>> I've never been a beauty product girl, nor am I a big fan of reading books with large pink squares on the front cover. So when Jean Godfrey-June's "Free Gift With Purchase: My Improbable Career in Magazines and Makeup" fell into my lap, I have to say: I was skeptical.
But here it was, with positive NY Times quote on the cover ("witty, confectionary!"), a memoir by and about Lucky magazine's beauty editor. It was time for a light read, so I figured, what the heck.
Jean is pretty up-front right from the start -- on the first page, she admits that she is "not, never was, and never will be a beautiful woman." Her candor snared me. Coming from a woman in the beauty business, which well, thrives on vanity, a flat statement like that seemed very big of her.
Before I knew it, I was drifting along with her through her world of attending "acne breakfasts" and "cellulite lunches." Yes, that's right, she is invited to lunches where she watches a woman, butt-forward, get sonogrammed on the stage in front of her, the purpose of which was to magnify the poor woman's cellulite blobules in case Jean hadn't noticed them before.
Because Jean is so good at maintaining her down-to-earth sensibility, the book is very endearing. She calls things as they are, giggling at the fact that the big annual beauty awards ceremony is called the Fifis, and readily admitting that since "fashion magazines are supported primarily by their beauty advertising, articles about beauty products are always raves and never probing, critical works."
And because she's been in the industry for so long, she has plenty of fun (and left-field) tidbits tossed in here and there. Take: "There’s a designer famous in Euro circles for a rather disturbing predilection for excrement." Or: "I do not know Karl Lagerfeld (not even in my dreams), but I admire him greatly nonetheless because I hear (as in hearsay) he throws out his underwear every day. You know?"
In the end, though, it is Jean's wit that keeps you coming back for more. That and her brilliant way of recounting anecdotes:
A famous supermodel was once introducing her new skin care line. We were sitting on white sofas, facing each other; the products were on a table between us. There was a long, silent moment. “The products look great,” I said.
“This is weird,” she said in a panicked, vaguely threatening tone, waving her publicist over.
“Um, I’m used to being interviewed?” she said, half to the publicist and half to me. “Like they ask me the questions and I answer? I’m not used to, to… presenting.”
And thus, I present you "Free Gift With Purchase." It may not be free, but it is a gift.