She moved into the White House little more than 100 days ago, but while Laura Bush, 54, easily handles the pomp and circumstance, she sometimes misses the simplicity of her Lone Star routine. When she's at the 1,600-acre Crawford, Texas, ranch that she and President George W. Bush, 54, share with their 19-year-old twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara (now freshmen at the University of Texas and Yale, respectively), "I wear jeans and a shirt," she explains. "I fix my hair and put on makeup, and I don't touch it all day."
White House grooming is a different matter. When the cameras click, a stylist hovers nearby for touch-ups. Bush laughs about the preening: "I smiled so much one night for the photo ops that my lips twitched" Her short brown hair, which she previously had cut every six weeks, gets more attention too. "My daughters used to advise me to do something about it because it moved as a unit," she reveals. "Teenage girls love to make a mother humble." Now a hairdresser comes in to fine-tune her tresses before important events. "I'm enjoying that, I really am," says Bush. "It's a luxury. It's not hard to get used to."
Beltway insiders find the new First Lady's assured charm and graceful mien as welcome as a tax break. Bush, who uses her position to advocate for libraries and reading programs for children, "is very comfortable with herself. She's not trying to be someone else," says Washington hostess and author Sally Quinn. "She's the perfect postfeminist First Lady." Others see the only child from windswept Midland, Texas, who has called herself "a reluctant campaigner," as a kind of 21st-century June Cleaver. "She's not threatening. She supports her husband," says Washingtonian Magazine editor-at-large Chuck Conconi. "This is the kind of woman you could go home to and have a nice dinner and a cocktail."
To keep looking and feeling good, the 5'5" Bush says, "I drink water all day," and she goes easy on the makeup. "I have a lot of contrast with dark hair, blue eyes and fair skin," she points out. "And I think people with a lot of contrast look better with less, so that's what I like."
The President finds that less is indeed more. "I am glad that Americans are getting a chance to find out something I've known for 23 years—Laura Bush is a beautiful person, inside and out," he says. Despite the excitement and pressure of the presidential swirl, the couple find it fairly easy to keep on an even keel, says Laura. "As we've matured, we realize that a lot of things we might have thought important when we were younger, we know now really aren't," she explains. Her handbag, for example, contains only the necessities: "Just like every other woman in America, I carry a lipstick, a hairbrush and Altoids."
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