Amid unprecedented trans visibility and just days after former Olympic champion, Bruce Jenner went on National television and came out as transgender, I was asked to join the team at PIX Channel 11 to tell my story as a trans-mom, and the mother of a trans-boy, Penel.
When my child told me at two years old, “Mom, everyone thinks I’m a girl and I’m not. I’m a boy. I don’t feel like a boy, I am a boy, mama.”
I had to stop and listen, do the research, expand my understanding, and ultimately lead with my heart. Transgender people are a healthy, normal and important part of our human condition. And to not see them as such is to deny their civil rights as human beings. It’s that basic. My son is a transboy, I’m a trans-mom and my life is better now that I understand the spectrum of identity.
There was a time in my life when I was painfully uncomfortable with my looks. I felt small and awkward. Boyish and goofy. The polar opposite of pretty. In fact, next to my graceful and womanly older sisters, I wanted so desperately to fade away. Most of the time I did just that, I shrank away from cameras and onlookers and sat close to mama. For many years, I was a voyer to everyone else’s fun at the party.
What I didn’t know at the time was, our beauty is not surface. It literally comes out of us. Joyous, or melloncolly, mysterious, or brazen, shy or roucus – our beauty is first an emotion. It wasn’t until my late 30’s I realized I could use my feelings (a ton of which I had) to ignite my beauty. There is nothing more gorgeous than a woman who highlights the very thing that bubbles up from inside of her. For me it’s enthusiasm – I can’t keep it at bay and thankfully it is the very thing that will keep me forever young and glowing.
Find your mood
When you feel a certain way, jot it down so you can remember it. Keep a journal of what’s going on in your head and heart. Add one more category of Notes in your phone and each time you feel something, type in exactly that feeling. I like to clip pictures of anything that catches my eye, and usually the things that do catch my eye are the very things that resemble my feelings. By the end of each month, my black Moleskine is filled with quotes, photos, even color swatches – things that reflect who I am (or want to be).
Make up and product can be the perfect tool to express your inner feelings. Use them to amplify your emotions (aka, your inner beauty). Take your own ‘black book’ of mood memories, and study it. Once you’ve gotten to know yourself on that deeper level, choose make up, lotions and potions that reflect who you are. In the words of my dear friend, Bevy Smith, “Beauty is what bubbles and pops.”
There’s nothing more moving than to clean up behind your kids (as we do every damn day) and stumble upon something (tucked deep under a pillow) that so genuinely reflects who they are at that singular moment in time. A gentle note of reminder to that lazy tooth fairy who somehow forgot to show up several nights in a row. A crayon drawing of all five siblings in size order – plus an unidentified sixth child grinning from ear to ear. A not-so-nice note about mommy being a Mean-y-Pants and Papa being a Stupid Grownup. A song, beautifully and slowly written by your son – about his grit and endless heart.
Work philosophy: I enjoy going to work with people I truly like. I’ve never really played ‘the game’ in the fashion industry. I always hope people book me because they enjoy working with me and like me as a person. (Being able to sell the product helped too.) But I was never interested in paying the kind of ‘ego games’ that go on in most entertainment industries – models fall into that field. I’ve had great success, but could have probably been even more successful if I had subscribed to that philosophy.
Biggest mistake: Naïveté
A treasured success: My longevity and consistency as a working model. I’m still on a busy schedule after 25 years!
A credit to my success: I’m actually very funny and much wilder than I outwardly appear!
Daily beauty routine: I wash then use an organic Marula anti-oxidant face serum, followed by an organic moisturizer with Damas rose and coconut, Tamanu, and vitamin E oils. Then, a heavier moisturizer with SPF 30. Plus an organic anti-inflammatory eye cream. I wear mascara everyday because I have such thin lashes.
Hair routine: I wish I had more time to spend on my hair. I brush with a Denman bristle brush. It’s made for extension so the bristles are are long and have more space between each bristle, plus the bristles are harder so it really goes through my hair. I use Olio Relax by Kerastase. Expensive but you don’t need much so it lasts forever.
What does beauty mean to you? Being secure in your own skin.
Beauty Mantra: Always wash your face at night, even if you don’t have on makeup.