Growing up in a small town, beauty beyond lay in magazines, in movies and posters behind the cosmetic counter at our local pharmacy. The day I saw her, Karen Graham, up there, I felt for the first time, what true, female beauty should be.
I find myself asking, why? What was it about her that mesmerised me so? It might be the idea of the untouchable, ethereal nature of her face, and her serenity . Something mysterious, majestic and elegant about her kept me standing, gazing up. I wanted to look just like her. I wanted Estee Lauder to help me look like her, only back in the day, the range was not for young, gangly girls like me. Back then, you waited until you were sixteen and mum gave the nod for mascara and a little bit of lip gloss. But one could dream, and for me, she was an angel.
At a time when Seventeen magazine promised us dreams of college girls in preppy (remember that word) college clothes, beach and pool parties in Malibu (places I knew nothing of) and the dream of healthy, fit and cool young women had us all dousing our hair with lemon juice and lying in the sun, for hours, covered in cooking oil, just to look like them. Karen was the grown up version, the muse of make-up and glamour. A face of perfect symmetry. Sun-kissed and sexy. There were no stories about her, no gossip, no earthly faults and therein lay the fascination. No earthly faults. Karen, to me was faultless, as all angels were. I did not want to know who she really was, or what she did, and who with, the mystery put her above us mere mortals in a school uniform.
I was not the only one. My friends made excuses to visit the pharmacy too – just to see the posters of her. We saved like crazy to afford, just one, item of Estee Lauder, even though our mums thought it ridiculous to want to buy a grown up range – therein lay the power of advertising. We were sold. We wanted to honour the goddess with her bronze skin, blue eyes and perfect cheeks, in a simple turtle neck, hair tied back lounging in cashmere. Karen looked smart and beautiful.
I think there is something magical about admiring from afar. But knowing that is all it is, a dream from afar, not the sort of stalking and sharing one finds today. I have lost my female wonder for Estee Lauder now – Kendall Jenner holds no allure, not a bit of mystery (the dirty family laundry is obvious and common) and it’s sad no matter what they say, that one of the tabloid dollies represents a Grand American brand. I bow at the Classic Grand Brand.
Wondering how many young women will remember the models of beauty brands today? I remember Karen. I remember begging my mother to ask the pharmacist for the poster, and how I loved gazing at her on my bedroom wall. We need beauty to feed our souls. These pictures still do.