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The cover lady

Published May 9, 1999|Updated Sep. 29, 2005

Beauty may be only skin deep, but keeping that delicate covering healthy and looking its best is the mission of Flori Roberts, makeup specialist, who smooths on the uncovered look with Smart Cover foundation, developed by the family firm.

Lately, the usually beautifully dressed nationally known makeup maven Flori Roberts has been appearing in public wearing just one stocking.

Flori isn't losing it; the one-stocking-off, one-on gimmick is a marketing tool for the new cosmetics line she is promoting for her son's company. She and her son Doug came up with the idea for a line of cosmetics to meet the needs of those who have skin flaws such as freckles, age spots and broken capillaries.

"We did a great deal of research listening to makeup artists, beauty experts, dermatologists and consumers to find out what they really wanted in a camouflage makeup," Flori Roberts says as she slathers the creamy Smart Cover foundation over a cluster of age spots on her hand. When she's finished, the spots are barely visible.

"I usually plunge my hand in water when I finish to show how well it stays on," she adds.

The bare leg also gets a going over to hide some spider veins and brown spots.

In November, the Robertses introduced Smart Cover on the Home Shopping Network (HSN), its only sales venue.

Even though she was on the air at 2 a.m. and hasn't been to bed yet, Flori looks fresh and rested at her 10 a.m. interview. "It's the makeup," she boasts.

This is her third venture into the cosmetics industry. This followed a brief career on the stage and an extended stint in sales marketing and management.

Flori was born in Brooklyn and later studied drama at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After college she headed home to Manhattan, where she landed a job on Broadway as an understudy for Carol Channing, then appearing in Lend An Ear.

The second night into the show, Channing developed laryngitis and Roberts went on. When Channing left the show, Roberts got the role. After a couple of years on Broadway, she says, she realized how few parts there were to go around. So, with a partner, she established a fashion consulting firm.

"I had great fashion accounts, and I built a good agency," she says. "Then I fell in love and married Dr. Craig Roberts 38 years ago and moved to New Jersey." After their sons arrived, Flori Roberts continued to commute to New York, where she worked with trade shows. Doug, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, is the owner of Smart Cover; and Bruce, who holds two degrees from Harvard, practices international law in New York City.

Flori came up with an idea of creating a line of makeup for African-American women after going to many trade shows, where "I saw black models mixing and matching cosmetic products designed primarily for white skin tones." After doing extensive research, in 1965 she founded Flori Roberts Inc.

"It had to be a product that was sold in upscale stores. It was Burdines in Miami that gave us our start," she says. Though she sold the company several years ago, the Flori Roberts Inc. line is carried by many stores, including JCPenney in the Tampa Bay area.

In 1985, after surgery for a basal cell cancer at the bridge of her nose, Roberts says, she tried to find cosmetics that would "hide scars and imperfections." Once again drawing on the scientific expertise of her ophthalmologist husband, she developed Dermablend Corrective Cosmetics.

Doug Roberts was working for Morgan Stanley in London at the time. He saw the potential of the product and resigned his position to go with the family business. After Dermablend was sold to the Ivax Corp., he stayed with the operation for several years, and his mother stayed in the industry as a marketing consultant and a frequent spokeswoman for the company on QVC.

When Doug Roberts came up with the concept for Smart Cover, he asked his mother to return as creative director of The Roberts Group and to promote the product on the Home Shopping Network.

For the past six years, Flori and Craig Roberts have made their home on Longboat Key. In addition to promoting Smart Cover, she is a board member and former president of The Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers & Distributors, a national trade association representing more than 600 small- to medium-size companies in the beauty industry.

"Florida is one of the four top states in producing cosmetics," she says.

She is a director of the Senior Corps of Retired Executives, which assists in advising small businesses. She also conducts motivational seminars for women 50 and older, titled "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Mirror."

For those, she wears stockings on both legs.

For information on Smart Cover call the Home Shopping Network, (800) 284-3100.

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