Bribes! Graft! Lip balm!

Beauty director Jean Godfrey-June gives a behind-the-scenes look at the beauty industry.

By Sarah Goldstein
April 13, 2006 9:00PM (UTC)
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At the Fragrance Foundation Awards -- the FiFis for short -- Jean Godfrey-June, beauty director of Lucky magazine, found herself stranded at the Victoria's Secret table. Rather than going home with bags of scented loot, Godfrey-June lamented, "What were they going to lend me, underwear?"

Today's New York Times Styles section profiles Godfrey-June, who has just published her first book, "Free Gift With Purchase: My Improbable Career in Magazines and Makeup." The Times says Godfrey-June's inside look "has the potential to do for Manhattan beauty editors what Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential' did for chefs: expose to public scrutiny the perks and peccadilloes of an insular world."


"Free Gift" is part memoir, part tell-all, "enumerating free three-star restaurant meals, cosmetic treatments, exotic trips and gifts liberally dispensed by publicists to editors who control coverage about makeup and skin care." It sounds like some refreshing cold cream to wipe away the crud of the $200 billion grooming industry, which does a bang-up job of convincing us that we could look younger, tanner, hotter if only we used [insert product here].

Godfrey-June receives between 50 and 250 products a day, but she maintains that free gifts and other "graft" do not influence what she covers in her column. "I try to imagine the real concerns of a person standing in front of a medicine cabinet or at a cosmetics counter, and base primer is the kind of time-consuming extra step I personally just can't take," Godfrey-June told the Times. "You ask yourself, how many products can you put on your face?"

Her column is appealing to readers because of her girlfriend-to-girlfriend tone, the fact that she is honest about her industry -- "nothing from the cosmetics counter is going to erase your wrinkles or dispose of cellulite" -- and because she's upfront about how, despite an otherwise rational worldview, sometimes "a new lip balm can induce Proustian reveries."


As the Times says: Godfrey-June will be reading soon at a Bath and Body Works near you.

Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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