Review Fix Exclusive: Q & A with ‘Look Book’ Author Erika Stalder

Review Fix chats with Erika Stalder about her book, “The Look Book” and what the future holds.

Review Fix: What was the inspiration for the book?

Erika Stalder: A few things inspired me to do The Look Book. First, I really wanted to celebrate amazing women from the past 100 years and introduce some icons of decades past to today’s teens. In addition to talking about who these women were and what beauty look they made popular, there’s a feature in the book that lists each icon’s essential works–so if a reader is drawn to a particular icon, she can explore her films, books, paintings and life work and hopefully be inspired by her in a way that motivates the reader to engage in her own artistic or entrepreneurial endeavors. That’s part of it.

I also wanted to do a beauty book that wasn’t preachy or full of “do’s” and “don’ts”–but one that was just full of “do’s”–something that would motivate a girl to try lots of different looks. Everything I write for teens has a “just try it” vibe to it and I wanted to extend that into the world of beauty. It doesn’t matter what you’re seeing in magazines or on the red carpet right now. Just try a little bit of everything and see what fits best for you.

Finally, I wanted to put something out there that was inclusive and easy to execute. And I think the best part of this book is how easy and achievable each look is to do. I worked very hard with celebrity hair and makeup artists Cameron Cohen and Christopher Fulton–and my editor, of course– to make everything in the book is easy to do. You don’t need a lot of products. You don’t need a ton of bathroom time. You certainly don’t need expertise–believe me-I was the litmus test for this; I’ve done every look in this book successfully and before writing it, I had never even attempted a smoky eye!

Review Fix: How much research went into it?

Stalder: Oh, man. There was so much research to do. It was such a daunting task, that I hired an intern, the amazing Megan Fischer-Prins, to help sort through read hundreds of articles per icon and extract the smallest details about exactly how Twiggy drew on her Kewpie Doll lashes, for example.

Unmining who brought a certain look to the forefront of fashion seemed like an endless quest, in some cases. There were some looks I knew I wanted to highlight, like the cat eye, for example. But finding the right icon for that look took tons and tons of research. Women have been wearing some version of the cat eye since Cleopatra’s day, so there was no singular icon for the look–like Farrah Fawcett and her winged hairstyle, for example–that lead me to one particular woman.

So for the cat eye, I had to look at beauty icons from the past 100 years and find out who wore the look as her signature. There were a handful of women who fit the bill-many from the ’60s when the look was super popular, but I chose to highlight Angelina Jolie, because she not only wears it religiously, she wears the centuries-old look in a very modern way. That this jet-set woman with a brood of kids,a robust film career and a ton of humanitarian work under her belt can rock this look shows that it isn’t difficult or time-consuming to achieve. If Ms. Jolie, who I imagine is wildly busy, can find time to draw a clean little cat eye, why can’t the rest of us.

Review Fix: What was the editing process like?

The editing process was challenging, simply because there was so much information to include in such a little space. In many cases, I’m introducing a beauty icon to a new audience (a teen might not know who Edie Sedgwick is, for example) so I needed to talk about this woman’s life (Edie was this downtown “it” girl and wild-child darling of the ’60s  NYC art world who palled around with Andy Warhol and established a very unique look for herself which included fierce, raccoon eye makeup), and what she contributed to the world both in a beauty sense and a larger, pop culture sense,  then try to capture an essence of her spirit for readers and relate her beauty legacy back to today (Taylor Momson carries the raccoon eye torch and is someone who teens know and may relate to). And this had to be done in just a few hundred words. Kinda tricky!

But as challenging as that was, editing the instructions turned out to be surprisingly tougher, somehow. I was lucky enough to work with fabulous contributors, Cameron Cohen, a makeup artist in LA who has worked on Miley Cyrus and Ashton Kutcher and Christopher Fulton, a hair stylist and makeup artist who has worked with Jessica Alba, Usher and Christie Brinkley–who is actually one of the icons in the book! They explained how to achieve every look in the book. From there, my editor, Karen Macklin, worked tirelessly with me to make the directions as precise, simple and direct as possible. In the end, it was worth it-every look is easy to do because of how simple the steps are presented. Anyone can do these looks.

Review Fix: What did you learn about fashion from writing this book that you didn’t know already?

Stalder: I learned so much. Much of what I learned made it into the book, like when Iman started modeling, there weren’t foundations and concealers to match her skin tone. She would mix her own and of course, went on to start a global beauty brand for women of all skin tones. It was also fun to learn about icons from Hollywood’s golden era. I had no idea that Marlene Dietrich was such a trailblazer in the beauty field. She was in TOTAL control of her image and and did her own makeup to guarantee she always looked best. She developed techniques that makeup artists still use today–like painting a thin line down the bridge of the nose to make it look narrower (today, we do that with highlighter, a product that wasn’t around in the 30s and 40s). She also sucked on lemons to plump her lips before a shoot, which, of course, is a great natural alternative to scary injections and the overblown, Lana Del Ray look.

Then, there were other things that I learned that didn’t make it into the book, but were mind-bending for me. When Christopher Fulton and I talked hair, for example, he explained the steps women take to straighten or otherwise care for kinky hair. It’s a long, expensive and sometimes dangerous process (women can end up with burnt scalps and hair loss). He specializes in styling kinky hair and is very dedicated to doing it in the healthiest way possible. He recommends that women with kinky hair deep condition it once a week by wrapping conditioned hair and leaving it in overnight, for example. And we talked about the right ways to relax hair (using a conditioning lye relaxer, for example)–all kinds of stuff I had no clue about. A lot of that conversation didn’t make it into the book because it didn’t fit the format, but there’s a whole other book that can be written on styling kinky hair alone! In The Look Book, we feature some hairstyles with step-by-step instructions written for girls with kinky hair–I’m extremely thankful to Christopher for telling us how to style hair not only beautifully, but safely.

Review Fix: Out of all the looks, which one is your favorite?

Stalder: Unlike most of the icons in this book, I don’t have a firm and established signature beauty look, so it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite. I like to dabble in different looks and try different thinks depending on my mood, outfit and the occasion. I have to say though, I love the rough-and-tumble bedhead look that Brigitte Bardot made famous, the velvety lips that Lauren Bacall wore and the ethereal makeup that Uma Thurman wears so well.

Review Fix: Which one is the easiest? Most difficult?

Stalder: Overall, the hair styles are a bit more involved than the makeup looks and that’s simply because styling greatly depends on the texture, thickness and length of your hair. But I was surprised to find that the “no makeup” look that Kate Winslet is known for, and that Bobbi Brown built her company around, takes more time and products than many others in the book. It’s a good reminder that when we see these gorgeous celebs on the red carpet looking natural and flawless, they’re probably wearing a ton of product!

There are so many easy looks in the book. All the lip looks-from glossy lips to juicy red lips to the perfect nude lip and all the cheek looks, including pinched pink cheeks, take less than five minutes to achieve. In fact, nearly half of the looks in the book take five minutes or less, so even though a look can appear intimidatingly flawless on others, many times, it’s quick and simple to do.

Review Fix: Any looks not make the book that you wanted to?

Stalder: Because I focused on the looks first and the icons second in most cases, most of the looks I felt should be featured did make it into the book–even the non-traditional ones like face ornamentation and face tattooing. There were icons that I would have like to have featured–women that I admire and would have love to have included, like Vivienne Westwood, Diane Von Furstenburg and Patti Smith, to name a few. They’re such strong, amazing women, but it didn’t make sense to include a dye-your-hair-firey-orange a look (a la Vivienne Westwood) or a bare-faced look (like Patti Smith)–there would have been no makeup (maybe just skincare?) instructions! When doing my research I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t much written about Asian women and American beauty. China Machado was an inspiring woman who I would have loved to include, but she didn’t stick to any particular beauty look.  Beauty being defined by just one look or skin tone feels so archaic. I’m happy to see the current surge of Asian models and designers dominating fashion right now.

Review Fix: What are you working on next? 

Stalder: Right now I’m working to launch a site for teen girls. It’s scrappy in spirit and a very accessible place on the web for teen girls to act from their gut and try new things. It will feature advice from women in their 20s and 30s who are killing it in their fields and doing what they love–so if a girl wants to check out DJing, for example, DJ Roxy Cottontail will tell us what we need to get going and what it takes to do it professionally. This kind of content will be peppered with articles and posts on fashion, beauty, dating–all topics I’ve written books about. I have a bunch of teen writers working with me to create an honest and energetic online space—-where readers are encouraged to try different looks, interests and activities with absolutely no judgment. It’s experimental, playful and fun, just like the spirit of The Look Book.

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 9849 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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