“At 5-years-old, my grandmother put complete makeup on my eyes: mascara, eye shadow, eyebrow pencil, lipstick, rouge,” remembers Sharrie Williams. “She paraded me into the living room so that my great uncle could see. He said, ‘There’s nothing more beautiful than Maybelline mascara on virgin eyelashes.’ From that point on, I realized it was pretty important in this family to get attention from being beautiful.”
Her great uncle was Tom Lyle Williams, who created America’s No. 1 cosmetic company, Maybelline, in 1915. Sharrie joined the family in 1947, but it wasn’t until 2002 that she completed her family’s memoir, “The Maybelline Story,” published last year.
Drama and Intrigue within the Family
“My grandmother was mysteriously killed in an arson-related fire in 1978, and that really spurred me to make sure her memory wasn’t forgotten,” she explains. “Still, I put it off and put it off until 1993 when my house burnt down in the Laguna Beach [California] fires; and I lost all of my earthly belongings. I realized the only thing you cannot take away from me is my story. With that I started writing this story with my father’s help.”
The book has no shortage of drama and intrigue, including the fact that her great uncle was a homosexual during a time when he largely had to hide the fact. He eventually moved to Hollywood and worked with some of the biggest stars of the period.
The Struggle with “Outer” Beauty
“The Maybelline Story” also chronicles Sharrie’s personal struggles. “I realized [at a young age] it was pretty important in this family to get attention from being beautiful, and that then starts my issues when I became 13-years-old with having to take diet pills and everything I go through to make sure that my outsides are more important and more impressive than how I felt inside,” she shares.
“My confidence now comes from the inside rather than how I look on the outside,” Sharrie says. “And I’m a grandmother; so unlike my grandmother in the story I am a different source of love and nurturing to my two little grandsons, 2 and 5, than my grandmother was to me.”
To those interested in writing their own family story, Sharrie offers the following thoughts: “My advice is to just do it, and don’t let anything stand in your way. The emotional satisfaction is better than years in therapy; and the finished product is a family treasure or, if published, a dream come true. If you have a passion for history and a love of ancestry, writing your memoir is a natural calling.” But she also warns, “It won’t happen overnight, and life will step in and try and stop you, but if you are persistent and keep writing, the end result will be a masterpiece that lives on forever.”