Workman Publishing's Beauty: The New Basics by Rona Berg celebrates women's natural attributes, with nary a Cindy Crawford or Claudia Schiffer in sight. Instead, Berg wanted to use real women with ordinary (i.e., everyday beautiful) faces. For many of her models she didn't have to look much farther than her publisher's office.
Ruth Sullivan, Berg's editor at Workman, said that once she announced the decision to use Workman employees as models, they were inundated with requests. They set up a "beauty board" in the office, with Polaroid snapshots of about 40 women, and chose the models based on diversity of age, ethnicity, skin tone, hair color and other criteria. Intense competition at Workman yielded models ranging from editor Margot Herrera (who's a working mom) to Patty Berg, a Vermont transplant (no relation to the author), who works in the promotions department. Berg treats each one differently, playing into their physical features and lifestyles.
In an age where youth is coveted, one real-life model had an unusual request. Andra Olenik, a 27-year-old assistant editor at Algonquin Books (which Workman distributes) pitched herself as someone who needed to look older in order to be taken seriously by clients, and it worked. "It's a legitimate, real-woman dilemma," she said. "And I saw it as a way to get a free haircut," she joked, as one who's certainly familiar with notoriously low publishing salaries.
Sullivan said the goal was for "every woman to find herself in the book. As Rona [Berg] says, 'Every woman can be a more beautiful version of herself. We'll show you how.' "
The book hit stores this month and the publisher announced a first printing of 60,000. Berg is embarking on a 20-city tour, with many bookstores working with local spas to host a "ladies' night"