Welcome breast cancer sisters, family and friends. We hope to make this chapter of your life a little easier, treatment less difficult, help families cope, provide inspiration and guide you to a new place of strength and purpose.

Skin Cancer, Fashion and Women Over Forty

Sandy Linter, Brenda Coffee, Lois Joy Johnson

I don’t know what I expected before I met Lois Joy Johnson, one of the founding editors of MORE magazine, but I was a bit wary. Perhaps it’s because I’d seen The Devil Wears Prada. If you haven’t seen the movie, Meryl Streeps’ portrayal of the ruthless, cruel fashion editor made me wonder if other high profile editors had some of the same characteristics, plus what does one wear to meet a woman who’s spent much of her life developing and producing beauty and fashion features? Nearly immediately, however, my qualms were put to rest. Lois Joy Johnson is one of the dearest, most approachable women I’ve ever met. A couple of weeks ago, we sat down in a Texas mall to talk about Makeup Wakeup, the new book she’s co-authored with makeup artist, Sandy Linter. We also talked about skin cancer and women of “a certain age.”

BC: “It must have been frightening when you were diagnosed with skin cancer.”

LJJ: “Well you find out how vain you are. You’re in your 50s; you’re a beauty editor and you’re having Botox, which is a vanity procedure, and you suddenly find out you have a basal cell carcinoma right in the middle of your face and you think, ‘Oh, well, we’ll just scrape that off and I’ll be fine.’ But then I went through Mohs surgery (microscopically controlled surgery) and I ended up having this whole part of my nose removed. They take a little; they examine it; you go back again; they take some more. I ended up in bandages, going to beauty events for three months, feeling like the ugly stepchild, but I kept saying nothing matters as long as I can have a nose again. Ever since, I’ve been pretty cavalier about a lot of things, but I do think it’s so important to wear sunblock everyday. I used to really be a Botox junkie, and two years ago I thought, ‘Should I get my eyes done’ and then I thought ‘You don’t need to get your eyes done. You’re healthy. Be happy.’ Cancer really rearranges your priorities. It makes you grateful for good health and encourages you to take care of yourself so that you’re healthy going forward. It’s great to look beautiful. We all want to be forever sexy and attractive. We’re the first generation of women in our 50s and 60s who look this way. I have nothing against cosmetic surgery or dermatological procedures. I think it’s wonderful to have the options. It’s more important to concentrate on nutrition and fitness and keeping healthy.”

BC: “Your experience with skin cancer and taking care of yourself comes through loud and clear in Makeup Wakeup, your makeup and beauty guide for women over 40. Because you and Sandy have such different approaches to beauty, you make it OK on either end of the beauty spectrum. I love that on so many different levels.”

LJJ: “I applaud Sandy for what she does, but we have very different ways of looking at beauty. I’m wearing makeup now, but I’m comfortable on days I don’t wear makeup. Sandy will not leave the house without makeup. For me, hair color is makeup. It’s more important for me to have my roots retouched than to be wearing mascara. I’m someone who’s been in the beauty/fashion arena for 30 years, but I’m comfortable throwing on an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt and putting my hair in a ponytail and going around without makeup.”

BC: “You’re more than someone who’s been in the business for 30 years. You’ve helped set the tone for this generation… how we think about fashion and ourselves.”

LJJ: “I was the beauty and fashion director of MORE magazine, and one of the founding editors 12 years ago. At that time, saying you’re 40 was such a dirty phrase. Advertisers, especially beauty advertisers, didn’t want to know about it. They still don’t want to really know about it, to be honest, which is why we see so little positive imaging of women in their 40s, 50s and 60s in beauty and fashion. I think that’s shameful. I’m a real advocate for women over 40 and now even more for women in their 50s and 60s. This age group can afford to buy luxuries. Why is it that when [they] show a dress, every model wearing it is in their 20s? Why aren’t they choosing models in their 40s and 50s? The models we used to book [in their 20s] are fantastic looking now and would love to work. Why aren’t all of these big brands like Victoria’s Secret using older models? Every woman who shops at Victoria’s Secret is not between 14 and 20!

I spoke at the National Retail Federation in January and my topic was older women and shopping and why the fashion industry is doing such a bad job of relating to us. I challenged the designers, who are in their 60s themselves, Donna Karen, Nicole Miller, Vera Wang… What’s this obsession with youth when the largest, richest segment of the population, who can really afford to buy clothes, are being ignored?

I had the best job in the world because I did both beauty and fashion, and it gave me a real perspective. I look at something on the runway and think ‘Can I wear that? Where would I wear that?’ I still think that way when I look at shows and clothes. There are a lot of women who are fed up with not finding clothes they can wear or finding dowdy, frumpy clothes that someone thinks are appropriate for them. I hate the term “age appropriate.” It really annoys me. Why not make skirts in two lengths, mini and above the knee or to the knee? Why not make shoes in a variety of heel heights so we can walk? We’re being forced into clothes that are being marketed to women in their 20s and 30s.

There’s a real difference in being youthful and looking young. The emphasis seems to be on looking young, not being youthful. That’s where the danger is. I have two daughters. One is 25 and one is 35. I know what 25 and 35 looks like, and I don’t want to look like my daughters. I know I have lines. I have brown spots. My hair is thinner. Hair loss is a big taboo for women. Nobody talks about it.”

BC: “Nobody tells you that you’ll lose the fat pads on the bottom of your feet as you age and high heels will hurt.”

LJJ: “That’s right! I’m so angry that we’re being ignored. I know a lot of designers would probably disagree with me, but I talk to real women all over America. Women fall into two categories: They’ve either given up on themselves or they they’ve gone toward the youth track. That’s because there isn’t anything for us to wear.”

BC: “Why doesn’t Taryn Rose really make more stylish shoes?”

LJJ: “Why doesn’t Jimmy Choo?”

BC: “Have you thought about your own website? You could call it Women of a Certain Age.”

In case you can’t tell, Lois Joy Johnson is a treasure. The only thing better than meeting her is reading her book, Makeup Wakeup, for sale on BreastCancerSisterhood.com. Thank you, Lois.