GREGORY LANDSMAN SPEAKS WITH MITZI KANIZANEC-KAJFEZ - CELEBRATING 40 YEARS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY!
I always say that behind every brilliant photograph of a supermodel is a team of highly talented specialists who create a piece of artistic fantasy with lighting, makeup, styling and airbrushing.
Of course I refer to these photographs as ‘fantasy’, as the end result bears little or no resemblance to what someone actually looks like as they stand before the camera, and as such should never be something that people compare themselves to.
As people out in the world, we all want to look as good as we can for as long as we can, but we succeed in this when we approach it as individuals looking to make the very best of who we are and what we have been given.
With that in mind I wanted to write about one of the unseen greats of the fashion industry, Dior’s Mitzi Kanizanec-Kajfez as she celebrated 40 years in the fashion and beauty industry.
On a recent trip to Europe I caught up with Mitzi, who is one of the best make up artists in the world and one of my oldest and closest friends.
I met Mitzi more than twenty-five years ago when we brought the WORLD SUPERMODEL contest to Europe. We spent a week working side-by-side doing 16-hour days with the world’s biggest model agents, photographers and 25 aspiring super models. And it was during this time that we forged our long-standing friendship.
Since then Mitzi and I have travelled to many parts of the world together for work, but today she represents Dior as their star makeup artist in Europe.
Anyone who works in the fashion industry will tell you that it is a hard, competitive slog and not for the faint hearted. Yet her love for her work has seen her survive in a cut-throat industry that sees people come and go without even being noticed for over four decades.
Yet for all the accolades she has received, whether working on large fashion campaigns or editorials for Vogue, Elle or Marie-Claire, there is a humility that underpins her passion for people and life.
Mitzi is a makeup artist with enormous talent and it is easy to see why she is Dior’s star artist; but what makes her different from anyone else I have ever met in the fashion industry is that she sees life very differently.
What she never tells people is that her earlier life was the stuff of fairy tales; married to one of the continent’s richest men; residing in a European castle; travelling the world on private jets; and featured more than once in TV shows such as the ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’.
As she reflects on this part of her life she tells me that her strongest learning from that time is that money can buy castles, yachts, jets and diamonds, but it can’t buy self respect or love.
“As I grew older I came to understand that when you are young everyone loves you, but as you get older the real lesson is to learn to live happily with yourself; as nobody can give you what you can give yourself.”
I have always believed that friendship is based on common values, and she has shown me over many years that she treasures friendship more than diamonds and believes that happiness is what we bring to life.
Leaving her marriage with only a Cartier ring, a Rolex watch, a suitcase of clothes and her makeup kit, she started a new life in the heart of Zurich. Surrounded by the beauty of a perfect Swiss city, her past has given her true perspective on what is real, what is transitory, what makes people genuinely valuable and what will contribute to a good life.
Mitzi and I visited her castle 10 years after she left and found that everything she owned was still in the room where she left it…literally millions of dollars worth of jewelry, old masters on the walls and an entire French armoire filled to the brim with full-length furs. Even at that point, despite my less than subtle encouragement, she would take nothing! “Gregory, things that brought you pain in the past, cannot bring you happiness in the future,” she told me.
Part of what enabled Mitzi to move on from her the surreal world of high society to the normality of day to day life was that despite the myriad of choices she had at the time, she never stopped working, first as a model and then as a makeup artist.
I ask her what she believes makes a great model and who were her favourites.
“A great model is someone who is comfortable in their skin and whose beauty comes from the inside out.”
“My favourite model of all time was Inès de La Fressange, as she represented all that was chic and understated. I also liked the chameleon quality of Linda (Evangelista); the spirited beauty of Georgianna Robertson; and Christy Turlington always exuded a calm, peaceful harmonious beauty that I admired.”
Mitzi’s good friend Eileen Ford once told her that she knew whether a girl would make it by the way she said ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’ at their first meeting.
Mitzi agrees. “I believe what Eileen says is true. You can tell so much about anyone by the way they carry and introduce themselves. After all – if you are going to be a successful model and rise to the top you need to believe you have something special to share.”
We talk about the current trend emerging with more and more big houses using mature models.
She sees great value in this. Having worked with the older supermodels of our time such as the amazing Carmen, and personally discovered others such as Katherine Lowe, Mitzi says that, “Every age is the great age for a woman, as long as we are able to find our place in the world, make peace with ourselves and accept the changes that come with aging.”
Many years ago she told me that for her a face is like a canvas, that allows her to translate ‘runway looks’ into reality by revealing the individual beauty that is inherent in every woman’s face.
“There is beauty in all faces regardless of their age. My preferred makeup style is always natural, as I don't want to change someone’s face, I want to reveal their ‘age-less’ beauty, and makeup should be the tool not the hero.”
When I ask her about designers and photographers she tells me that her favourite style is what she calls ‘intellectual fashion’. She talks about the brilliance of designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Thierry Mugler whose clothes are clever and timeless and are still ‘wearably’ stylish even 30 years after they were made. She especially admires ‘Mugler’ because of the way he always ‘celebrated the natural shape of a woman’.
Having worked with just about every famous photographer going over the years, including Mario Testino, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Herb Ritz and Helmut Newton, Mitzi’s comment is that “Greatness is best shown in simplicity. In almost every situation ‘less is always more’ – whether that is makeup, statement clothing, friendship or life.”
Mitzi is never short of an opportunity to travel, but her true love is where she lives now - in the old town in the heart of Zurich.
“At times in my life I could have lived anywhere and I had the opportunity to go practically everywhere, but I found a home in Zurich and it is a place that nurtures me at this stage in my life.”
“I also love Vienna and go there whenever I can. The city is perhaps the most magical in the world, filled with music, beauty and culture. On the other hand if I just want some sun and to ‘warm up’ – I go to Miami! After all polarity is what makes life interesting!”
When she is not working she spends her time doing things that support her spirit. “I meditate, dance, exercise, read, light candles, play music, sing and walk through the beautiful city of Zurich. This gives me the time to reflect on my life.”
When I ask her what that means to her she tells me that, “I believe that life is a circle. In the first part of your life you are a student of life, almost like a researcher of what life and love really mean. It is at this time that you have the opportunity to learn about honesty, kindness and respect. In the second part of your life you apply what you have learnt and you reap what you have sown.”
“My greatest learning is coming to a point where I know that…"Omnia mea mecum porto - All that's mine I carry with me."
As we finish our tea I ask her to share her thoughts on what she believes all women should remember as they get older?
1. Take care of yourself from the inside out; respect yourself as you are and be kind to yourself; and
2. It’s not what you have that makes you special, its what you are.
Looking at her face you can see she lives her beliefs; the essence of her beauty is reflected in her eyes and there is no doubt that while she continues to work with models she is a super role model to women everywhere - a woman of substance who has found the secret to what creates a happy life.
GL SKINFIT INSTITUTE®
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GREGORY LANDSMAN ON FAITH LIFTING BEAUTY
MY JOURNEY with the concept of beauty has been a long one. It started when I was born into an Apartheid ruled South Africa, at a place and time when the colour of your skin determined all that you could hope to be in the world.
Having lived with this level of restriction and judgement I can clearly see what drove me to work with those heralded for their beauty while simultaneously supporting people to know that their physical body is the smallest aspect of what makes a person truly beautiful.
This is a much longer story, but I wanted to share an important part of my journey that took me to India twenty years ago, and ignited my belief in ‘faith lifting beauty’.
I had determined to travel to India by myself for a few weeks. It was here in this incredible land of contradictions that I did a great deal of soul searching. In the faces of its people I saw a courageous ability to embrace life, rather than hide from it and to show up for it every day no matter what pain was endured.
I felt an intimate admiration for the strength and courage of these people and their willingness to stand up again and again when life knocked them down. My struggle wasn’t theirs, in fact it was nothing like theirs, but still I felt a connectedness and in those moments that most people struggle to find their place in the world.
In India, every day is a test of survival, a test of faith. Witnessing poverty and death on the streets made me ask myself question after question in relation to how I had lived my life to date.
If I left the earth today would I believe I had a lived a full life?
Had I shared enough of my skills with people?
Is what I did on a day-to-day basis something that contributed to the world being a better place?
I didn’t have all the answers, but I handed them over to God, knowing that the answer to those questions would help me to seek the truth about what really makes up a good life.
When I was out taking photographs one day in Madras (as it was then), I noticed a small framed woman standing in the early morning light, untouched and unmoved by all around her, while her sari danced in the wind.
She stood with her back to the sun, glancing over one shoulder, revealing only one side of her face. To me she looked like she had been dropped from heaven wrapped in a rainbow.
There was something oddly familiar about this scene. It reminded me of a fashion shoot where the breeze gently moved the models garment while she smile simultaneously, capturing that perfect photographic moment.
But this woman was no model and she was certainly in no glamorous location. In that moment she turned, and as if in slow motion, her whole image morphed.
To my dismay I saw that her face had two dramatically different sides that bore no resemblance to each other in any way. The left side was disfigured showing a mound of purple saggy flesh that hung over her cheek, forming a flesh-like drape that concealed any bone structure. Despite this, she turned towards me exuding an air of pride.
Our eyes locked, she smiled at me and then dropped her head to look at a child playing in the mud. With uncertainty in my voice I asked her if she would like her photo taken. Instantly her rich brown face cracked open with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. She nodded, then in a thunderous voice she called out to the entire village. In response almost every man, woman and child gathered around to watch. I focused the camera, and she gently touched her hair to ensure that it was in place.
I admired her eagerness, remembering how I often had to beg friends and relatives to take happy snaps.
Unblinkingly she looked into the lens. Her gaze was so intense it asked me, ‘What did this mean?’
I knew what it was to be judged for how you looked, having been beaten and spat on by kids at school in South Africa on a daily basis for the way I looked. Yet in recent years I had lived only in a world that placed an exclusive focus on physical beauty; a world where the word ‘beauty’ was used to justify why some felt privileged and superior; all because of their fleeting looks.
As I stood there I was witnessing the raw truth of beauty. Staring silently at the sagging muscles on this woman’s face I knew I was being challenged by a truth that deep down I had always known - that skin-deep beauty would never be enough.
As I lined up the shot, two tourists stopped and stared with morbid curiosity. The one said, ‘My God isn’t nature cruel?‘
It is so easy to judge what we think is ugly and feel righteous in doing so. In that moment I questioned the nature of cruelty. It was clear that it isn’t nature that is cruel, but rather our lack of compassion or acceptance of differences.
Undisturbed the woman smiled for the camera, showing me that I could not change or control someone else’s reactions. As she stood with her head high she revealed that she had long ago risen up to meet her beauty and her truth. She was willing to embrace all of who she was and what life had given her, and she was not concerned about how others responded.
As I took her photograph I studied her face. Her appearance disturbed me as it brushed up against everything we are taught about what makes someone valuable. But when I looked into her eyes I felt deeply moved. She had a sense of calm acceptance and integrity that I had never seen on any model’s face I had ever worked on, mine included. This woman was living in a cushion of self acceptance; a living example that the essence of our beauty lies not in our physical characteristics, but in the heart of our character.
Looking at her I was filled with a longing for something that I did not yet truly know and wondered how liberating it must be to have such a sense of peace within one’s self; to leave behind the impossible ideals of physical perfection that so often stops us feeling good about ourselves. I could see so clearly the reality of beauty and in that moment a part of me vowed to help others do the same.
This woman held up beauty, hope, acceptance, and courage amidst chaos, confusion, poverty and judgment. I saw that what we are all taught is to forget that beauty can shine through every face, because the power and the true essence of beauty unfolds from the inside out.
When I had finished taking the photos, this wondrous woman placed both her hands together in the middle of her chest, lowered her head slightly, smiled and walked away.
I sat on the sidewalk afterwards and wrote what this teacher of true beauty had taught me:
'In life sometimes love presents itself in a form that is totally unexpected,
Rise to the consciousness of the love, not the level of the form.'
Whenever I am tempted to judge someone I remind myself of this.
The day I left Puttaparthi, this wonderful teacher of beauty was there to farewell me. She waved to the man who had reminded the village that she was valuable enough to be photographed, and I waved good-bye to the woman who taught me the power of gratitude.
Still today when I give too much thought to the way I look, I close my eyes and remember a woman who was proud and victorious in who she was and what she represented in the world, and I affirm silently that a face full of beauty is heart full of love.
In remembering this we are all free.
'LOVE AND BEAUTY ARE INTERLINKED
WITH ONE YOU ULTIMATELY SHARE THE OTHER'
GL SKINFIT INSTITUTE®
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GREGORY LANDSMAN TALKS LOOKS, LOVE & AGE!
At 53, I look back at my career and realise that I have spent much of the last 20 years advising on how to achieve the healthiest and youngest looking skin naturally. I do this because I know that ageing and the stress that comes with the judgments we have on our physical bodies can be a distraction from learning to appreciate ourselves and our differences.
As a result, so much of what I do is aimed at giving people the emotional, mental and physical tools that support them to look after themselves on the inside and the outside. I do this through my TV shows on food; my professional skin treatment range; my books on skin and beauty; and my magazine FACE SECRETS.
Yet my personal journey has taught me, that when we get to the point where we can appreciate our differences and feel good about how we look, we are able to acknowledge that how we look is only the smallest part of what makes us beautiful human beings.
Having come into contact with thousands of people over more than 25 years I have come to understand that we are geared to self-judgment. Whether the person I was talking to was a supermodel or someone who hasn’t focused on fashion or beauty in any way, somehow they all believe they were never young enough, thin enough, sexy enough or attractive enough!
Which begs the question – What are we really looking for in our lives…looks or love? ‘Love of course’, I hear you say! But the irony is that real love is the exact opposite of anything that could possibly be attained via a certain look, age or body shape.
The problem is that we live in a world that is conflicted about what real love means. The truth is ‘that every one of us is worthy of being loved regardless of our physical appearance’, yet everything in our day-to-day tells us that there is an indelible link between ‘having looks’ and finding love.
And let’s be clear. ‘Having looks’ is short for never getting old or having wrinkles or putting on weight or living with any perceived physical flaws. Perfection in other words!
Yet perfection – physical or otherwise, has nothing to do with love.
So why do we buy this myth and torture ourselves with the belief that our value is tied to the way that we look?
What would make someone who is 50 believe they should look like someone who is 20?
What would make us believe that finding love requires us to be young?
Why would we think that a wrinkle on the face makes us less attractive rather than give us more character and reflect a life well lived?
Why would someone who has birthed and raised grown children believe that they should have the same body they had at 18?
And why would our paradigm of thinking default to body part evaluation that leaves us feeling not good enough?
Perhaps at the core of it we are confusing the advertising images that depict the fantasy of beauty with the reality of living a good life?
Perhaps we feel compelled to believe that looking a certain way will give us the life and love that will make us happy? (We only have to look around to recognise that this isn't the truth!)
But believing that our looks are the most important aspect of our being ensures that there is no room for growth, allowance to age gracefully, celebration of individuality or appreciation of differences – all the things that make up a rich life - but not a perfect one!
My experience of love is that it thrives in environments where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated; where kindness is as valued as passion; where respect is earned by our daily acts and choices; where we give without asking for anything in return; and where we know the value of giving in, but never giving up our integrity. This has nothing to do with our physical bodies looking a certain way.
I believe we all need to recognize and acknowledge that ‘good looks’ have nothing to do with ‘good love’.
For love has nothing to do with age or physical appearance – but everything to do with self belief and what you truly believe you deserve. It defies logic and rational thinking and goes well beyond any shallow definition about being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of someone’s league.
No doubt when it comes to love and our looks we need to look at the beliefs that we carry silently as these shape how we live and how we love. In many cases it is our negative beliefs that keep us locked into a limited definition of who we are. Changing our beliefs can liberate our lives…and I believe we are all worthy of being liberated.
So whether we are finding love, making love or keeping love, we need to treat ourselves kindly, to remember our innate goodness that we posses as human beings and to celebrate all of who we are; as only when we do this will we find a person who’ll truly cherish us. But being cherished does not depend on us being a certain age, a certain weight, a cardboard cut out of someone famous, or something someone else thinks we should be! It relies on us being the very best version of ourselves. For the relationship we have with others is only a reflection of the one we have with ourselves – the way we think and feel about ourselves and our level of gratitude for the body and life that we have been given.
It is important to keep in mind that none of this is easy. It is a road with many challenges. But my own path tells me that what doesn't challenge you won’t change you; for every insecurity and self doubt provides us with an opportunity to find the truth of who we are…as long as we are willing to look at it and listen to what it is telling us.
I have been married for 22 years and with my wife for 26 and I know that love is a journey that evolves along with our physical bodies. It is this journey that gives our life meaning, fills our heart with purpose, increases our vitality and helps us remember the goodness of who we are and the goodness of God.
“Beauty comes in all forms, shapes, colours and sizes.
When we can accept this simple truth we will no longer hurt ourselves and others
For the simple things that make us human.”
GL SKINFIT INSTITUTE®