Q: Before you came back to Dallas, you were Susie Owens, Playmate of the Month for March 1988. Is it true you lived at the Playboy Mansion and dated Bret Michaels, the singer from Poison?
A: It’s all true! Let’s make it even juicier: I cheated on Bret with Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player, Zakk Wylde. Zakk wasn’t as ego-filled as Bret was, and he wasn’t as pretty. Bret just talked about himself. I used to have breakfast with Ozzy and Zakk every morning. Ozzy had a personal trainer. It was funny to think that a man who eats bats has a personal trainer. But I just kept quiet and took it all in.
Q: Any other rock star stories?
A: I was hanging out with Zakk at his hotel room on Sunset Boulevard. Guns N’ Roses’ debut album was about to come out, and he had a copy with him and played the song “Welcome to the Jungle.” I said, “That is horrible!” A little while later, there came a knock at the door, and when he opened it, there was another musician standing there. Zakk said to me, “That’s Slash, the guitar player for Guns N’ Roses. Watch out, he loves women with blond hair.” I looked at the guy. He was just standing there, not saying anything. And the next thing I knew, Slash fell flat on his face. He was drunk, bad drunk.
Q: You created Child perfume. Madonna wears it. So do Jennifer Aniston, Cher, and a lot of other celebrities. But nobody equates the Susan D.
Owens behind Child with the Susie Owens from March 1988. How did you manage the transformation?
A: Simple. I dropped the “ie” from Susie and added “an” to make it Susan. Then I added my middle initial. My past is something I neither hide nor advertise. We’re all broken; it’s what you do with the present that matters. I got into modeling when I was 28, about the age most models hang it up. I had the body of an 18-year-old. I had fun—probably too much. I even had a superhero comic based on me.
Q: Why the name Child?
A: Because perfume always takes you to the past, and what better memory is there than being a child?
Q: Why don’t you advertise?
A: To launch a perfume, you’d have to spend about $20 million, and then you’d have to manufacture it in huge quantities. I’m lucky that Child is a perfume people fall in love with and they stick with it. They’re my advertising. The first famous person to praise it was Jenny Garth [of 90210], who said she used it because it drives men crazy. That started it.
Q: Why is Child sold only in a handful of boutiques?
A: I need to operate at a level where I’m comfortable. Except for an assistant who helps me out, I do it all myself. Maybe I could double or triple the output, but it would wear me out. Making perfume takes a lot of steps that can’t be hurried. The perfume has to age 90 days before you can bottle it and send it out. It’s like preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. If you change the process just so you can make more of it, it won’t be the same. It’ll lose its soul. And I also only do business with people I know. I need to be able to call them up and say, “Where’s the money?” without being put on hold.
Q: What has been your biggest mistake?
A: I regret that I didn’t start saving until recently. For years I was spending money as fast as it came in.
Q: What has been your smartest move?
A: Probably it was coming back to Dallas. Yes, I had my tail between my legs, but at the same time, it felt right. I needed to get out of L.A. I was selling something fraudulent: myself. And I didn’t like what I’d become. I was busted down to a $20-an-hour nursing job. But it was fine. I got hired by my plastic surgeon, the one who’d been keeping me young all those years. He said, “We’re going to find out what you’re made of, Susan.” It was my first time working in an operating room and a great experience. I had to learn to move precisely and to not be a klutz. I started taking perfume and myself as a businesswoman more seriously. I thank God that I realized that Child is not about me. I don’t have to have my face on Child. It is the direct opposite of the carnal ego world I’d been in before. I learned to quiet down. Christ is always there to guide us when we listen. I’m not really the creator of Child or of its success. I’m just the created.