Better than Beautiful: Meet Jamie Brenner!
April 21, 2020
We are so thrilled to introduce you to one of our favorite people, Jamie Brenner... and share what will surely be your next great read from this incredibly talented bestselling author and lifelong beauty product addict.
Jamie and Violets Are Blue founder Cynthia Besteman met through their mutual friend Fiona Davis (you'll remember her from our first installment of Better Than Beautiful). There connection was instantaneous. Jamie was doing research on a book character who was a breast cancer survivor starting a cosmetic line, so she reached out to Cynthia with a few questions. A meeting for coffee turned into many meet for drinks dates. Jamie is a fellow breast cancer warrior, is a ray of sun, a HUGE support, and our inspiration for really focusing on women who are better than beautiful, women who are over 40 and have grown their beauty to something much deeper than the physical.
Jamie Brenner's books transport us to beautiful locations (Sag Harbor is our favorite!) and what better time than under quarantine to be swept away-- not only to new places, but to be introduced to characters we relate to and story lines that engross us! Jamie's books provide the perfect escape.
She spent twenty years in publishing before becoming a novelist herself. She has two teenage daughters and lives in New York City. Her latest novel, Summer Longing, will publish May 5th. You can find her on Instagram @jamiebrennerwrites.
What does being "Better Than Beautiful" mean to you?
Jamie: Being better than beautiful means I care more about having a good writing day than having a good hair day. I only embraced this attitude in recent years and its essential for women in middle age, but it’s just as important for young women. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t love a great lipstick and I’m the first to admit I’m obsessive about nail polish. But these are things I enjoy. Chasing an impossible physical beauty standard is not something I enjoy. We can never fix all of our “flaws,” and we cannot avoid aging. Instead, we should put this energy into our work, our art, our hobbies, our children, our friendships, our partnerships. Being more than beautiful means taking the power back to define what makes us valuable.
Tell us about your favorite Violets Are Blue products -- how do you use them? Why do you love them?
Jamie: The first Violets Are Blue product I fell in love with was the Healing Salve. There’s something about the texture and the scent that just feels so pampering. I started using it at a time when I was recovering from breast cancer and my skin was dry from medication, and this was the only thing that helped. I keep the tins on my nightstand and applying it on my feet and hands is the last thing I do before I go to sleep at night. My skincare routine also revolves around the Ultra Violet Facial serum. A few drops does more than any other facial moisturizer. I have jars and jars of other creams I no longer use. And I just replaced my deodorant with the new Violets Are Blue Magnesium Deodorant. Ever since I had breast cancer I’ve been on a quest to find an aluminum free deodorant I can really rely on and this is it!
When did you realize your worth beyond beauty?
Jamie: I had a mastectomy two months before my novel The Forever Summer published. It was traumatic, but I was able to focus on getting the book out into the world instead of obsessing over my scars. And I realized that although I changed physically, but my writing didn’t change. The most important thing about me didn’t change because it comes from inside.
How do you embrace the concept of aging gracefully, or do you?
Jamie: Personally, it’s been really important for me to find older role models. I am most inspired by women who let their hair go gray or white and don’t inject their face. That’s the route I want to go because I think it looks empowering. I don’t want to chase something I’m losing. I want to run towards the next phase. I spend a lot of time on Instagram and it’s a great place to find boss older women. Look at Iris Apfel or Linda Rodin. They are truly beautiful to me. They are guiding the way.
Is there a beauty or cosmetic procedure, treatment, or product you’ve engaged with in the past that you regret?
Jamie: I regret everything I’ve ever done to cover up or change my physical appearance. I began to notice that when I did things to make myself look “better” on the outside, I felt bad on the inside. I realized that I was invalidating myself – I was telling myself I needed to be fixed. When I stopped doing those things, I felt a hundred times happier and more confident.
What would you tell your younger self with regard to worth, beauty, or aging gracefully?
Jamie: I would tell myself to stop worrying about being pretty put that energy into being accomplished. If I could take back every minute I spent thinking about my skin and my hair, I’d probably have published a book a decade earlier!
We are in unprecedented times. Have you yet been able to gain any silver linings?
Jamie: I don’t know if I can see any silver lining in this current situation. It will probably take some time. I love New York City so much and it hurts to see it suffer. If I had to pick one scenario where I feel most beautiful and most alive, it’s walking down a New York City street. I’m a little heartbroken right now.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you have to take a risk to start or was your talent supported and nurtured?
Jamie: I always knew I wanted to be a writer – definitely from the time I was in elementary school. I remember telling a teacher I wanted to be a writer, and she said, “Well, maybe you can be a teacher.” Becoming a writer was always “unrealistic.” As women, I think we tend to wait for permission to do things. I know I did – for far too long. I took a lot of risk financially to put my energy into writing books and not having a more stable career. This is not my hobby or my side job – this is how I support myself. It was risky to start, it is risky to this day.
Was there ever something that happened to you that at the time seemed so horrible but looking back it was a blessing?
Jamie: Horrible experiences, looking back on them, are still horrible. But I learned something from every single one of them. The bonus of being older is all that accumulated wisdom. I hope it shows in my face.
You can learn more about Jamie Brenner and her books by visiting her website.