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Talk About a Pivot! From the CIA’s “Queen of Torture” to Beauty Coach

We love reinvention stories but we've never heard one as dramatic and jarring as Alfreda Scheuer's.

“Even when I was traveling the world in my former career, I never missed a chance to indulge my wonder, curiosity, and passion for all things beauty,” says Alfreda Scheuer, the founder of the newly launched YBeU Beauty, on the company’s website. What she doesn’t say is that in that former career she was also traveling the world indulging in wonder, curiosity, and passion for what could be called the opposite of beauty as she hunted down threats to the country’s national security.

Scheuer is a former CIA member who the New Yorker branded the “queen of torture” in a 2014 article, claiming that she “gleefully participated” in torture sessions. Now the woman who was partly the inspiration for the main character in Zero Dark Thirty is an online beauty coach, selling sessions for as much as $600.

For two decades, she was a central figure in some of the major controversies of America’s war on Islamist extremist groups.

For two decades, she was a central figure in some of the major controversies of America’s war on Islamist extremist groups, including secret detention centers and brutal interrogations. In 2021, Scheuer retired from her job as deputy chief of Homeland and Strategic Threats.

But her website casts her pivot as the quest of an ordinary woman for midlife meaning. “Wow, it was daunting to leave a big organization and realize that now I was on my own, with nobody to boss around or fix things,” she writes in her About Us section. “Worst of all, I had lost my identity. Have you ever felt that way?  If I was not that confident person in charge any longer, who was I? I looked in the mirror and saw the face of a retired, midlife woman. So many of my friends told me this is when they started to feel “invisible.” Have you ever felt like that?”

Read More: Amazing Read: The Exploits of a Female WW2 Spy

On the Waterboarding Circuit

Last month, Scheuer talked about her role at the CIA for the first time. Over several calls that lasted two and half hours with Reuters, Scheuer said she couldn’t discuss individual cases because they were classified. But in a broad sense, she said waterboarding cited in government reports was not torture, insisted such techniques can work and said any criticism of her was largely the result of her taking risks to combat terrorism.

She said waterboarding cited in government reports was not torture.

“I got bloodied,” she said, alluding to criticism of her agency in government and media reports, “and kept coming back to try again and again to do something. I’m proud that I wasn’t on the sidelines. I didn’t bury my head in the sand.”

As for the New Yorker’s “queen of torture” moniker, Scheuer called the description, which found its way into multiple media reports, false and a caricature. She believes a male operative would not have been described the same way. (She may have a point there.)

“I got that title because I was in the arena,” she said. “In fact, I raised my hand loud and proud and you know, I don’t regret it at all.”

A Senate investigation does not allege Scheuer personally tortured any suspects. She said her role was as a “subject matter expert,” not an interrogator. “There is a very clear line between an interrogator and a debriefer,” she said. “A debriefer is a subject matter expert who asks questions.”

On the Skin Care and Confidence Circuit

Pronounced ‘Why Be You’ Beauty, Scheuer’s brand focuses on helping other women feel good about themselves, gain confidence, discover their personal skills, and showcase their inner and outer beauty. “I’m ready to help you own your beauty from the inside out and feel invincible in midlife,” Scheuer writes. “My mission at YBeU beauty is to empower women to own their beauty.”

The company’s Facebook page is filled with quotes about age and beauty meant to encourage and inspire. There are also numerous photos of Scheuer in front of her company logo plus product reviews and advice. She has posted numerous videos of herself chatting about her favorite beauty products, showing off her skin routine, and sharing makeup tips—like how she is able to make her eyes pop without using mascara.

She wanted to try something “entirely different” from her last job. She succeeded.

Potential customers can can book a complimentary one-on-one call with Scheuer, where she will answer any questions they may have about her services. She offers a 30-day intensive course for $397, which includes three one-on-one customized sessions with Scheuer. For $597, you can purchase a 90-day plan and includes two one-on-one sessions per month with Scheuer, virtual support with online office hours, and invitations to exclusive YBeU Beauty events.

We see the CIA-beauty maven shift as a jarring juxtaposition, but we have always contended that women our age are multi-faceted. So we shouldn’t be surprised. Plus, Scheuer sees her pivot as part of a continuum and has no trouble connecting the dots.

“I had finished a three-plus decades career as a senior government executive leading teams, mostly females, tasked with no-fail missions, taking smart risks, and even making life-and-death decisions,” she recalled of her decision to switch careers. Scheuer added that she knew she wanted to try something “entirely different” from her last job, but still “use her experience mentoring women.”

Though we can’t support her views on waterboarding and torture, we can applaud her efforts to transform her life and her dedication to supporting other women. We each contain multitudes.

Read More: What I Learned About Food, Chickens—and Life—Joining the Peace Corps at Age 50

By NextTribe Editors


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