My apprenticeship with Aida Grey, the godmother of natural skincare, began as my modeling career wound down in the nineteen-seventies.
Aida was a legend in aesthetics, the Grand Dame of Beverly Hills Beauty. She literally coined the term “skincare” to describe the services she was offering women 50 years ago.
Her personal clients include First Lady Nancy Reagan, Their Royal Highnesses Princess Caroline of Monaco, Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands, Queen Nor of Jordan, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Astrid of Norway, Princess Christina of Sweden, Madame Jehan Sadat, Beverly Sills, Jacqueline Bisset, Julie Christie, Peter Fonda and Madonna, to name just a few. In addition to European Royalty, great beauties of the jet set and favorite theatrical and film stars, her wide range of followers also includes professional women from the business world, social leaders, homemakers and their teenage daughters. She is Aida Grey, for more than 40 years the innovative international authority on beauty, and her Institute De Beauty in Beverly Hills is a Mecca for the famous and successful.
Aida had a very keen eye for what was special in everyone. She saw and appreciated the opportunity for beauty in every face, and she connected with the people she met in an extraordinary way. Everyone felt it – animals too! Her skincare and makeup advice was totally adapted to each individual, whom she genuinely honored. And, of course, everyone was totally charmed by her.
Aida pioneered the ‘natural makeup’ look, using custom-blended foundations based on skin type and color. She believed women should look great whether they wore makeup or not – it all depended on the condition of their skin and complexion. She saw I had a talent for this and made me the in-house specialist, a role I enjoyed immensely.
Working with her was not always easy. Over the years I either quit or was fired on multiple occasions. But each time, Aida would call me back – her clients kept asking for me.
One time Aida fired me for not selling enough products, I actually was talking clients out of unnecessary purchases. On my exit interview she did not take kindly to me telling her I was an esthetician, not a product salesperson. I told her I encouraged women to take care of their skin and showed them how to use exactly what they needed, not how to use more and more products.
In a short period of time, as clients learned I knew what I was doing and never sold anything that didn’t work for them, I became Aida’s top makeup artist and actually made the most sales. So when Warner Brothers made me an offer for a lavish position, Aida went into a panic. Needless to say, over the years our relationship flourished and she referred to me from then on as “The Minx.”
We became close friends, and I would accompany her all over the country to teach women how to take care of their skin and create makeup looks especially for them. The most rewarding time was when we went to the women’s jail in Los Angeles to lift their spirits.
Aida became very enamored of my friend and health mentor who was a Zen Buddhist monk and well-known acupuncturist. He helped Aida lower her blood pressure and lose weight through eating well. I would prepare my daily macrobiotic lunch and bring her the same. Within a month she had lost weight and cut back on her blood pressure medication. We were both happy to be eating our lunch quietly in the salon, and I was grateful she stopped asking me to lunch with clients in fancy (but not so healthy!) restaurants.
When Aida invited me to join her as a partner in her business, I realized I wasn’t interested in a business career. I’d begun developing projects for television and film and really wanted to move in that direction. Besides, I knew, if and when I did go into the beauty business, it would have to be using nothing but organic ingredients.
My creative projects were well received and I was able to make a living from them. How they worked out is a story for another day, but they were what caused me to move on from Aida’s salon. Sadly, she passed away shortly after I stopped working with her. I lost a friend and the natural skincare industry lost its godmother.
I’ve been making my own skincare products ever since.