Amy Poehler vs. Diane von Furstenberg: 11 Things We Learned from Their Memoirs

They couldn’t be more different, right? Not so fast.

By: Emily Ramshaw

When Yes Please and The Woman I Wanted To Be, Amy Poehler and Diane von Furstenberg’s respective memoirs, were released a week ago, we were quick to purchase both for TC’s library (more recent additions: Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Olivier Zahm’s OZ and Betty Halbreich’s I’ll Drink to That, among others). Upon first glance, and, uh, in carefully following each woman’s career, we kind of assumed that their books would be, to use a hackneyed metaphor, like night and day. And, okay, so maybe DVF marries a prince, jetsets to Bali and back and refers to Oscar de la Renta and Google's Sergey Brin as close friends, while Poehler is hosting parties with Jon Hamm, meeting the politicos she so expertly mimics and eating cold mozzarella sticks are, well, pretty different. But stick with us here. Because as it turns out, they both talked about their aversion to plastic surgery, hustling for their big break, having kids, sexism and a lot of other shared experiences—in short, all those little complications and intricacies that go into being a modern woman. You can relate already, right guys?

So, while you’d still likely be able to distinguish whose excerpt can be attributed to who even if their names weren't there, we couldn’t help but bring the two together, for double the advice and inspiration. Not that you shouldn’t still read both full books, 'cause you know there’s a lot more where this came from.

—Emily Ramshaw

 

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On growing up...

"The worst things I had encountered were lice (which I'd had), scoliosis (which I didn't) and the threat of nuclear war (a shadow that loomed over everything). My generation was obsessed with scoliosis. Judy Blume dedicated an entire novel to it. At least once a month we would line up in the gym, lift our shirts and bend over, while some creepy old doctor ran his finger up our spines." –Amy Poehler

“When I was a girl, I always wanted to be older than I was. Instead of sitting, I knelt next to my father in the car so that people would think I was grown-up. I pretended I had wrinkles and scratched my face with my nails because I wanted to have a lived-in face like the French movie star Jeanne Moreau. When I turned twenty and my mother asked me, ‘How does it feel being twenty?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve been telling people I’ve been twenty for so long that it doesn’t make a difference.’” –Diane von Furstenberg

On not letting your past define you...

"I looked at my high hair and heard my New England accent and realized I was certainly bringing a lot of Boston to my Boston College experience... The accent is really a hard thing for me. It reminds me of my family and my childhood, but it's one of the worst-sounding accents out there. I love Boston, but we sound like idiots. Our mouths never close and we talk like big, lazy babies. I might get shit for this but as a true Bostonian all I will say to that is FUCK YOU AHSOLE, IF YOU GOT A PRAWBLEM WIT ME THEN LET'S MEET BY THE RIVAH!" –Amy Poehler

“Reading the [New York magazine article about von Furstenberg and her first husband, Prince Egon von Furstenberg] and seeing our lives exposed under a magnifying glass, I realized that that couple was not who I was. I didn’t want to be a European Park Avenue princess with a pretend decadent life. That woman was definitely not the woman I wanted to be. I had to leave the couple in order to be me. Egon moved out soon after that piece in New York Magazine, but our friendship and shared family lasted forever.” –Diane von Furstenberg

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On beauty and accepting yourself...

"I wish I could tell you that being on television or having a nice picture in a magazine suddenly washes all of those thoughts away, but it really doesn't. I wish I were taller or had leaner hands or a less crazy smile. I don't like my legs, especially. I used to have a terrific flat stomach but now it's kind of blown out after two giant babies used it as a short-term apartment. My nose is great. My tits are better than ever. I like my giant eyes, but they can get crazy. My ass is pretty sweet. My Irish and English heritage and my early sun exposure guarantee that I am on the fast track to wrinkle city. Bored yet? Because I can't stop." –Amy Poehler

“In my older face, I see my life. Every wrinkle, every smile line, every age spot. My life is written on my face. There is a saying that with age, you look outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles your face gets saggy. If you’re a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life. My face reflects the wind and sun and rain and dust from the trips I’ve taken. My curiosity and love of life have filled me with colors and experiences and I wear them all with gratitude and pride. My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?” –Diane von Furstenberg

On plastic surgery...

Plastic Surgery Haiku

We know it's Botox
And not your vegan diet
Nice try, Margaret

A face-lift does not
Make daughters comfortable
When you chaperone

Hey, shooting poison
In your face does not keep you
From turning fifty” –Amy Poehler

“I know that people look at me and wonder why I have not succumbed to the progress of technology. Why have I not frozen or filled in the lines of my forehead. Why have I not clipped the bits of surplus skin on my eyelids. I am not sure, but probably because I am afraid of freezing time, of not recognizing myself in the mirror, the images I have been so friendly with. Losing the complicity with myself is something I would not like to happen, the wink in the bathroom mirror as I pass it in the middle of the night, the straight-on look that I recognize.” –Diane von Furstenberg

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On pregnancy...

"I was halfway through my seventh season on SNL, and no one really noticed my nausea and extreme tiredness. That was par for the course at a job that made you stay up all night long and eat cold mozzarella sticks you had to buy yourself." –Amy Poehler

“A few weekends later I went to Monaco with friends to watch the Grand Prix again. Ferretti was in Monaco, too, and offered me a ride back to Milan at the end of the weekend. He drove his Maserati very fast and I thought it was all the high-speed twists and turns in the road that were making me nauseated. I felt even more sick the next day and thought a sauna might make me feel better. It didn’t. Instead I fainted in the middle of Piazza San Babila and remember hearing people saying ‘She’s dead, she’s dead’ and all I could do was move a finger to show them ‘No, I’m not dead.’ What I was, of course, was pregnant. I couldn’t believe my ears when the doctor told me the news.” –Diane von Furstenberg

On dealing with sexism...

"As we got off the airplane and headed towards the moving walkway, the man pushed past me and jostled me a bit. 'Excuse me,' I said. 'Excuse me? Excuse you!' he said... 'You girls were talking the entire flight,' he said. 'You should not be in first class!'

All of my lower-middle-class Boston issues rose to the surface. I don't like it when bratty, privileged old white guys speak to me like I am their mouthy niece. I got that amazing feeling you get when you know you are going to lose it in the best, most self-righteous way. I just leaned back and yelled 'FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU." Then I chased him as he tried to get away from me. 'You rich motherfucker! Who do you think you are? You're not better than me. Fuck you and your fucking opinions, you piece of shit.'" –Amy Poehler

“Even the staid Wall Street Journal took notice and on January 28, 1976, ran a feature about my ‘fashion empire’ on the front page. I was beyond proud of myself that morning as I took a very early flight to Cleveland for a personal appearance. There were almost no women on that flight. I sat next to a businessman with a pile of magazines and newspapers on my lap. The Wall Street Journal was on top. After a few minutes of staring at me and my legs, huffing and puffing, trying to figure out how to have a conversation, the man asked, ‘What’s a pretty girl like you doing reading the Wall Street Journal?’

I looked at him, but said nothing. I could have shown him my front-page story, but it seemed too easy, and to this day, the fact that I did not remains one of the best personal satisfactions I’ve ever had. I kept my triumph to myself. Though of course I have told that story so many times since that I have more than exploited this poor guy’s chauvinist attitude, which was so common at the time.” –Diane von Furstenberg

On their big New York breaks...

"I was hired on Saturday Night Live in August 2011. We were supposed to have our first read through on 9/11...It was a tough time to join the show. It felt like America might not ever smile, never mind laugh, again. I like to refer to the transition period of any new job as 'finding out where the bathrooms are'. Not only did I have to find the bathrooms, but I had to attempt to do comedy in a city that was battered and still on fire, while avoiding being killed by the ANTHRAX that had been sent to floors below us. Talk about jitters." –Amy Poehler

“Greatly pregnant and with my dream in place, I’d struggle out of the apartment with my suitcase full of clothes to make the rounds of department stores and centralized buying offices. The people I met were amused and intrigues by the unorthodox presentation of little jersey dresses pulled out of a Vuitton suitcase by a young, pregnant European princess, but it did not materialize into anything. I persevered, though, especially after the birth of Alexandre.

The door that opened two months later, in March 1970, was the most critical one in New York: that of Diana Vreelance, the intimidating, all-powerful dragon lady editor in chief of Vogue. It seems amazing to me now that I had the audacity to enter her fashion shrine and show her such simple little dresses. I had the advantage, of course, of having my social status, but my youthful confidence is what made me push open that door. Diana Vreeland? Why not? And that was the beginning.” –Diane von Furstenberg

On work/life balance...

"There is an unspoken pact that women are supposed to follow. I am supposed to act like I constantly feel guilty about being away from my kids. (I don't. I love my job.) Mothers who stay at home are supposed to pretend they are bored and wish they were doing more corporate things. (They don't. They love their job.) If we all stick to the plan there will be less blood in the streets." –Amy Poehler

“With the first money I earned, I bought Cloudwalk, an astonishingly beautiful property in Connecticut for my twenty-seventh birthday so we could spend relaxed time together in a setting where wee could also feel free. And we did. I spent much time there with the children and their school friends, cooking for them and often transporting one of them to the emergency room to see if a cut need stitches or an arm was more than just bruised. During the week I’d be a tycooness in New York again, striding out the door in my high heels and fishnet stockings. I winking in the mirror, smiled at my shadow, and off I went, to make a living and become the woman I wanted to be.” –Diane von Furstenberg

On staying humble...

"Jon Hamm and I held Emmys that weren't ours. We called ourselves losers all night and years later threw a losers party where winners had to donate money to charity to get in." –Amy Poehler

“The many women I’ve met through Vital Voices [a global nonprofit founded by Hilary Clinton that identifies female leaders and helps them to increase their leadership potential] have left me almost breathless with their courage and determination. ‘My God,’ I think to myself. ‘I’ve done nothing.’ Though I’ve dedicated myself to empowering women through my work in fashion, mentoring, and philanthropy, I am empowered, mentored, and filled with riches from these women. It is they, and many others like them, who inspire me with their strength and beauty.” –Diane von Furstenberg

On ambition, motivation and hustle...

"Almost every job I have ever gotten was due to someone knowing my work or seeing me in something else... Years and years of hard work and little bits of progress isn't nearly as entertaining as imagining me telling a joke in a Boston food court when suddenly Lorne Michaels walks up and says, 'I must have you for a little show I do.'” –Amy Poehler

“I was totally on my own, with no experience, and the challenges were enormous. I remember Air India’s freezing warehouse at Kennedy Airport, where, sitting on the floor sorting out a new shipment from Italy, I had to cross out all the labels written in Italian and rewrite them in English. I can see myself crying from the cold and exhaustion, but now, of course, that experience has become a fond memory. So has the way I stored the folded dress in our dining room and shipped all the orders myself, while also handling the invoices.” –Diane von Furstenberg

On the most important aspects of their careers...

"Your career won't take care of you... Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around... [it] will blow you off if you call it too much. It's never going to leave its wife. Your career is fucking other people and everyone knows but you... Now, before I extend this metaphor, let me make a distinction between career and creativity. Creativity is connected to your passion... that small voice that tells you, 'I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.' That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and make you delicious food." –Amy Poehler

“My goals had shifted. No longer was I striving to be financially independent. I was. I didn’t need to prove that the first time around wasn’t an accident. I had. What I wanted now was to turn a good company into a great company, to leave a legacy, something that would live beyond me. I had reached the age where you begin to think about what you leave your grandchildren and their children.” –Diane von Furstenberg

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