Valerie was born in New York City and raised in a nearby suburb, where she believes she was, during her 17 year residence there, one of the least attractive and most awkward children in the town. Through her experiences with much prettier and more popular girls and boys, she discovered that the phrase, "beauty is only skin deep," is only marginally handy in some situations, and not the least bit useful in negotiating a date or much else having to do with the social contract. She knows first-hand how important it is for women to feel beautiful, because in the thousands of emails she has received in response to the Ask Val page in O, readers always want to know what they can do to look prettier and more alluring. Having interviewed, during her 12 years as beauty director, hundreds of internationally renowned experts of all kinds for beauty stories—from makeup artists to dermatologists, plastic surgeons, cosmetic dentists, hair stylists and hair specialists—she also knows that the options available for self-improvement are legion and increasing, and that women can feel as if they are never doing enough. That's why O's approach to beauty is to celebrate our assets, have fun while we're at it, and to reinforce the notion that real beauty—not skin deep at all—comes straight from the heart.