New book says you don't have to be a star to shine

BROOKE LEFFERTS For The Associated Press Published:

"How to Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman's Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom" (St. Martin's Press), by Janice Min

Photos of styled, svelte celebrity moms splashed on magazine covers can be disheartening and misleading for new mothers. "How to Look Hot in a Minivan" reveals star secrets and offers advice to get moms out of maternity pants and into feeling good about themselves.

Author Janice Min, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, cut her teeth at celebrity weeklies, including People and Us Weekly magazines. She combines her firsthand experience as a mother of three with her inside scoop on how some divas dazzle after baby.

The book details information Min gleaned from her years covering the rich and famous, from baby bumps to body bounce-backs. Getting the skinny from Hollywood stylists, trainers and doctors on how stars stay fit and beautiful, she says that advice should be as accessible to carpool moms as those who walk the red carpet.

Min's point is that you don't have to be a big name to want to look your best and everyone -- including celebrities -- needs a little help. The book is meant to empower women, suggesting if you look good, you feel good, which is not always easy for mothers who tend to put their kids first.

Min's familiar tone makes the book read like a girlfriends' chat after mommy and me class. She shares personal stories about her pregnancy, postpartum and parenting issues -- from muffin tops to working-mother guilt -- with refreshing honesty, candor and humor.

It's no surprise the book is reminiscent of a lifestyle magazine filled with stunning celebrity photos, but Min's style is engaging and she provides useful advice for regular moms. "If it were your full time job to look ... glamorous -- and you had all the money in the world -- you could probably look like an A-lister too. But this is real life ... we have to start aiming for goals that are actually attainable," she says.

The fashion chapter includes a list of essential wardrobe pieces and stylists' tips on how to choose the most flattering fit. Although Min highlights clothes and products with varying price points, the book is aimed at those who have a substantial fashion and beauty budget.

Busy moms can skip the tedious research and a trip to the salon by taking the book's hair and skin recommendations, with specific product names and ways to color and style hair at home. Min presents several easy and inexpensive fixes for typical problems.

When discussing exercise, Min points out obstacles (time, cost, fear) and delivers specific routines and tools to get moms moving. She also includes eye-opening charts of healthy foods, bad snacks and how long it takes to work off those calories in the gym.

The last chapter delves into nitty-gritty details and costs of plastic surgery procedures -- from liposuction to vaginoplasty (gulp) -- teetering on TMI-territory. Min demystifies Botox for regular folks who might be intimidated, noting that in Los Angeles, it's as common as a teeth cleaning. Her clinical, informative descriptions are careful not to promote the knife, but instead warn against the dangers of turning into "Frankenmom."

Critics may say the book feeds our collective obsession with the superficial, but Min seems to walk a fine line -- promoting the tools and methods of celebrities, without deifying them. She concludes that moms taking time for themselves sends a positive message to kids, and often when mama's happy, everyone's happy.