The hallmarks of a successful and powerful woman look different to everyone. But in the words of Fran Drescher's beloved character Fran Fine from the smash hit '90s sitcom The Nanny, "When you look good, you feel good."
These are words I've carried with me and lived by ever since I grew up watching the female-led sitcom starring Drescher: a strong, independent, and funny-as-hell Jewish woman who paved the way for others like her.
But that sentiment never read like vanity to me. In fact, something about reflecting your insides with your outer appearance felt powerful; it allows you to take control of your own narrative. Which is exactly what Drescher did and taught me to do.
And the actress tells me over Zoom that that was exactly the point. "Fran was real authentic. I was playing a girl from Flushing, Queens, wearing a lot of makeup and big hair," she says. "[It] was very much the character coming from that part of the world."
Of course Drescher can personally relate — growing up in Queens, New York, and all. So when creating the show and the character with her husband at the time Peter Marc Jacobson, her intention was to make Miss Fine as true as possible to her native neighborhood and the people in it, including her upbringing in the Jewish faith. This is why she "dug her spiked heels in" when a major advertiser said they'd only sponsor the show if they made Fran Italian instead of Jewish.
"Fran Fine must be Jewish," she recalls thinking. "The character has to be very close to who you are in order for it to be rich in specificity, which was my and Peter's brand of comedy. The network [CBS] followed our opinion on that, even though we really didn't have a lot of clout. Somehow instinctively, they knew that we knew what we were doing."
And their decision to stick to their guns and keep Fran Jewish set the course in inclusivity and representation in television because according to Drescher, before The Nanny, the last Jewish actress to play an openly Jewish character in a lead role in prime time was Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg in the 1949 show, The Goldbergs.
Over the years, Drescher has continued to practice what she's preached, even in beauty, by only endorsing products and brands she genuinely believes in. And as a survivor of uterine cancer and founder and president of her non-profit Cancer Schmancer, she keeps that list pretty small, given the amount of potential toxins found in everyday self-care and household items. So when cosmetics brand Laura Geller approached Drescher to be a brand ambassador, her decision came down to the quality of the products.
That's why she requested samples before agreeing to partner with the brand, she tells me. And ever since then, she's been an avid fan and believer of the products.
Drescher swears so much by the line that she and her organization Cancer Schmancer teamed up with the makeup brand to curate "Fran's Faves," a bundle of her four cannot-live-without products from the line (Spackle Skin Perfecting Primer, Baked Balance-n-Brighten Color Correcting Foundation, Baked Blush-n-Brighten Marbleized Blush, and the Mighty Pen Liquid Eyeliner in Fountain Brown). Twenty percent of the proceeds of this ongoing sale benefit her foundation.
Courtesy of Laura Geller
"The most important thing that I like to encourage women to do is to honor their bodies," she says, adding that an overwhelmingly high amount of disease is caused by toxins in our environment, products, and food. "What you put on your skin, all of your personal care items, and your oral hygiene, what you clean with, what you garden with, this is all very important. Cancer Schmancer is a kind of a radical nonprofit because we're pivoting the focus onto you, transforming patients into medical consumers, and changing the way you think about the choices that you're making in your life."
In fact, the organization has a program called Detox Your Home, that helps consumers eliminate potentially harmful products from their houses and lives in order to reduce the risk of cancer in their family.
"These companies need to change their ways of manufacturing and get out of the toxic chemical business. And the only way to do that is for the consumer to use their hard earned dollars to make what they buy their vote and what they don't buy their protests," she says, adding this is why she backs Laura Geller's products because all of the products in Fran's curated bundle are fragrance and cruelty-free.
Another one of Drescher's favorite qualities about Laura Geller products? They're specifically targeted for "mature skin," but never try to hide a woman's age or cover her features.
"A woman over 40 can still look great, feel great, and not apologize for where she is or wish she was something that she's no longer," she says. "That's all cultural. I think [Laura Geller] wants to turn that around, and I want to help turn that around. I never lie about my age. I am what I am. I'm loud and proud about it."
The 64-year-old actress's eternal youth is mirrored in the continued popularity and cult-following of The Nanny. Drescher notes that the show is having a major moment now that it's available on HBOMax, allowing many of us the chance to relive the laughs and fall in love with Fran Fine all over again, all while giving a whole new generation the chance to binge and become fans.
"I'm so grateful," she tells me. "It's become an imprint on me. I mean, this is what my life is, and it's strange 'cause I didn't know that going in. I don't even know what it's going to be like when it's not part of the zeitgeist of popular culture 'cause I've been living with it for so long."
I reassured her that I didn't foresee that happening anytime soon, adding that I learned things from her and the show that I'll take with me for the rest of my life. Not to mention Drescher and Marc Jacobson are currently developing and writing the book for a Broadway musical adaptation of the show, with lyrics from creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Rachel Bloom. While she tells me it'll still probably be a couple years until it opens on Broadway, I told her I'd be first in line to buy tickets.
Right before we hopped off our call, I couldn't resist the urge to ask about a reunion, especially with HBOMax's recent successful reunion for, ahem, another popular '90s sitcom.
"At this point, we're constantly being asked to show up together as a group for things," she says, followed by her famous signature laugh. "I think that if we did anything like that, it would be in tandem with the opening of Broadway musical."
We'll be sure to stay tuned.
The Fran's Favorites bundle is available now for $68 at laurageller.com.