One of the most flattering compliments or most esteemed accolades that someone can receive is to be told they are interesting. It's somehow more than being deemed funny or cute or smart — which are traits or skills that are either inherent or easily honed in. "Interesting" is something that needs to be cultivated and earned. You can fake [traditional] pretty, intelligent and a whole lot of other things, but the presence or absence of interesting is something that's very easily apparent. The most recent subject of Stylelikeu's "What's Underneath Project" Lisl Steiner is irrevocably an interesting woman.
The project — now being metamorphosed into a book — invites diverse women to talk about their style philosophies and their bodies, all whilst revealing "what's underneath" by removing their clothes and makeup. A survivor of cancer, hater of Facebook, extremely talented photojournalist and celebrated photographer for Life magazine, Steiner has lived more life and has had more adventures to boast of than your average 87/88-year-old (more to come on her hybridized age soon). To hear her tell the stories she's amassed in her years is truly something else. She has a certain comfort with herself, her body, her life and her style that can only really be achieved through decades of living with and relying on her own self.
Lisl is also proof that interesting women give not only the best life advice but the best beauty advice, too. Here are nine things about style, beauty and body image that I think we can all learn from this magical human:
1. Our Style Is Our History And Only One Part Of Our Story
The women behind the camera (mother/daughter team Elisa and Lily) ask Steiner to start talking about her style and she says, "Can I tell you a little about my history, about who I am?" Steiner knows that our style does tell a story about us, but that it's only part of the full picture. Our life influences our style, but who we are and where we come from plays into that. Knowing and understanding who we are therefore helps us define and identify our style.
2. "I Mourn By Celebrating Something"
Perhaps this is what gives her the ability to talk so easily about her breast cancer and what causes her to dress so colorfully and brightly. No matter how sad or upset we are by grief, loss or disappointment, there's always something to celebrate. Especially in a culture that's so critical of our bodies and looks, we should celebrate what we have and not spend too much time mourning what we don't.
3. Be Present, But Keep Looking Ahead
Steiner says that she doesn't want to be older or be younger — just stay one year ahead. This is why she tells everyone that she's 88 when really she's 87. I am completely in love with this woman and this idea — being appreciative of who and where we are now, but always trying to be a little ahead of ourselves, and everyone else. In life, but also in fashion, this is a perfect ethos.
4. You Can't Always Get What You Want
"Wouldn't it be nice if every spring we would look better, like leaves falling in the fall and everything is dead and then in the spring everything is beautiful? But it doesn't work like that."
5. Our "Lack" Of Style Is A Valid Personal Choice
"My style is no style. I've become more primitive by the moment because I'm more and more in disagreement with what is happening." Choosing to abstain from a system or rebel against beliefs about what something should be is just as worthy a choice, and makes as much of a statement about who we are, are categorizing our styles does.
6. It's Harder To Be Original These Days
Steiner says that what she was doing in photography and the experiences that she had wouldn't be possible now because, "There are 1,000 photographers taking the same photo right now." With the world of style blogging, this seems to be especially pertinent to style and fashion. To me, this is all the more reason to strive for unique style and push the boundaries to create something that is truly different.
7. Makeup Is Our War Paint
I've long held the belief that lipstick gives me superpowers and allows me to feel more confident and act more boldly. Well, imagine my delight when Steiner refers to her makeup as her "war paint" and notes that her current preference is that of a "madame in a whorehouse." The function of her makeup is to create a look she enjoys and she doesn't care what anyone else thinks: "It's what I am and not what I look like. Excuse me, but go f*ck yourself if that's a consideration."
8. True Beauty Is About What We Do
When asked when she feels most beautiful, Steiner replies, "I feel beautiful inside and I'm happy to be who I am. I feel good because I do little things for people. I can't do big things, but I have been nice and every time you do something, you feel good about yourself."
9. Health Is More Important Than Beauty
When she removes her dress and exposes her chest, Lisl shows us that her breasts were removed after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "You can see that they didn't do a good job, but it doesn't matter because this is me. I don't have any pain."
Images and Video: Stylelikeu