Mutha Knows Best

From writing a book about childbirth to launching a successful skin care brand, there’s more to Hope Smith than meets the eye

Bronx and Banco dress,; Bottega Veneta heels, Photography by Olivia Graham
Bronx and Banco dress,; Bottega Veneta heels, Photography by Olivia Graham

Hope Smith loves checklists. Among the achievements she has tallied: sashaying down international catwalks, launching a medical spa, and creating and hosting the Canadian television program Inside Fashion.

But there are people who ignore this and focus on the two days of her life in 2009 when she posed for a Playboy magazine cover and centerfold.

“People love to ask questions about visiting the Playboy Mansion and what it was like to know Hugh Hefner,” says Hope, who also researched, wrote, and self-published the pregnancy and childbirth book Your Body is Magic in 2022. “But nobody wants to know about any of my travel for Fashion Week. Nobody asks about Inside Fashion, which was an idea I had and then pitched and convinced people to put money into it. It’s reductive, because I’ve gotten more recognition for the way I’ve shown up and looked than for the ideas I’ve had in my own mind.”

Emilio Pucci dress,; Jimmy Choo heels,
Emilio Pucci dress,; Jimmy Choo heels,

However, ever since Hope launched her luxury skin care line Mutha in 2019, that seems to be changing. What began as Hope’s kitchen-based quest to reverse her pregnancy stretch marks has grown into a major business that has earned this mother of four accolades that include an “Inspiring Female Founder” designation from Forbes in 2020. She’s not the only Forbes-honored CEO in the house; in 2017, the magazine listed her husband, Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners, as one of the “100 Greatest Living Business Minds.” The secret to Hope’s success? Putting her head down and doing the work, one action item at a time.

Born Hope Dworaczyk in the small town of Port Lavaca, Texas, Hope says that by age 8 she was dreaming of living in New York City. She wasn’t sure how she’d get there, but by the time she was 11, she was 5 feet, 10 inches tall and very skinny, so people told her she should model.

“Nobody looked at me and said I should be a doctor or an astrophysicist,” Hope says. “Now that I have daughters, I’m conscious of not commenting on looks or anything like that, because I know how words can shape realities.”

Bronx and Banco top and skirt,; Mach & Mach heels,
Bronx and Banco top and skirt,; Mach & Mach heels,

After finishing high school in two years, Hope won Miss Teen Texas in 2000 and a one-year scholarship from a modeling agency in Dallas. That agency connected her with Wilhelmina Models in New York, which then got her work with high-fashion brands including Balenciaga, Patek Philippe, Elie Saab, and Versace.

There was no going back to Port Lavaca. But Hope knew that modeling wouldn’t last forever, so she started thinking about what her next act might involve. She earned her aesthetician’s license and, in 2005, opened a medical spa in Houston, where she played multiple roles, including copywriter and website builder. A year later, she launched Inside Fashion, before selling the spa in 2007. Inside Fashion led to other television opportunities, such as an appearance on Celebrity Apprentice, and an eventual move to Los Angeles. Not long after she relocated, she met Robert at a movie event. She spoke to him briefly and thought he was the most interesting person in the room, but she lost track of him in the crowd.

“Three months later, I was sitting in the front row at a jazz festival in L.A. and Robert was right there next to me with his friend, [film director] Deon Taylor,” she recalls. “When I walked in, he told Deon he was going to marry me, [but] we left without exchanging info.” 

Lafayette 148 dress,; Tom Ford heels,
Lafayette 148 dress,; Tom Ford heels,

Hope wasn’t sure if she’d see Robert again. But the next morning she was at The Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills when she spotted him walking toward an SUV. 

“I ran up to him and said, ‘I don’t know why, but our paths keep crossing, and I just have this feeling we’re supposed to know each other,’” she says. “I gave him my number. Back then, I didn’t know anything about him or about what he did. But from that moment on, we were pen pals and friends.”

As their friendship turned into something more, Robert says he was charmed by Hope’s emotional intelligence.

“Hope is very smart and has keen insights about people, probably because of the environment she was thrust into as a model,” he says. “That was very interesting to me.”

Dior dress,; Gucci hat and sunglasses,; Hermès gloves,; Chanel boots,
Dior dress,; Gucci hat and sunglasses,; Hermès gloves,; Chanel boots,

In July 2015, they married on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Robert had been eyeing Palm Beach real estate for years, but Hope didn’t understand where the island would fit into their lifestyle until she became pregnant with her first son, Hendrix. Raising children in a big city felt about as daunting as the stretch marks she feared she’d develop. The one thing she could control: using her aesthetician training to create a clean, filler-free body butter that would prevent stretch marks and help her feel comfortable in her own skin.

After researching the ingredients of other stretch mark creams on the market, Hope ordered raw ingredients and began blending batch after batch of body butter in her kitchen. Two hundred batches later, Hope believed she had a great product on her hands. Every time a friend got pregnant, they’d ask for a container of the magical elixir.

Alex Perry dress and gloves,; Saint Laurent bag,; Faraone Mennella necklace,
Alex Perry dress and gloves,; Saint Laurent bag,; Faraone Mennella necklace,

“Word spread like wildfire, because it works,” she says.

The product jockeyed for attention with the many other facets of Hope’s life. She recalls being on vacation, mentally composing a list of the ingredients she’d need to order, when she’d get a call that someone else needed her body butter. Finally, Hope’s friend Cassandra Grey, founder of the luxury beauty retailer Violet Grey, advised her to turn her product into a brand. 

“I admired how seriously she took what she was doing and how uncompromising she was in her approach to doing it,” Grey says. “I knew it had come to a point where she was giving this product to friends and to her husband, who said it was the best moisturizer he had ever used.”

Rick Owens dress,; Amina Muaddi heels,
Rick Owens dress,; Amina Muaddi heels,

As Hope teased the impending launch of a brand that would become known as Mutha—a name she chose because it felt bold and independent—a young New Yorker named Lauren Kerlin watched the soon-to-be beauty mogul’s Instagram account with interest.

“I sent her a [direct message] and said I have a lot of love for skin care, so if you’re ever hiring an assistant, here’s my résumé,” Kerlin recalls. “I shot my shot, as they say, and she hired me a week later.”

Hope admired Kerlin’s pluck, and her indispensable ways became crucial as Mutha brought its first two products—the body butter and a body oil—to market in 2019. At this point, Hope and Robert had already brought a second son, Legend, into the world, and were about to welcome twin girls Zya and Zuri, who were born via a surrogate. 

Lapointe suit,; Celine sunglasses,; Valentino heels,
Lapointe suit,; Celine sunglasses,; Valentino heels,

Also in 2019, the Smiths moved to Palm Beach and have since fallen in love with the island’s languid lifestyle. Still, not a minute of Hope’s day goes to waste. She drops her sons off at school for chess practice by 6:45 a.m., before returning home by 7:05 to wake her daughters at 7:15.

“Every day they get full-on glam-squad hair by Mom,” Hope says. “They head to school at 8 a.m. and then I come back home for meetings and other calls. Sometimes I work from home in sweats. But sometimes I’m traveling to New York and trying to come home that night or the next night. The kids don’t like it if I have to leave. It’s a very big thing. When I’m home, we have dinner together at the same time every night, and then I put the kids to bed.”

Hope understands that try as she might, she can’t do it all, but that different things on different days get her all. However, Grey says that Hope “seemingly shows up for everyone.” One of the ways she does that is through philanthropy. She and Robert give to such organizations as Foster Love, Unlikely Heroes, The Bail Project, and The Conscious Kid. Mutha also donates 5 percent of full-priced sales to International Medical Corps for midwife and nurse education programs in countries where maternal mortality rates are highest.

Alex Perry dress,; Judith Leiber bag,; Anna-Karin Karlsson sunglasses,
Alex Perry dress,; Judith Leiber bag,; Anna-Karin Karlsson sunglasses, us.annakarinkarlsson.cpm

In 2024, Hope will launch five new Mutha products (among them a face cleanser and an eye cream) and add new retailers in the United States, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom. This is manageable for her, especially with the kids, and it boosts her chances of getting every item on her to-do list crossed off.

“I’ll just feel disappointed in myself if I can’t check off everything,” she says. “I’m very much a ‘let’s get it done and move on to the next project’ type of person.”

Inside Hope’s Closet

Hope loves fashion and has curated a collection of thousands of items spanning four closets around the United States. “It’s a part of my life that brings me joy,” she says of fashion and the thrill of the hunt. Among her finds are the Hermès Himalayan Birkin 30 and multiple exotic Lady Dior bags. A recent treasured acquisition occurred during a trip to London.

“I had been trying to source a pair of nude-colored Chanel rainboots with the white logo for six months,” she says. “But I found a pair at Harrods that were on hold until 12. The person in the shoe department told me it was technically past 12, so I paid for the shoes and continued to look around. A man walked in four minutes after 12, saying he had come to pick up a pair of Chanel rainboots that were on hold for his wife. I couldn’t skirt out of there fast enough.”

Hope also appreciates a good statement piece. For the 2024 Super Bowl, she carried a pink Judith Leiber football clutch, complete with white crystals where the stitching would traditionally be. “It’s not practical at all,” she notes, “but I love it.”

Story Credits:

Fashion editor: Katherine Lande

Hair and makeup: Colleen Stone, Creative Management, Miami 

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