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.
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.