Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Charm Offensive

Charm Magazine Cover 1946
When is the last time you met someone you would describe as charming?  Successful politicians are said to possess this quality, which they can turn on and off at will.  But, if you can turn it on and off, does that really mean you are charming or does it just mean that you are good at charming people when it suits you? 

Charm Magazine Cover 1954

As soon as I showed signs of puberty, my Mother enrolled me in the local Charm School, where we learned how to move gracefully (I had that one covered from ballet class), how to sit like a lady (legs together, slightly to the side, ankles crossed), how to get in and out of a car without showing too much of what God gave us (we all wore skirts and dresses back then), how to take proper care of our skin (always cleanse with a gentle hand) and how to curtsy to royalty should we be invited to tea with the Queen (I already had that one nailed, too, from ballet class.).   

Charm Magazine Cover 1956

I find the various dictionary definitions of “charming” to be inadequate, so I have come up with my own description of the charming woman: 

“The charming woman exudes femininity and confidence without being aggressive.  There is an ineffable air of sweetness about her.  She need not be beautiful or even especially pretty, but there is something in her face (a great smile?) and manner (a natural grace?) that draws you to her.   She puts you instantly at ease, and everything she says seems delightful.  She is a woman of depth and substance, but there is a lightness and easy elegance about everything she does.  Long after youth and beauty have faded, charm remains.” 

Charm Magazine Cover 1952

Can a woman claw her way to the top of her profession and still be charming?  

In fact, in the ruthless, take-no-prisoners world of business and politics, a charm offensive can be a woman’s most powerful secret weapon. 

Meet Dominique Reiniche, the President of The Coca Cola Company in Europe.  This 58-year-old mother of three from Lyon has a very simple recipe for success, « Se battre, travailler d’arrache-pied pour y arriver. »  (Fight hard and work hard to achieve your goal.)

But, above and beyond what it takes for a woman to become the European head of a global enterprise, when the global enterprise in question is The Coca-Cola Company, she really has her work cut out for her. 

Anti-Americanism has become such a cliché (Excuse me while I stifle a yawn.) that it’s hardly worth mentioning…….except to point out that The Coca-Cola Company represents everything that French intellectuals and the political left (Is that redundant?) hate about America – too big, too sweet, too happy, too everywhere.   If you want to be taken seriously in these circles, you must take every opportunity to rail against this huge American conglomerate whose product is reputed to create sugar addiction and obesity wherever it is sold.  

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I don’t drink soda of any kind, and I do find Coca-Cola sickeningly sweet, even the sugarless variety.  That said, however, millions of people all over the world, including la belle France, love their “coca.” 

Having a chic, slender Frenchwoman as its European head is a master stroke.  Caps off to Coca-Cola for choosing this charming lady as the European face of the Company.  After watching several interviews with Dominique Reiniche in French and English, I have added Mme Reiniche to my short list of charming, high-profile women. 

In the following brief interview in French for Madame Figaro, she talks about Coca-Cola’s program to encourage the entrepreneurial woman.  For those of you who do not speak French, just concentrate on her body language (leaning forward to show openness and interest; a graceful movement of the hand; warm smile, etc.) and her carefully composed attire.  The black leather biker jacket is just fabulous (Who says you can’t wear leather after 50?).  It’s modern and earthy, and the casual drape of the bright scarf softens the look and adds a feminine flair.  Impeccably coiffed (even from the back) and made up, she exudes confidence and approachability. 

For a great lesson in how to lead a charm offensive, click HERE


  1. You're right she is charming. I love seeing how older French women dress and Dominique does it well. I love the scarf against the leather. Are you going to show us other charming French women? By the way, I so agree with your definition of the word 'charming'. Not that I've met you, but that is how you strike me from your blog and emails - charming.

    1. Dear Grace, I may do some more pieces on "charming" women.....or branch out to "charming" men? The criteria are different, but the effect is the same.

      Always love reading your comments. Thanks for taking the time.

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Great posting! Oh, most politicians are great actors at best. That is in the untrained eye for body language and facial expressions. They believe they are cunning in misleading a large group, those that never could figure out what real charming means. Natural grace that you spot right away, genuine and sincere!
    Dominique Reiniche manages this very well; just natural because that's the way she is.
    Don't you love those old 50s magazines where women still are feminine and show a 'waist'?
    But you are right on when you mentioned that in your upbringing you were taught all these things, it has to become second nature or else it never will work!
    You and I were polished for conversing and even eating with royalty. That will stick with you for life! It is a hard school but I'm glad we got taught impeccable manners so no matter when and where we can sit with anyone at table and also converse!
    Hugs to you,

    1. Dear Mariette, I always love reading your comments. They are so wonderful that I often think of collecting them for publication in a book of great insights on life, love and style.

      Hugs to you, ma chère, M-T

    2. Ma chère Marie-Thérèse,
      That would be most flattering...
      As Madam Coco so well said: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
      Hugs to you

  3. She does look very french and very chic. "charm" is such a lovely old fashioned word. I think we need more of it in todays world. Charm helps to make the day more pleasant and enjoyable. I was taught good manners and how to get in and out of a sports car back in the day and both have served me well in life.

    1. Oh, we do share a love of old-fashioned things and qualities. Charm is definitely one of those old-fashion qualities I miss, too. So little of it around these days.

      Getting in and out of a sports car in dress and high heels did take some practice, didn't it? Nowadays, climbing into an SUV in a pencil skirt presents the same challenge. Ah, modern life.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Josephine. Always love your comments.

  4. Although I don't understand the language, her charming behavior speaks volumes to me. Charming, yes. Elegant, yes. Gracious, yes. Proper manners were a very important part of my upbringing and I continued the legacy with my own children. Interesting question, is one still considered charming, if they turn it on and off?

    1. I love the fact that you have continued the tradition of passing along good manners to your children, and now your daughter can do the same for her new baby boy.

      Congratulations to a very stylish Grandmother.

      Warmest regards,

  5. Hi, You are right, I did like this post! :) xo, NG

    1. I thought you might. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Cheers, M-T


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