It seems that every celebrity has a product line of some sort nowadays. Whether it's perfume, or a clothing line, or shoes or furniture or headphones you can find somebody's name stamped on it. For many it's just another revenue stream, but for others there's a passionate belief in creating something that connects them with their audience, that leaves an impression beyond their latest role or hit. Jaclyn Smith profoundly belongs in the latter camp.
The famous actress has been touring the country to promote her outdoor line at Kmart, and I had the pleasure of being invited to speak with her while she was in Chicago. As a Charlie's Angel she was one of my girlhood idols. She and her fellow "angels" were no frail flowers or whimpering waifs. Instead, they symbolized strength, confidence, and beauty for countless girls and women. After meeting her I can tell you that symbolism is well deserved.
I arrived at the Ritz Carlton expecting to be one of several journalists in line to get a sound byte or two. I figured I'd have about five minutes, just enough to quickly ask her about her tips for creating a welcoming outdoor living experience. If I had time I might ask about some of her favorite Chicago spots since her husband had lived here for over a decade.
Fortunately I came prepared, because I had much more than just five minutes. In fact, I had an entire hour as I joined her, her husband, and three of her colleagues for lunch at Deca in the Magnificent Mile hotel's lobby.
We began on point, talking about her outdoor collection at Kmart. The line includes table and chair sets, lounges, swings, decorative elements, and lamps. Umbrellas and canopies provide shade and fire pits provide warmth. What they all provide is comfort and elegance. If you glance through the catalog or browse online you can immediately tell which items are hers.
"I'm so proud of it," she said. "They're luxurious. They're durable. We've got one on our patio in L.A. and it has to withstand the sea air. It resists mildew and the frames have a five year guarantee." As she touted the strenghts of the collection she could have sounded like she was reading from a script, or from a teleprompter. Instead her belief in what she's created and her pride in working with Kmart were obvious.
That should come as no surprise. Jaclyn's been working with the brand since 1985, which makes her one of the first celebrities to have her own line. At the time she was under contract with Max Factor and they advised her to say no. "This is not your customer," they said. However, Kmart asked her to take a meeting, and once she did that's all she wrote. For the last 28 years she's created a line of clothing that's affordable, with most items at $30 or less.
"This is Kmart. This is one of mine," she said, looking at her suit with her fork perched above her Deca salad. In an environment where women don clothes that cost a hundred times as much, Jaclyn was wearing clothes that any woman could afford.
"It's a way of giving back," she said. "People come up to me as much about Kmart as they do about Charlie's Angels."
When they asked her to create collections for the home she jumped at the chance. She's a born host, whether it's for guests or just for her and her husband. As she was offering some tips on decorating for guests her husband would jump in, the pride fairly oozing from him. "No plastic for us!" "Oh, don't forget the ribbons." And my favorite, "If nobody's coming over we put it out!" - it being the entire decorative scheme.
"I encourage people to celebrate," she defended, with a slight smile.
She has some great tips, tips that Chicagoans or anyone with limited space can use to liven up their home and their outdoor living spaces. Use pillows with color to provide some "pop". Put rose bushes in antique pots, and then you can plant them later. Tie flatware together with ribbons, and use more ribbons as decorative elements on the table. Her collection includes votive chandeliers and table lamps which provide a bit of flickering ambiance. Her favorite tip seemed to be using lemons and cloves to drive away mosquitos. Cut the lemons in half and stick lots of full cloves into the flesh and the rind for a natural repellent that doesn't smell, well, repellent.
This flair was handed down from her mother. Jaclyn recalled a time when she was a young girl on Valentine's Day. She opened her lunch box and her mother had packed a pink heart-shaped sandwich. "You know how old I am," she said, "and I still remember that!" Her mom also made clothes for her. She remembered a favorite yellow sundress that had two Mexican dancers as pockets. These pockets were made out of napkins, but you would never have known by looking at the dress.
Her mother must have been a grand lady. Jaclyn lost her four years ago, and the mention still brings tears to her eyes. She has a more upscale line of clothing at Kmart that is inspired by her. She was going through her closet with the Senior Vice President of Apparel after her mother passed away, and they remarked on how simply beautiful the clothes were. "The Collection" is modeled after those clothes.
One thing you might notice is how absolutely stunning Jaclyn Smith is. Her skin is gorgeous. When I met with her she'd been going non-stop since the wee, WEE hours in the morning, and yet she was still as radiant as if she'd been well-rested. Her secret? Her own skin care line. She's been using the same regimen for thirty years. Her husband, the doctor, helped her take the products she'd been using and create her own line. This is not available at Kmart and is actually only available online. She does this because as soon as it's for sale in a physical store the price immediately increases. By only selling it online she can keep the price low, so that it remains affordable.
This is what makes Jaclyn Smith so adored. She strives to create beauty and elegance that is available for everyone. She is not exclusive, she is inclusive. She is still that strong, confident, beautiful woman that anyone can idolize, and yet is as approachable as the girl next door.
Thank you, Jaclyn, for sharing your gifts with us. Thank you for always being an "Angel".