Caroline de Maigret, OLDER, BUT BETTER, BUT OLDER

Caroline de Maigret, OLDER, BUT BETTER, BUT OLDER

Zibby Owens: I’m here today with Caroline de Maigret who is the author, with Sophie Mas, of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are from 2014 and most recently, Older, but Better, but Older. She is an international model and has been a Chanel ambassador since 2013. Caroline is also a music producer at Bonus Track Records and a fashion video producer. She is a children’s and women’s rights activist. Caroline currently lives in Paris with her twelve-year-old son.

Welcome, Caroline. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Caroline de Maigret: Thanks for having me.

Zibby: Caroline just got off the flight from Paris, through an hour-and-a-half line at immigration, and has landed at my desk. This is major bonus points for you for doing this. I am so impressed.

Caroline: I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see you. You have to be nice to me because my mind is a bit in the clouds still.

Zibby: I will go very easy on you. I just like listening to your beautiful accent. That’s the best part. I don’t think anybody else from France has been on my show. Sorry for whoever I just offended.

Caroline: You know what? I thought the writer from The School of Life.

Zibby: Oh, Alain de Botton.

Caroline: Alain de Botton, he’s not French?

Zibby: He’s British.

Caroline: He is?

Zibby: Yeah.

Caroline: He just has a French name.

Zibby: Maybe his family was from France. He definitely lives in London now.

Caroline: He went to Cambridge or studied in Cambridge or teach.

Zibby: He identifies as British. Let’s go with that. Anyway, please tell listeners about your latest book, Older, but Better, but Older. This is your latest book. What is it about?

Caroline: It’s about how you’re just living your life. You’re in your thirties. Then suddenly you have little surprises one after the other of the dark signs of age, might it be from people around you or society, but also just you and your body. The idea was to give an honest and fun way of seeing it. There are some great sides about aging. There are some not-so-fun sides. We are always aware of what it is when you become old, like in your sixties, you know biologically. You learn about it at school. People tell you what happens, but not the forties. It’s a strange feeling that’s not always very nice.

Zibby: I agree. I’m forty-three.

Caroline: I’m forty-four.

Zibby: There you go. In reading this, basically everything I was agreeing with in the whole book. I’m like, oh gosh, oh yes, oh this too. There were so many funny things. I want to talk about how you decided on the format. I found that super interesting about your book. It’s almost a multimedia type of book in that you have, not multimedia, but a range of formats. You have poetry. You have essays. You have lists. You have photos. You have guidebook options to Paris and back. You have all sorts of different things. Then you have pictures almost like Instagram Story-ish posts. It’s the perfect book for an attention-starved busy person, which is part of why I liked it so much. How did you come up with this idea and this way of telling this story?

Caroline: I think I know no other way to do it. That’s how my life is. I’m a music producer. I write books. I won’t say I’m a writer, but I write books. I’m a Chanel ambassador. I’m a mother. I direct videos. I do all these things. I love to play with formats and do long things and short things and having ideas and put them down. That’s why sometimes I want to tell a long story and sometimes I just want to make you laugh with really short poems. I don’t know. That’s how I am.

Zibby: How was the collaboration? This is your second book that you wrote with Sophie Mas. How does that work? Do you sit in a room with her and write it all down? Do you email each other? What’s the actual process the two of you go through to write these books together?

Caroline: What we do is we meet each other. We start talking about life, what happened last week and then the months before, stories, love stories, stories at work. Little by little, you realize that lots of things you’re going through, like neuroses and fears, are often linked to your age. That’s why it was very interesting. When you talk, you realize that sometimes most of your actions will be dependent on your age. For example, you’ve learned how to live with your neuroses, but sometimes you don’t. It’s a process. We do this. Then she’ll go, “I want to write about ,” because she went through it. I’ll give her anecdotes I have from friends, stories. That’s how we do. She’s going to go and write it at her house, then send it by email. I correct it. She does the same for my text. It becomes like one voice.

Zibby: That sounds great.

Caroline: What’s good is when you talk about a subject that’s so large, the age, it’s nice to have different voices to make it a bit more round.

Zibby: To have a sense of humor about it is also really helpful.

Caroline: That’s the only thing I’ve found to make it okay. It’s life. It’s the pass of life. It’s completely fine. You just have to get used to all the new surprises all the time. If you learn how to laugh about it, then it makes it easier.

Zibby: Do you think that because you were this international modeling superstar, that your aging has been harder? Nobody’s looking at me or most people, I would argue, critically about their looks as intensely as they might somebody who had made a profession out of how they look. Do you think it affects people who are more forward-facing in their appearance?

Caroline: I don’t think so. I think it affects the teenager in me. Suddenly, I’m not part of the youth club anymore while I still think I am. The fact that I’m still being taken, my photo, and do Chanel campaigns and stuff actually helps me. I’m like, I’m still okay. If they still want me, I’m still okay. At the same time, it makes me proud as well to be — I’m still really young, I think, to myself. That’s how I feel. It makes me proud to keep on going and to still be a woman that other women can look up to as an example, like, you’re still okay when you’re forty-five because you’re still in fashion and your pictures are being taken.

Zibby: What’s been the hardest part of aging for you aside from not being in the club?

Caroline: While I was writing the book, I had a midlife crisis. It was a few different things. The main thing was I felt one day that it was the last chance for me to change everything, to change of boyfriend. I’ve been with my man for fifteen years. We have a son. I was like, oh, my god, I’m going to be with the same man all my life. I can it be the goal of some people, but to me it was so frightening. It’s my last years of being sexy, of being able to do whatever I want or whatever, to change jobs, to change everything. Then it took me a year to went through it with anxiety attacks and all this. It was all crazy. I was going out every night. Then I was like, wow, actually I’m fine. It’s fine to be with the same person. I can change if I want to. I realized how it was all cuckoo. It was almost like a hypochondriac. It was very megalomaniac. I understood it was something, I was going from a woman to the next woman. I do that every ten years. I always have a little burnout every ten years.

Zibby: Did you decide to stay with him, or you broke up?

Caroline: Yes.

Zibby: You did? You’re still together?

Caroline: Yeah, we’re still together. He’s amazing. He’s been so nice. I feel so much more alive since all those questions I went through. It was very interesting.

Zibby: You started the book with the section, which was hilarious, called “You know things aren’t the way they used to be.” Then you add all these things. Some of my favorites were, “You no longer know who the hip singers and actors are.” I read Us Weekly. I basically stopped reading it because I don’t know who anybody is. I feel terrible. My twelve-year-old daughter is telling me who the people are.

Caroline: I have to say, I kind of lie to my son sometimes.

Zibby: That you know?

Caroline: Yeah. I’m like, oh, yeah, yeah.

Zibby: I should do that. She sees right through me, though. I’m the worst liar.

Caroline: I don’t think we should. I’ll get over it at one point and I’ll be completely . It’s just strange because age is a number. It’s your bones and your cells aging. Your mind, your mind is aging. I learn so much. I love where I am. The serenity of it is amazing. Knowledge is the key of everything. I love where I am, but it’s just so strange when your body is aging to someone else while your mind is still, it’s not aging. It’s getting knowledge, but it’s not really aging. That’s the problem.

Zibby: My dad is in his seventies. He says he looks in the mirror sometimes and is like, “Ah! What’s with the white hair?” Inside, he feels like he’s twenty-five. Then sometimes he looks at me and he’s like, “How can I have a daughter your age? I feel so young.” It’s true. Some days I’m like, aren’t I still twenty-two?

Caroline: It’s completely fine. It’s just to have to get used to it, to all those ideas of not being a youngster anymore. It’s fine. That’s what the book is about, is taking a fun look of it.

Zibby: You also had this whole section which I think was my favorite, “All the times you tell yourself you’re exercising when you’re actually not.” Today, I was literally at the Natural History Museum with my five-year-old son.

Caroline: I love this place.

Zibby: I was like, this is great. I’m getting a little workout here walking around to the cafeteria to buy animal crackers. This is not a workout. I used to work out all the time. Oh, my gosh, it’s amazing what you can convince yourself to do. Do you still work out? You must.

Caroline: No, I’ve never worked out. I started now because I understood I had to just to be healthy, and healthy in my mind as well. It feels good to the brain and just for the body to be not too stuck. No, I’ve never done it before. I hate it. I take no pleasure whatsoever in exercising. People tell you with time it will come. It never did.

Zibby: Was it you or Sophie in the book who’s the one doing the yoga? Is it you? One of you said that in one of the tradeoffs — there were all these catch-22s. The tradeoff is the pain of having to do yoga and the boredom that comes with it.

Caroline: It was me. I did a lot of yoga when I had my burnout ten years ago. Oh, god, I sound like a crazy woman. I did it. It was so good. I felt so good and so relieved. Every time, it was hell to go there. I hated it. I was so bored.

Zibby: Not for everybody. It’s not for everybody. I also found it really interesting, your chapter on owning your insecurities. Maybe this was Sophie, about her butt. Was that you?

Caroline: No, it’s me. That’s how I found my style.

Zibby: You opened the chapter by saying, “I don’t like my butt. I just don’t. I’ve disliked it since the summer I was seventeen when a guy accosted me at the club to inform me that my ass hung low.”

Caroline: It’s true.

Zibby: Some random guy just came up to you?

Caroline: Yeah, I think he was flirting. You know how you take the power over someone by saying something not nice, so then they’re actually cool people because they’re nice enough to talk to you while you’re not that good? They break you to take the power. That was his strike.

Zibby: I was going through this whole essay thinking, oh, my gosh, if she hates her butt, the rest of us are just doomed.

Caroline: No, no, I hide it really well. It’s fine. It’s actually a section in the book on style and how you grow from flaws to find yourself. You hear what people say to you. You should not listen to guys in clubs who say stupid shit.

Zibby: You pretty much probably should not listen to guys in clubs, period, full stop. Go on.

Caroline: It’s more about how you listen to how people react. It’s a style section. This guy who told me about my butt — I had never looked in the mirror. I’ve never really looked at myself in the mirror. It was more about seeing if I had toothpaste around my mouth after brushing my teeth. Then I realized, oh, my god, it’s true. Then I became really aware of that. I started making a whole masculine androgynous look. People reacted so well on it that I was like, wow. It was actually quite a good idea to go on that look, just to find bigger pants but that was not baggy pants. I went men’s pants. It went really well. People were all excited. I was like, okay, that could be a look. It’s fun that it went from a flirt line in a club to actually my style that I kept for the last twenty-five years.

Zibby: You have a whole philosophy of the difference between fashion and style which your first book dealt with more, correct?

Caroline: Mm-hmm.

Zibby: What’s the difference, fashion and style? How do you keep your own style?

Caroline: I think style is about who you are and how you want to be perceived. It’s part of the knowledge you have, I reckon that the books you read and how you feed yourself, watching movies and the exhibitions you go to or the painting you see. It feeds, probably unconsciously, your taste and your knowledge. I know that quite early, Katharine Hepburn had an impact in me aesthetically, style-wise with her high-waisted pants and her white shirts, always a little bit masculine actually but yet super sexy but very empowering. It’s funny how it just melts on you. Knowledge melts on your taste. You understand better, who you are and how you want to look like. I would say that’s the difference. It would be knowledge and being true to yourself and who you are.

Zibby: Okay, I’ll try to do that more. Are there any items that you can’t live without, either clothing items, makeup items? What do you depend on the most?

Caroline: Oh, god. Is my son an item?

Zibby: Sure.

Caroline: I guess my leather jacket is like an armor. I always feel invincible when I wear that. Usually when I wear it, you know I’m not in a super good mood. It feels like nobody can hurt me or something. I’m not very attached to material things, to be honest.

Zibby: I like the insight into the jacket. I wonder if other people have those things, like big red flags to people who know them well. I’m trying to think if I have anything.

Caroline: I do have a few pieces. I think you do without knowing. You have the few pieces that when you are not feeling so good in the morning, you know those pieces will be okay. You know they’re comfortable. You know they’ll fit you. A white shirt, I know is always —

Zibby: — This is like my extra-large pajama pants and my son’s extra-large school sweatshirt. That’s my “I’m in a bad mood. Stay away” type of thing, which is not half as chic as your outfit. What’s coming next for you? You’re so busy. You have so many different things. What are you most excited about that’s coming up?

Caroline: Directing. It fulfils everything I like, image and telling stories and people. I love it. I’ve never felt so at the right place than when I direct. I’ve done fashion films for now, for Chanel and other friends. Now I’m writing my first short movie. I’m producing it. I’m directing it quite soon. That’s really exciting. It’s a fiction. I’m very excited and very excited as well for future.

Zibby: What advice do you have for aging women who may not be supermodels? We’re all going through the same thing at the same time, like you say in your book, finding the stray white hairs and all these little things that are creeping up, the wrinkles and all these very unpleasant, annoying, getting in the way of daily life things that are starting to happen. Do you have any advice?

Caroline: I’d say that first of all, perfection doesn’t exist. Don’t run after it. Take the pressure off. If not, you’re just frustrated all the time. Get used to the idea of aging. Feed yourself with other things than looking at yourself in the mirror. When your centers of interest are stronger, physically doesn’t become as important. Also, I say that a sense of humor in that always helps. First of all, it makes you shine. I think that’s how you gain everybody in the room. I always say that, at least in fashion, all the biggest muses were never the most beautiful girls. They were the witty or the most women. It’s more into what you have to say and behave than your age, really. It’s just a number. Also when you have a sense of humor, people can’t talk about it because you talk about it first. When you laugh about your white hair or whatever, your diet, if you make jokes before everyone, they can’t use it, which is a good trick.

Zibby: That is a good trick. I use that trick too. That’s a good one. How about any parting advice to aspiring authors, somebody who’s looking to undertake a project like yours?

Caroline: Parting advice?

Zibby: Any advice to aspiring authors?

Caroline: Sorry, I thought partying. I was like, whoa. Vodka.

Zibby: No, parting like at the end of our — we are about to part. Oh, partying advice. Do I need partying advice? No, I think I’m good. I’ll read you this question. Do you have advice to aspiring authors who want to take on a book project like the one that you just did?

Caroline: I have never been, in my life, scared of failure. It doesn’t do anything on me. What I love to do is create and do. I always do, do, do. There are lots of stuff that never went through, or that went through but that didn’t work out. Just go for it. Do your things. When I lived in the nineties in New York, that’s where I got that energy from, which is not French at all, which is just do. You can do it. Whatever happens, we’ll see. You’re allowed to do it. That’s the biggest trick. Then you just put your ideas down and you go from that.

Zibby: Excellent. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Caroline: Thanks for having me.

Zibby: I really appreciate it.

Caroline: Thank you.

Caroline de Maigret, OLDER, BUT BETTER, BUT OLDER

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