Monday, 27 February 2012
Last-Year Reads: Eileen Ford's Beauty Now and Forever
I'm not sure how I ended up with a copy of Eileen Ford's Beauty Now and Forever in my hands. I think it was a result of an Abebooks binge after seeing the Ford Models in the 40s photographs and wanting to know more about the lady behind this wildly successful model agency. It turns out she had a lucrative side career in healthy and beauty advice books. This particular title dates to 1977 and offers Eileen's tips from the modelling world on how to deal with the "crisis years" - that is those years of being over 35.
Her suggested answers are quite terrifying and give an insight into just how awful it could be to be a woman in the 1970s. There's a chapter on plastic surgery, there's a cringy chapter on sex (with illustrated exercises) and there some serious finger wagging. She asks, "what happened to the bright eyed girl who was never going to let her husband see her without makeup or her hair in rollers?". What indeed Eileen?
It's a bizarre hot-potch of advice. There's a recipe chapter where each dish is named after a top model - not apparently because they are the model's favourite dishes but seemingly randomly allocated, apparently as her salute to the models "for their continuing beauty as they graduate from Ford to their wonderful lives of today". Behold the Lauren Hutton salad, the Ali McGraw Green Beans and the Jean Shrimpton orange and mint salad. Or try holding down the Tippi Hedren Puree of Broccoli after reading the sex chapter.
Even more mystifying is the quiz to test if life is passing you by. Questions include What do you think of Bianca Jagger? Do you read the financial pages of a newspaper? (Obviously, the answer is that you should because "men love to talk finance and you're left out of many conversations if you can't at least listen intelligently") Have you ever tried TM? (that's transcendental meditation should you need to ask) and do you own a cuisinart? If you took the time to answer this quiz properly, I think you could safely conclude life was indeed passing you by. Truly it made me glad to have missed the 1970s.
The book concludes with interviews with models about how they are finding life over 35 and, oh my god, these beautiful woman make it sound deathly dull: Jean Patchett talks of enjoying bridge and needlepoint, Suzy Parker swims. Only Lisa Fonssagrives seems to come out with any dignity attached but then she did marry Irving Penn and take up sculpture.
In the book, Ford states that "everyone wants and needs to be healthy and attractive. We must make every possible effort to achieve that goal." She finishes with the single question: "why not you?". Aside from having a go with the cusinart which actually sounds quite fun, I finished the book being immensely happy that it wasn't me.