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Blush: the unbelievably absurd dairy of a gay beauty junkie
Blush is written by Harvey Helms and tells his story up the lipstick pyramid starting in North Carolina all the way to New York City.
Blush is currently also turning into a screen play to become a movie.
San Francisco Chronicle Review
Harvey Helms is the picture of exuberance with a ready smile, fast chatter and a face that twists pliably into mock horror or confusion, his eyebrows quizzically arching or frowning with deep concern. The beauty junkie and former national director of beauty at Revlon thrives on transformation - whether applying colorful cosmetics on a client or fashioning himself into her most trusted friend. He learned quickly as the first male (and gay) makeup artist in his North Carolina hometown department store that building a bouncy rapport with shoppers was the best way to their hearts and loyalty, if not their pocketbooks.Helms, who worked for Revlon during the 1980s and '90s, and later did stints at Donna Karan Beauty and Luxxotica eyewear, now splits his time between Silicon Valley and Grass Valley (Nevada County). He has embarked on the biggest makeover of his life - as an author - with his self-published "Blush: The Unbelievably Absurd Diary of a Gay Beauty Junkie" (Harvey Helms Enterprises, 398 pages).The wildly humorous autobiography, mildly fictionalized (names and dates have been changed to "avoid a Valium overdose by anyone mentioned in the book," he writes) is a diary with dialogue. For a swifter read, his 13 years at Revlon have been compressed into three. He chronicles the ups and downs he and his colleagues weathered; explores his complicated relationship with his mother, a sweet Southern belle with an acid tongue; and gives a peek into the darker side of growing up gay in the South. He was bullied as a youth and nearly beaten to death in college by homophobic classmates, he writes."I love a great story," Helms says over coffee at Mayfield Cafe in Palo Alto on a wintry morning. "The cosmetics counter is the best place to get them. Women tell me stuff they wouldn't tell their priest." To make a living while penning the book, he became a style consultant to Silicon Valley professionals, with more than three dozen doctors, lawyers and tech executives on his roster who find him indispensable as a lifestyle guru, of sorts.They include Kathi Lutton, a litigator at Menlo Park's Fish & Richardson, the nation's largest intellectual property law firm, whose wardrobe was whittled by 90 percent and replaced with streamlined, versatile pieces; Woodside pediatrician Janesta Noland, who said a trip to Marshall's and Nordstrom Rack with Helms power-shopping through the racks was akin to the way she looks in children's ears, " all information gathered in an instant"; and Palo Alto psychologist Diane Kay Eaton, who values Helms' perspective."Harvey likes to remind me of what Oscar Wilde said: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken," Eaton said. "He helps me be the best self possible, imperfections and all."Helms has more than enough to keep himself busy, but has more tales to tell. In the works are a prequel and a sequel to "Blush." He is also writing a screenplay for Hollywood with friend and TV producer Allison Kluger, who had a hand in developing the ABC TV talk show "The View." "I love a great story," Helms says over coffee at Mayfield Cafe in Palo Alto on a wintry morning. "The cosmetics counter is the best place to get them. Women tell me stuff they wouldn't tell their priest."Helms was inspired to write the book after watching the film "The Devil Wears Prada," which starred Meryl Streep as an Anna Wintour-like character, at a theater in Cincinnati.As Helms writes in the preface to his book: “About half-way through the film, when Meryl's character Miranda Priestly starts continuously dumping those delicious coats and handbags on Andrea's desk, I realize that I'm laughing hysterically in places where no one else in the theater is laughing. Now I know I'm a New Yorker transplanted to Ohio, but this is hilariously wicked stuff and incredibly true to life. I've worked for the Miranda Priestly character several times in my own cosmetic career.I look over to my Ohio friend and ask, “Why aren't people laughing?” He says with a mouth full of popcorn, "Honey! This movie isn't believable. It's sickly funny but it's not real life." After a sip of Diet Coke and a swoosh of my hair à la Cher, I turn sharply and say, “Oh yes it is!” My mind instantly does a flashback to she-dragons, man drama, and lipstick. If this friend didn't believe the crazy truth of the story, then other people outside of urban cities probably didn't either. As I left the theatre that fated evening, I knew immediately that I had to share my diary, blemishes and all.”A relative of the late and ultra-conservative North Carolina congressman Jesse Helms, Harvey Helms came out in 1974, when he was 11. He and his mom were standing in front of the refrigerator, he recalled, when she asked him, "Are you gay?" When he said he was, she told him, "You'll never be happy." He remembers shooting back, "Are you, Mother?"He characterizes his story line as "fool triumphant," and notes, between sips of coffee, "If I were pitching Louis B. Mayer of MGM, I would say, 'Boy meets world. Boy gets bullied. Boy meets lipstick. Boy learns to survive.' "Helms longed to be a fashion designer and at 19, in 1984, got a job selling clothes at the local department store. He was transferred to the Revlon cosmetics counter because he couldn't remember to remove the security sensors from the apparel and kept setting off the alarms.He rose through the ranks at Revlon (as beauty adviser, national makeup artist, regional and national training manager), until he reached his dream job - national director of beauty. Revlon, once sold alongside Charles of the Ritz and Estee Lauder, was in the midst of change, however. The company downsized (the product is now sold in drugstores) and his job was eliminated.Putting a fresh face forward in Palo Alto, Helms also became an online columnist at Betty Confidential in 2010. And if all goes his way, his reinvention act won't end there, but on the red carpet at the Academy Awards."I have a bucket list and I want to be impactful," he says with a smile. "I've never written a movie and I haven't won an Oscar. I'd regret it forever if I didn't try."
The Life of Blush Author, Harvey Helms
One of my all-time favorite authors is Pat Conroy. From his exquisite writing I learned the rhythm of the tides and of the shallow marshes of the south. I avidly read sentences, and then stopped to re-read them; over and over again. My mind sees vivid images of oysters and sandbars, of Conroy's life growing up navigating a little boat through the swamp, with the sun beating on his bare back. Everything about the beauty and richness of the Southern United States I learned from Pat Conroy.Recently, I have had the opportunity to learn another aspect of the south's culture, of what it means to be "southern" in America, and the way in which the Southern people have made an art out of denial. I learned these interesting aspects of southern life through first time-author, Harvey Helms's new book, Blush: The Unbelievably Absurd Diary of a Gay Beauty Junkie.This incredibly funny, tongue-in-cheek memoir tells the true story of Harvey's life -- taking you on the emotional rollercoaster of growing up a gay man in the south. One minute I found myself laughing out loud, the next minute I was holding back tears, thinking about the struggles facing a young boy in such a hostile, intolerant environment. Harvey knew "When I took my first breath, I was gay." How did Harvey survive that death sentence of being different, of being so feminine that there was nowhere to hide, no closet to pretend? Blush shows just how a young man can learn to accept himself. How Harvey survived this cruel and unusual punishment is clear from one of the very first sentences. "Gay boy drops out of his mother's womb like an Amex at a Prada sample sale." Humor. It is the gift Harvey brought to his life and the gift that he shares with us in this first novel. His ability to find humor and laughter in the absurdity of his southern upbringing is what kept me turning the pages until I had finished the book in one sitting.Blush takes us through the truth of his experiences being gay, of being bullied throughout school and of his attempted murder. Imagine that: his college roommates were so terrified of catching his "gayness" they tried to kill him. The prospect is as preposterous as it is terrifying. All the while, his mother, his family and friends sipped their mint juleps and ignored the critical conversations concerning Harvey's survival. The author describes these southern belles as if such a conversation were beneath their oozing southern charm.Harvey went on to become the first male beauty advisor, selling cosmetics behind the department store counter in the south. Today he is still alive to tell the story. In this book, we meet Tammy Faye Baker who takes a shine to Harvey. We meet she-dragons, Belinda the good witch, and the "candy-coated" evil co-workers. Despite the very difficult aspects of being gay, Harvey's book is a testament to his personal resilience and gives hope to others who must overcome their own life challenges. It can and WILL get better. Blush is an authentic, highly personal novel by a one of a kind, authentic human being. A must read.
The Book Cast Interview
Click on the button to listen to the interview of Harvey Helms.
Read what people have to say about it on Amazon
From L. Sturges
What a fun book. I have no idea how I stumbled upon it but I'm glad I did. Harvey, you had me talking out loud to the book! "No!" "Really?!" "You can't be serious!" I feel like I was sharing the time with a good friend and I'm sad that its over. (That last chapter went by so quickly and then "poof" you disappeared. Really, do you have a blog? I need to know what happened next and I need more on that last chapter!!!) Money and time well spent.
Blush is a wonderful read and pulls you into Harvey's world of beauty and being a gay man in the South. After reading the last page I immediately wanted to know what happened next in Harvey's life. He shares the good, bad and the ugly of his life and has you laughing out loud as he describes the people he encounters. Can't wait for the next book!
Very well written and extremely entertaining. Loved his sense of humor, most revealing. Suitable reading for all.There was nothing I disliked about the book. Highly recommended.