Bonding Over Beauty by Erika Katz (Interview)

by Amelia Old
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When your daughters reach the sometimes dreaded “tweens” how do you handle it? What do you say? Little girls are growing up so fast these days physically and mentally, much more than say when you and I were in school. Some women don’t know how to approach subjects that may even embarrass themselves.
I can remember “the talk” as my mom checked out several library books to explain everything to me which was the normal approach at that time. But as for physical changes within my own body….there wasn’t much bonding time over beauty issues. Not that she didn’t care but I am almost certain discussing these types of things were possibly taboo in her mind and of course there is always the separation of generations.
Erika Katz has solved that problem for those of us with our own daughters and is the author of  Bonding Over Beauty, A Mother-Daughter Guide to Self-Esteem, Confidence and Trust (Greenleaf Press, March 2011), Erika Katz uses her beauty expertise to help moms bond with their ‘tween daughters. A former child model and actress, Erika appeared in over 100 commercials, print ads, and films. As the mother of a ‘tween girl, she now writes a popular beauty blog for mothers tackling the drama of the ‘tween years.

Before college, Erika interned in the beauty department at Seventeen magazine. Using her experience at Seventeen, cosmetology classes, and lessons learned through her extensive work in television and modeling, she created a beauty guide that served as the foundation for Bonding Over Beauty. Though the guide initially targeted young women, after joining several parenting groups Erika soon realized many mothers were unsure of how to bridge the generation gap when dealing with the beauty and hygiene issues their daughters faced. Believing that a parent’s job is to nurture their children’s self-esteem and happiness, she turned her beauty guide into a valued resource for moms that contains advice and numerous bonding rituals that can ease the difficulties faced by young girls growing to physical and emotional maturity.

Bonding Over Beauty focuses on encouraging and strengthening the mother-daughter relationship through simple, fun, and intimate activities such as teaching your ‘tween basic beauty rituals like painting her nails or making an organic face scrub from scratch. The book also helps mothers navigate sensitive topics that often arise with tween girls, from dealing with unwanted body hair to menstruation, and everything in between.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Erika lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Erika took time to share more about her recent book and to even offer some guidance on some very important issues.
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First of all….I must say kudos to a beautiful concept you have created. A much needed one at that! What inspired you to write the book Bonding Over Beauty? I went to a parenting meeting in my community and moms were talking about how their nine and ten year old daughters were getting hair under the arms, above their lip, and were showing signs of puberty all before they had given up playing with dolls.  The moms did not know how to broach these sticky subjects with their girls either because they did not have all the information or were just too embarrassed to talk about it.  So, I decided to write a book to tell moms what to say to their daughters and how to say it.  I wanted this difficult time in a young girl’s life to be a bonding experience with mom rather than a series of door-slammings and “mom, you just don’t understand.”
Personally I am a huge advocate of improving the self confidence of teens and adults. Having confidence is a must have tool for our life. What do you suggest to mothers who are having a difficult time with their daughters who are entering into the sometimes “dreaded” stages of “tween” or teen hood? Self-esteem is the biggest gift you can give your daughter.  We don’t realize how little comments can take it away.  For instance, I have a friend who has always hated her curly hair and has ironed it since we were kids.   One day she was brushing her daughter’s knots and commenting how her daughter’s hair is difficult just like hers.  I saw her daughter’s face drop and she felt bad about herself.  But, my friend was so obsessed with straight hair and hating her own curls she couldn’t see the beauty in her daughter’s curls.  Comments should always be positive. Instead of telling her daughter how difficult her hair is, she could say something like ” I bet we could get those curls bouncy and beautiful with a little conditioner or detangler.  You are so lucky to have such lovely curls.”  
What advice can you give to the “tween” or teenage girls who may have friends with low self esteem? How can they help their classmates feel good about themselves? Empathy is something we need to teach our girls.  If your daughter has a friend who is struggling with an issue and other girls make fun of her, teach your daughter not to participate in that and never text, email, or facebook mean things about another girl.  Friends can help other friends by standing by them, telling them how much they value their friendship, and just by treating them well.  Moms can also help their daughter’s friends by listening to their feelings and trying to help them through difficult times.
As a recovered anorexic and the mother of a little girl, I still question even myself on how I will approach the issues of eating disorders. She’s only a baby, so I have a long time before I have to deal with this but what’s your opinion on discussing eating disorders with your daughter….whether it be from an underweight or overweight situation? It is really important not to put your eating disorder on your daughter.  If you obsess over weight your daughter will learn that behavior.  If you pick at your food or binge on junk, that is the example you are setting for your daughter.  The best thing you can do is tell her if you want to look healthy you have to be healthy.  That means eating protein, fat, and carb at every meal – not diet soda and chewing gum to keep your weight down, or fat-free processed foods.  The notion that fat makes you fat is a marketing ploy by the packaged food companies to get people to buy more junk food.                                                                                                                                              
 If you feel your daughter is starving herself or purging psychological counseling is a must.  Oftentimes pubescent girls do not like or understand their changing bodies.  The larger hips and breasts are “fat” to them instead of womanly.  Moms should tell their daughters how nice their curves are not lament that something is not perfect.  It is important not to pick apart figure flaws in others because this could also have a damaging effect on your daughter.


What are your thoughts on the latest “craze” over eyebrow waxing and botox for the younger girls? I personally am not a fan. What’s your take on this growing trend?  Botox is for wrinkles.  Children do not have wrinkles.  The teen years are when your skin is producing collagen.  If a doctor tells them to do it to “prevent” wrinkles, the doctor is unethical.  There is no reason (unless of course there is a severe medical condition) to inject a child with Botox.

Eyebrow waxing- I think if a girl has a unibrow, shaving between the brows is a good way to get rid of the hair without the pain.  However, if she is okay with the pain and the eyebrows look like a character from Sesame Street, I am all for it.  But, moms should not insist on something as painful as waxing in the name of beauty especially before puberty.  In my book, I explore alternatives like shaving and depilatory which are painless.  But, I personally would not leave the unibrow nor any other facial hair on a young girl.

I can’t interview you on Pretty in the Queen City and not ask……What is your beauty product must have? I don’t think I can just say one product because I am a bit of a beauty junkie so here are my top five:

Trish McEvoy mascara- never ends up under my eyes

Laura Geller or Lancome Tinted Moisturizer- love the coverage while still feeling so light

Cover Girl Wetsticks Minty lipgloss – minty and fabulous

Jo Malone Orange Blossom body cream- smells like heaven

Mario Badescu Bee pollen night cream- I swear it’s why I don’t have wrinkles

You are super busy….but you still have to take time for yourself……do you have a favorite spa service?  I love getting an aromatherapy deep tissue massage. I bring Aveda Active  Composition to put on tired, aching muscles.  It feels amazing! 

What is your definition of Beauty? 
Beauty is a confidence you exude when you walk in a room.  Look at the most beautiful models and actors.  Often times their nose is a little too big, their smile is not even, and yet they are beautiful because they walk in a room as if they own it.  A woman who walks with her shoulders back and her head high will always trump someone who is slouched over and peering out at you under her hair.

Any final words? 
When discussing beauty related issues with your daughter, keep the conversation light, tell funny stories about yourself and your friends so she understands she is not the only one in the world going through this difficult time.  To learn more about Bonding Over Beauty, please go to my website at  My book is available online and at bookstores nationwide.  


 You can also find Erika on Twitter and Facebook



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0 comment

KatjaPresnal June 20, 2011 - 8:51 am

Thank you so much for this interview! My daughter is now 11, and she wears lipgloss, is interested in makeups, and I sometimes do her hair… sometimes we fight, sometimes not, but this really gave me something to think about and how I can make my daughters feel beautiful and bond more over beauty!


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