I blame my mother, Robin Leach and Grace Kelly for my obsession with the french. For as long as I can remember, my mother told myself and anyone who would listen how when I first started to speak, I had this tiny french accent. I believe the beginnings of a francophile were rooted right there in that story.
Robin Leach helped my mother out a little later in life. In case I’m showing my age, Robin Leach used to host a little show called “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous“. I LOVED that show. When I was 12, I remember so vividly watching the Cannes edition of the show and they went to a little, midieval village not too far called Eze. I do believe that Eze was my first love. From the cobblestone streets that are too small for cars, to the buildings that appear like they are carved from the mountain, I just wanted to be in that village. I am an unmentionable age now and I still talk about Eze.
Then there was Princess Grace of Monaco. Grace Kelly was an American actress who married Prince Rainier of Monaco. My mother is enamoured by old movies and my mother and I once watched this little movie with Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra called High Society and I truly fell in love with her. I was pretty taken by Grace Kelly’s talent, beauty and her story. She had a cool, aloof quality that I desperately wanted to imitate and later, seeing her on her voyage to become royalty of a tiny french nation filled my teenage head with possibilities of falling in love, being found and taken to be Queen of Paris.
In case you were wondering, it didn’t happen.
Aside from my love of the visuals, there has always been something about a french woman. Her style and grace. Her poise and calm, quiet strength. There was always something, that je ne sais quois that appealed to me about the french. And to them, beauty is an art. A necessity. Not a luxury.
The French believe in beauty and the routine of it. Skincare is a regimen and good skincare is a necessity. In fact, the french woman believes good skincare is more important than anything else (sound familiar?). And as if I weren’t in love enough, the french woman believes firmly in exfoliation. They believe in aging prevention and that includes shunning the sun (angels are singing to me now) and using quality anti-aging serums and creams.
And these women are not exfoliating and hydrating their skin simply to cover it up with makeup. I’ve yet to see an overly made up French woman, though I’m sure they exist. The french believe that makeup should enhance their natural beauty rather than creating a whole new face (oy, I live in Long Island… need I say more?).
This focus on natural beauty extends to the tips of their fingers. A long time ago, I was watching Elsa Klench on CNN talk about french style and she said something about how american the “french” manicure was. My ears perked up when she talked to a french woman who laughed at the french mani and said that she would never be caught dead in something like that. She preferred to have her nails neutral in a sheer shade of pink or beige. And so, the french mani went bye bye for me and my love of Mademoiselle by Essie went into full force. I can’t get away from the french pedi in the summer though.
Then of course there is the art of perfume. For the french, perfume is a signature. Unlike my wandering eye, they have loyalty to one and applying perfume is a sensuous experience. It’s not about spraying and hurrying through it. It’s enjoying the experience and dabbing the scent places you know only one can enjoy.
I think my fixation on the french is more about the way they are able to create this glamorous experience but somehow keep it completely natural. I don’t see phony hair color on a classic french woman but she maintains her hair well. I don’t see a heavily made up woman but I see a woman who is made up well. I don’t see yoga pants and sneakers on a french woman (guilty!) but I see a woman with casual elegance. I love that sense of style, beauty and grace has been handed down for generations – from grandma’s to mother’s to daughters – and I love that cool, distant but warm quality.
Fine. I love the french. What’s so wrong with that? The french brought us Chanel. Yves Saint Laurent. Givenchy. And because I have an allegiance… Clarins. The french brought us crepes. Okay so that’s not beauty but it is beautiful. Do you have a beauty idol? Someone you have in your head as the ideal of beauty? Tell me about it in the comments below!