[Jacket] Boden Clothing [Sweater] Thomas Wylde [Leather Pants] JBrand Jeans [Bag] Furla [Booties] Dior
I was recently invited to participate in an upcoming wedding related feature for the Knot, to which I responded with a resounding “YES.” Their Ultimate Planner & Organizer has dutifully served as my most coveted source of sanity throughout the whole happily-ever-after-assuming-we-emerge-from-this-undertaking-alive thing. And so, I spent a hefty chunk of last night drafting responses to a handful of questions related to all things bridal glam. The first inquiry seemed simple, straightforward, harmless enough. It read: “What makes you feel most beautiful?”
I’ve seen this zinger posed to droves of women before me. The most commonly offered, commendable response seems to teeter along the lines of, “I feel most beautiful when I’m lounging around the house without any makeup on, wearing loose fit jeans and my boyfriend’s oversized T-shirt!” That said, I was especially hesitant to offer, “Well, I feel GREAT with a high-quality weave braided into my head, hair blow-dried and beach-waved, cheekbones as perfectly highlighted as they are contoured. Additionally, I’m always game for a good faux glow and a fresh mani/pedi in the color Lollipop by Essie!”
In a culture that inundates the female psyche with visions of wide-set Kate Moss eyes, Kendall Jenner lean legs and Kim Kardashian…everything, there’s a distinct standard of physical flawlessness that women are consistently urged to meet. Comments like, “Wow, she looks half her age!” (Sorry, but, why is it so praiseworthy to appear habitually twenty-five, anyway? I mean, what’s all that egregious about looking sixty when one is, in fact…sixty?) or “Her body is goals AF!” — generally in reference to a Victoria’s Secret Angel strutting down the runway – overwhelm our media-saturated society, trickling down into even the most rudimentary, casual conversations.
So what am I saying here? That I’m a byproduct of a broken system. That I’ve squandered monthly s-a-l-a-r-i-e-s trying to create an “interpretation” of Candice Swanapoel’s bright blonde locks on top of my own dark-rooted head. I’m not the girl who can honestly state that she feels most beautiful with completely bare skin and exposed stretch marks. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve learned to identify my own unique attributes. Because, here’s the thing: all of us have our individual strengths. I’m not being Polly Anna about this either; I’m being dead-ass serious with you here. Dead.ass. Nowadays, I choose to place a focus on learning how to maintain and enhance my appearance in a way that makes me feel my best, rather than on berating myself for failing to resemble Romi Strijd. Below, you’ll find some of the tried & true experts who’ve helped me to do just that.
Haircut, Extensions Expert — Andre Davis, Stylist, Julien Farel Salon & Spa: Renowned for placing a scrupulous emphasis on promoting luscious locks and healthy hair before all else, Andre has single-handedly been taming my tortured tresses for nearly a decade now. When it comes to my ‘do, he’s acutely aware of the fact that I like to rock an uncontrived and editorially inspired look, which is an aesthetic that he guided me towards at the outset of our follicular friendship. In addition to providing stellar shapings, Andre inserts and upkeeps my extensions – you know, the ones that I’ll never [willingly] opt to remove and/or stop jabbering about. And, as if all of that weren’t enough (!), my little hair whisperer also manages to create subtle, swoon-worthy waves every time that he takes a dryer to my dome. It suffices to say that Andre will be safely stowed away in my bridal suite throughout the duration of wedding weekend – put the lotion in the basket style. Hehehe.
Hair Color — Abby Haliti, Stylist, Julien Farel Salon & Spa: After the aforementioned incident in which I insisted on trying to become a sun-kissed South African supermodel (I mean…lol), I quickly realized the significance of having a talented and trusted colorist on call. Never again will I place my tush in anyone’s chair besides Abby’s. Hand-painting rich brown hues and golden highlights into my hair, Abby is exceptionally experienced, calm and confident – so much so that her peaceful demeanor makes me nervous. After enduring lots of rainbow-streaked, tear-inducing debacles throughout my history with highlights, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that color on a brunette can easily equate to…purple. But when you take a seat in the mix master’s chair (Get it?!), not only will you be able to relax, but you’ll also strut right out of the salon with prismatic definition that looks as natural as it does flattering.
Airbrush Spray-Tan – Anna Stankiewicz, Louise O’Connor Salon & Spa: If you’ve followed me for more than like five minutes, then you’ve probably already concluded that I’m always yearning for a good faux glow. Once upon a time, I only spray-tanned in advance of special events. But after my initial visit to Anna, I became a cult-like follower of all things bronzed. Anna is a co-creator of the Suvara spray-tan formula, which is one hundred percent organic, so you’ll never run the risk of encountering funky chemicals – like, um, formaldehyde – when she paints you perfect. But beyond her famous formula, she’s also known for mixing custom color for her clients, offering up a little bit of contour magic in all of right places, as well. While I generally plead with Anna to make me as dark as possible (It’s the Long Island in me), she’s actually regaled for her red carpet worthy glow. Per her expert advice, on my wedding day, I’m going to opt for a “SprayTan? What spray tan?! This is just my natural joy resonating through!” type of a look.
Facial – Ildi Pekar, Ildi Pekar Skin Care: In doing my bridal glam, I finally took the initiative (at twenty-nine) to put some measure of effort into my skincare regime. While my trainer has me drinking a pitcher of water a day, opening up the flood gates of hell, mind you, Ilkdi Pekar does all of the grunt work when it comes to extractions, brightening, and microdermabrasion. What separates her from the rest? Well, beyond her roster of above-mentioned supermodel clients, Ildi is incredibly gentle, so much so that I didn’t want to get up from the heated, blanketed bed that I lounged on throughout the treatment. In addition to providing a killer facial that had me looking tighter and brighter (that is: visible results and instant gratification – weee!), Ildi didn’t try to sell any of her products to me either, which is sort of unheard of in a spa-like environment. Instead, when I probed her, she put me on a very realistic maintenance schedule, and suggested that I “stick to what already works” (meaning my current skincare go-to’s) prior to my upcoming wedding. An esthetician that’s as genuine as she is effective? I’ll be back to Ildi asap.
Laser Hair Removal – Olga, Ajune Medical Spa: Also in the vein of bridal prep, I recently opted to do laser hair removal. As a Czech/Greek halfbreed, I have pale, Eastern-European skin and dark, Mediterranean hair. So…yeah, thanks, universe. When Olga handed me two stress balls to squeeze in the event of an outburst, I admittedly got a little bit nervous. I have a relatively high threshold for pain and a penchant for engaging in elective cosmetic procedures, so I was game to have the bush wacked for good without uttering any complaints. Laser hair removal generally takes about six to nine sessions to work, but after the initial experience is completed, the hair is said to grow back somewhat more thinly, and the process itself hurts much less. That said, in the interest of full disclosure, the first session is killer with a capital “K.” When I handed Olga her deflated stress balls back, I realized that it was of paramount importance to go to someone who I had the utmost faith in for this one. Olga has been lasering for years, and she works out of Dr. Mauro C. Romita’s office on Fifth Avenue, so I took solace in knowing that I wouldn’t drop dead on her table. When I finished the procedure, I called my bestie to pout about how much it hurt, and she assured me that it would be well worth it when the word “razor” no longer needed to be a part of my vocabulary. I couldn’t argue with her on that.
Manicure/Pedicure — Essie Flagship, Samuel Shiriqui Salon: One of my favorite things about New York City is the fact that there’s a cheapie nail salon on virtually every other block. For purposes of convenience, I usually visit one that’s close to my apartment. But on special occasions, the Essie Flagship never ceases to impress the absolute heck out of me. Offering spa-like mani/pedis, a (literal) wall of colors from which to choose, and uber artistic technicians, your “regular” mani/pedi will wear like shellac. Warning: it might be difficult to shlep back to your local salon after visiting Essie’s Flagship location.
I’ve spent the last decade of my life in two long term, exclusive relationships. The first one ended in a sensational, public debacle — one that, as many of the objective, surrounding parties to the situation would eventually come to point out (I mean, better late than never, right
assholes loved ones?) was as inevitable as it was austerely ominous.
The second one materialized into the great love of my life. And before you start dry heaving, let me just say this: I know how that sounds, but it’s the utmost truth, and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. Still though, I’ve consistently prohibited my brain from even considering the idea that I might aptly fall within the purview of a relationship type of a girl. Labeling myself like that felt like tossing up a billowy white flag of defeat and acquiescing to the widely held public perception that as a young, well-coiffed female with a guy in her life – any guy, really – I must be frivolous, absurd, weak, dependent.
In a world that doesn’t take women who wear too much makeup all that seriously (and really, who’s to say how much is “too much,” and UM, why does it matter in the first place?!), how could I cop to the fact that I consider my bond with my fiancé to be the single most fulfilling aspect of my life? That although I’ve been blessed with a satisfying career and a number of longstanding, wildly-inappropriate-inside-joke-laden friendships, at the end of it all, I’m most eager to come home to my hubby, forcing him to the watch The Affair with me on Showtime, while cuddling on the couch and downing various forms of toxic corn syrup (Starburst, Skittles, Swedish Fish) out of an oversized, multi-colored plastic bag?
As a child, I picked up on the idea that becoming anything other than a completely financially and emotionally independent woman was the equivalent of transgressing into a sad, harrowing cliché of a thing. When I’d go to work with my mother — think shadow day – I’d observe that she occupied one of the most impressive offices in the space. It had a large desk that travelled up the wall and around the room, a white marker board with important red notes scrolled, and a sky high, sprawling view. More often than not, I’d roam the entirety of the floor, introducing myself to what appeared to be a sea of employees (I was four and cute, so this was substantially more permissible than it probably would be now), who would entertain my zealous, self-imposed “Hellos!” with declarations like “Oh. This is Jan Vilim’s daughter.”
And I was proud. For a hefty chunk of my formative years, my mother was a single parent. She had a top tier education, a prestigious corporate career and a well manicured home in an upscale neighborhood on Long Island. Recently, she mentioned that, in those days, she wasn’t particularly interested in finding a partner or getting married because, as she noted, “I had my own house. I had my own job. I had my own car. I even…had my own kid.”
But was she fulfilled? Was she complete?
I don’t know; that isn’t for me to say, I guess. After my Stepfather entered the picture, though, things did become noticeably more peaceful for a time. At six, I was able to observe my mother having fun, being carefree. She seemed significantly more at ease, taking the time to travel, grappling with the idea of relocating to the West Coast, contemplating the addition of a second child to the family. During an argument that I witnessed between her and my Stepdad, though, I remember her storming into the living room — tense, overwrought, tear-stained – and declaring, “I made a big mistake here. I was doing fine on my own. I’m just not the type of woman who’s meant to be married.” She wore a reddish/pink scarf with small white polka dots tied in a knot at the side of her neck. My Stepfather, I worried, would soon be a goner. But I also wondered, “What type of woman is meant to be married?”
I graduated from college a year and a half early, attended law school in Boston, produced, reported and fought with fire to ward off the idea that I might actually be that sad little cliché of a girl. When I first started dating my fiancé, we’d already been friends for a number of years. During one of our earliest lunches at a small café uptown, I remember thinking I’m having so much fun. And instead of experiencing that intensely awkward, stomach churning, God-where-is-this-going-feeling that often coincides with first dates, I felt like I was spending quality time with the only person who has ever made me think that maybe being soft is being powerful.
My fiancé is meticulous in his cleanliness; I’m a walking disaster. He’s an intensely, painstakingly private person; I’m a notorious over-sharer who’s willing to spill my guts to anyone who will listen. He’s quiet (at first); I’m a chatterbox. He’s steadfast in his decision-making skills; I vacillate between options until I work myself into a panic attack. It’s not that we’re identical to one another — because we’re not. It’s that he is the somebody who gets my soul, and I’ve come to believe that a soul is a far more powerful and enduring thing than a pedigree could ever be.
There’s a commonly held conviction in the field of clinical psychology (apparently) that alludes to the fact that human beings experience what’s called “childhood amnesia” by the time in which they reach the age of seven.
If you’ve ever wondered why you have no memory of what it was like to be a baby (The fact that I’m forced to recall the entirety of my adolescence — Velcro bangs, excessive self-loathing, and Long Island included — but that I don’t have any remembrance of being swaddled in pink cashmere and spoon fed applesauce while lounging in a crib for eighteen hours a day, feels like a sadistic personal tragedy to me), it’s probably because, like the greater portion of the adult population, you didn’t establish “accurate recollections” until the age of about three or four.
While I, too, find myself almost totally unable to recall the bulk of what transpired in my young life, somehow, there are a handful of moments that are so vivid, so poignant, that I could narrate them to you as if they occurred yesterday – and were photo-documented on Instagram, SnapChat, and the blog, to boot.
For example, on one of my first Christmases, I remember yearning for a pair of Twin Dolls – blue-eyed baby sisters that could be burped, brushed, and clothed like the real life younger sibling(s) that I didn’t yet have. But despite the fact that I woke up to a pristinely staged parade of gifts underneath my Christmas tree, I only recall the dread of peaking into the first box to discover — horribly, impossibly — that it didn’t contain EITHER of the two dolls that I’d been so frantically coveting.
How did Santa fail to receive the memo(s)?
As a toddler, catatonic in my own puddle of devastation, the truth is that I really just wanted what would eventually come to be known as my “big gift,” that one, supremely desirable item that I’d start dropping hints about somewhere in the dead of summer and then ruminate over until it showed up in a box underneath my Christmas tree on the twenty-fifth of December.
This year, I decided (in August) that I wanted to invest in a watch. After a couple of years of looking down at a frequently bare right wrist, it occurred to me that it was time to research a quality timepiece, one that could be worn on a day to day basis, elevating the entirety of my wardrobe and serving as the ultimate go-to staple.
Enter Tag Heuer (click!) — the renown Swiss watch brand that reintroduced their iconic “Link Lady Collection” this fall, thereby making the hmm-which-item-should-I-get-decision a total no brainer for me.
Because, check out the GEM (literally – hehehe!) on my right wrist. With a Mother-of-Pearl dial, and tiny, simple diamonds surrounding the face, this is the kind of minimalist piece that serves to compliment every last one of my looks. The stainless steel bracelet, in combination with hand-applied faceted indexes and a polished central seconds hand, was reason enough to sell me on the watch. But beyond the simplicity and the sophistication of the design alone, the fact that this baby is water resistant and that it contains scratchproof sapphire crystal, means that I can rock it not just here at home in New York, but on vacay, as well.
What’s your big gift this holiday season? Make it something that you’ll have forever. 😉
When I first received notice that I might have an opportunity to do a meet-and-greet at the Gigi New York pop up shop, I made an immediate beeline towards the brand’s website and spent the greater portion of the afternoon pouring through images of luxury leather handbags and chic little I-sort-of-really-want-all-of-these accessories.
In the interest of full transparency, let me just cop to the fact (In case you haven’t already guessed – hey, #IamwhoIam) that y-e-s, I’m a total designer purse fiend, adhering to the adage that while couture clothing can often be supplemented with thrifty finds from Zara, Asos and H&M, handbags (finger snap, flick of the wrist) serve to complete the entirety of a woman’s wardrobe.
In keeping with the vein of pragmatic purchasing, and more accurately – years of holiday begging — I’ve accumulated a decent sized collection of purses from a couple of distinguished designers. But, as a result of that, I’ve also realized, anticlimactically enough, that I’m definitely not alone in my desire to rock a Givenchy Leather Mini Antigona.
It fact, nearly every time I grab my bag and make a quick jaunt uptown or downtown (that is to say, anywhere on the island of Manhattan), I manage to spot at least one other girl toting the exact same bundle of potential buyer’s remorse on her forearm.
Enter Gigi New York.
Upon arrival at the brand’s chic, sleek pop up shop, I became instantly enamored with their vibrant display of luxury leather goodness.
For a fashionista, visiting the Gigi space — especially during the holiday season — is the equivalent of, let’s say, a hyper child entering FAO Schwartz at the pinnacle of its splendor, second floor foot piano and two hours of toy time included.
From richly embossed totes to pebble grain crossbodys, and everything in between, including some of the cutest clutches that I’ve ever F’ing seen (F bombs start flying when I become increasingly passionate about something!!), I circumnavigated the parameters of the place like a straight hawk, ensuring that I got a good gander at Gigi’s generous selection of inspiring – and timeless — options.
With richly colored hues, flattering go-to shapes, and a wide range of enduring styles done right (Think saddle bags, hobos, and totes just to name a few), I immediately observed that the quality of Gigi’s leather was not only visibly pristine, but that it felt better than many of the designer duds that were sitting at home on my closet shelf, chipping away at my ever dwindling credit score.
And yet, their pricing is undeniably reasonable and fair.
A family owned business, the President of Gigi New York, Tom Glazer, explained that the company sources its leathers from virtually every corner of the world, France and Italy included (!), and that Gigi shares its tanneries with a number of renown global brands (we won’t name names, I suppose, but if you’re reading this article, chances are that you can already think of a few!), which means that — even for me, a self-disclosed bag snob — I’ll be doing a lot more buying/wearing of Gigi goodness and significantly less conventional designer digging.
In the photographs above, you can see that I’m rocking my beloved Grace Satchel in grey embossed python. Its shape, size and color offer up a fierce compliment to my otherwise ordinary enough outfit. It’s also worth noting that with my wedding now four months away (Mother of God), I’m consistently able to fit three planners, two magazines, my wallet, and my regular handbag essentials into this chic beast.
And SPEAKING of day planners (you know, the beautifully embossed books that you often see in my insta pics) it turns out that they, too, were made of leather that was sourced in Gigi’s family-run factory located on Long Island. Cool, right? Prior to the birth of Gigi New York, Tom Glazer’s Father was the book designer/typographer responsible for producing many of the notebooks, calendars and journals that are currently stocked in major retailers worldwide.
So in the spirit of affordable, personalized, and timeless holiday gifting, I’ll be picking up some monogrammed accessories (because Gigi can personalize virtually all of their products) ranging from office supplies to travel necessities, and one or two of those F-bomb worthy clutches to elevate my own winter wardrobe, as well.
The pop up shop is located in the heart of Meatpacking, in a phenomenal space at 875 Washington Street, and in store personalization is available every Monday through Thursday until the thirtieth of December. If you’re not in New York this holiday season, you can also check out the whole line at Gigi New York (click away).
[Photography: Jeff Thibodeau Hair: Andre Davis]
When it comes to my history as a chronic procrastinator, the gist of the matter can most seamlessly be synopsized as follows: no one is better versed in learning how to pay electric bills only after receiving at least six Termination of Service notices from ConEd than I am.
Returning to an apartment that more closely resembles a large refrigerator than it does a First World dwelling, I’ve often found myself scrambling to make an absurdly simplistic online payment, one which, had it only been rendered upon its initial due date, would’ve precluded the need for a last minute, panic-stricken effort to restore warmth and overhead lighting to my broken Midtown Manhattan based igloo.
The strides that I’ll make just to avoid doing things like: getting out of bed before 10am, consuming a vegetable, boarding a treadmill, and/or visiting a doctor’s office, are truly staggering. And while I’m armed with a repertoire of thoughtful justifications for all of my indefinite postponements (Sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of historical duhhhsasters, like the destruction of the Challenger, you know, so you’d do well to make the responsible decision here and slip right back underneath those covers, Self!), I never feel enthusiastic about tackling what might otherwise qualify as a totally enjoyable endeavor when I’m running on manic energy and iced venti black eyes alone.
All of this basically just means that I’m short changing myself, failing to make the most out of of my moments because I’m more focused on stuffing them into the same rapid fire increments that are generally reserved for coffee runs or cigarette breaks than I am on actually living them. The incessant tick-tock of pressurized deadlines serves as the self-imposed soundtrack to the backdrop of my unnecessarily cluttered life.
In the same way that I used to sorely regret cramming a semester’s worth of information into my throbbing, bruised brain two nights prior to final exams, I’ve come to resent the act of missing out on the full vibrancy of an experience because of my perpetual deferment of various tasks. For instance, my weekly failure to adequately prepare for ‘date night’ generally renders me half dressed behind a bathroom door, shouting “Ready!” to my ever-punctual fiancé (bless him, that cute little alien) who’s putting his coat on and exiting the apartment. Drenched in stress-sweat, I take two more seconds to adorn my bare eyes with globs of mascara and throw on a sweater — or, any garment, really — clamoring to ensure that I, alone, won’t be the reason that we arrive after the restaurant closes its kitchen and stops serving for the night. Instead of feeling relaxed and beautiful, I’m frustrated and undone, scolding myself for watching that extra episode of Dr. Phil via YouTube when I knew that I should’ve been getting ready for our night out.
As such, when I recently looked at my Day Planner and ingested the fact that my wedding was exactly six months away (breathe!), I had a serious discussion with myself. Crystallizing a vision of exactly what I wanted the experience to represent, I made a devout resolution to prepare as thoroughly and as well in advance as possible, ensuring that all of my best efforts would go into the meticulous creation of an event that I believe should be comprised of personal touches and close attention to detail. Because, prior to the sixth month mark, I found myself experiencing a recurrent nightmare in which I’d wake up on the morning of the wedding and realize that nothing, sans the church and the venue, had been booked. While I would continuously rush to make an emergency appointment with GlamSquad in a last ditch effort to look reasonably suitable for my walk down the aisle, I would become overwrought with frustration, disappointment and anger.
Because, candidly, there’s always been an enormous difference between what my top tier, “Best Brooke,” performance manifests itself as versus what transpires/emerges when I make an attempt to offer anything less than that.
When I take authentic initiative, adequately prepare, and then execute with the confidence that can only be borne with doing the proper groundwork, I find that I enjoy, rather than dread, the process of checking things off of my To-Do list — even when it comes to tackling those tasks that aren’t necessarily meant to be fun, like stocking my refrigerator with healthy groceries or reviewing lengthy brand contracts.
In varying degrees, isn’t this the way that it is for all of us? I mean, do you ever really have a stellar morning when you press snooze four times and then slip into the office twenty minutes late, praying that you won’t be found out?
And so, while I pin away at 4am every single morning, explain my ideas to florists/lighting techs/musicians who look at me in such a way that would denote that I’ve suggested a departure on par with pruning hedges in the nude, get a wedding worthy weave sewn into my head by Andre, the Hair Whisperer Himself, and try to ensure that every last guest is wildly entertained and fantastically satisfied, just know this: I’m all in now, and I’ll never come home to a cold and dark apartment again.
When I was a college student in Boston, my parents used to send me a designated stipend on the first day of every month. The money was projected to serve as an allowance of sorts, a “reserve cushion” (I still don’t understand what that term really means?!) that I was instructed to put towards basic necessities like food, books, groceries and public transportation.
Instead, whenever I’d check my account balance and realize that a direct deposit had been rendered (weee!!), without hesitation, I’d make a beeline to the Clé de Peau Beauté Counter at Saks.
While my initial obsession with the line existed in the form of the concealer stick, ultimately, that served only as a gateway drug — one which quickly got me addicted to brightening serums, fortifying emulsions and eye color quads, as well.
As a budding makeup junkie, Clé de Peau Beauté, with its Grade A, caviar-esque quality, made things easy; all of the products were ultra reliable and easy to use.
Ten years post my initial encounter with the line, my passion for Clé remains as obsessive and aggressive as ever. More recently, I added quite a few of their http://Radiant Liquid Rouges(click to see) to my repertoire of essentials. Offering the perfect amount of pigmentation, the colors work beautifully for both my on camera shoots (and, yes, for selfies, as well!) and on a day-to-day basis.
While I swear by numbers 11, 13, and 14 – because, who doesn’t appreciate a baby pink pout, a magenta mouth, and/or the perfect bubblegum blush, I’m actually much more enamored with the brilliance of the glosses than I am with anything else. As such, I’d happily try out all of the Radiant Liquid Rouges (in case anyone from the brand is interested in sending a few more my way!), because it’s not always easy to find a product that offers a long lasting, luxurious finish without feeling sticky or looking overly done.
Despite a couple of overdraft fees and the occasional hungry night, Clé de Peau Beauté played an enormous role in my personal evolution. In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I bought Vogue instead of dinner. I found it fed me more.”
The same is true of me with my must have cosmetics purchases, and the Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Liquid Rouges are at the top of that list.