For the 17th BEAUTYfull post, we honor my own first beauty icon. Just a month away from her 70th birthday, she is truly forever young… and spirited and strong and regal and fabulous and feisty and fun and kind and loving. Our conversation here, not to mention all those in real life, is marked with wisdom and insight. I’ve been stealing pages from her playbook for a lifetime. So I am especially honored for you all to meet (or reacquaint yourself with) my mom, Rosie Cosenza.
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull®
Spread beauty. It’s our mission. And our goal in spreading beauty is that it reaches everyone. We believe beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, features, abilities, sizes, shapes, body types… in all the unique elements that form each of our unique whole. There is a FULL spectrum of BEAUTY and we all exist in it. With our own personal experiences, stories and voices. And with that, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull®.
For our 17th feature, we introduce to you… Rose Joan Cosenza.
THE 17th SUBJECT: Rose Cosenza
My mother Rose is a baby-boomer born in Brooklyn, New York (also where me and my son were born — #MADEINBROOKLYN!). Her grandparents on both sides came from Sicily in the early 1900’s. They decided to move out of Manhattan after her father’s father was caught in violent crossfire and left for dead on the street. He bought a two-family house in Bensonhurst where they all lived. Her mother was beauty-school graduate who worked as a beautician and hair dresser in Manhattan. While my mom would have dominated in the beauty field herself, she pursued what her mother advised was a better, safer, more family-oriented career as a school teacher for the city of New York. Rosie taught mathematics in Brooklyn and Queens for 37 years, ending her career as the Dean of Discipline and the Mathematics Coach (teacher mentor). While she found the work fulfilling and connected with and cared for her students, she also appreciated the family time it afforded her over the years.
She is currently LOVING retired life, alternating between Florida and New York, playing golf with my dad and mahjong with her sister and girlfriends. More, she is radiating pure joy as she takes on the grandma title, as a new grandmother to my 9-month old son Javier.
Rosie has the energy and passion of a teenager and as she’s grown older, she is even more beautiful inside and out.
My mother has a rare blend of self-assuredness and humility. She has confidence on lock and is a firm believer in self-care.
THE INTERVIEW: Rose on the beauty of the mind, the effects of trashing other women, and not only coming to accept but also be proud of what makes you unique.
What appealed to you about the BEAUTYfull project? Why did you want to participate in the series?
I enjoyed reading the series and was thrilled to be asked to participate. The women who were interviewed were all inspirational in overcoming the insecurities of their bodies and feeling confident about what makes them special. I know I was very self-conscious about my body growing up. Still am! This is a chance to self-examine and see who I really am. What makes me more confident and what makes me unique.
Where do you think you got your cues about how you “should” look?
I got my cues from my mother. She was in the beauty field and always looked glamorous to me when she went out. She dressed well and carried herself with an air of complete confidence. I loved going through her closets and touching all her evening gowns. This was the era of sequins and formal attire. She would go cruising with my father on the United States lines with trunks filled with dresses and gowns. Every night they dressed formally for dinner and dancing. I wanted to look as glamorous and elegant as she looked.
As a teenager I was addicted to reading the celebrity magazines. Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren…they were goddesses!!!
What have you felt pressure to change or alter, or have you otherwise struggled with or felt insecure about physically?
My weight has always been a concern growing up. Italian grandmothers like to cook!!! Since I lived with my Dad’s parents, I had the luxury of great food 24/7 and loved it!!
My father on the other hand was not a fan of overweight children!!! I was always worried that I would displease either my grandmother or my dad. To this day I remember my dad and grandmother arguing about overfeeding me.
Can you describe the idealized standard of beauty for women as you see it today. What does the perfect woman, as defined by entertainment and advertising, look like?
Today, beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, and ages. I don’t see only one type. How the media presents beautiful women does not interest me anymore.
Wow. When did that shift (of rejecting media standards) happen?
After college I became a NYC secondary school teacher. I taught in Brooklyn and Queens. Interacting with all types of people made me aware of the different aspects of beauty, inside and out. As a teacher I met thousand of children and adults. They came in all shapes and sizes. Each year I was able to get to know them and appreciate their beautiful faces and minds. The media only presents the surface of a person. That to me is too boring and flat. My students let me see their minds and that was so much more than what the media shows us.
How do you think most women compare to and feel about the media’s standards of beauty?
I hope most women ignore these supposed standards of beauty!!! Why should the media dictate how you feel about yourself? We are all beautiful in our own way. We are all one of a kind.
You mentioned being self-conscious about your body but you’ve always been incredibly confident and have never been one to care about what other people think about you. I am so grateful that was my example to follow as a young girl. Do you think it’s possible to not care about others opinions but also be self-critical?
Yes. The standards that I apply to others are not the same as I apply to myself. My parents always wanted me to be perfect, and since I wanted to please them, I tended to be hard on myself.
You are definitely a perfectionist. I always remember when we were little kids you going to bed in gym clothes to make sure you would get a workout in first thing in the morning.
Going to bed in gym clothes and getting up at 4:45 to get to the gym by 5am every morning was definitely something my dad would like. He was such a spartan!!
Is being a perfectionist a burden though – or is it both good and bad?
Both good and bad. Striving toward perfection is good as long as I realize attaining it is impossible. It’s the journey that is important.
You talked a little about your mother. Grandma was not conventionally beautiful for those times yet she was very strong and very confident. What do you think gave her that confidence?
I think as a third child she was sometimes lost in the shuffle, but that made her stronger and very confident. She was a fighter.
When you were younger, was it important to see women in Hollywood or advertising or music or the modeling world who looked like you? Now that you are older, is representation important to you now?
When I was young I always thought I should look like one of the movie stars from the magazines. Now I am happy just feeling well and being able to enjoy the day and my family. I don’t want to look like anyone else anymore. I am happy being me.
Do you still want to see more women over a certain age in leading parts in movies, securing beauty and fashion ad campaigns, on runways? Does this matter?
I think women my age [a month away from 70] and older should be represented in the beauty and movie industries. We have a lot to offer and contribute. It is important to feel included and respected.
In mascara ads using fake lashes there has to be a disclaimer saying there are lash “inserts” applied. Do you think for wrinkle creams and anti-aging ads, it should have to say if the model is, for example, under 25?
25 year olds don’t need anti-wrinkle cream!!!! 80 year olds should be doing those ads. I think it is ridiculous!!!!
What do you love about yourself physically? Why?
I love my smile. I used to be so self conscious about my teeth – a space between my two front teeth – that I never liked to smile. Now I know the space is part of my uniqueness and not a flaw. I have learned to accept myself and be proud, not ashamed of, who I am. So now I can smile, especially when I am with [my grandson] Javi. I cannot not smile when I am with him!
Do you feel uncomfortable talking about what you love about yourself?
I am not used to talking about myself. It does not come easily for me. I was brought up to be meek. Especially being a woman, it was not proper behavior to draw attention to oneself.
Growing up you never trashed other women’s appearances, you never gossiped about the way they looked… their figures or their hair or makeup or their outfits. I heard other moms do this, especially after leaving parties in car rides home. You just were not interested and still aren’t. I love this about you. How did you become this way?
I try to see the good in everyone. We all have our faults, but that is not the total picture. If I see the good and not the bad in people that makes me feel good about them. I like to think that way. Maybe the nuns taught me well after all!!!
Trashing drains us of positive energy and I need all the positive energy I can get.
Right now I am in a good place. I have a great family and friends. What else is there?
What is your current beauty regimen? Has it changed over your life?
When I was young I hardly did anything.
At this age, I have very dry skin so I must moisturize every day. I also use sunblock as soon as I get out of the shower.
I try to get facials a few times a year.
You always avoided the sun as far as I can remember. The opposite of me, a recovering sun worshiper. How did that come about and what are your feelings on sun exposure and sun care?
Growing up in a Sicilian family you would think I would tan beautifully. Not me. I was pale my entire life. If I tried to sunbathe, I burnt and blistered. The only color I got were freckles. So I try to be careful with sun exposure and wear sunblock over my whole body all year round. If I go to the pool or beach in Florida I always wear a hat. I envy people who can tan but I fear that is not me and I want to protect my pale skin from skin cancer. I am even beginning to like my skin color!!
You’ve had every shade of hair imaginable (in the natural range) from platinum blonde to honey blonde to strawberry blonde to fire engine red to chestnut brown to jet black. What inspired you to be so fearless in the hair color department?
I treat hair as an accessory somewhat like hats, which I love to wear. I change colors to reinvent who I want to be at the moment. My mom was a hairdresser and I was fascinated when she changed her hair color. It seemed natural to want to do the same.
When do you feel beautiful? What makes you feel beautiful?
I feel beautiful after I get hair or makeup done. For a fleeting moment I am Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn!!!
When don’t you feel beautiful? What makes you feel not beautiful?
I don’t feel beautiful when I am sick and bedridden. I cannot look into the mirror.
Do you think beauty evolves and grows as we age? Or beauty fades?
Beauty definitely evolves with age. We look different from when we were 20, but I like who I am and feel more confident of myself than before. I am in a much better place. I am happy inside and out.
Who is beautiful to you?
My children and my grandson.
What is beautiful to you?
For more BEAUTYfull interviews, click HERE.
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and owner of DIVAlicious® and BEAUTYfull®, a brand consultant and ambassador, a creative director and strategist, a published contributor and writer, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines and most recently serving on contract as Creative Director, Beauty for Bustle.com/BDG brands.
Lauren’s site gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be unapologetically fabulous as fuck (#sorrynotsorry). The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, motherhood, fitness and wellbeing.
Stephanie Stanley (or Stephania, as her Greek family calls her) is a New York City-based advertising and editorial photographer who specializes in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work can be found on ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, TODAY, DailyCandy, and TeenVogue. Her client list includes Levi’s, JCPenney, Clean & Clear, Microsoft, Olay, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Garnier, TRESemmé, Estée Lauder, Nexxus, GAP, Secret, and more.
Stephanie holds an MFA in Photography from Parsons and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and puppy, Ophelia, where she can be found running along Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoying chocolate croissants from the local Italian bakery (typically in that exact order).