As someone who is so profoundly adoring of fashion and modeling, meeting an icon like Veronica Webb sounded intimidating, but the moment she approached me in a marvelous sequined skirt and Prada heels and complimented my outfit, I knew there was nothing to fear. Throughout Webb’s expansive and revolutionary career—from being the first Black woman to have a major cosmetic contract to gracing the cover of Vogue, strutting down the runway for Victoria’s Secret, and mothering two beautiful children—her steadfast values, timeless beauty, elegance and warm demeanor have never wavered, and her commitment to being her authentic self is clear from the moment you exchange words with her.
Now nearing her 60s, Webb has endured her fair share of changes, many of which led her into the loving hands of Japanese skin-care brand Shiseido. Just yesterday, at the U.S. launch event for the Vital Perfection Uplifting and Firming Advanced Cream ($140), I had the pleasure of sitting with Webb to talk about her love for the brand—one that started many years ago—her perspective on beauty and aging and even her signature scent (P.S. it’s slightly floral, a little bit woody and 100 percent divine).
As someone who has had such an inspiring career and has done so much to open up the modeling industry and make space for women of color, what does Shiseido’s “Potential Has No Age” initiative mean to you?
“When I was a kid, my mom used Shiseido. My mother was someone who was extremely modern for her time. Whatever she was doing—she went to school and kept getting degrees in nursing until she was almost 70 years old—she was really the example of someone who believed that age had no limit and age was only more potential, because you had more time to do things.
She was also someone who was raised on natural beauty and raised us that way because she came from a farm. She also had a very scientific brain as well because she was a nurse, so all the ingredients in everything we were so important to her. I remember when I was a little kid—back before cell phones and ATMs—my mother would tell me, ‘if you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it on yourself and don’t put it in yourself.’ I also remember as a kid she always had two or three Shiseido products on the vanity, and they were really special. She used them to celebrate how much better she was getting year after year.”
Throughout your career, how has your perception or understanding of what beauty is changed?
“Believe it or not, my most profound understanding of what beauty is that it is completely personal and beauty is inherited. As much as it’s natural to want to look like your friends and such, I think that’s gone into hyper drive now because there’s so many things that people can do from filters on the phone to cosmetic procedures, and we’re a little bit in the uncanny valley right now, where everyone has the same lips, the same teeth, the same body shape.
But the one thing that is not transferrable from person to person is your skin. Your skin is so personal and so precious and that’s why it’s the number-one thing to take care of. If I were going to boil it down to one thing, your beauty is inherited. What you see when you look in the mirror is your mother’s face and you see your ancestor’s face, and that’s the beauty you should be looking for.”
What was the hardest lesson you learned throughout your career and how did it shape your journey?
“The hardest lesson I learned was not to compare myself to other people. The minute you start comparing yourself to other people, it brings out the worst. You know why? I can’t have I can’t have the same combination of genes as anyone else, I can’t have the same experience of life, and me trying to be you doesn’t work; you trying to be me doesn’t work. But me inspiring you, me sharing with you, me cheering for you, that works. I mean, imagine it’s the 90s and you have 10 supermodels in one room comparing each other—Dante’s 9th circle of hell.”
As you’ve gotten older, how has your beauty and self-care routine changed?
“I’m trying to criticize myself less. My resolution every single day is to get up and think, ‘is there any part of myself that’s been neglected? How can I care for that better?’ and trying to measure if what I’m using, doing, thinking and trying is making me stronger. At the end of the day, your biggest asset, your most irreplaceable asset, is your skin. Take care of it. Take care of it. Take care of it with simple, easy ingredients.”
What are your can’t-live-without products right now?
“Luckily, I got to try Vital Perfection recently. It’s been three weeks now, and I love the turnaround I’ve seen. One of the biggest things that we can’t fight without surgery is gravity. After trying the Uplifting and Firming cream, the lower quadrant of the face, which is kind of like the heaviest part of the face, I see like less creepiness and a much nicer surface tension. It’s an easy routine, too, it’s one and done.”
Are there any wellness practices you’ve picked up throughout your career that have helped you stay grounded?
“Deep breathing is the enemy of panic. That’s really important. And also, one day a month, I just try to lay down. This started in my early 50s. When you have children, you have a house and your body’s changing—because women’s bodies are meant to grow and change every 28 days, that’s what we do—and the changes in menopause are making your body slow down a little bit, it needs more rest. It’s like a second puberty. You know how teenagers sleep forever? Well, menopausal women need more sleep, but it’s harder to come by. Because sleep is harder to come by, I try to take one day a month where I just stay in bed and read, do my emails etc.”
Do you have a signature scent?
“I do! Frederick Malle Portrait of a Lady ($295). One fragrance-related thing I learned about recently though, thanks to Shiseido since this is something they use in their products is the idea of aromacology—it’s the science of scent, it’s so interesting!”