Nestled in the corner of our small but homely elementary library, a hard-bound book with the green letters “ANITA!” sat, overshadowed by other bigger and thicker novels. I was just a rookie in reading back then, and always cherry-picked books based on their covers, contrary to the popular saying. However, I did not once regret the day when ten-year-old me held that little biography in her hands. I never knew it would be the start of my obsession with a store called The Body Shop.
The book commences with an introduction of the life of the woman who started it all. Jules Older, the author, described Anita Roddick’s quirkiness and elasticity with such humor and simplicity that the young me began to adore reading. It was not a long book, though – what with only 48 pages, big font and illustrations here and there. Yet, I was completely entranced, and wondered where else could words teleport me next.
It was magical. It was not like most people’s first ventures into reading, where they are usually welcomed into the world of fiction – probably fantasy, romance or somewhere in between. Anita!: The Woman Behind the Body Shop was non-fiction. When I found out, something inexplicable pulled inside me. What I had read – from Anita’s encounter with the Queen, to her decision to paint her store a remarkable green – was real. That sudden realization was what triggered the positivity in me: no matter how dull and stagnant my childhood years seemed, I hoped and knew it would be as amazing as Anita’s.
The evolution of The Body Shop as told in the story was inspiring in itself. One word was etched in every short narrative – perseverance. I was not a business-minded person like Anita, and I could not, for the life in me, imagine building an international company from scratch. Of course, I was not that old back then to think of such responsibilities, but after all these years, I still think Anita was one of the bravest, strongest women in the world. I was lucky to have been able to read about her story. For the young girl I once was, she was my role model. She still is.
As much as I cherished the origins of this particular cosmetics store, the physical shop itself was and is a mystery to me. The closest I have ever been near one was standing in the storefront, staring in admiration at the big, bold name resting on its façade. I remember my mother calling my name, and the world of Anita Roddick disappearing behind me. I admit, I was not totally addicted with the store itself, rather, I was infatuated with the story and the way it appealed to people like me back then – young girls in need of inspiration.
I could go on and on about this biography and how much it meant to me growing up, but no words could ever do justice. Even now, as a teenager with her feet almost near college, I still think about the book that changed my world.
Though some of the anecdotes seemed unusual, I learned from this biography that life is just like The Body Shop. It starts out small, as if nothing extraordinary or spectacular could ever happen, but as the years go by, you might end up surprising yourself.