Beauty secrets from an 80-year-old ‘goddess’ of style

In our series "What Beauty Means to Me," women from different backgrounds share their thoughts on aging, modern challenges, and of course, their makeup and skin care secrets. This week, we interview Joyce Carpati, a stylish senior citizen living in New York City.

Joyce Carpati has been many things: opera singer, wife, mother, grandmother. Friend and colleague of Cosmopolitan’s late Helen Gurley Brown. A self-described good conversationalist.

But above all, she’s always been fabulous.

At 16, Carpati studied singing in Milan, Italy. It was 1949, and the country was still recovering from World War II.

“People had nothing in Italy – nothing,” Carpati recalled. “But when the women would go out, you would see them dressed magnificently and they had a look like nobody else. American women here did not dress that way. When I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh, how wonderful, how lovely.’”

She returned to New York with her own custom made “beautiful tweed suit, and I had dark brown, beautifully-formed suede Oxfords. I came back and my hair was cut beautifully. When I came back, people did look at me. You just didn’t see women like that, all of that together.”

Carpati has been turning heads ever since. A friend recently called her the goddess of her Manhattan street.

“Many people do stop me in the street to tell me very nice things, even today, and I’m very happy because it’s a very good feeling,” said the 80-year-old, who was featured in the 2012 book “Advanced Style” by Ari Seth Cohen. “I guess I still grab a little bit of attention. It’s absolutely not deliberately, it’s just me.”

After singing in the opera and living in Europe, Carpati joined Cosmopolitan magazine when she was about 40 and stayed 27 years, most as marketing manager for beauty advertising. In addition to forging a lifelong friendship with Brown, she picked up some beauty tips that she abides to this day.

“I learned about products and became very much aware of what was really necessary and the importance of the sunproofing, the SPFs,” she said, adding, “Someone at Lancome, one of the top people, gave me a cream they were working on. He said, ‘Take this and use it for the month. Let me know what you think of it.’”

These days she enjoys her opera subscription, visiting museums, dining out with friends and her first love, singing, which she has returned to in recent years. And she said she feels very much the same as she did when she was younger.

“I don’t think I’ve ever lost my style,” she said. “I don’t even go outside in the morning unless I make sure that I look presentable. This is the way I am. I love clothes. I wear a lot of lovely slacks, because I find them comfortable, lovely jackets, beautiful sweaters, scarves.”

Carpati said that Botox and fillers are useful to combat aging, but that plastic surgery takes away some of the character that makes women beautiful.

“I think you should be whatever you want to be. If something bothers you and you want to take care of it, you should take care of it,” she said, adding, “I think it’s your attitude. Your attitude can make you look marvelous. It’s how you feel about yourself, and that’s really what it is. I know I look well and that makes me happy. And I know that I can face the world like I did when I was 30 or 40 or 50.”

Carpati said women should embrace themselves and highlight their assets, no matter their age.

“I don’t try to look young, and I don’t want to look young,” she said. “I want to look terrific.”

What are your favorite beauty products?
“I like the Avene [brand]. I like their sunscreen also for sensitive skin and I got that in Paris. It’s wonderful. I also find the Maybelline lipstick is wonderful. I have my night cream from my doctor — a prescription for that. I love Chanel powder. I use the loose powder of Chanel — the best — and the creme blush of Chanel. For eye makeup, I use Almay because it’s non-comedogenic. That’s basically what I use.”

What’s your makeup routine like?
“I use the sensitive skin lotion of Cetaphil in the evening, then night cream. In the morning I rinse my face and put on the sunproof moisturizer of Avene, some blush, a light smattering of the powder and eye makeup and I’m off. And that takes all of about five minutes.”

Is there one thing you absolutely must do before ever leaving the house?
“I have to make sure my hair is combed well with my braids … my hair has to be perfect. That is my signature look, my braids and the pearls. I’m always known for the long pearls.”

Who’s your style icon?
“I always actually admired Catherine Deneuve. I always loved the way she dressed. She didn’t want to look like a young girl — she wanted to look for whom she is, and that’s me, too … also the famous French actress Danielle Darrieux.”

How do you manage your hair?
“My hair is long. I braid it and just put it around with a lot of long hair pins. Sometimes I put very tiny little gold stars, about four or five of them, in the braid — tiny little gold stars. If I’m going out in the evening, that’s another thing I just felt I love to use.”

Skincare tip to live by:
“Stay out of the sun. I never went in the sun — never —and they tell me my skin is very good. Stay out of the sun and keep it moisturized and eat well … I’m not telling anyone to be a health nut, but you have to know the foods that are good for you.”

What’s one beauty trend we likely won’t ever catch you in?
“Too much makeup, that is something which I am very careful of. Less is more for everything when you get older. You really shouldn’t use it — not too much — because it doesn’t help you, it hurts you. Just a little blush, a little powder to take the shine away and a little eye makeup and lipstick. And if the hair looks great with the little stars, then there you have it.”

More from this series:
Beverly Johnson: I didn’t want my daughter to model

Entrepreneur: It’s OK to mix professionalism, pretty makeup
Born with just two fingers, mom finds beauty in imperfection

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