popcorn. We had popcorn rivalries in our neighborhood, but I make the best in the world. It’s buffalo popcorn–like buffalo wings. I use lots of butter. I don’t even keep butter in my refrigerator but for the popcorn.

YDo you have a secret place?

I play golf, and sometimes I play alone. I live on a property with nine courses so when I’m out there no one knows exactly where I am.

YWho are your favorite designers?

I’m not a big shopper. I guess it’s because of modeling. The salespeople say ‘Don’t you want to try it on?’ I just hold clothes up to me and say, ‘I think it will fit.’ I like classic designers like Nicole Miller, Diane von Furstenberg, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. I always feel beautiful in their clothes. For New York Fashion Week I wore George Chakra and Kati Stern for Venexiana.

YFavorite book?

I just finished this book, Born of Betrayal, by a healer I go to named Lacey Hawk. I love this woman. I met Lacey because we brought my friend’s daughter there who had epilepsy. Lacey said she had a bad spirit on her. She said, ‘You might hear a lot of energy pops, don’t be afraid.’ We were like, “Okay we won’t be afraid.’ (Wink, wink.) We didn’t believe her. Thirty minutes later there were all these loud noises and since that day my friend’s daughter has been better. As it turns out, Lacey’s book isn’t about her healing–it’s a love story, but it’s sooo good.

YWhat is your style like now? What was it like when you were younger?

When I was younger I was very self consciously sophisticated. Now, I dress the way I feel. I’ll wear shorter skirts or cheetah print. My girlfriend and I go out and dressalike, that’s how bold we are. People say, ‘Do you two know you’re wearing the same dress?’ And we say, ‘Uh huh!’


YWhat inspires your style now?

I learn a lot from my daughter and I keep up with the trends myself. I read magazines for ideas. I’ll see they’re doing this kind of vest now and not this kind… Looking at them is not punishment anymore. I don’t look at them and say, ‘Ohmigod I used to be that thin.’

YWhat is the secret to being successful?

A lot of work.

Meet Nancy Lieberman

Location: Dallas, TX
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Divorced
Education: Old Dominion University

This November, Nancy Lieberman will become the first female head coach to lead a NBA-affiliated team: the Texas Legends, of the NBA’s Developmental League. Really, it could not have been anyone else; after growing up in Queens in the sixties, Lieberman has always been at the forefront of women’s basketball. At eighteen, she was the youngest basketball player in Olympic history, helping the U.S. earn silver at the 1976 Games in Montreal. She’s a Hall of Famer, two-time Olympian, and was a three-time All-American at Old Dominion. She’s been a WNBA coach and general manager, and twice set the record for oldest player in the WNBA. She’s been a television broadcaster and president of the Women’s Sports Foundations. She’s a motivational speaker, and an author. She’s a mother, a chef, and she’s dogged about her skin care. Faboverfifty talked to her about basketball, gender roles, and what love means – among other things.

You’re one of the top female basketball players of all time, but growing up, you actually played more with boys.

Growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens, most of the kids in the schoolyard were boys and it was actually kind of cool, because it was a wonderful outlet for me. My parents were getting divorced, I was a poor kid from a one-parent family, and playing in schoolyards gave me a sense of self-worth and independence – I’ll never forget how the guys embraced me. They never judged me. They just looked at me as another ballplayer.

Your mother was less than encouraging.

My mother said, “Girls don’t play sports.” When I asked her why, she simply said, “Because they don’t.” I thought that was a pretty intellectual reason.

You were undeterred.

ImageThere was nothing like being in the schoolyard and the boys going, “We’ll take the girl.” That was almost like them saying, “I love you.” It was an incredible moment of self-esteem. It made me feel so good about what I was doing.

Do you feel you were before your time?

Before my time means we didn’t have a major consistent women’s league when I was in my prime. Would I have loved to compete with Diana Taurasi today, with me at 27, and her at 27, mono y mono? Absolutely. Those are the competitors we have in the game today. These young women care deeply about the game – when I look at them, I have to smile from side to side. I hope they make millions and millions playing this game and become wildly successful because I’ll be the first one cheering them on.

Do you have a passion project?

This is my 27th year running my basketball camp. We’ve sent tens of thousands of children through my camps in 27 years. At 52, I probably could shut it down and say ‘You know what? It was a great ride.’ But I’m at camp every day and teach every session – how lucky am I? I mean, think about this – people have trusted me with their most valuable possessions – their children – for 27 years. And I dig it.

It hasn’t gotten old?

It speaks to the love story that I have with this game. To be blessed enough to still be able to play, to take care of myself physically – I’m like a kid, I can’t even fake it. I just like this game! I don’t know that there’s ever been a place where I’ve felt more comfortable, more confident and more relaxed than on a basketball court.

What is it about basketball that you love so much?

I love the split-second decision-making. You’re constantly reading the defense, offense; there’s a flow and a feel to the game, there’s an artistic element to it, like when you’re going up on one side of the basket and in mid-air you contort your body, almost like a ballerina. You don’t go back into a huddle and call a play – it’s improvisational.

Soon you’re going to be coaching a team in the NBA’s Developmental League. What is it going to be like for your players to take instruction from a woman?

I think it’ll be really normal. Men have been told what to do by women their whole lives. Their mothers, their girlfriends, their wives…

That’s a good point!

If you’re the right person for the job, and you can make people better, I think that’s all people care about. “Can she help me be better and reach my goals?” I understand that I’ll be judged on a different scale, but most of my players won’t reach the NBA. So we have to make them better men, we have to give them the ingredients of how to compete – maybe for that job they’re going have in a couple of years, how to be better dads, better, responsible people. It makes me happy to give.

What do you get out of giving? How does it lift you?

We come in equal, and we’re leaving equal. So what are we doing in between? What are we doing for people? I’m not taking my house, I’m not taking my car, I’m not taking my money with me. What am I doing while I’m here?

Muhammed Ali said service to others is the rent you pay for the room and board on earth. And every day that I take a breath is a day for me to serve people, whether it’s in women’s basketball, or my foundation – where we’ve given over 12,000 scholarships to children. We give them computers, we feed them, we clothe them, we love them.

What is your most passionate hobby?

I love to cook. I’ve been to cooking school two or three different times. I can cook almost anything. I love cooking seafood – lobsters, scampis, soft-shell crab.

What is your favorite place in New York?

I will never forget my moments at Rucker Park (famous basketball court in Harlem). Especially the reaction of the guys – when I first walked into the park, when I was 12 or 13 years old, and went, “I know I’m white, but I didn’t take the train for 50 minutes for you to stare at me.”

Favorite restaurant?

I love sushi… Nobu in Dallas.

What are your favorite books?

I read autobiographies. I just finished a great book called The Mole People. I also just finished reading The Other Wes Moore.

Favorite stores?

I shop at Nordstrom’s for clothes for TV. I’m always at Kroger; they have my money all the time.


I’m a big Nicole Miller fan.

Do you have a skin care routine?

For skin care, I use Lift. It’s by Mannatech. I use it every day. I am so anal about it, you don’t even want to be around me.

Your legacy started with basketball, but it won’t end there.

The Good Lord put me here for a reason; what I will tell you, definitely, is I know it’s not about basketball. I know it. It’s about accepting what’s put in front of me, it’s taking on challenges, it’s about respecting everybody but fearing nothing. I’m not in control of my reputation, but I’m always in control of my character, because it’s mine and I own it, and nobody can take that away from me.

Those are good words to live by.

When I was younger, I couldn’t play basketball because a league folded and I was lost. That was an epiphany for me; I wasn’t as confident as I thought I was without the ball in my hand, without people cheering for me. I think early in my career I mistook love for cheering fans. And that’s not a healthy place to be.

What is love?

Love is what you give to others. It’s not just waiting for people to love you. Whatever I do, I do with love. I do it from the bottom of my heart. And it’s real, and there’s no BS. And at this stage in my life, I do what I want to do. I want to be my son’s hero. I want to do the right thing, because it means something to me. I want to give. I’m not perfect but I like my life and the balance in my life – as a mom, as someone who is good with people in the community.

Nancy’s new book, Playbook for Success: A Hall of Famer’s Business Tactics for Teamwork and Leadership, came out in October.

Meet Sue Bender

Location: Berkeley, CA
Age: 78
Marital Status: Married
Education: B.A. from Simmons College, M.A. in teaching from Harvard

Three decades ago, when Sue Bender was in her late 40s, she left her comfortable home in Westchester to live with the Amish for one month.

The experience changed her life so profoundly that she wrote a book about it, Everyday Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, which became a best-seller. Since then, Sue’s gone back to visit six more times, and she’s spoken to people all over the country, hoping to impart to them a modicum of the Amish wisdom that helped her so much. And she’s published two more books on the subject, Everyday Sacred: A Woman’s Journey Home, and Stretching Lessons: The Daring that Starts from Within.

But Sue does not consider herself a role model. Nor does she like to be called a guru. Heck, if it were up to Sue, she wouldn’t even be called a writer. We chatted with Sue and learned the perils of labels, and thinking you have all the answers. And how to make peace with your paradox.

(Note: In order to protect the privacy of the people Sue has visited and stayed with, she has kept secret the who and where particulars of her pilgrimages.)

What were you doing before you first went to stay with the Amish?

I was a ceramic artist living in New Rochelle, NY. At the time, I was having my first important show in East Hampton, Long Island, and I was very nervous about it. One day I took a break and went walking around the neighborhoods out there. I saw these amazing quilts on the wall of a small shop. I felt my heart stop pounding. I said, “Who made those quilts?” And the man there said, “The Amish.” That’s how it began. I went back almost every day and looked at the quilts. Every time I looked at them, I got calm.

What was so special about the quilts?

They were very simple. Very stoic. Just a big square with two different colors on it. Or a diamond. Very simple geometric patterns. And beautiful colors.

And you wanted to visit the people who made them?

That’s right. At the time, I had no idea that I was on a journey to change my life.

Were you looking to change your life?

At the time, I thought I had nothing to complain about. I had a good husband of many years. Two good sons. And I had a career. There was no reason for me to be desperate. All of this came as a surprise.

Looking back, can you make more sense of it?

Yes. It took the years of writing Plain and Simple to realize that my soul had been starving. This mysterious inner voice was trying to make sense of my life. I didn’t ever think I’d leave my family for three weeks to live with the Amish. And I never planned on or even dreamed of writing a book. I was learning to trust that voice inside that doesn’t seem to make sense.

How long was your first visit with the Amish?

The first time, I was planning to go for three weeks, and I was so smitten that I didn’t want to go home. I asked if I could stay another week. They said yes; my husband said yes.

Did your husband ever go with you?

I didn’t want my husband to go. He understood that this was something I wanted to do for myself. Near the end he’d come and pick me up.

What was a typical day like?

Each day was the same. Twelve of us gathered in the living room, knelt, and said a short, five-minute prayer. Then we worked—canning the peas, mowing the lawn, feeding the animals, quilting, doing the laundry—a long list. Except there was no separation between work and play. It was all ordinary, all sacred. Each thing was done with care. And without any labor-saving devices, time felt abundant. The day ended the same way it began, with the prayer.

What did you like about it so much?

I felt like Alice in Wonderland. It wasn’t their clothes being different, or that the men didn’t shave. It was that they didn’t rush. They moved through their days unhurried. For me, that was amazing. Because I was always rushing and always felt I didn’t have enough time. But I don’t even think they had a clock. They were always in the moment, which was deeply satisfying.

So there’s no Amish rat race, so to speak.

Everyone works, and all work is valued. And valued equally. There isn’t a pecking order in their society. For instance, they didn’t even have a word for artists. The people who made those quilts—they sewed and cooked and hung laundry and quilted and canned food—so there was no labeling. One time I was talking to the grandmother in the family I was with and saying how extraordinary it was. She said, “Sue, when you’re making a vegetable soup, it’s not right for the carrots to say, “I taste better than the peas. It takes all the vegetables to make a good soup.” That’s the heart of what began to nourish me. No pecking order. Women’s work mattered. They never said the word “I”—they always said “we.” And I began to see the power of limits.

The power of limits? It seems like in our society, we like to instruct people to ignore their so-called limits.

We need balance. I had been drowning in choices. I always made these lists of things to do. I was endlessly thinking, “What should I do?” and going back and forth and so on. By the end of the day, there’d be so many things, taking up the whole page, and of course I didn’t do half of them. The Amish made one big choice, which was to lead a godly life and to be stewards of the land and to be a good community. I was brought up to be special, but I ended up falling in love with the people who valued being ordinary. The simplicity and the quiet, and the clear priorities and the appreciation of everything and everybody—it was so nourishing. It was extraordinary in its ordinariness.

What inspired you to write a book about your time there?

One day, while I was churning butter, living with the Amish, that inner voice said, “Now it’s time to tell the story.” I said, “What story do you want me to write? About washing the dishes?” It seemed so strange to me. It became one of my intentions to tell an audience out there to trust that voice, to listen to the whispers of your spirit. It is trying to make sense of your life. It can be living in the tiniest shift.

Why do you think the simple, Amish way of living resonated with you so much?

In ceramics, I always made handmade, crooked, simple ceramics in black and white. I was never tempted to use the wheel. But they made me happy to make. So I had had that instinct of authenticity. And the Amish are people who don’t try to be something they aren’t.

How do you keep the Amish spirit alive when you’re back in so-called modern life?

For one thing, as a result of living with them, I’ve ended up only wearing black and white. They can be designer clothes, but they’re simple black and white. And a touch of red once in a while. It’s easier to pack. That grew out of wanting to be freed from drowning in choices.

But mostly, it’s been a series of tiny steps. The power of a pause. Seeing with fresh eyes things I’ve taken for granted. In Everyday Sacred, I tell the story of a cappuccino maker at a cafe near where I once worked. No matter how long the line was, no matter how many people were waiting, he’d take time to make a smiling face in the foam. I had seen that smiling face so many times, but I had never appreciated what a lovely ritual that was.

Is it possible to live the simple, slower life but also be tapped into the modern life?

It is, but it’s not easy. When I came home, it was very hard to live what I had learned at first. I knew there was something inside me. I didn’t doubt that. But I didn’t know how to translate it into my everyday life. I was full of doubts. One day my son saw me zooming around. He looked at me and said, “You should have called your book Hectic and Chaotic, not Plain and Simple.

But you find a balance.

I don’t think there are that many people who want to simplify their lives so immensely. But on the other hand, I think many people don’t understand that their lives are so frantic. That they want to have more time with a child, or at the office, or be a good friend. But we can’t figure out how to do all this. There are markers for me. If I’m in the midst of being frantic, I have another voice come in and remind me, “Only kindness will do.” Even if it’s two moments of sitting down and closing your eyes, and breathing. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic, “Get out the buggy—here I come!” I think that’s totally irresponsible to think we can just change like that. So it’s both very humbling and very important to be kind to yourself in whatever you’re dealing with. Don’t beat yourself up. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to struggle not to struggle.

How so?

A lot of people think that if things go easily in their life, then there’s something wrong. That you’re being lazy or something like that. Listen to a kinder voice. You don’t have to struggle all the time.

When Plain and Simple made the best-seller list, I was thrilled. I went to our food market, and I told the woman this amazing news, and all she said was, “What number are you?” That was such a lesson for me. So many of us live in a world where nothing is ever enough. And if I didn’t find little ways to make slight changes in that, I’d always be dissatisfied.

But when you get dissatisfied, don’t be too dissatisfied with your dissatisfaction?

Exactly. At one point Harper Collins sent me on a book tour for Plain and Simple. I had spoken to people and groups about the book, from the heart, and I had loved the experience. But for some reason, this time I got scared. Terrified. Paralyzed. As if I had never given such talks. And my whole mouth had filled with canker sores. I had never gone to a hypnotist. But I decided, “I’m in real trouble.” I went to this hypnotist and after ten minutes, she said, “Sue, you have the soul of the Amish and the blood of a New Yorker.” And in that moment, everything in me relaxed. I didn’t have to make the choice. I wasn’t one or the other. I wasn’t Amish, grounding corn. And I wasn’t the most driven person, either. And I realized that I had to make peace with my paradox. We’re never one way or the other. I had to make peace with my paradox so my life could feel whole with the pieces I do have.

Meet Gay Gaddis

Location: Austin, TX
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: B.A. in Studio Arts

In addition to heading up T3, which boasts $200 million dollars in yearly revenue and an impressive roster of Fortune 500 clients including Chase and Pfizer, Gay is a mother of three (one daughter and two stepsons), a wife and a Texas Longhorn cattle rancher. Despite constant flights, layovers and the manual labor that comes with owning a ranch, she is perky, polished and always fashion-forward. “I wore this Stella McCartney dress with grommets on the plane,” says Gay. “Can you imagine? I went through the metal detector and it went right off.”

Tell us about your childhood.

I was an only child. I remember when I was five years old my mother got me a drum majorette costume. I put it on, enlisted people to be in my parade and marched around the neighborhood. My parents were always encouraging me to take leadership positions.


Who was your biggest influence?

My mother. When she was 13 years old she was diagnosed with bone cancer and they had to remove her right arm. She’s been a huge mentor and cheerleader for me because she has such a “can-do” attitude. With one arm, you need so many work-arounds. I grew up watching a person who met an obstacle and just figured it out.

How did you end up in marketing?

I always migrated toward artistic pursuits. My first job was as a designer and copywriter for The Richards Group in Dallas. From there, I ended up as the director of public relations at the Baylor Medical Center. I was so young but had some wild experiences there: the first successful reattachment of a hand back on to the body and a heart surgery on Benigno Aquino, Jr., a major opposition leader in the Philippines who was later assassinated.

When did you get married?

I was 22 years old. I met my first husband at the University of Texas. He was a fraternity guy– very social and fun to be with, but not the long haul right match for me. He got into the orthodontic program at Emory, so I moved to Atlanta for a few years. I didn’t know anybody but got a job at a management consulting firm. We had gigs with Coke, P&G and Delta. I was their marketing director and at the same time went to school to get my MBA from Georgia State.

How did you end up back in Texas?

My husband got a job in Austin, so we moved back which I was not happy about. It was a sleepy town for marketing and advertising. I thought, ‘this is going to ruin it for me.’ My husband and I eventually got divorced. I got a job at a small marketing company with about 18 people which we grew to a staff of 100. I wrote a business plan on how the company could make it through the 1980s recession and the CEO at the time said, ‘I’m not going to support your business plan.’ I was furious. I went down to his office and quit. I remember saying ‘If I can’t do this here, I’m going to do it somewhere else.’

You were going through a divorce and you quit your job… this must have been a rough time in your life.

Yes, and it got more complicated, I ended up marrying that CEO’s partner, Lee. He had two sons and I had a little three-year-old girl. We had these three little kids running amok. I had no money because I had taken pay cuts and gone through a divorce. I cashed in my IRA and begged this female real estate mogul to lease me my first 1,000 square feet of space. I said, ‘I have nothing, but I promise I can make a living and pay my rent.” So she took a risk on me. That’s how it works, you meet people along the way who take a risk on you.

It sounds like your company has come a long way since then.

One thing led to another… now we have Fortune 100 and 200 companies on our client roster.

Do your husband and children work in the business too?

Lee ended up joining the company as chief operating officer. He is an awesome strategy guy. In a business you reach these plateaus – he’s been really good at seeing when those are coming. Two of our kids are in the business. Lee’s eldest son, Ben (29), is an expert in mobile marketing and also works on new business and emerging media. My daughter, Rebecca (26) works in our corporate communications group. Lee’s youngest son, Sam (25), works for a mobile apps start-up company called Mutual Mobile.

Do they all live in Austin?

Yes, they all have homes in Austin and we also own an apartment in New York. We have a ranch in Texas, too. Lee comes from an old ranching family in South Texas. We ended up selling that property when his mother passed away but bought another ranch closer to Austin called the Double Heart.

How would you define your style?

Very eclectic – but it works.

Does your wardrobe differ from Texas to New York?

At the ranch I don’t wear makeup or do my nails very often because I work with my hands. It’s hot, so I try to wear comfortable, lightweight fabrics.

I’ve become such a New Yorker. When I walk in New York, I change my shoes – I have flip flops or flats and put on heels when I have a meeting.

Who are your favorite designers?

I like Stella McCartney a lot. Her clothes are classic but with an edge. Helmut Lang clothes are awesome. Kay Unger and Beauty Mark really appreciate a woman’s body– the shaping and the ruching are forgiving. I love, love, love Gucci bags — they’re what I splurge on like crazy.

Where do you shop?

In New York, I like Blush. It’s a funny little shop and the two ladies just love to put stuff on me. Palma on Broome Street is another favorite. In Austin, I like a store called Kickpleat and one called By George. They’ve always been fashion forward.

Who influenced your style?

My mother always wore lovely clothes, and her mother, my grandmother, sewed beautifully. She had a fabulous button collection. I remember sitting in her attic and laying all the buttons out by color.

Do you have a signature piece?

I have a necklace with our ranch logo on it in diamonds. It has two hearts with a bar going through it for Double Heart ranch. The story behind ‘Double Heart’ is that George Washington Maltsberger was on his way to Texas with his fiancee Roxanna Allen to make their home. He rode along ahead of the trail group. When he’d set up camp, he’d find a tree and carve a heart in it. Then the wagon trains with Roxanna would come a few days behind… She would find the tree with the heart, carve another heart in it and draw a bar through both. They eventually made their way to their ranch near San Antonio, TX.


What is your skincare routine?

I use major amounts of sunscreen by Neutrogena on my face, SPF 90+. I wear mostly Chanel makeup but also Estee Lauder. Neutrogena makeup remover wipes are a godsend. I take those with me when I’m traveling. And I’ve always used Advanced Night Repair by Estee Lauder.

Do you have a signature fragrance?

MontBlanc. It’s earthy and a bit masculine in a way. Sometimes on the weekends, I’ll put on White Shoulders, an old, old, fragrance that’s nostalgic to me. It smells like the home of this woman I used to visit in Liberty, Texas, when I was a child.

What book do you love?

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. ‘Fierce conversations’ are the toughest to have but if you’re not candid with people, you are going to find yourself really disappointed down the line.

What’s your favorite restaurant in New York?

Gotham Bar and Grill; I love it because the food is great, the service is excellent and even though it’s big and billowy the sound quality is good for conversation. I also like Dévi — a funky little Indian restaurant. They have this drink called the Mumbai Margarita that I really like because it’s finished with cayenne pepper which it gives it a kick.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Texas?

Jeffrey’s in Austin is a classic. The chef went with the Bushes to the White House because it was their favorite place. I also love Fonda San Miguel, a unique, one-off restaurant with interior Mexican food. For the best Tex-Mex in Austin, there’s a place called Guero’s. Their margaritas are the real thing. Out in the Hill Country, the barbecue places are unbelievable; Inman’s in Marble Falls, Texas has the best turkey sausage.

Favorite Secret Place?

My garden… I go there to relax but since I’m physically working, my mind is working too. It’s where I solve things. One time I posted on Facebook: “Weeding my garden and my mind.”

What wisdom do you have for other FOFs?

I think men understand the idea of reciprocity better than women. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Meet Linda Becker

Location: Weehawken, NJ
Age: 61
Marital Status: Widowed
Education: Self-taught

She’s the most bra-mazing FOF we know. Linda Becker can look at any woman and determine her precise bra size, on the spot. But, it wasn’t always this way.

When Linda opened her first lingerie store, in Philadelphia, twenty-four years ago, The American Cancer Society suggested that to get an edge, she should be trained to fit women with mastectomies or prosthesis. What she learned, applied to every woman. “It was an eye opener,” says Linda. “I realized everyone who walked in my door had the wrong size bra on, and even I had the wrong bra size bra on! She re-worked her store, nixing nightgowns, bathrobes and other undergarments to exclusively sell bras. In 2005, Linda opened Linda’s Bra Salon on New York City’s Upper East Side. Since then, she has been featured in The New York Times, Glamour and on Today as an expert bra fitter. Just this past year, she opened a second location in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. Her store carries more sizes than any other retail store in the country.

Where do you live?

I live in Weehawken, N.J. When I’m not working, I live in Cherry Hill, N.J. I also spend half my winter in Florida.

Are you married?

I live with my boyfriend. I met him ten years ago in a bar. I never dreamed I was going to meet someone in a bar. I was just going out with my girlfriends.

Were you married before?

Yes. I was a widow.

Do you have children?

I have a son and a daughter. My daughter worked in my bra business until she moved to California and my son is now my partner.

Where did you grow up?

Philadelphia. You can’t tell?! I have a very strong Philadelphia accent.

What were your interests as a child?

I always wanted to be a dancer and I was very artistic. In the 60s, I decided that I needed to go to New York to find myself. My father was in shock. I met my husband, got married and had two children. When they were eight and nine years old I felt like I needed to be doing something, because all I did when I didn’t work was shop.

How did you get your start in bra fitting?

I read that women’s lingerie was the fastest growing business in the country, so I opened up a lingerie store called Touchables in Philadelphia. About three months after opening my store, The American Cancer Society asked me if I would go to school to learn how to fit women for bras, because nobody in that area did it. It was an eye opener. I realized everyone who walked in my door had the wrong size bra on, so I turned my store into a bra store.

What bra sizes do you carry?

We go from 28 A to 56 N. We carry over 275 bra sizes. We carry more sizes than any other retail store in the country.

Does your store have a website?

Yes,, and every bra that’s on our website is tried out in the store first. I make sure that it’s right.

How much should a woman spend on a bra?

Our bras start at $29 and go up to $129. You can get a great fitting $29 bra. The difference is in the fabric. For instance, you get a better lace in a $129 bra.

Does a women’s breast size change after 50?

Some women are going through menopause. Some have already gone through menopause. If you haven’t gone through menopause it doesn’t change that much, but once you do, everything changes. My bra size changed a whole cup size overnight! You should get measured often, but if you’re going through menopause you’ll definitely want to get measured.

What are your favorite bra brands?

I have a lot of favorites. Different companies specialize in different things. Simone Perele makes really pretty, well-fitting bras. Chantelle and all the bra companies are making their cups bigger and bigger, which is great.

How would you describe your personal style?

I’m more casual than I’ve ever been. I used to get dressed up everyday for work, but I realized that my customers weren’t. I didn’t want to intimidate the customers so I started dressing like them.

Do you have favorite places to shop?

Saks and Lord & Taylor.

What’s your skincare routine?

Well I do a lot of things to myself and people do a lot of things to me. My skin has been lasered a few times. I get facials every three weeks, and I get a massage every three weeks. I use Dr. Murad’s whole skincare regimen.

What do you do for everyday makeup?

I use a lot of organic makeup. My thyroid stopped working and my homeopathic doctor told me that I had elevated levels of heavy metals like lead and nickel in my body. A lot of that lead comes from hair dye and makeup, so I use only organic makeup now.

Your best advice about bras and breasts for FOFs?

You should get new bras every six months. Also, your breasts have to be supported all the time. Whether you’re cleaning your house or going to a wedding, your breasts should always look great because you want them up. When they’re not up… they’re down.

Meet Maira Kahlman

Location: New York, NY
Age: 61
Marital Status: Widowed
Education: B.A. in English from N.Y.U

When you ask FOF Maira Kahlman how she identifies herself, she suggests “illustrator,” then “writer” and, finally “designer.” “I don’t call myself an artist,” she says “because it implies something I’m not quite sure I am. I like to think of myself as an artist-at-large.”

Maira is best known for the irreverent drawings and musings in her twelve children’s books, including Fireboat (winner of the Boston Globe Horn award) and a well-known series of stories about a poet-dog named Max. But, it’s not all kid stuff—her graphic novels for aduts, The Principles of Uncertainty and And The Pursuit of Happiness have developed a cult following, and her 2001 New Yorker magazine cover, “New Yorkistan” depicting the boroughs and neighborhoods of New York City with fictional Middle Eastern sounding names, was named a top magazine cover from the last forty years by the American Society of Magazine Editors. In 2006 and 2007 the New York Times hired Maira as a “visual columnist” to churn out monthly illustrated blog posts.

“The last ten years have been extraordinary,” says Maira. “It’s been a combination of luck and hard work—and then more luck.”

I read somewhere you don’t like starting in the beginning. So let’s start somewhere else. Tell me about your life after 50…

I became a widow after fifty. There’s an old myth if you lose your mate, you’re lost. For me, the opposite was true, I found that I was even stronger than before. I was energized and motivated to work and to create.

How did you meet your husband?

In a summer class at N.Y.U. I was 18. We both flunked out of economics and had to retake it. That was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.

What’s your proudest accomplishment after fifty?

Still working and being interested and curious about a million things and having people appreciate this.

You were an English major at N.Y.U. How did you get into illustration?

I was an English major like everyone else who didn’t know what they wanted to do. I wrote poetry and realized that it was awful, and I better stop doing it. But, I really needed to have a way to express myself. I liked children’s books and was inspired by people like Saul Steinberg. I thought that being a narrative opportunist and a narrative illustrator really made sense. I thought ‘oh, this is a world I can inhabit!’

Why did Saul Steinberg inspire you?

He was also an illustrator who travelled the world, wrote humorous narrative and had a love for typography and objects.

What else inspires you?

My children were a big inspiration for me. When I had children, that’s when I really started thinking about children’s books. In a bigger sense—traveling, music, fashion, literature, architecture and street life.

What books did you read with your own children?

We loved Dr. Seuss, Winnie The Pooh, and Alice in Wonderland. Pippi Longstocking was really important to me when I was a child.

How many children do you have?

Two, they are 28 and 25. They’re still children to me, but will soon have children of their own.

Are they artistic?

They’re both artistic. One is a chef and the other is a filmmaker. They both live in the city, and I think they’ve become addicted to New York. But they travel a lot.

And you’re originally from?


What brought you here?

I was four, so my parents brought me here with them. They didn’t ask my opinion. My father was a diamond dealer so he came here to represent the Israeli diamond business.

Do you go back to Israel ever?

We do. We still have the same apartment where I was born in Tel Aviv, and we have wonderful family there. We do visit, but not often enough.

Were you artistic when you were younger?

Yes. I say all kids draw, so I didn’t think of myself as artistic. My sister became a painter. My mother was beautiful and funny and eccentric and that made a big impression on me. My father was a businessman.

What was your first big break?

When I sold my first illustration to the Village Voice around 1975. I thought, ‘okay, this is going to work out.’ It was an illustration of the presidents and their hairdos.

What are you working on now?

Michael Palmer wrote a book about food etiquette called The 64 Rules For Eating, and I’m going to illustrate it. It came out last year it was really a success. It’s about what to eat and what not to eat and how to approach eating. One of the rules for example is ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.’ Of course, as you get older that rule has a lot of resonance.

Which do you think is more difficult—writing for children or writing for adults?

There are different difficulties. When writing for children you have to edit it down to something that’s usually 32 pages and has to be pithy—really to the point. But then again, that’s the same when writing for adults. Both should feel very easy but be very thoughtful at the same time.

Which do you prefer?

I think there is some freedom when writing for children—you can be sillier with kids and stretch the bounds of that silliness.

Favorite artists and writers?

Charlotte Solomon was a wonderful painter and writer during the Holocaust. Her narrative was about her personal life and her washes are very lyrical. She lived in Germany in the 1920s so there’s this third world influence. Memories that people have are very important to me. How you take the life around you and distill it into a story.

A favorite secret place where you go to be inspired?

I walk through Central Park a lot. Walking through any city is an inspiration to me. Whenever I have writers block or am bored I take a walk and am refreshed and inspired.

Anything else you would like to share?

I’m going to Rome on a mini-sabbatical this fall, so I have no projects, responsibilities and deadlines. A break is a good thing.

They say Einstein discovered the theory of relativity only after he took a break.

We’ll see. I believe in that. The brain needs to be emptied to get refilled.

Meet Robin Sheldon

Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 65
Marital Status: Married
Education: BA, University of Denver

What did your folks do?

My father was an attorney in New York. I grew up with a whole family of lawyers. My grandfather was Eisenhower’s attorney. Other than being a mom, my mom played bridge, mahjong and Bezique, a French card game from the 1800s.

(Editor’s note: Winston Churchill was a fan of Bezique.)

Oh, your mom was sophisticated.

Yes, she was. She had a wonderful sense of humor and really set the bar for what it means to be a good friend. My mother had beautiful taste. She could have been a natural buyer, no doubt about it.

How would you define good friend?

Someone who has no judgment and is there for you.

Do you have children?

I have a son, 40, and a daughter who is 37. My daughter works for Soft Surroundings as a supervisor in our call center. She manages people on the phones and trains call center employees about the product. My son is a contractor.

Are you married?

I’ve been married 20 years in April. My husband is now retired after I moved him out of three of his own businesses. We made a deal that when we came to St. Louis, he could do whatever he wanted, and pretty much what he wants is to take care of our property and our investments and play ice hockey.

So this is your second marriage?Image

No, it’s the fourth. I got married for the first time when I was 18, before I knew what I was doing. I did that twice, so those marriages were a little bit more of an investment in knowledge and learning experiences.

What about the third marriage?

I married a stock broker/farmer in Virginia and started working in the catalog business. He had children who were the same age as mine, so for a while, I had four children under the age of five.

What happened with that marriage?

After 11 years, I realized he had a drinking problem. He went into AA, and that was very good for him, but what came out was somebody I’d never met before. We had nothing really in common anymore.

Where did you go to university?

I married a skier so we both went to the University of Denver. We could take the winter off to go skiing since the school was on a quarter system.

What happened after you graduated?

I had no idea what I was going to do. I was an English major, and I had a young child. I actually didn’t work–other than for a ski pass–until the seventies, when I was on the farm in Virginia and my husband would watch me order from the various catalogs. We were way out in the country and there wasn’t much shopping, which I missed, being from New York.

My husband said, ‘wow, if there are women across the country who are interested in ordering from catalogs like you do, this can be one heck of a business.’ So we launched ourselves into the catalog industry. And at that time, most of the catalogs out there were only associated with large retail chains like Neiman Marcus, Sakowitz and, of course, Sears, Spiegel and Montgomery Ward.

So my husband and I cleaned out a couple of barns on our property and built warehouses. We were a mile in on a dirt road and UPS would chug up that road everyday. We learned as we went, by working on every aspect of the business. I selected product, wrote copy, styled photographs, answered the phones, took orders, packed merchandise in the warehouse, and put labels on the catalogs.

What was the catalog called?

It was a boutique catalog called The Mixed Bag, a mixture of cool things we happened to find. We had some clothes, but mostly we featured home decorative and gift products. We even sold a vintage Mercedes.

Eventually, we sold the catalog to a company from New York.

Then I divorced and needed to figure out what to do with my life. When a friend asked me to help her decorate her home, I accidentally stumbled into the field of interior design. Before long, I had a long list of clients, both for residential and commercial design.

What happened next?

I finally tired of relying on indecisive women and contractors, so I became buyer for a new catalog from the National Wildlife Federation and built it into a $47 million business in about two and a half years. After that, I joined Hanover Direct and moved from Virginia to New Jersey. Next, I was recruited to be Vice President of Merchandising for Coldwater Creek in Idaho, which I helped build into a $247 million company in less than five years. We also took it public.

Tell me about your personal life at this time?

I met and married my fourth husband when I was in Virginia.

How did you get to Soft Surroundings?

After five years in Idaho, I was anxious to get back to the East Coast, but a man who owned catalogs in St. Louis [Grant Williams] wanted to talk to me. He was absolutely delightful, but I still had no intention of moving to Missouri. Although he really didn’t have a job for me, he wanted me in his organization and said that if I have an idea for a catalog perhaps we could do it together. On the plane ride back to see him, I put Soft Surroundings together on two and a half sheets of scratch paper. That was in 1998.

What made you come up with the concept?

It wasn’t that hard to put it together ‘cause I’d been marketing to the baby boomer customer for a long time. I’m a student of demographics so I understand this woman. I made a list of famous women in this age group who I identified with, such as Goldie Hawn and Candace Bergen, as well as all the women I knew. Celebrity or not, nobody has any time anymore. Our generation has been brought up to believe that we can have it all and, as a result, we’ve become experts at multi-tasking. We’ve also been brought up to put everybody ahead of us. How often do we get to do the things for ourselves that would give us a little better quality of life?

So I wondered if I could impact something that we do everyday, like the way we dress.

Although the baby boomer woman has a good sense of self, she still has a hard time with all of the skinny clothes in the stores. I thought: ‘What if I could design a line of clothing that would make her feel as good as she looks?’

As the concept developed, we realized we should also help women create sanctuaries for themselves in their bedrooms, with the finest sheets and the right blankets, with things that make them relax and enhance the quality of life. The final element turned out to be beauty. We demystify beauty products for our customers and test everything, putting together a collection that addresses their issues and saves them time.

So you obviously moved to St. Louis?

Yes, Grant already had all of the operations for a catalog, including the warehouse and phone center. I’d bring the buying, merchandising, creative and branding to the business. The two of us created the first Soft Surroundings catalog. I called in an awful lot of favors from people I knew in the apparel world who cut me incredible deals and let me create my own lines with very low minimum orders. Our first test mailing was half a million catalogs. It blew the doors off and we knew right away that we had something special.

What other catalogs were around then?

J. Jill, Coldwater Creek, Garnet Hill.

What made you different?

Our photography was almost as important as the product itself because we wanted a woman to sit down with the catalog and a glass of wine and feel soothed after looking through it. We would take her someplace and do something just to make her feel good.

After 9/11, when everybody saw a pretty significant dip in their business that holiday season, we had a significant lift. When we studied the messages on the gift cards, we found that people were reconnecting with loved ones by sending them our products. They were sending soft throws ‘as a hug until I can get there and give you one myself;’ they were sending people robes to ‘keep you cozy till the baby comes.’ We knew right then that people were getting the fact that we were something different.

How do you define your personal style?

I’m easygoing and casual and my clothes reflect that. I don’t have a waist so I love tunics, which are heavenly. You’re most apt to see me in a good pair of boots, skinny pants and a great looking tunic or a big, bulky sweater.

Do you wear leggings?

I do. I love them. And we have a ‘relaxed legging,’ which is like a little cigarette pant. If you don’t have perfect legs and don’t want everybody to see every little muscle and bit of skin through your leggings, the relaxed legging gives you the look without all the tightness. I’m wearing them right now.

Who or what in your life has inspired you most?

My two grandmothers were incredibly strong women who taught me to be myself.

Do you only wear clothes from Soft Surroundings?

About half of my wardrobe is from Soft Surroundings.

Which designers do you like?

I love Carolina Herrera, Eileen Fisher, Elie Tahari. I love Eileen Fisher’s fabrics but sometimes I have issue with the price because I know what it costs to make these things. I know I’m paying for the name, but her silhouettes are better than anybody else.

Do you have a signature perfume?

I have two: The original Prada, which is Amber. I also wear one of our own fragrances called Aya Blu, which is on the spicy side of things. I think I’m on the spicy side.

A great book?

I wish I had more time for reading. I love The Great Gatsby and Great Expectations, which I read fairly often. I grew up on Long Island, very lucky to have a certain kind of lifestyle, and The Great Gatsby reminds me of it. Newport fascinates me.

Your favorite restaurant in St. Louis?

The Brasserie. They do a wonderful fusion of comfort food in a really chic presentation. It might be lobster macaroni and cheese, just enough to really tease me into wanting more.

Your secret favorite place in St. Louis?

My backyard, out by the pool with not another sound and a good book. That would be my idea of heaven.

How do you cleanse and moisturize your skin?

I use a product called One that does ten different things in one application. It’s the only thing you need. It was developed by somebody who did TV make up. It’s a moisturizer and a primer. If you pat it on your face after you’ve applied makeup, it mattes you down so you don’t shine. It’s just the most amazing thing.

I use Dr. Robert Rey’s oxygenating cleanser. It’s a foaming gel. And when it foams it lifts everything out of every pore. It tickles a little and makes me feel that it’s working.

Your biggest indulgence?

Flying international first class. I’ve found a wonderful way to do it that you’ve got to pass this on to the members of your site. American Airlines has something called Air Pass. Let’s say you often fly to Asia. After buying an $11,000 Air Pass, for example, you can book a business class ticket to China, Hong Kong or Shanghai for a huge discount, and the cost of the ticket is then deducted from the $11,000. Subsequent trips are deducted the same way.

You’re also greeted at the airport. There’s a ridiculous amount of service that goes with it. It gives you access to all of American’s priority clubs all around the world.

What’s your favorite place to travel?

Istanbul and Paris. Istanbul is the most divine city. The average age there is way younger than you would expect. It has an incredible vibe, wonderful restaurants, good shopping and the Grand Bazaar, which is the most fascinating place I have ever seen.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Istanbul?

Mikla, on a rooftop overlooking the Bosphorus River.

What about your passion project?

We’re setting up a fund that will support women’s shelters around the country. We also want to be involved wherever we have shops. We have to find ways to be more supportive of women and to recognize outstanding women who contribute to all of us in so many ways.

How many stores do you have?

Three now, but we hope to open about 15 in the next two years.

Favorite hair stylist?

Donnal’s Hair Design. Donnal is a 6’2″ Chinese guy, who is an artist more than he is a hairdresser. He took my hair from being over processed, over blonde, frizzy, fried and dull into long, silky, perfectly colored hair that I didn’t think I was ever gonna have again. I’m serious. I went to so many places and said, ‘Gosh my hair doesn’t shine anymore,’ and all they said was, ‘You’re getting old.’ And he took a look at me, and in his wonderful broken English said, ‘Ohhh, you look bad.’

Do you exercise?

I walk. I don’t walk enough and I don’t exercise enough but I have dogs that I can walk with and that’s about it.

The most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Don’t waste your life doing something that you don’t love. I can’t even imagine going to work everyday to a job that doesn’t fulfill you, doesn’t make you feel the way my job makes me feel. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be bored on a daily basis. Life is just too short.