An Interview with Nadine Haobsh, Author of "Beauty Confidential" – Olay!


Pardon the execrable pun in the title, but I could not resist.

Quite often, your faithful correspodent is sent begging emails by publicists needing to flog product. For the most part, they are badly written novels with plots apparently taken from “How to Be A Successful Chick-Lit Writer.”

To those, I say a firm non. However, sometimes a book will interest moi enough to actually read it (and not just the press release and back cover).

Today we are interviewing Nadine Haobsh, a former beauty editor and author of the blog “Jolie in New York.” At the tender age of twenty-five, Ms. Haobsh has written “Beauty Confidential,” which is both a product guide and a look at the workings of the beauty industry.

The book contains a wealth of helpful information from an industry insider. For instance, the explanations of hairdressing terms are simply essential. Even though I have naturally blonde flowing locks, I have oft wondered exactly what the difference between “ash” and “gold” was.

And it was my dear dead friend Lana Turner who first told her daughter, Cheryl Crane, her indispensable beauty secret: “I wash all of my makeup off every night…even when I am so drunk I have to hold on the sink.” I was delighted to see this tip passed on to the current generation. I may be the possessor of naturally creamy skin, rosy lips and thick lashes, but for those less fortunate, this book will indeed be a help.

Ms. Haobsh took a few minutes from her hectic schedule to answer (via email) a few questions about her, shall we say, nonfiction debut. (After all, what are InStyle and Ladies Home Journal if not fiction?)

Q: To start, I must ask, who is the lovely blonde actress frolicking all over your press release? Is she promoting a film?

(Ms. Haobsh declined to answer this question, so I will assume it is some actress from “Gossip Girl”—isn’t everyone on the CW about twelve?)

Q: Your book is clearly aimed at the younger generation. For instance, you refer to your readers as “girls.” But there is the occasional nod to those of us past thirty. Since you are so young, I must ask: why the emphasis on looking youthful? I speak, of course, of the section on fillers and lasers. What, exactly, is incorrect with having wrinkles? Why do you think people are so terrified of aging these days?

A: I tried to write my book for women of all ages, which is why I have a section on fillers and lasers. Lasers, in particularly, are wonderful at treating a variety of problems—they’re not just anti-aging, but excellent for treating acne, redness, pigmentation and scarring—and I believe in arming women with as much information as possible so they can make the best decisions for themselves. Regarding wrinkles, however, and our society’s fear of aging, I think we worship youth too much, and so women who are over thirty –or, hell, even twenty-five in some areas—ahem, Hollywood, ahem— feel like they’re past their prime, which is just not the case. Women get better with age! We become more confident in our skin, we become sexier (as opposed to just *pretending* to be sexy!) and we’ve achieved a certain level of wisdom that shows on faces. I love laugh lines and eye crinkles. A big honking frown line down the center of your forehead, however, is objectively not “looking your best”, and if there are tools out there for you to soften the line, why not go with it? I think as long as you have healthy self-esteem, any small enhancement — whether botox, a filler, highlights, or makeup — isn’t a bad thing. (Editorial aside: perhaps women over thirty should read this book with a grain of salt; otherwise it may increase the “big honking frown lines” down the center of their foreheads. Having them didn’t hurt Bette Davis, did it?)

Q: Thank you ever so much for mentioning the Dove Real Beauty campaign. As a luscious plus-sized woman myself, I applaud their efforts to bring even a trace of reality to the marketplace. It is my personal belief that the use of cocaine-addicted teenagers in fashion and beauty advertising is today’s worst beauty trend. Ms. Haobsh, what do you think is today’s worst beauty trend?

A: I think today’s worst-beauty trend is along the same lines as your view: the promotion of unhealthy and unrealistic images in the media, and the use of overly-thin, overly young models to sell images to women twice their age. Many of these models aren’t even old enough to vote, and yet women of America are comparing themselves to them, and then feeling bad about their beautiful bodies. Who got together and decided that no hips, no breasts, no tummy—no *femininity*—was a good thing? Our bodies are wonderful tools capable of doing amazing things, and I wish more women looked in the mirror and were happy with what they saw reflected back at them. (And, by the way, even the models and celebrities don’t look that good; it’s all airbrushed, anyway. So we’re competing against images that don’t even exist.) (Editorial aside: take a look at Ms. Haobsh’s headshot below. No comment.)

Q: I am not one to pry, but on behalf of mon cher readers, I must ask: what were the exact words your boss used when she/he fired you at Ladies Home Journal? Or had you left LHJ and were then contacted by Seventeen?

A: I wasn’t fired by Ladies Home Journal, but simply had my two weeks’ notice declined after I told them I was leaving for Seventeen. They’d already known about the article; it was the one-two punch of being contacted by the New York Post and then my resignation that angered them. Out of respect for my former boss, who is one of the most talented, kind women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, I won’t go into the specific conversation! Needless to say, I regret letting her down.

Q: A question I like to pose to my, shall we say, thinner interviewees is: how much do you eat in a typical day? Could you outline a typical day’s meals?

A: I love food! I’ll admit, however, that I’m uncomfortable with the emphasis we as women put on it; I feel like it’s coming from the wrong place — not as a celebration, but as an examination, as if there’s something inherently wrong with eating and we’re all naughty children. Regardless, I try to eat healthily: I typically have hard boiled eggs for breakfast, a tuna or chicken salad for lunch, almonds as a snack, and then either sushi (love tuna, salmon and sea urchin sashimi!) or chicken with vegetables for dinner. (Editorial aside: Hmmmm…)

A: Lest this sounds disgustingly healthy, let me just say that I’m writing this with a can of sugar-free Red Bull on the table next to me (so bad for me, I know!), probably drink three cups of coffee and a few Diet Cokes in any given day, and also put Splenda in my coffee. All of this angers my mother—an organic, crunchy granola health type—to no end, and I’m trying to be better about staying away from fake sugar. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but rather, a carb-tooth. Mashed potatoes are my kryptonite – I adore them! I’m non-dairy, however; I simply don’t like the taste and haven’t since I was a toddler.

Q: One must agree with the conclusion of your book, that beauty should be fun. Except when it hurts. But do you ever feel that you are perpetrating a false ideal? Or merely helping women look their best? What are your thoughts? If it is not rocket science, as you say, why does everything cost as much as an M-15?

A: I absolutely feel that I’m trying to help women look their best—and without breaking their banks! Readers of my blog know that I despise the false images that the media is saturated with, encourage women to find the beauty in themselves, and also regularly (more often than not, actually!) recommend drugstore beauty products.

It’s not that everything costs as much as an M-15, it’s that these overpriced products are the only ones magazines are recommending because they have to please their (expensive) advertisers! I believe that department store products are often overrated anyway; most of what you’re paying for is packaging, marketing and advertising. Olay Regenerist is one of the most effective anti-aging products on the market, and I’m besotted by Neutrogena skincare, which I use to the exclusion of the $100 creams and $75 cleansers sitting in my beauty cabinet. More expensive does not equal better, and I try to get that message across, both in my blog and in my book, by simply naming products that are fabulous, regardless of the price. Sure, it can be nice to pamper yourself, but if the $15 cream and the $115 will give you the same results, why not save $100 and treat yourself with something else?

(photo credit: George Bogart)

Ms. Haobsh’s next project is a novel called “The Beauty Expert,” which one suspects will be about a lovely young blonde who becomes a beauty editor. But perhaps not. You can find out more about Ms. Haobsh and her projects, blog and media appearances at

In the meantime, I’m off to slather myself with some Créme de La Mer and have the maid give Bucky a good rubdown with Sheapet shea butter.

Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

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