Beautiful WomenI recently spoke with Nancy Bruno. Bruno’s new book, Beautiful Women, is now available. Beautiful Women is a book of photos of 35 beautiful women, ages 3 through 90. In addition to the pictures, there is a story snap-shot of each woman and how she got to where she is.

Here is my conversation with Bruno:

Karen: Nancy, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

Nancy: I was so excited when I realized I was going to get the chance to actually talk with you! I prefer talking to computer communication.

K: First, can you tell me a little bit about your experience with the book?

N: When I started looking for the 35 women, they were all strangers. A few of them I had an acquaintance with, but I didn’t really know-them know-them. So people would say, “Well, what are you looking for.” And I would say, “Someone who just shines when you think about them.” And people would say, “Oh, I know exactly who you need to meet.”

It was an amazing experience. I found that I was able to spend enough time with each of them that by the time the camera came out, they were able to ignore the camera. They were just going on with their life, and that is really what I wanted to capture – these people just being themselves.

The way these women have lived their experiences, have dealt with their experiences, that is what makes them beautiful. And the thing with the teens is that we get so caught up, that we ignore the beauty right next to us. And we forget that it’s right there, on each side of us.

And I love Ms. Elizabeth [a teenager in Beautiful Women]. She is someone who always thought of herself one way [as smart], but not the other [as beautiful]. And she is just beginning to be able to see herself as beautiful, to incorporate that into her identity.

K: Last week I wrote about the Dove Self Esteem Campaign, and you commented briefly on my post. Can you elaborate on that comment? What do you really think about the Dove campaign?

N: I have a couple of thoughts on the Dove campaign. The first thought is that I like what they did when they first started. I remember the very first time I saw the Dove campaign: there were five women lined up, who looked like regular women. And I was so proud of Dove – not for running it, but for standing up for all of the criticism they got for running it. People said, “Why would I want to look at fat people when I could look at beautiful skinny people?” Dove didn’t back down, and I give them so much credit for that, that they started something positive.

What I do agree with is something that you wrote, is that you look at the girls on the Dove campaign’s website, and they are all fresh-faced, and they have that “look” to them. And I’ve taken a lot of time to think about this. Dove is in the business of selling hair products and soap and all that, and I think they are doing the best they can within the boundaries of what they need to accomplish as a company. I thing what the Dove campaign is doing is very, very positive. Within the parameters that they have to work in.

Now, will they stand by it? I have never seen any money from the Dove campaign actually help in the community. I see interactive tools, but no real action. So I think they are doing good things, within their restrictions as a company. And I do think it’s good that they have regular people in their ads, and that they have encouraged other companies to do the same.

K: Your book is named Beautiful Women. But most teenage girls these days are more focused on sexy than on beautiful. What do you see as the difference between sexy and beautiful?

N: What do you mean by teenager here? Are you saying like 13 through 18? Or up into the 20’s?

K: I mean actual teenagers, the 13 through 19 year-old crowd.

N: I’ll be really honest with you, from 13 to probably 17, I wouldn’t want them to be considered sexy. A 13 year-old is still a child in so many ways. And I don’t know if they are able to understand what that concept is – sexy. A 13 year old is still a kid in so many ways. And only through reading magazines and watching music videos is a 13 year-old able to understand what sexy is. It really is after 17 that wanting to be sexy really becomes real.

And that’s why I’m glad I have boys, to be very honest with you. In so many ways, I am so traditional. A 13-year-old would still be my little girl, and I wouldn’t want them to be sexy. Because “sexy” would still be something on their mind, and as their mom, I would want to really slow that down until they were able to take responsibility for what “sexy” really means. But still not denying their sexuality, and I think sexy and sexuality are two different things.

But to answer your question, the people I have seen who are sexy, are beautiful first. It’s not clothes, it’s not how their hair is done, it’s not overt, and it’s not a played-up or a role-model sexuality. It’s just who they are as human beings.

K: Thanks so much for talking with me today, Nancy. Now that Beautiful Women is out, what’s next on your plate?

N: My next book is about 35 men. It was a totally different experience making it, and really wonderful in its own way. It will be out in time for Father’s Day this year.

K: I look forward to seeing it, Nancy!