She Draws The Line
by Lauren Long
Laura Mercier is on a mission to help American women feel good about getting older. A French makeup artist who has worked with celebrities like Madonna, Mercier believes we need to embrace our mature beauty.
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"Because I am French, my mentality from birth has been to appreciate beauty everywhere and not because it is young and perfect," says Mercier. "I have never thought beauty was only associated with the young."
It seems the older American women get the more confidence we wield in business and relationships, but the less secure we feel about our looks. "I find [American] women even more scared of aging," observes Mercier. "I see more than 100 women a day when I do personal appearances and among 100 women, you know what? Not one will say 'I feel great. I look great.' "
We're sabotaging our sex appeal with too many hang-ups and too little self-esteem.
"I think this country is insane on the matter of beauty ideals," Mercier says. "It drives me crazy and I swore I would go into battle against that mentality. I don't want women to get depressed because they are getting older or because of the fear that your husband will leave you or that society will push you away."
It's different in Europe, she says. Confidence, sensuality, character and personality play a bigger role in beauty. "A woman accepts that at 50 she is a gorgeous woman who still has sex," she says. "Her children are gone and now she can have fun and still attract people socially or intimately. She feels herself to be a beautiful woman, and it translates into her expressions and her attitude."
Every decade should bring wisdom and joy. You should feel better and better in your own skin. You have to grow to love your wrinkles, says Mercier, because they give you expression and character. They tell a fascinating story about the woman you are.
Mercier's story is this: a former artist, she moved to New York City from France in 1985. In 1996 she launched her own line of cosmetics. A line of skin-care products followed in 1999. Earlier this year she released a video, Flawless Face, in which she demonstrates her tips for applying perfect makeup.
The right cosmetics and technique help, but Mercier doesn't think women should rule out a little laser surgery or collagen injections to make wrinkles less obvious or to make skin look more youthful.
What she wouldn't change is the character that the years have given her beautiful face. "I will never have a facelift," she asserts. "I would do something subtle that doesn't touch any feature. But I am scared to death not to find myself anymore, not to find my expression," she says.
It is expression that makes celebrities like Madonna, a past client of Mercier's, sexier at 42 than she was in her 20s. "Madonna is great," says Mercier. "She is very smart and demanding and knows what she wants."
Mercier is also a fan of Susan Sarandon. "She looks so sexy and is a tremendous example of a woman aging beautifully who has the same sex appeal as when she was younger."
And Mercier admires the way actress Meryl Streep is aging naturally.
"These women are very smart," she says. "They each have a special face and don't want to lose that through surgery. They are more focused on character and personality than looks."