Meet Jackie Zeman

Location: Malibu, CA
Age: 58
Marital Status: Single
Education: Attended New York University briefly but left after landing a contract with One Life to Live

A few years later, without even auditioning, she landed a part as Bobbie Spencer on General Hospital, the longest-running soap opera in history. Viewers were instantly enamored with “Bobbie,” the “girl from the wrong side of the tracks,” who, despite an abusive childhood put herself through college and became a nurse at General Hospital. In Jackie’s thirty-year run portraying Bobbie Spencer (her contract with the show officially ended in 2007, although she still makes infrequent appearances), the character has a faked pregnancy, abuse by her husband leading to a hysterectomy, a murder charge and the death of her daughter. “They [the viewers] felt like, ‘if Bobbie can get through this and everything that’s going on in her life, then I can get through my life,’” says Jackie.

FOFs relate to her, she’s astoundingly comfortable in her own skin and recently single—it’s no surprise that Jackie was recently tapped as spokeswoman for Zestra female arousal oil.

“Every woman deserves great love, romance and sex,” says Jackie. “It’s a gentle, beautiful, wonderful way to enhance sexual enjoyment.”

You don’t look 58!

I feel good. You get to the point where it’s more about how you feel than how you look.

Where do you live?

Malibu. It’s gorgeous, I’m looking out onto the ocean right now and I can see Catalina and Santa Monica.

Where did you grow up?

New Jersey.

Do you have siblings?

I have two sisters named Lauren and Carol.

What did your parents do?

My mom was a homemaker and my dad worked for IBM. He was a computer whiz long before anyone had a personal computer.

What was your childhood like?

I started dancing when I was five and loved it. I was like the neighborhood producer, putting together talent shows with kids on my block. My mother would sew all my costumes for recitals and my grandma would do the smocking. Dancing became a family thing—a way to have something positive together.

When did you start acting?

In high school. We had a great drama department at Bergenfield High School. I got cast in all of the plays and loved it. I played Peggy Evans in Come Blow Your Horn and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

What happened after high school?

I worked as a professional dancer and choreographer and a Playboy Bunny. I did a few commercials. I was the Jergens soap girl and a tap dancing tomato in a kitchen commercial!

Were you always interested in soap operas?

Yes. I have such fond memories of watching them with my mom during lunch hour in elementary school. We watched Search for Tomorrow, Guiding Light and Love of Life. As I got older I watched General Hospital, All My Children and One Life to Live. I remember sitting in a Bagel Nosh in New York with my boyfriend Murray Kaufman (Murray the K), a famous disc jockey, and I said to him, ‘I’d really like to be on a soap opera.’ Soap operas at the time were fifteen minutes and I thought I’d only have to work a half-hour day.

Did you go to college?

I went to NYU for a year on a dance scholarship then went back to NYU for pre-med but after a year I was offered a contract for One Life to Live. I was twenty. That was the first contract I was ever offered and it really built up my confidence. Following that, I was offered the role of Bobbie on General Hospital. I didn’t even audition.

Why do you think people love soap operas?

There’s a feeling of ownership the audience has to the stories and the characters. People would come up to me and say ‘General Hospital—that’s my show. Your character, Bobbie, is my favorite person.’ When my own daughters were born, fans sent baby blankets they made for me. They would name their own children after me or my character. It’s also a generational thing—children, moms, grandmothers watch the same shows.

General Hospital is one of the longest soap operas running. Why do you think it outlived all the others?

Thirty years ago, soaps were just about women, by women, for women. Men don’t always want to admit that they watched soap operas, but they did! I know because I got letters from them! Gloria Monty and Wendy Riche, who were the producers at the time, knew that and started to create story lines that featured men.

How are you like your character Bobbie?

We come from very different backgrounds. Bobbie was from the wrong side of the tracks. She was from a very dysfunctional, abusive family. But one of the things I love so much about Bobbie is, like me, she felt education was important and got herself through college and became a nurse. She also has a very strong maternal instinct like I do. Bobbie didn’t always make the best decisions but her intentions were always good.

Are you married?

I was married for 19 years to Glenn Gordon, the father of my children, and we divorced about four and a half years ago.

Are you dating?

I am!

How is dating different at this point in your life?

I don’t date men that are younger. I date men my age or older. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of men are using sexual enhancement drugs. Women are feeling very pressured to keep up with that.

Tell me about your involvement with Zestra.

About 7 months ago, they approached me about being a spokeswoman for the product and I was absolutely thrilled. For the most part, women don’t have trouble speaking about love and romance but there is a hesitancy when talking about sex.

Why do you think they chose you as a spokeswoman?

From being on General Hospital, I’ve had an opportunity to talk to so many women about their love and intimate lives. There are also so many parts of my life that other women can relate to such as having been married for nineteen years, divorcing and dating. I am a working woman and a mother—I raised my two daughters, Lacey, 19, and Cassidy, 21.

What do you like about Zestra?

You don’t need a prescription for it. It’s all natural; there are no chemicals, and it’s topically applied.

What message are you trying to get across as spokeswoman for Zestra?

Every woman deserves great love, romance and sex. No matter where you’ve been or where you come from, you have a future, so choose to be happy!

What else are you working on now?

I just started on a new indie drama series called The Bay. I’m playing Sophia Madison, the mayor’s wife. The producer and head writer, Gregori Martin, put together the most incredible cast with a lot of people like myself who have been in daytime television for a million years as well as some young fabulous newcomers. I also just completed a book called Turn Your Acting Talent Into a Successful Career.

How do you make time for it all?

For many years, when I was raising my daughters and working, I sometimes felt like a gerbil on a wheel. I have learned to be gentle with myself and to be selective. I have learned it is my choice how to spend my time and don’t react to other people’s agenda.

How do you relax and rejuvenate?

Every morning I walk or jog, even if it’s raining! It’s my time to regroup and have an hour to myself.

What is your beauty routine?

I never go to sleep with makeup on. I do at-home facials and use olive oil on my skin and in my hair as a conditioner.

How do you stay fit?

I lift weights. I have five pound arm and ankle weights. It’s really important for your bone density.

How do you describe your style?

Simple and kind of classic. I prefer dresses and skirts to pants, and I prefer heels to flats. I’m a girly-girl.

Advice for women over fifty?

When you turn fifty, take the time for a heartfelt self review. Ask yourself where have you been, where you are at the moment and what are your future goals. Then, put yourself on the list of VIPs in your own life. Think about what you want and how to meet those needs, so you can create your best life.

Meet Sharon Roth

Location: Mercer Island, Washington
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: Degree in Textile Design from the University of Washington

Staying real has helped Jarbo prevail despite the recession. And Sharon can’t imagine it any other way. She’s a straight-shooter, real-deal kind of gal. To wit, her inspiration doesn’t come from the catwalk, but from her late grandmother, Emmi Rindler, a holocaust survivor who came with Sharon on her first sales appointment and sat with Jason, Sharon’s son, on her lap. “She was just the strongest, most wonderful woman on the planet. I still talk to her every day in the shower!” says Sharon.

Where did you grow up?

Bellevue, Washington. I moved to L.A. when I was 21 to be in the fashion business. Now I live on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle.

Were you always into fashion and design?

I grew up around kids who had a lot more than I did. My mom, a schoolteacher, couldn’t buy me lots of clothes because my dad died when we were young and finances were tight. But, she would buy me fabric, so I took sewing in school and made my own clothes. I worked in a specialty store in Seattle when I was 14 or 15. I’d sew the hems of jeans to make extra money.

How did you break into the fashion industry?

One thing led to the next. I was promoted to manager of the women’s department at the specialty store. Through that, I made many connections and started working for sales reps. I worked for one salesman who had drug problems. He let me go to all the sales meetings in New York because he couldn’t go himself. Here I was, 19 years old, with a suit and briefcase, going off to important meetings in Manhattan. I thought I was the coolest thing in the planet. Eventually, I got my own showroom.

You were a retailer?Image

I was a wholesaler. I repped different lines for years and did really well at a young age.

Did you stop to go to college?

I was working full-time while I was at the University of Washington. I went for my Mom. She wanted me to get a 4-year degree from a real university. (I wanted to go to FIT!) She didn’t understand fashion as a business. As a side note: [designer] Trina Turk was my roommate in college!

How did you transition from selling clothes to designing them?

In the 1980s, private label clothing was just starting to get big. I’d go to Nordstrom and show them the lines I repped and they’d say “Well, we are already doing that with our own line.” So, I started designing private label for department stores like Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer and Victoria’s Secret. I designed one of Nordstrom’s biggest-selling items of all time.

What was that?

A pleated stirrup pant. I made them for Nordstrom and Victoria’s Secret. That’s when I started working so much. I was 30 years old and just getting married.

Did you have children?

I had my son when I was 31. And then I had my daughter a year and a half later. One day, when Lauren was 10 months old, she was on one of those Fisher-Price phones. I heard her say the name of one of the buyers I used  to work with. That’s when I said to myself, “Your kids only know that you work… this is it.” The next day I kind of handed off the business to a neighbor. I took the following seven years off.

That must have been a difficult decision.

It was a difficult decision, but my kids and family are number one. My passion, the clothing, was number one and number two. But I realized, you can’t do both.

Tell us about how you started Jarbo.

I got back into the business slowly, with a leather coat line that started as a charitable venture. I met a fabulous woman, Cynthia Woshner, who I knew would be a perfect design partner. After a series of twists and turns, in 2008 we relaunched Jarbo, a line of women’s separates in fine fabrics. My Seattle team has taken it from zero to the sky in the last two years.

Why do you think it’s caught on so well?

I stuck to my vision: Clean, edgy European design in fine fabrics. I take the style or look of the season but cut it so that a real woman can actually wear it. I would try on clothes at department stores and I couldn’t wear some of the great lines I wanted to. They were beautiful, but they looked all wrong on me. Nobody made clothes for us. I said ‘Screw this, I’m going to make clothes for us.’

Do you have a particular woman in mind when you design?

Absolutely. My customer is confident; she doesn’t care about brand names. She cares more about what the fabrics feel like.

Why do you think you’ve done so well, despite the recession?

When the economy changed, designers were scrambling. Their stuff was not selling–trendy, goofy stuff was out the door. I just kept going with what I believed in and we always had a niche. When the economy changed we got revisited by some of the top stores. They all said “Wow, we can use this now.”

Do you regret taking off all those years?

I think it was meant to be that I started my business at this age. Here I am, 50, and there’s nobody my age that’s still plugging away trying to ‘make it.’  I’m the only one who’s really making clothes for us!”

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Who are your favorite designers?

I love European designers. I think Celine, Lanvin and Brunello Cucinelli are all fabulous.

Do you have a favorite restaurant?

Lola in Seattle. Tom Douglas is the chef and his food is just so interesting. It’s local with a Mediterranean flair…so yummy. You can order a bunch of little dishes a la carte and try them all.

Favorite local delicacy?

Barbecue pork from Kau Kau or deep-fried oysters and prawns from Ivar’s, a famous restaurant that’s been around forever. Yum!

What’s your skincare routine?

Soap and water and any lotion that happens to be at my fingertips.

What about hair care?

My daughter’s best friend, Ivanna, comes and does my hair every time I need her. She flat irons it for me and makes it beautiful because I have big Rosanna-danna hair.

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Do you have a favorite secret place?

The Pike Place Market or the Ballard Market. I take my kids every Sunday and we go to Café Besalu (in the Ballard Market). It’s like being in Paris. They make the best French pastry on the planet. Their croissants and brioche are just wonderful.

Where do you shop?

I taught all my kids and their friends to buy clothes at thrift stores and to be creative instead of going to all the fancy-schmancy places.

Do you have a signature piece from Jarbo?

This fabulous Pima T-shirt with little pin tucks. It will be in our spring 2011 line. It’s super soft and super long….30 inches. It covers my arms because the sleeves go to the elbow. It’s easy and loose, and I love it.

Who or what inspires you?

Real people. My children and their friends. My life is this business and all those kids. I’m an unfiltered, open person so they confide in me. They’ll come over and talk to me for hours. I’m honest. That’s why they like me.

Meet Susan Hersh

Location: Fort Lee, NJ
Age: 49
Marital Status: Single
Education: 4 years at F.I.T. for Fashion Buying and Merchandising

FOF Susan Hersh’s life pursuit—professional modeling—pursued her.

“I wasn’t really thinking of it as a career,” says Susan, who idolized supermodel Twiggy as a teen and worked in fashion under designers Calvin Klein and Norma Kamali in her early career. “But, fashion is part of my DNA,” says Susan. Then, on two separate occasions, in her 30s, Susan was “discovered” by modeling scouts—once, while she was sitting in a California coffee shop, and then, years later by a NYC rep working on an Avon campaign.

“He asked me if I’d been modeling,” says Susan about being discovered for the second time. “No I haven’t, but I am starting to think, maybe it’s my calling. It just keeps coming back to me.” A few days later, at the age of forty, Susan signed a contract with Ford, one of the leading modeling agencies in the world. Since then, you may have seen Susan’s face grace issues of O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Macy’s, Sephora, Nordstrom and Target ads. She was also the “face” of Silver Expressions for Pantene and walked the runway for Barney’s. With her signature silver locks (“I stopped dying my hair a the age of 28”) and her youthful skin—she’s been cast as everything from a grandmother to a young urban professional. “I’ve had a pretty good run,” she says.

Where did you grow up?

Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

What were you like as a child?

I was always very artistic and I always knew I wanted to go into fashion or be a model. My sister and I would always look at fashion magazines. Twiggy was my icon. In first grade, I had a lunch box with her picture on it. She had white go-go boots and a short hair cut, I’ll always remember it.

What did your parents do?

My father was a CPA and my mother wrote a weekly food column for the Bergen News. She also held various positions at Ort & Hadassah charities.

Do you have any sisters or brothers?

I have one sister, Maureen.

Where did you go to college?

Fashion Institute of Technology where I majored in fashion buying and merchandising.

What was your first job?

I started my career while attending night school. My first job was personal receptionist for Calvin Klein in the 1980s! It was the height of his career and brand. He was very quiet but he was my biggest style inspiration. Working with him, was my first exposure into the fashion world. I left Calvin Klein and went to work for Jones Apparel Group and Norma Kamali while I was still at FIT. She was always big on creating casual clothing—sweatpants and sweatshirts. I’d wear head-to-toe Norma Kamali at the time. I remember my boyfriend would pick me up from work and say, “Oh lord, Susan!” My clothing was really crazy at the time!

Did you live in New York City while you worked in the fashion industry?

I did not. I always lived in New Jersey and commuted to the city. I liked having my car and getting away from the hustle and bustle. I’ve almost always worked in the city with the exception of a period in my life when I relocated to Florida.

How come you moved to Florida?

At age 30, I got a job as a buyer and store manager for a retail store called Le Tennique on Long Boat Key in Florida. I also got married at that time but later divorced. I didn’t love living in Florida, although I stayed for four years, but I really missed New York City.

So did you move back to New York?

Actually no. I ended up moving to Mill Valley, California. I intended to study and sell wine. I thought wine sales would be really romantic and was ready to start selling at the top restaurants. I quickly found out that it doesn’t work that way. When you start, you are usually selling in a really undesirable location to a supermarket and then have to build up from there. There was also a lot of nepotism in the business. It’s dominated by men and there is a lot of alcoholism. After being out there for about a year and a half, I then moved back to New Jersey.

Sometimes you have to try different things to realize what your true passions are…

Completely true. The experience made me realize fashion is really part of my make up. When I came back to New York, I worked for a label called Mondi of America which eventually went bankrupt. From there, through a headhunter I got a job with Gottex swimwear as the U.S. sales manager. I ended up staying with them for ten years until this past October.

When did you break in to modeling?

While I was at Gottex I started modeling and have continued for the past eight years.

How did you break into the modeling business so late in life?

It’s one of those things that just kept coming to me. When I lived in California, I was at a coffee shop in Mill Valley and I was scouted out by two women working on the Smith and Hawken catalogs. So, I modeled for a couple of their catalogs. A guy I was dating at the time said, ‘Susan, you can model full time.’ I said, ‘I’m too old to model. I’m 36 years old.’ Anyway, I went back to the East Coast, and was scouted again by a boutique advertising agency called Wieden and Kennedy who was working on a campaign for Avon. I ended up casting for it and getting the job. I was 38 at at the time, but still, I didn’t think anything of it.

When did you think of it as a viable career option?

Well, I continued working at Gottex and did some modeling on the side. Anyway, I met Julius Poole, casting director for the Avon shoot I did previously, coming home to New York. He had a connection at Ford Modeling Agency. So I went in with my Smith and Hawken catalogs because that’s all I had. And that was it… they gave me a contract and I started modeling professionally at 40.

What is the industry like for FOF models?

Being a model after forty is very different than being an eighteen-year-old model walking down the runways. Although, I have had the honor of doing runway shows even in my forties. I’ve also been cast as an urban professional for a Target campaign, which is exactly who I identify with. But, typically that’s not the case. They’re often casting women in the 40-plus market as anything from a mother to a grandmother. I remember once showing up to a shoot and the art director said to the hair stylist, “you need to make her look older.” I have silver hair, and in this society that means old, granny. My silver hair is my trademark. I haven’t colored my hair since I was 28.

You don’t do anything to enhance your hair?

No. I don’t use even use the special purple shampoo for silver hair.

What color was it when you were younger?

Honey brown with blond highlights from the sun.

What shampoo do you use?

I use hydrating shampoos by Rusk and Bumble and Bumble. I like shampoos that have a hydrating element to it to keep my hair a little more tame and less wiry.

What conditioner do you use?

Liquid Keratin Infusing Deep De-Frizz Conditioner. I use this product when I have a photo shoot or casting call because it leaves my hair soft, adds hydration and makes it easy for me to blow dry straight. It’s expensive, therefore I do not use it daily, but when I do, my hair reacts immediately. It contains keratin protein that helps keep hair strong and pliable.

Are there certain categories of products that they pigeonhole women models over 40 into?

Beauty campaigns are challenging to get when you are in the 40+ market since celebrities have sort of taken over that category. However, I have been fortunate enough to be in Robert Jones beauty book as well as Bobbi Brown’s beauty book.

Is modeling full time for you now? Or is there something else you are also working on?

In addition to modeling, for the past year and a half I’ve been shooting a series of lifestyle videos for a show concept I’m working on called Meet the Experts.

What are your favorite beauty products?

I use a gamut of makeup. Right now I’m using Bobbi Brown foundation but I’ve also used Laura Mercier, and MAC products. The Bobbi Brown foundation gives my face a dewy texture and perfectly matches my skin color. I keep it very simple because I’m allergic to a lot of products.

What is your favorite face cream?

For daytime I use a Ultimate Day Moisturizer by Kinerase. At night, I use Kinerase’s Ultimate Night Moisturizer. Under my eyes, I use Kiehl’s Cryste Marine Firming Eye Treatment.

How would you describe your style?

My style is extremely eclectic and I’m not afraid of being sexy. I wear things in good taste but I don’t mind if my arms or bra straps are showing. I also mix high and low range items, so maybe I’ll wear a Dolce & Gabbana top with a pair of non-designer leggings.

Is there anything you absolutely won’t wear?

I don’t like things that are too feminine. If I wear feminine prints they are often more abstract like a Cavalli print where flowers a re mixed with pearls so it’s a little less contrived.

Where do you shop?

Bergdorf Goodman in New York. I also like to shop when I travel to South Beach, Dallas or California. Melrose Avenue in California has some great stores.

Do you have a signature piece?

I have a lot of beautiful pareos from my career at Gottex. Sometimes I wear them as a shawl or on the beach. They last for years.

Do you have a favorite wine?

I like big, hearty, balanced red wines—Zinfandels, Cabernets and Malbecs.

Favorite restaurants?

I have a few. Nobu on 57th St. in Manhattan. The bar menu has great appetizers and interesting cocktails. I also like Cafe Cluny which has consistently good food. The entrees are not drowning in sauces so you can appreciate the natural flavor of the meat. Brasserie Beaumarchais has modern French cuisine and decadent desserts.

Do you have any passion projects or hobbies?

I am an avid cyclist. I try to ride about 100 miles per weekend. I also have a passion for cooking and entertaining and I love the arts. I just saw the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met which was wonderful and I belong to the NY SAG film society, so I see new movies almost every other week.

How do you rejuvenate?

Relaxing and watching TV. I hardly get a chance to watch TV, so it’s a treat. It makes me fall asleep.

Advice for women over 50?

We cannot chase beauty our entire lives. You can have your eyes done and a facelift and everything else and still not feel satisfied. At this age, it’s time to come to terms with the fact you are aging and may have flaws.

Meet Cheryl Wheeler Duncan

Location: Austin, TX
Age: 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: Self-taught

“I’d challenge any 25 year old to a race, because I’d win.” says FOF Cheryl Wheeler Duncan. She’s not bragging; it’s just the truth.

At 50, Cheryl has a body that would make any 25 year old jealous. A Black Belt Hall of Fame kickboxing champion, Cheryl is the go-to stunt woman for A-list starlets including Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner and Cameron Diaz. “Stunt doubling for a much younger actress could make her uncomfortable, but that’s never really happened to me,” says Cheryl. “They’re like ‘I wish I were in your shape.'”

But, it wasn’t always this way. In 1989, Cheryl had a debilitating accident while filming “Back To The Future Part II.” She was dropped 20 feet off of a cable onto concrete—her face was crushed, her right arm and hand shattered. Even after five reconstructive surgeries, Cheryl worried she’d never be able to work in the industry again.

That’s when she met Dr. Lindsey Duncan, one of the world’s leading naturopathic doctors who helped heal her back to health. Cheryl was his patient for several years before the two began dating and eventually married. “It was a blessing in disguise,” says Cheryl, whose own life, incidentally, plays out like a movie script.

How long have you been in the stunt industry?

Since 1985.

Where do you live?

I lived in Hollywood off and on for 18 years. I loved living there, and it was my base for doing movies, even though I ended up traveling all over the world. Now, I live in Austin, Texas. I’ve been there about 9 years. My husband is originally from Texas, so that’s where he chose to move his vitamin company when it began to grow.

Where are you from originally?

Pensacola, FL.

What was your childhood like?

I had five brothers and no sisters. Always wanted to do just what my macho, active brothers did. My father was one of those old-school, very chauvinistic men who said ‘You’re a girl; you can’t do that.’ I think I’ve spent my entire life proving to him that not only could I do it, but most of the time I could do it better than the boys.

Did you attend college?

I went to two years of junior college in Florida and was majoring in physical education when I got the opportunity to move to Los Angeles to compete in kickboxing professionally. I took some journalism and creative writing classes at UCLA, but once I got into stunt work, I never finished college. I was too busy making money, jumping off of buildings, you know… One of these days I’ll probably go back and finish my degree.

Are you married?

Yes. Dr. Lindsey Duncan is my husband. We met because I got hurt really badly on set, and he was my doctor and nutritionist at the time. I was his patient for several years until the timing worked out where we started dating and eventually had a family. We’ve been together now almost twenty years.

It’s not great that you got hurt, but it is a great story…

At the time I was like, ‘Why me?’ This wasn’t my fault. The special effects guy made the mistake. But, after the accident I started taking charge of my health. When I met Lindsey, it was such an eye opening experience. I’ve been an athlete my whole life but never delved into nutrition as much as I should have. The accident made me realize that I can’t be a stunt woman forever, but I can help people with nutrition for the rest of my life. I was so inspired, I went to a two year school in Colorado and got my nutrition degree. Now I consider myself a lay nutritionist. I don’t have an office where I practice, I’m more about helping people through word of mouth and good nutritional products and diet.

So you’re still doing stunt work…

I’m still doing stunts. I recently doubled Rene Russo on Thor, and before that, I doubled Cameron Diaz on Night and Day. In between, I worked on a television series in Dallas.

How did you break into the stunt industry?

When I began competing in kickboxing, I met quite a few stuntpeople, mostly men. They encouraged me to get into the industry. It was back when all the ninja movie were gaining popularity and there were few women in the field. They said, if you’re good you’ll work full time and double every major A-list actress out here. It was true.

What was the first movie you were in?

It was a very nondescript movie called Night Stalker, like one of those movies you see on HBO at 2 AM.

How did you get involved with Night Stalker?

I was teaching martial arts at a health club called La Fonte in Pacific Palisades, California. A director who worked out there was looking for a stuntwoman for his movie. He told me that he thought I’d be great. I auditioned and ended up getting the part.

Was that your biggest break into Hollywood?

It was certainly a big break for me, and I met a lot more stunt people on that film.

So it sounds like you were in the right place, in the right time with the right skills…

Well kind of. One thing that truly got my career going was when I doubled Brooke Shields on the movie Brenda Starr in 1985. I got that job through networking. A friend worked for Bally Fitness and Brooke Shields was the spokesperson at the time. My friend passed along a letter I wrote to Terry Shields, who was Brooke’s manager. Well, Terry gave my letter to the stunt coordinator, and, not knowing who else to use, he called me. It really shows you that you have to make your own breaks. It’s about perseverance and trying every angle. After doubling Brooke, I honest to goodness never stopped working.

Besides the kickboxing and martial arts, did you learn most of your stunt skills on the job?

There are some things I did to enhance my talent such as attend a race car driving school in Northern California. Learning how to handle a car at high speeds was something that did not come naturally. I taught other people martial arts and they’d teach me something I didn’t know like high falls. Still, there’s no way you know how to do every stunt you get called for. On the sequel to Brenda Starr, the stunt coordinator said, ‘I want you to do a perfect swan dive off the twenty foot bow of a boat.” I had done plenty of diving but I certainly had never done a swan dive. I got up on that twenty foot bow of that boat and executed a damn near perfect swan dive in high heels! In addition to being athletic, you have to be versatile with a good dose of confidence.

Does being over 50 give you an edge or a disadvantage in this industry?

Probably a disadvantage. The younger stunt coordinators might not call you for the real tough jobs because they know that your bones are 50 years old. Overall, I think you just heal a little slower, and move a little slower getting up. My wish is not to be doing crazy physical stunts as I go into my late 50s. On the other hand, for things like stunt driving, age gives you more experience. In that sense, the stunt coordinators know you’ve been around the block and if you say you can do something you’ll be able to.

Can you be a stunt double for an actress of any age?

A lot depends on the stunt and your size. Four months ago I doubled Jessica Alba, and I think she is twenty-something. She is about 5’3” and I’m 5’9”. The only way I got away with doubling her was because I was in a car. Six months ago I doubled Shirley MacLaine and that was an interesting job because she is much bigger than me, so I just kept padding up until the director was happy with my size.

What’s the most risky stunt you’ve performed?

I think the most dangerous stunts I’ve ever performed are around explosions. I’m very cautious about stunts like these because you have someone else’s finger on the trigger. On a movie called Night Fighters, I did a stunt where I had to jump off a train trestle after a train crashes into a police car stranded on the tracks. A huge explosion follows. When I practiced, there was no train. When I actually did the stunt, the train was so huge it was shaking the trestle. You don’t know that sort of thing until you are in the midst of the stunt. I had trouble getting my footing to launch off the bridge. I did it, but if I couldn’t jump off at the right time, I would’ve been blown up.

It sounds like a dangerous profession.

It can be. You have to be tough skinned. You are going to get bruised. A lot of what you do is taking falls, tumbles, getting pushed down stairs, hit by cars. It’s not all martial arts fights. Things can go wrong. You have the equipment to minimize injuries but honestly my best friend at the height of my career was my chiropractor, with a close second being my masseuse. I’d go into my chiropractor’s office and he’d say “Oh my! This injury is not in the book.” But, honestly I’m 50 and I don’t take any pain medications and I feel good when I get up in the mornings—no aches and pains.

Who is your chiropractor?

In Los Angeles it was Kevin Michael. He used to travel around with some of the celebrities on set. They all just love him. He is a very intuitive, practiced healer. I go to a chiropractor here in Austin too. His name is Dennis Bullock and he is wonderful. He puts me back in alignment after I do some crazy stunt work.

What is your workout routine?

I have two daughters, 11 and 13. So I juggle my workouts around their schedules. I’ll do a long jog with my dogs while the girls are at basketball practice. Then I’ll do a lot of isometrics and stretching. I like to have a lean, supple look. I don’t want to look too big, which too much heavy weight training can do to you.

It sounds like you are super busy, what do you do to relax or rejuvenate?

Massages and hot baths. Sometimes at night it’s hard for me to relax because I’m so active during the day. I drink this amazing nutritional drink called Relax Me by Genesis Today before I go to sleep. It’s natural and made out of cherries which have melatonin. I drink it and sleep like a baby. Some people drink wine to relax at night, this is my substitute.

What advice do you have for women over 50?

Fifty is young. Age shouldn’t put limits on you. Any fifty year old can achieve anything she wants. We just have to stack the odds in our favor through good nutrition and exercise.

Meet Mary Brooks

Location: Shenandoah Valley, California
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: University of Arkansas

Today, Mary is alive, in remission, and happily remarried, not to mention a successful financial advisor with Raymond James. Meet Mary and find out how she fought back from a failing marriage and a frightening illness.

How did you find out about the lymphoma?

“I didn’t feel great for a long time, but I just kept pushing myself, as many professional women do. I went to doctors and they didn’t know what was wrong, so I was sure it was nothing serious. And I did that for ten years.”

You didn’t feel well for ten years?

“Yeah. Doctors would ask if I had stress in my life and I’d say ‘yes, I’m a financial advisor,’ and it went on and on like this.”

Scary.

“My massage therapist finally found it. She was massaging my abdomen, she stopped the massage and she said, ‘I’m telling you, something is wrong, this does not feel right to me.’ Of course, she was right. By this time I couldn’t eat anymore.”

That’s shocking. You must be a very positive thinker not to have pressed your doctors earlier.

“Well, I learned that the hard way. I learned that you have to be your own advocate. It had been getting worse and worse.”

You must have been frightened when you found out.Image

“I had never heard of lymphoma until then. I was lucky in a certain sense because if it had been diagnosed five years earlier, they didn’t have the drug Rituxan. Before Rituxan, the recurrence rate was high. Patients had chemotherapy but the disease recurred within two years. Now rates of recurrence are much lower.”

Had your lymphoma metastasized?

“It was everywhere. I had about 50 tumors, but it wasn’t in my bone marrow. Once it’s in your bone marrow, then you’re stage IV and that’s pretty tough. But I do believe in positive thinking and I had tremendous support from my friends.”

In what way did the chemotherapy affect you, physically and psychologically?

“Chemotherapy is all about surrender. Everybody is going to be poking you, prodding you, and your privacy is gone. I didn’t work for probably seven or eight months. I was totally wiped out. There’s no way I could have worked.”

And slowly you saw that it was getting better?

“Yeah. It took a long time. They told me that they felt that maybe it would take four rounds of chemotherapy. But after four rounds it wasn’t working so they go two more rounds and that wasn’t good enough. So I actually went eight rounds and I kept thinking, ‘I can make it, I can do this.’ Eight rounds is all they can do, then you wait.”

Thank God, the chemotherapy worked.

“Yes, although they didn’t know at the time how long I’d stay in remission or if they could cure lymphoma.”

What do they say now?

“I was among that early group so the results are still coming in. Some people have recurrences, but some don’t. “

Tell me how your family reacted when you were first diagnosed?

“My daughter, bless her heart, was in the Peace Corps, stationed in Honduras. When I called to tell her, she just burst into tears and said, ‘Mommy, I’m coming home.’”

Where did you grow up?

“ My dad was in the Air Force so we moved around all the time. No place fun, places like Newfoundland and Orlando.”

How long have you been remarried and how did you meet?

“We’ve known each other for 25 years. We married four years ago. I had come to the point in my previous marriage where I knew I had to get out. I didn’t care if I was on my own for the rest of my life.”

What does your husband do?

“He’s Director of Development for Clausen House, an organization that provides independent living and programs for developmentally disabled adults in the San Francisco Bay Area. They have three residence houses and a big independent living program. Many of the residents are in their fifties and sixties and came into Clausen when they were in their teens.

“One of their programs, called Dance for all Abilities, is close to my heart because I was a dancer. That class is no kidding. It’s headed by Eric Coopers, an incredibly encouraging man. Through dance, the adults learn to make decisions and to express themselves. Classes have fully functioning dancers, dancers in wheel chairs and dancers who are developmentally disabled.”

Did you major in dance in school?

“I majored in music at the University of Arkansas. I played the piano but mostly sang. I wanted to be on Broadway so I came to New York alone with my young daughter when I was in my late twenties. I was a starving artist but figured I had to get a real job, so I took typing.”

What happened?

“I stayed in New York for six months and then I moved to California in 1983, when I was 28. It was the beginning of the big bull market and a friend told me that Merrill Lynch needed a receptionist. The minute I walked into the office I knew I wanted to be in finance, even though I didn’t know a thing about the market.

There were no women advisors but after I talked to a man who had just become the branch manager, he gave me an aptitude test, hired me on the spot and put me on the phone.”

Did you raise your daughter alone?

“She lived both with me and her father in the Shenandoah Valley. Now she’s going to marry a man named Shenandoah. She grew up saying the word. Isn’t that amazing?”

What were you like when you were younger?

“When I was 18, I traveled across the country in a van. I was a hippie. We moved to Pennsylvania and built a log cabin ourselves by scratch.

“I’ve been a spiritual seeker my whole life. When I was little I totally loved Jesus and loved church. At 15, I was like, ‘I hate the church, I hate religion.’ So I was searching for it. Now I’m a member of a church called Sufism Reoriented that follows an Indian spiritual leader called Meher Baba.

Is it like Buddhism?

“The basic precept is that love alone is real and that everyone is on the path toward divinity.

Were your parents spiritual?

They were Southern Baptist and were very open-minded people.

How long did you stay at Merrill Lynch?

“I was there for seven years, but even though I had my own clients and built my own business, everyone still thought of me as an assistant. So I moved to Paine Webber for five years, and then to Smith Barney for 15 years.

Then Raymond James courted me. When I interviewed with Tom James, whose father started the company, he told me the man he admired most on Wall Street was Jamie Dimon (currently Chairman of JP Morgan Chase), which I liked.”

How do you get clients?

“Almost always through referrals. When I moved to Raymond James, I decided to make my niche professional and executive women. This is the clientele who I identify with and need me the most.”

What is your favorite book?

“One of my favorites: is Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. We forget the incredible obstacles she had to overcome to be taken seriously as a woman in those times.”

What is your favorite restaurant?

“Fleur de Lys… it’s a French restaurant in San Francisco. My husband and I loved our time in Paris, and I surprised him with a dinner there.”

Who inspires you and why?

“Nurses and those who cheerfully and lovingly care for the elderly. Everything they do is simply for the sake of love.”

What’s your skin care routine?

“I use B. Kamins – it smells good!”

Who influenced you most and why?

“My mother; she taught me that how you treat people is the most important attribute in a career. And my Dad; he tried to tell me there were certain things women just couldn’t do. (That built drive!)”

Meet Elline Surianello

Location: New York, NY
Age: 56
Marital Status: Married
Education: Canisius College in Buffalo and Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City

Elline Surianello knows first-hand what it’s like to really hate your hair. Hers started falling out in clumps—in high school. “I have Androgenetic Alopecia,” says the 56-year-old New Yorker. “So I know what it’s like to not look and feel attractive and to face judgment due to hair loss.”

Elline spent years working as a makeup artist in New York while trying to find solutions for her hair loss. Wigs, creams, implants, pills–she tried it all, but never loved the results until she began designing her own custom hair pieces. “I realized how hard it was to find something truly individualized. That’s when I started my business, designing and manufacturing custom hair systems based on each client’s needs.”

Today, Elline is known across the country for her incredibly natural-looking hair ‘solutions’–painstakingly designed to fit each woman’s specific hair loss problem as well as her exact hair color and texture. Whether you’ve noticed minor thinning or you’re suffering serious hair loss, Elline has a permanent or semi-permanent piece designed to clip easily into your hair and be completely undetectable.

Where did you grow up?

Buffalo, NY.

Are you married?

Yes, I have been with Marvin for over 30 years.

When and why did you become interested in hair?

I have Androgenetic Alopecia and know firsthand what it’s like to not look and feel attractive, and face judgment due to my hair loss. I did not want other women with this problem to go through the same thing so I started designing and manufacturing custom hair systems.

What did you do before you started Le Metric hair loss solutions?

I’ve been involved in the beauty business for quire some time. Prior to LeMetric, I worked at Revlon in NYC as a makeup artist. That’s where I met Marvin! Later, I moved back to Buffalo to help my father with his construction business.

What is Le Metric’s mission?

LeMetric is devoted to changing women’s lives by helping them with hair thinning or hair loss. We do not allow hair to paralyze our lives. LeMetric’s hair solutions manifest the confidence and inner beauty within all women.

How have you seen your clients change over the years?

Every client who leaves my shop walks away with an exuberant confidence! Their hair changes their mood, their esteem, their life!

Are FOF women paying more attention to their hair?

Absolutely because the changes in their hair are more apparent. Even if they are not big on changing their hair, they definitely want to maintain it.

How important is hair to a FOF woman?

For most women, your hair affects your confidence at any age. As we age, so does our hair. Our hair loses body and begins to thin, so each hair gradually begins to take up less space on our heads. We can’t grow hair the way we used to at 25, so we have to take extra care of our hair. Whatever your age, your hair can still look wonderful, if you do the right things.

What’s the advantage of real hair vs. synthetic?

This depends on the person’s lifestyle. If she is looking for something fun, short-term, synthetic might be right for her. If she’s looking for something long-term, that she does not want to change often, then real hair is a better fit. In addition, real hair will certainly last longer and you can do more to it (LeMetric’s hair can be cut and colored). Synthetic won’t last more than a few months and will need to be replaced. The amount of money you spend in one year replacing synthetic hair will be the same you spend on one piece with real hair that you will use over a few years. Spending on real hair is actually an investment!

What makes your hair pieces unique?

Our hair systems are manufactured with the finest quality European hair, using only natural fiber materials. We do not use glue, bonding or fusion. We offer non-invasive, undetectable, permanent or semi-permanent hair loss solutions. Each hair system is custom to the client’s hair color, texture, density, length, style and particular hair loss needs.

How long do they last?

Approximately two to three years if it is properly maintained. Each individual strand is sewn in to the custom-designed hair solution one at a time, creating a system that can be integrated into your existing hair either permanently or semi-permanently. For women with alopecia totalis or those who have undergone chemotherapy, we have water-soluble attachments as well. Unlike extensions that need to be replaced every few months, LeMetric allows your hair style to be changeable. You can switch up the color or cut.

Are most of your clients from NY area or have you seen a growth in business from women outside of NY?

Our clients are from all over the country. Those outside NY come in for a consultation for a customized piece, and we help find a salon that will maintain their hair in their area.

What are five things a woman must always do with her hair to keep it looking great?

1. Get a trim every 4-8 weeks
2. Wash your hair more often if you have oily hair.
3. Always condition it.
4. Limit use of harsh chemicals (relaxers, perms, etc.)
5. Have a good eating diet. Hair is part of protein!

Meet Sandy Knox

Location: Nashville, TN
Age: 54
Marital Status: Single
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, North Texas State University

Don’t ever tell Sandy Knox that she can’t do something. After enjoying a successful career as a songwriter, writing hits for award-winning artists like Reba McEntire and Dionne Warwick, she released her solo album which she titled, “Pushing 40, Never Married, No Kids.” When her CD attorney told her she couldn’t put her age on her album, Sandy decided she would release it under her very own record label.

“The attorney had given me so much grief about the age reference that I named the label Wrinkled Records,” says Sandy. “The record came out, and it was critically acclaimed.”

Currently, Wrinkled Records has four signed artists, including five-time Grammy award winner, BJ Thomas, who is known for hits like “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” His latest album will be released under the Wrinkled Records label in Spring of 2013. “We’re doing a laid back acoustic version of all of his greatest hits, with guest artists. It’s going to be like I had a party and all of these wonderful musicians like Vince Gill and Richard Marx and Keb Mo happened to be there and we all just decided, let’s perform some of BJ’s hits,” Sandy says.

When did you first become interested in songwriting?

I started writing songs when I was very young. I was drawn to music from when I was five years old. I joined choir when I was eleven. My parents were both music lovers and we had a lot of music in the house. [It was] really an eclectic music collection my parents had.

What did your parents do?

My mother was a housewife, prior to that she was a runway model. My father was a chemical engineer.

What was your childhood like?

Because of my dad’s job, we traveled a lot. We lived in St. Louis, New Jersey, Atlanta, Madrid and Paris. We settled in Houston when I was eight years old.

Do you have any siblings?

Two older brothers.

What was your big break?

There were many little breaks along the way that were affirmations that I was on the right path. One of my first big breaks was getting a deal with a publisher in 1991. I had a written a single for Dionne Warwick and that same year called “Where My Lips Have Been,” and I had a song, “He Wants To Get Married” on the Reba Mcentire album “It’s Your Call.” She did it live in her act for quite a while, and it put the spotlight on me, so the next time Reba was pitched one of my songs it was a song called “Does He Love You,” and it went on to win her a Grammy. It was number one on the Billboard Country chart.

Did you ever spend time performing your songs? Or were you strictly a songwriter?

I did sing. I had twelve years of voice lessons and in 1990-1996 I had a ten piece band that I performed with for about six years called Sandy Knox and the Yummy Butt Cabana Boys featuring the Love Bitches. We had a lot of fun. We performed a lot here in Nashville and it was always packed, standing room only. I’m a songwriter who can sing but I haven’t chosen to really pursue it because it’s a very hectic lifestyle. I’m a homebody, don’t like to travel that much, so I opted out of going down that road.

Sandy performing with Glennie Scott in 1982

What happened after you started Wrinkled Records?

I left Nashville for eight years and went back to Texas because I was feeling the need to be closer to my parents in their golden years. I chose to live in Austin because it had a music scene, and it was only a three hour drive to where they lived. I taught a class at the University of Texas in Songwriting for about 8 years, and the label went dormant. When I moved back to Nashville in 2006, I ran into my friend Katie Gillon, who had been the senior vice president of MCA records for 29 years, and I jokingly said to her, ‘I’ve got this label that went dormant, we should start a label!’ and it grew from there.

How did you get the label back up and running?

We started the whole process in the spring of 2010. We had to get all the paperwork up to date. A year later we signed our first four acts. The reason it took so long was that we had that big flood here in Nashville, which pushed everything back a couple of months.

How many acts to you currently have signed to Wrinkled Records?

We still have four: Etta Britt, whose record came out a couple months ago in April. She will be on The Today Show this Saturday. We have Jimbeau Hinson, who is a fabulous singer and hit songwriter. He’s a wonderful performer and writer. His whole album deals with his survivorship of HIV. We’re getting ready to release his CD at the end of October. In November we’ll be releasing Buffy Lawson’s record. She’s a 41-year-old, wonderful singer and songwriter. She’s already had a major record deal. Next spring, we’ll be releasing BJ Thomas’s greatest hits. We’re doing a laid back, acoustic version of all of his greatest hits with guest artists like Steve Tyrell, Vince Gill, Richard Marx, Keb Mo, and Sara Niemietz.

Sounds like you have a lot going on! What do you do to unwind?

I get massages, manicures, pedicures, and facials. One of my favorite things is to just power down, turn all the devices off, put on classical music or zen, new age music and just sit there and read. I believe if you’re going to be a writer, you have to read. I also love to cook.

Who has been your favorite artist to work with?

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with so many wonderful people. Reba McEntire is truly one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You’re never going to hear a bad thing about Vince Gill, he’s a great guy. I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Liza Minnelli, and she is also a lovely person, she’s fun and has lots of stories. Working with BJ Thomas this last year and a half has been an incredible pleasure. He is such a lovely family man and a really fun guy to know.

Billy Stritch, Liza Minnelli, Reba McEntire, Marty Stuart and Sandy at the 1993 CMA Awards.

Do you think that being over fifty in your industry gives you an edge, or a disadvantage?

I think it gives me an edge in some ways. The record industry is very youth oriented, but, we’re targeting the baby boomers and their love affair with music. One song from my album is called “Pass the Torch.” I wrote that about a woman getting older, about when you realize that beauty isn’t working for you as much as your mind and experiences are. I’m happy to embrace every line and wrinkle on my face because they’re kind of like badges of honor.

Is that your favorite song that you’ve written?

I have many favorites but pass the torch is one of my favorite things that I’ve written about being a woman and aging.

Tell us about a difficult time in your life that you’ve overcome.

I had a heart attack in April of 2008. When I went to the hospital they could tell something else was wrong. They ran some tests and found out that I had colon cancer. They caught it early. I had to have ten inches of my colon removed. But it’s all good now, everything’s back to normal. I have check ups regularly. There are not too many people that can say this, but the heart attack was a blessing in disguise–because of that, the doctors could tell something else was wrong.

What advice would you give to women over fifty?

I have a different attitude than a lot of people because I’ve survived a heart attack and colon cancer, so I am one of those people that feels like everyday I’m here is a gift. I really mean that, because it could have been a lot different.

Meet Becca Cason Thrash

Location: Houston,TX
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: Fashion Institute of America

As a professional party-thrower and the wife of eCorp CEO John Thrash, Becca may have an unreal life, but she’s a totally real FOF: self-made, hard-working and completely devoted to the charities she champions. We loved getting to know her generous spirit almost as much as we love ogling her collection of couture fashion.

Tell me a little about your background. School? Kids?

I don’t have any kids. I didn’t go to school. I’m very boring when it comes to all of that. I just kind of went straight to work.

How did you start your career?

In the 1970s I became one of the editors who launched Vogue en Espanol. I lived in Mexico for several years, and then I moved to Houston and opened a public relations and special events company. It grew quickly, and I took on a partner, Holly Moore.

You also started Houston’s magazine, Paper City, correct?

Yes. You know how we started? Holly and I were sitting in a coffee shop one day in 1992 and Houston Postage had closed, so the city was down to one newspaper and no decent magazine. We’re thinking, ‘Where are we going to place stories for all of our 17 clients?’

Somebody had left a copy of W lying on the floor, and we looked down and looked at each other and we knew. ‘Let’s just take this and ape it, but for Houston.’ The two of us and a designer did that magazine for the first year and it just grew. I sold out to Holly in 1996. She has extraordinary style and is a wonderful businesswoman.

So are you working now?

I work, I just don’t make money, you know? I’m a glorified volunteer, so to speak—I’m on the board of seven different groups. I’m in my office eight hours a day dialing for dollars for somebody, whether it’s the Houston Grand Opera, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Best Buddies, or the Louvre. I’ve raised tens of millions of dollars over the years for various charities–locally, nationally and internationally—through fundraisers.

You seem to really love what you do.

Well, I have to be honest; I am lucky to have my husband, who is so supportive and encourages me. He recognizes that I love to entertain, that I love to throw over-the-top parties—that it’s kind of my niche, and that it’s valuable.

How did you meet him?

I met him about 15 years ago by accident. People who knew us both never thought he would go for someone like me. He’s very private and I was ready for my next photo op. But we met and fell in love and got married three months later.

Are you still in love?

We really, really are. There’s such a synergy between the two of us. I thank him for my happiness. We just laugh all the time and appreciate one another. And there are so few successful men that are even remotely kind. My husband puts his family and his business partners before himself. That’s an extraordinary attribute.

Your parties have become legendary in Houston. What’s the secret to throwing a great party?

In my opinion, hostesses put far too much emphasis on the décor, flowers and food. I put all my emphasis on the mix of people. You want to have somebody unexpected; someone who might raise an eyebrow, someone controversial. I’ve never understood the country club concept; I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club where everybody was just like me. It’s so much more compelling to have a room full of people who know a few but not all.

My husband has a great line: “All you need is vodka and ashtrays.” People just want to drink and throw caution to the wind. In other words, sit back and let the party take on a life of its own. Mies van der Rohe once said, ‘less is more’ and he’s right. My best parties have been those that I just threw together.

How would you define your style?

Very simple clothes. I like sumptuous fabrics and beautiful, impeccable tailoring. I’ve never, ever had a garment that was not tailored to fit me, whether from a designer or straight off the rack.

I’m also a customer of the haute couture. So it’s not at all uncommon for me to haul off and buy a crocodile coat where the whole back side of the crocodile goes from the top of my shoulder to the floor.

Who influenced your style?

My maternal grandmother and my mother were very chic women. We are really simple people from a tiny town in South Texas, but both of them knew style. My mother always wore a white blouse with a simple black pencil skirt. She thought that less was more.

Do you have a signature item?

Black turtlenecks. Cotton in the summer; jersey in the fall; cashmere in the winter. And I always have a great pair of croc boots.

Signature fragrance?

Arpege by Lanvin. It was my grandmother’s fragrance, and Lanvin of course has a new designer and they have new fragrances, but they still produce this fragrance from the ’50s. I’ve worn it since I was old enough to wear perfume, and I’ll never change.

Where do you like to shop?

Tootsie’s. Mickey [the owner] and I have grown up together. He started off with Goody Two Shoes and distressed jeans before distressed jeans were ever heard of. He was the first person to bring Donna Karan to Texas–and you know how extraordinary that was.

Tell me about a great book you’ve read.

Nemesis by Peter Wolf was quite compelling. It’s about the triangle between Aristotle Onassis, Bobby Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy around the assassination time. It is so footnoted and documented. I’m quite sure somebody will make a movie out of it now that Jackie is dead. It’s not very flattering to either Jackie or Lee, but it’s really something.

Who inspires you?

Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She went to her office every single day in Potomac, Maryland until she physically could not go anymore and that was only three years ago. She lived to help the underdog, not only with forming Special Olympics, but also helping Anthony form Best Buddies. Her sister Rosemary was mentally impaired, and they nurtured her and always, always treated her as if absolutely nothing was wrong.

What’s your beauty routine?

I love Dr. Pitanguy’s line. He’s a Brazilian plastic surgeon. I use his creams morning, noon and night.

Where do you have your hair done? The color is gorgeous.

Perone does my cut and my hair color. He’s the Frederic Fekkai of Texas.

Tell me a favorite restaurant in Houston.

RDG, which is the initials of the owner, Robert Del Grande. It’s been around for 25 years, but it used to be called Annie’s. It’s elegant but relaxed—a beautiful space and run by a great group of people

How do you rejuvenate?

Sleep. Sleep for me is more important than all the creams and all the shots and all the hormones and all the vitamins. This weekend, I never left my house from Friday to today. I slept, I cooked, I read, I organized my closet and I find all that so therapeutic and it’s really very healing, I think.

What is one important thing you have learned in your career?

Don’t take “no” for an answer!

What is one important thing you have learned about money?

You should give it all away. I hope my last check bounces!

Meet Rose Parrotta

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Age: 51
Marital Status: Single
Education: Undergraduate degree from SUNY Cortland

Not one to sit on the sidelines, this year has been somewhat of an anomaly for Rose. After running The Happy Rooster for nine years, she recently sold it and is taking the year to recharge.

What was The Happy Rooster like?

It was an institution in Philadelphia–like an old-boys club. It was there for 35 years before I purchased it, so I changed it. When I bought it, I just put an ad in the paper that said, “There’s a new cock in town.”

Did you get tired of it?

No, I loved it. It was a bittersweet break up. The landlord was going to increase the rent, and my lease was up. It was either, make a smart business decision and sell while I still had something to sell or end up working for the landlord. I put so many hundreds-of-thousands of dollars into somebody else’s building that to continue without getting something in return . . . I thought, ‘I gotta sell it.’

Do you think you’ll go back into the restaurant business?

I don’t know. It’s hard not to think about it everyday. I loved the restaurant business, but I don’t love the places that pay the best. I don’t like the overly large design and all the chef fame. Stop the nonsense. Restaurants should be mom-and-pop places where you can enjoy food. I don’t know if I’m leaning towards restaurants anymore. I don’t know what my passion is right now. Can I tell you in a few months? Actually, I’ll tell you in a year.

Were you always in the restaurant industry?

When I graduated college, I was teaching and bartending. I taught high school health: drugs, sex and nutrition–everything that goes on in the restaurant business. I was offered a general manager position at Apropos in 1987, here in Philadelphia. It was twice the teaching salary, I could be in one place, my son could be raised in a coat closet, it was all too good to turn down.

When did you move to Philadelphia?

It was September of ’86. My son was going to be five. I’m originally from New York; Long Island and Queens.

You grew up in New York, and then you moved to Philadelphia?

Yeah, I bought a house here and ran a business here. Philly has been really good to me but I’m not in love with the city anymore, I miss New York all the time.

Are you married?

No. I have a son, Dylan, who is 27. I was a single parent, and I raised him myself. He didn’t meet his father until he was 24. It was a brief encounter. His father lived in Washington State… I put 3,000 miles between him and I.

What was your life like growing up?

I have five sisters and two brothers. I was a tomboy. Everybody always says, “You have the same parents, how come everybody is so different?” But they all raised us within different times of their lives. My dad was this liberal democrat from Queens–so ahead of his time. He bought me the first Ms. Magazine that came out. Out of eight kids I was his favorite, and I just loved him. My mother came from a Catholic, straight, conservative upbringing. She was more of the ‘sit like a lady, stand like a lady’ type.

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How did your childhood influence your style?

I was totally into black leather my whole life and jeans and flannel shirts. My senior dress for graduation–because my mother insisted I had to wear a dress–was a dungaree jumper. If anything influenced my style, it wasn’t a person, it was rock and roll. My mother was pregnant for 20 years, basically. And I couldn’t relate to my two older sisters at all.

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And what about your style now?

I’m like retro, punk, ’80s. I just missed the hippie era. If I dress up, I tend to be more conservative than you’d think. My work outfit was just a black suit with a T-shirt underneath.

What designers do you wear?

Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens. I know those are not conservative designers, but if I pick something by them it’s a classic piece. My work outfits are more conservative–like a Jil Sander suit. I always say if I were reincarnated I would come back in Chanel suits since in this lifetime, Chanel doesn’t look right on me.

Why do you like shopping at Joan Shepp?

There weren’t a lot of shops in Philadelphia that I felt comfortable in when I first moved here. I remember going into some stores and I felt they were judging me even though I could afford to buy. Then Joan Shepp (the store) came, and there was all this black. I was so psyched. I mean before that, you had to go to Barney’s or Bergdorf Goodman if you wanted to get anything that was a little bit off the cuff. And I met Joan, the owner, personally within an hour of walking in.

What’s your beauty routine?

I wash my face with Biologique and then I switch between Valmont, Biologique P50 lotion or Sicily for my moisturizer.

Favorite lipstick?

I’m not comfortable in lipstick. I can’t put it on without feeling like a whore. But I do wear a natural glaze when I go out. And I can’t do eye shadow.

Signature piece?

This ring. It’s from this jewelry store called Cogdognato in Venice that has been there since the 1700s. But I lost a diamond in the eye. I also had a signature blouse that I wore everywhere. It was the perfect three-button shirt, blue with a fruit pattern and a Peter Pan collar. I wore it with side zip pants. It was one of the few colored pieces I wore and it made me look thin. I paid 25 cents for it from a garage sale but it was made in Paris. At the time, I was so broke and a single parent and I remember thinking ‘’m going to get to Paris some day.’ It started to fall apart and I brought it to Barton Donaldson, a men’s shirt store, and asked them to replicate it. They did it, but ripped the original one apart to get the pattern. I said, ‘You’ve got to sew this back together, I didn’t say you could ruin my shirt.’

Favorite restaurant?

I’m going to give it to Amada in Philadelphia. It’s hard for me really to pick. I would’ve said my restaurant a year ago.

Favorite book?

I loved What is the What by Dave Eggers. It was just so moving from the moment you open it. It’s so sad to see how an immigrant is treated when he comes here.

Signature scent?

Ombre. It’s kind of a mellow, nice and amber-ish.

Workout routine?

I do half-ass yoga. I know the sun salutations; I know Ashtanga yoga, but I don’t do it on a regular basis. I do weights twice a week with a trainer and something aerobic at least five times a week. Otherwise, I run, swim or bike.

Favorite place to rejuvenate?

Rescue Spa here in Philadelphia. I’ve been going to Donna. I’ve been to spas all over the world, and she’s really one of the best I’ve ever gone to. I feel like this whole year has been a rejuvenation.

Meet Geraldine Brooks

Location: Sydney, Australia
Age: 56
Marital Status: Married
Education: Bethlehem College Ashfield, University of Sydney, Columbia University

If experience is the best preparation for writing, few authors can draw from a well as deep and diverse as that of FOF Geraldine Brooks. She grew up in Australia, studied journalism in New York, met her husband in the south of France, covered the Middle East and Africa for the Wall Street Journal, and now splits time—with her husband and sons—between Sydney and Martha’s Vineyard.

Perhaps that’s how Geraldine has become so masterful at immersing her readers in a place and time in history. In her best-selling novel, March, Geraldine vividly imagines Amos Alcott (Louisa May Alcott’s father) during his time as a chaplain in the Union army. Her meticulous historical research, along with her psychologically astute portrayal of shell shock and marriage, won the book the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Geraldine’s most recent novel, Caleb’s Crossing, is no exception. This time, she imagines the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck—the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, in 1665. The book is an illuminating portrait of colonial life, and also a heartbreaking romance that’s nearly impossible to put down.

We stole a few moments with Geraldine to learn about what drives and inspires her.

As a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, you covered the Middle East extensively, and your first book centered on Muslim women. Is aging different for women in Muslim culture, compared to women in the West?

Women in the more repressive Muslim societies occasionally gain more freedom as they age, because they are no longer seen as dangerously sexual beings. So, for example, elderly women can sit with men and join in discussions in a way that would be impossible for younger women. There are also more multi-generational and extended family living arrangements, which makes for a less lonely and isolated old age and allows older women to have a role within the family as caretakers. Later, there are more hands to care for them when they need it.

Your novels seem to have a common thread of being set during times of duress the civil war, the Plague, persecution of Native Americans, wars in Europe; what appeals or inspires you about these times of great suffering?

This is when human nature is most exposed, for better and for worse. I suppose in some ways I am still chewing over the experiences I had as a foreign correspondent, often as a witness to contemporary crises. I use fiction now as a way to revisit and probe some of what I saw in those years.

When you were growing up Catholic in Australia, did you ever think you might end up a Jew in Massachusetts—having converted for your Jewish American husband?

One correction—I did not convert for my husband. I converted because of the history of the Jews. And the fact that Judaism is passed through the maternal line made me extremely unwilling be be the end of the line for a family that had made it through the Shoah, the Russian pogroms, the Roman sackings, etc. But yes, life is full of surprises and many things have occurred that I did not expect. I hope that will continue to be the case.

Your latest book chronicles a Native American student at Harvard in the 1600s—and his relationship with the English settlers in America at that time. What drew you to this subject?

Questions. How did it happen? What must it have been like? The urge to apply an informed imaginative empathy to the large silences and voids in the historical record regarding this remarkable young man and his journey between cultures.

Is there another current author who inspires you or whom you greatly admire? Why?

Bill McKibben, who writes peerlessly and honestly about the fate of our planet in this critical time of climate change.