Sharrie Williams is the great niece of Maybelline founder, Tom Lyle Williams and author of the Maybelline book. In the Maybelline book, Sharrie tells the history of the Maybelline family. It shares intimate details of their lives from their triumphs to their tragedies. We recently talked with Sharrie to find out more about her book and the fascinating family behind it.
Mandy: What was it like growing up in such a prominent and privileged family?
Sharrie: It was like any dysfunctional middle class family until the Maybelline Company sold in 1967 and made 26 stockholders overnight millionaires. Then it became a Mr. Toads ride to attain the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous. This led to my grandmother, “Miss Maybelline’s mysterious death by arson in 1978. Besides that it was a lot of fun but you’ll have to read my book for the whole story.
Mandy: Your world was thrown for a loop due to several events in your life (Your grandmother’s death, your divorce, the loss of your fortune), do you ever wonder what if things had been different?
Sharrie: Absolutely!!! I have relived the whole story over and over in my mind and tried to imagine what might have happened if my father never inherited his fortune. He always said it was a blessing and a curse and I have to agree, but in the end I doubt if the results would have changed. Perhaps each of our lives may have taken a different course, but I believe what ever was supposed to happen… would have somehow happened anyway. So no matter what…it was a wild ride, I have incredible memories and was able to write a fascinating book about it.
Mandy: You sought therapy to help you cope, do you think that it had a significant impact on shaping who you are today?
Sharrie: It was my saving Grace. If I had continued on the path… with the mental programming I’d grown up with…I might have wound up in terrible situation today. At least now I’m content with my life and my position. I don’t have any crazy expectations of eternal youth like my grandmother did, or any unmet desires that must be fulfilled for me to be happy. .. Like my therapist once told me, “when the Rolls Royce comes into your life get in and enjoy the ride and when it’s over get out and be grateful for the time of your life it gave you.” Writing The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It and having it published was a dream come true. A movie would be the cherry on top of the cake, but isn’t necessary for me to feel absolutely satisfied with what I have accomplished in my life today.
Mandy: You took control of your life and made several positive changes, what do you think was your most significant change?
Sharrie: It’s sad to say, but detaching from my family and working on myself was the most positive change I made. I was so enmeshed with my father and his life …
to the point I didn’t know where he stopped and I began. When I made the decision to leave California and move to Arizona, he seemed to go down hill fast… fell and hit his head and died. My mother as well, went down fast and I lost her two years ago. My grief over their loss still brings me to tears and I miss them beyond belief. However, if I hadn’t forged ahead I’d never know who I am and it’s been extremely healing getting to know what I’m made of.
Mandy: What can people expect from your book?
Sharrie: From what I’ve heard from people who have read my book, be prepared to stay up late, because you won’t be able to put it down. Every chapter ends with a cliff hanger, leaving you saying,, “Well then, what happened?” It reads very fast… takes you through 100 years of history…and allows you to see the inside world and trials of a gay man in the early half of the 20th Century…working to build a fundamental cosmetic company. The Maybelline Company sets the stage for my characters to act out their lives in the most dramatic way possible. This is a never before told story written by an insider who lived it, survived it and is here to talk about…in the most positive way imaginable. This isn’t a “Family Dearest,” story, it is one of love, compassion and respect for the most amazing people I have ever been blessed to know.
Mandy: Can you tell us a favorite story or memory that didn’t make your book?
Sharrie: I think the most recent amazing experience I had was finding my great uncle’s grave last summer. I will never forget walking into that beautiful mausoleum and spotting the plaque that read Emery Shaver and Tom Lyle Williams. They had to keep their relationship a secret for nearly 50 years while alive, but in death it is written in Bronze for anyone who visits to see. It was an incredible moment of truth and I will never forget it.
Mandy: If you could describe your family in one word, what would it be?
Mandy: Any plans to write a follow up book?
Sharrie: Right now I’m busy with my Blog at www.maybellinebook.com and my Maybelline presentation that is turning into a One Woman Show, with slides of vintage Maybelline Ads and family pictures. I’m not sure I want to devote the time to sitting down and write. However I have written a 300 page manuscript that takes off from the end of The Maybelline Story in 1978 and goes up to the firestorm that destroyed my home in Laguna Beach in 1993. So there’s a possibility it may happen someday.
Mandy: If there is one thing that you want people to learn from your life, what would it be?
Sharrie: It’s better to make it on your own than be handed everything on a silver platter. That was my life, a kept woman who yearned to know if she had what it takes to make it on her own. Going it alone is hard work, but the reward is well worth the effort. When you have everything given to you, you lose the desire to grow and eventually become bored and dissatisfied. Shopping doesn’t expand the Soul, nor does being self serving and winding up alone. We’re all given talents that are often undiscovered until there is a reason to develop them. Like the old saying goes, “Necessity is the Mother of invention.” Today I’m grateful for what was given to me, what was taken away and what was left behind. I discovered so much after Nana died and my inheritance was lost. If I’d received her money in my 30′s, I’d still be that spoiled brat and never found the pot of gold within. The best thing that happened to me was losing everything….. and discovering real wealth.
Mandy: Who do you feel had the greatest impact on your life?
Sharrie: My father, William Preston Williams Jr. was the most charismatic, enthusiastic, creative and determined man in my life. In fact, no other man has ever come close to inspiring me to be everything I can be like he did. He was instrumental in the writing of The Maybelline Story after my house burned down and spent hours on end helping me write it. It was his childhood memories… growing up with his uncle/Godfather, Tom Lyle Williams, at the Villa Valentino in the Hollywood Hills, that provided insight into the elusive character of…the King of Advertising. My father was a tough taskmaster and extremely perfectionist …which was a good thing and a bad thing… but being an eager student I took the bate and excelled, hoping to win his approval. My father was the wind beneath my sails and I believe he’s looking down from Heaven and is proud I’ve grown into a confidant, accomplished Lady, with a warriors Spirit.
Mandy: Any beauty advice from the Maybelline Queen?
Sharrie: Well Actually My grandmother Evelyn F. Williams was the real Maybelline Queen, but I guess you can say, I was her little protege. Here is one of Nana’s Beauty Secrets…
All my young life, Nana preached about having beautiful skin. “Sharrie,” she’d say “the first thing people notice is your eyes and your skin, and you only get one chance at a first impression.” Nana believed that your skin was your “calling card,” and either draws people to you or sends them away…… I can still see her mixing up a batch of “mud” as she called it, while I sat in wonder as a little girl. She’d mix a couple of tablespoons of rice flour, a capsule of vitamin E, a little rosewater and enough yogurt to make it the consistency of putty. Next she’d smear it all over her face and neck, lay on the floor sometimes on her hydroculators and rest her legs on a chair so the blood would flow in reverse, and relax her tired muscles. Now this wasn’t a Kodak moment and few people ever had the pleasure of witnessing this “secret of the Harem,” but I never forgot it. To this day I refuse to buy over the counter skin masques, because there is nothing better than Nana’s Mud. It brings the blood to the surface and feeds the skin with nutrients.
Check out more about Sharrie at her Official website and social networks… click here
Interview by Mandy Raytik