It's gonna get sappy up in here.
There are makeunders and then there are MAKEUNDERS.
Jill Zarin, the quintessential, awesomely matchmaking, awesomely advice-giving, forever-above-stooping-to-a-feud-long-over-and-buried original New York "Housewife" actually made me squeal when I saw her "after" pictures. She looks just that gorgeous.
It was early August when xoJane went out to Jill’s Bridgehampton summer home to document for posterity the otherworldly glow of the 48-year-old original "Real Housewife of New York" and now regular contributor to "Good Afternoon America" and fully journalistically capture her near-flawless skin and teenage-like near-celestial essence. (OK, I’m overdoing it a bit -- but seriously, look at that face! To die!)
Using the strict xoJane makeunder credo, makeup artist Nicolae Rita takes everything off her skin, which isn’t much, as Zarin already keeps her face light. Both Nicolae and Zarin are psyched about the idea of going virtually barefaced. That’s our kind of makeunder girl and boy!
Jill’s skin is smooth, even and blemish-free, and she looks natural, and most of all: very healthy. These things are striking in the world of celebrity, you know. Nicolae at first starts to apply too much product, but xoJane gets all hardcore, and we ask him to do less. He obliges. Good boy. Jill is just like you see on TV, constantly flitting around and being fabulous. She’s on the phone with a friend during the shoot, and is explaining how she wants to set her up with a Miami real estate tycoon. She references Russell Simmons several times, and we kind of love her. She is a yenta mensch rock star with chutzpah. Forgive our struggling Yiddish.
Of all the makeunders in the history of the Jane Pratt Makeunder, this might just be the easiest. Seriously. Photographer Lee Clower takes a few shots in Jill’s immaculate living room, and she is adamant that her dog Ginger is included. Very US Weekly! Then she decides that we should all go to her beach club for a change of scenery. Bobby’s son, who is clearly close with Jill, drives all the crew, which includes Jill’s assistant and his girlfriend, and Jill is cracking jokes about showing up with an "entourage" and getting into trouble. She spots an ex-co-star from the "Housewives" (sorry, we can’t say who, aren’t we sneaky!) and they air-kiss and make plans to have lunch soon. She tells her friend that she is doing a photo shoot for "Jane Magazine XOXO." We love it.
On the beach, Jill is completely comfortable in front of the camera -- and at one point even starts directing Lee. A man in a lounge chair asks us to move, and then Jill asks for copies of the photos (including shots of Bobby’s son and her assistant together, wedding announcement style) so she can display them in her home. She is a powerhouse, dude.
Back at her house, Jill asks xoJane to hang out for as long as anyone wants. Her makeup artist responds by stripping off what he's wearing and jumping in the pool, and Jill tells us she has a guesthouse that we “have to see!” Indeed. We follow her through the backyard to what, literally, looks like a pop-up Ralph Lauren shop. Everything is white and seersucker, all-American decorating and all-American fabulous. Very Jill Zarin. And then, just to complete the look, she tells us that Paul her driver will give us a ride back to New York.
We weren’t content with just her pretty mug, though. xoJane asked a ton of nosy questions to find out if she’s happier now than when she was doing Bravo, and to find out exactly how our makeunder differs from her normal beauty routine.
When we asked Jill her normal beauty routine when she does it herself, she reveals just how easy she keeps it. She describes the daily routine as: "Brush teeth, floss, Neutrogena lavender pads," and for everyday, "Christian Dior foundation spray (in a can), MAC Luster Glass (color: Wonderstruck), Bobbi Brown blush, MAC eye shadow (only because of their deep pigmentation), MAC eye pencil in black, Giorgio Armani under-eye concealer, Ardel fake eyelashes, Maybelline mascara, Chanel powder." Nice. Pretty simple to start with.
And for her famous gorgeous Jill Zarin locks? She says, "Kyle at Oscar Blandi does an ombré strawberry blonde process to my hair, and I love the Keratin Complex shampoo and conditioner. The best hair spray is L’oreal. For waves, I like Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray. I always dry my hair first, and then put my makeup on." Total time? "I’m quick. It takes me 30 minutes at the most to get ready."
So what fresh magic did Nicolae Rita, who does hair and makeup for Better TV, concoct to create the jaw-droppingly gorgeous xoJane makeunder we have today?
He says: "It was fun doing something different than the usual complex TV hair and makeup! Jill also looks good without makeup so all I did was highlight her natural beauty.” No doubt. He only used -- and we are dead serious -- concealer for the under-eye area, tinted moisturized for the rest of the face, clear mascara for eyelashes and eyebrows, Vaseline on the lips and cheeks to accent her youthful glow, and a sea salt spray for a beach texturized look which air-dried "while I did her makeup." Here is the blow-by-blow.
1. "I first spent five minute removing the makeup she already had on. Then I started with Clear du Peau Beaute Correcteur Visage Concealer. She only needed it a tiny bit around her nose and her under-eye area."
2. "After concealer, I applied Barely There tinted moisturizer by Laura Geller just to give her a more even complexion than she already has."
3. "I then used Gel Tamer (Laura Geller) on her eyebrows and eyelashes for a clean, fresh look. I was asked not to use regular mascara on her eyelashes!"
4. "I finished her look by applying petroleum jelly on her cheek bones and lips for a glowy youthful look!"
5. "Jill’s hair is naturally straight so I used salt spray by Tigi (Cat Walk) in order to give it more texture, body and volume! The process was simple: Spray, twist every strand of hair with your fingers and let it air dry. Her hair actually dried while I did her makeup and the result was a beachy, texturized wavy hair that was very appropriate for the location of the photo shoot: The Hamptons!"
Total time? "About 15 minutes, including the 5 minutes I spent by removing the existing makeup. Her regular hair and makeup takes me about an hour, and I’m fast! That means concealer, foundation, powder, contour, highlighter, blush, eyebrows (pencil and gel tamer), eye primer, eye shadows, eyeliner, mascara, false lashes, lip liner and lip gloss! Her hair is easy. I either flat iron it straight or wavy using a curling iron and finish by hair spray!"
The Makeunder Interview
Mandy: So you are crazy-beautiful with the makeunder. Seriously. I’m blown away by your natural beauty. But I don’t want to just talk beauty. Let’s talk "Housewives." Tell me something insane and juicy and provocative and headline-getting and controversial.
Jill: You know what? I don’t even think about it to be honest with you. I don’t pay attention to anything going on unless I’m, like, watching "New Jersey," which I’m a fan of. I do watch "New York." That’s the truth. I do. I have watched every episode, and I still speak to LuAnn and Cindy and Kelly, and I run into Ramona here and there in the Hamptons. Listen, we’re all sort of related. The analogy I would make would be when your parents get divorced, you may not be close to them, but you’re always going to be related. It’s funny I’m saying that because my parents are not divorced. My point being that we’ll always have a connection. The original five.
Mandy: What about some of the crazy things I read? You are feuding with Ramona, say?
Jill: A lot of these things come to come from Web sites that don’t get much traffic, and they’ll say anything when someone Googles their blog to try to get traffic. They’re not credible. They all want to be the next Perez. When they stop writing about you, that’s when your career is over.
Mandy: What about the item that you wouldn’t have come back to "Housewives" even if they had offered you a million dollars?
Jill: That’s true. I said that because I wanted that to get picked up. I said that because I was hearing from a lot of my fans telling me that they heard I was coming back, and I don’t want them to be disappointed. I wanted to set the record straight for my fans. Not for my haters. The only ones I really care about are my fans. So when I said that, I wanted that to get out there because it wouldn’t have gotten as much pickup if I just said I wasn’t coming back.
Mandy: You are very, very smart. Do you still get along with Andy Cohen? When did you speak to him last?
Jill: I’m a fan of Andy’s. I'll always be grateful to Andy. It was him who gave the blessing to hire me. We were very good friends. We had a great run. So I love Andy. I think he’s done an incredible job for the network. For my life, it was an incredible gift that I’ll always be grateful for. When did I speak to him last? A week ago. He makes business decisions. And they did "technically" fire me, but it was a mutual decision, I’ll just leave it at that. I wasn’t planning on coming back for Season 5 regardless of whether they asked me back or not. I had already booked a 3-week trip around the world. There were a lot of doors that were shut to me because I was a "Houswife." I never could be doing this "Good Afternoon America" segment. Now they’re open.
Mandy: How is that gig? Are you having fun?
Jill: Yes, it’s my tenth week. I’ve sort of become a staple, a regular, and I’m there when "GMA" needs me, I jump. And I can say that if I was still on an NBC Universal channel, whether it was USA or Bravo, there is no way they would let me do a regular gig on a competing network.
Mandy: Which do you like better? Is one better?
Jill: Well they’re both national. One is about my personal life, but it wasn’t even about me. One is edited, and one is live. One is using my brain and using my opinions, and one I might call "respectable newsworthy television," and the other is reality-edited drama that sometimes doesn’t really reflect how I am. Of course I am well aware that I wouldn’t have gotten A without B. Like, I’ve done almost every talk show on television.
Mandy: That is awesome. What do you think about the current state of reality TV?
Jill: It’s funny because there are a lot of reality people running around and nobody knows who they are. I think most people know who the original "Housewives" are, and for that I’ll always be grateful for Bravo spending so much money on advertising and PR. There was a spread on us in Harper’s Bazaar, I was on the cover of US Weekly, I had a spread in People. The new housewives on the other shows are not getting that exposure. Everything has a cycle. Bethenny told me that years ago. Season 3 would peak, and by Season 5 it’s over.
Mandy: You’re doing Home Shopping Network a lot. Do you enjoy that? Is it better for you now that you’re not a housewife?
Jill: I’ve done that four times. That’s a good example of how a lot of these retailers are not in general embracing reality star products. The Kardashians are the exception. But in general, a lot of people do reality shows, but the thing is: Some people think that all press is good press. I don’t believe that. If I do an episode of "Housewives" and it makes me not look good, it’s not good for my brand. I think it’s a big risk when these women do reality shows. It will give you exposure. That’s the good part. The bad part is what kind. And if people don’t buy your brand, then if they watch the TV show, will they still buy your products?
Mandy: Speaking of your products, one of your best sellers is your shapewear. Is that one of your favorite products?
Jill: Shapewear is the first thing I did in my career after the show started. I own Zarin Fabrics, and we came up with the bedding line. And then I did my dream, which is Sqweez Couture. I came from a background of retail. I majored in retail management, and I was a buyer, and then I switched and became a seller. I got into hosiery, and then I stayed there for eight or nine years, and I had incredible people mentor me. One of my mentors is Jeff Kantor, the president of Macys.com. His wife and daughter are waiting for me in the Hamptons right now. Jeff was my boss at 21 years old. He picked me out of college at the recruiting class. And now my shapewear is in hundreds of retail stores and I’m on HSN.
Mandy: Are there any final total beauty secrets you’d like to reveal to your many fans? Seriously, I want to look like you.
Jill: My secret to beauty is self-tanning. So as long as I have a self-tan on, I don’t really wear makeup. Unless I’m getting dressed up to do TV or a party, I’ll have my hair and makeup done. And when I wear a ponytail, it gives me an instant facelift. I think a lot of people do that. Another tip is the eyebrow, which also gives an instant facelift. There are a couple of really great people. Jim Crawford. Eliza’s Eyes.
Mandy: Favorite self-tanner?
Jill: Oh boy, I love a few. Kiehl White. It turns you tan the next day. It’s a good color, and I like TanTowels. I didn’t always. I think they changed their formula. I also like getting sprayed at home when Beach Bum comes to my house. E! also has a red-carpet product that a friend of mine turned me on to. Half of it is brown, and half of it is white moisturizer. It has two buttons, and it has a dial on top, from light to dark so you can set the dial to see how dark you are going to go.
Mandy: And you recommended Oscar Blandi’s person for hair, but is it really worth the money?
Jill: I just got it done, and I’ve gotten, I don’t know, what, like, 20 compliments. He also does Mariah Carey’s hair. So if he is good enough for Mariah Carey, he is good enough for Jill Zarin.
Mandy: Does your daughter miss you being on the show at all?
Jill: She doesn’t. She never watched the show. She’s not interested in the limelight. She’s a junior at Vanderbilt in film studies, and she may want to be a documentary filmmaker, and I think I have to say that, she won’t admit this, but I think the experience on "Housewives" had to have influenced her in media. But she won’t admit it. She doesn’t really respect a lot of reality people.
Mandy: So honestly, just you and me here, do you kind of wish you were on the show still?
Jill: I would actually say that my stock went up when I left "Housewives." People like the fact that I’m famous but that I’m an established businesswoman.I’m one of the few people who left the franchise and my brand is bigger than ever.
Mandy: So what would you say is your brand?
Jill: I think that they see me as a family person, first and foremost on the show. I have a mother, father, daughter, husband. Everyone saw my mother giving advice to Bethenny. They saw that I’m not perfect, and I think a lot of people, especially with the issues with Bethenny, related to that. Many people have fallouts with friends and want to know what happens because they see themselves and can relate to me. I don’t put myself in a different box than other people. I have time for everyone and am very accessible. I get hundreds of emails a week, and you know what’s funny? I get at least 10 to 20 a day from England. Aviva, one of the newer housewives, she told me she doesn’t get any fan mail. I mean, where are they going to send it? I have a store. I’m very easy to find.
Mandy: Will you absolutely never do reality TV again?
Jill: I will never say never. If it’s going to help my brand: my jewelry, my shapewear. Have you seen my jewelry? Wait until you see it, you are going to die. It’s exclusive in Lord & Taylor, and I’m hosting fashion Night Out for Lord & Taylor with Kim Kardashian on Sept. 6.
Mandy: Wow. That’s huge. What do you think of Kim?
Jill: I know her. I just saw her mom this afternoon. You know I think that she’s a big inspiration to a lot of people, and I think that she’s one of the reasons people are considering doing reality TV is because of the success of the Kardashians. And also the success of someone like me, honestly. I’m the first housewife to ever be in Macy’s. I’m the first housewife to ever get in Lord & Taylor. I’m one of the few that has ever been on HSN.
Mandy: What is selling well for you on HSN?
Jill: I had an incredible show. I sold out a few products yesterday, like my dresses. I’m doing shaper tights that have incredible patterns that are reminiscent of the old Wolford collections. I have a lot of their leggings from years and years ago.
Mandy: And your jewelry is classic in its style too?
Jill: I would say it’s eclectic. I have several collections. I have Chinatown, which has Buddhas and fortune cookies and is really fun. I have Downtown, and that is my really 52-weeks-a-year silver and gold blended mixed. So you can wear it every single day and never have to worry about what you’re wearing. I have Lincoln Center, which are my jewels, what you would wear to the opera. And then I have my Central Park collection, which are my critters. Frogs and monkeys. I did a whole "Hear No Evil" theme. And then I have Upper East Side and Madison Avenue, and my collection starts at $18 if you can believe it. Then the last collection was Runway. That’s what I’ve gotten the most compliments on.
Mandy: So it’s affordable and basic.
Jill: My tagline is that beauty begins with a great foundation. I would say that it is eclectic, classic, colorful and a little fashion forward. I mix and match. I like to go high-low. I’ll wear an Hermes Birkin bag but wear $59 crocodile pumps. I love high and low and pieces that are meant to look real. I have a great Buddha ring that costs $38 but then I love the classics. I was the only person in the room who I recognized that was at the Elizabeth Taylor auction. Bobby bought me a piece there with diamonds and dolphins. I like to say that my brand is "solution-based." I like to complain about things that don’t make me happy, but instead of just complaining about them and doing nothing -- like "I want that $20,000 ring" -- and I can’t have it real, the solution may be: I can’t have it real, but I can have it affordable. Or I might want to fit into clothes, but I can’t, so my solution is shapewear.
Mandy: You sound so zen and practical. Do you meditate?
Jill: I do love this brand Peace Love World. Go to their Web site. They are a really socially conscious company, and this girl Elina is a really incredible designer. It’s yoga kind of clothes, and it says "peace" and "love," and it really makes me feel like that. The Kardashians and J Lo love it, too. I’m trying to meditate. I love Pilates. But it’s true. That’s why I could never go back to "Housewives." I’ve become much more zen and less tolerant of bad behavior. I don’t want to surround myself with any negativity. It’s like my husband says: "It’s all good."
Makeunder Styling by Julie Schott