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SPRING IS HERE

The personal pages of a New York City based fashionista's notebook

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NoteBrooke’s New Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

Dear NoteBrooke,

For the greater portion of my adult life, I’ve purchased my parent’s Christmas presents with their own American Express cards, respectively, the numbers of which I kept stowed in a Word Document somewhere within the recesses of my Mac Mini. Opting to reference their personal information ONLY for excessive expenditures that surpassed the value of my monthly stipend medical emergencies, every December twenty-third, I would both commence and complete my holiday shopping, wrap everything up –- corners askew, double sided tape visibly exposed — and then emerge home for the holidays baring the same Polo knit sweaters and Tiffany pens that I had already purchased for several consecutive Christmases prior.

I have an emphatic need for instant gratification (Hello, my name is Brooke, and I can’t stop watching Patrick Ta makeup tutorials and then partaking in Super Market Sweep- style quests to find and purchase all of the requisite products needed to recreate the look), which prompts me to [over]indulge in apparel and cosmetic related expenditures approximately eleven months out of the calendar year. Strangely enough, though, in the same way that I wasn’t, well, the best gift giver ever to walk God’s green Earth, I was never particularly impassioned by the idea of compiling a list of quasi-desired items that I hoped would emerge under the Christmas tree for myself either.

Attribute it to my recently diagnosed closet control freak nature, but I consider my wardrobe to be a living, breathing entity of sorts — a denim, leather and silk based bestie who I’m acquainted with on the same primal level that, let’s say, a new mother might be with her infant spawn. In the past few years, especially, my wardrobe has become one of my foremost focuses, something that I’ve carefully curated with the utmost precision to consist only of those items that I covet the most. My obsessively/compulsively/manically chosen pieces effectuate a grand scale portion of both my personal identity and my career, so naturally, I’m very specific about what I invite into the walls of my closet(s). That said, when requesting a Christmas gift, how can I expect someone [of sound mind] to meticulously differentiate between the nude and dusty green shades of the Isabel Marant Etoile Dicker Ankle Booties that I’m so desperately longing for?

Between my insatiable need for instant gratification and the fact that the specificity of the items on my wish list rival the complexity of extreme medical procedures (think septal myotomies and such), until a few years ago, it would’ve been totally reasonable to suggest that, invariably, I wasn’t the most festive or fun participant in the way of gift giving/receiving.

So what changed? Well, after a fair amount of maturing (I mean…it had to happen at some point, I guess) – pouts, kicks, wines — and the introduction of some particularly generous people into my life who noticeably enjoyed the act of gift giving as a result of the personalized sentiment that it denoted, I, too, came to understand the value of pre-planning a holiday list and bringing it to fruition for the purpose of celebrating loved ones. As such, in the past couple of years, especially, I’ve ruminated over holiday present ideas well in advance of December twenty-third and then searched for customized options that I felt were conducive to the specific personalities, quirks and tastes of those who I was gifting. Isn’t that the essence of what giving someone a present is all about?

In lieu of this semi-recent conversion from Scrooge to Santa, I decided to make a holiday gift guide that’s based on all of those carefully curated, tried and true items that can be found within the walls of my own closet. By doing it this way, I can personally vouch for all of the pieces that I recommend because, well, there are some major benefits to my previously mentioned need for instant gratification and OCD prompted purchases of wildly coveted items – I can now pass them along to you too.

See?! So it’s not all about me after all. 😉

X,

B

 

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Seven Years in Journalism — What It’s Taught Me About Tragedies and Our World.

A B C D E F G H I

[Photography: Alexandra Wolf]

I’m twenty-one years old when I first hear the sound of a human being wailing in horror. Situated outside of the scene of a triple homicide, I’m an intern at a Boston based news network, doing my best to pretend that I have the savvy necessary to cut it as a big time journalist – that is, I want to be Lisa Ling more than I want ANYTHING ELSE in this life. So, in an effort to compile a demo reel that I can send to potential employers with the hope of eventually getting hired, I tag along with an experienced crew of media professionals to put together “packages” (that’s news-geek lingo for stories) and then track my content back at the station thereafter. Thus far, I’ve covered topics like airport congestion and Earth Day, so when I’m urgently summoned to a breaking news scene on what appears to be a rudimentary enough Saturday afternoon, I have no idea what to expect.

In a suburb just outside of Boston, my team and I are among the first group of journalists to arrive and set up camp. Standing outside of a yellow taped off area in the dead of winter, we’re curious about what’s going on, of course, but we have no real concept of the carnage that’s unraveling less than about a hundred feet away from us. Later, we learn that, without warning, a twenty-three year old man stabbed two of his younger sisters to death, decapitating the youngest – a five-year-old baby — on her birthday. Police shoot and kill him before he’s able to take the life of his nine-year-old sister, as well. From my vantage point, I don’t see the parents rush home in a quest to discover the extent to which this futility has ravaged their world, but I hear a low bellied shrill emanating from somewhere within the mother’s being, causing me to turn my body towards her just as she collapses to the ground. Her scream denotes an agonizing mix of the rawest form of human emotion that I’ve ever borne witness to — a distinctly horrifying blend of anguish and dread. Although she’s immediately taken out of our vicinity and brought to an ambulance for medical attention, I continue to hear her primal torment reverberating like a terrible tortured backdrop for hours into the night. That was seven years ago, and I still vividly recall the poignancy of her shrills today; within them, I inherently recognize what the definition of intensive human suffering is.

Last Friday, I opt to take the day off. After a nonstop week of shoots, IT, and paperwork, I’m decidedly excited to treat myself to a long weekend with my fiancé. As we prepare to leave for dinner in the evening, I pass the living room TV and see – impossibly, unbelievably — that Paris is under massive attack. Shock. Dread. Horror. Disbelief. Together, my fiancé and I stare at the screen in front of us, messaging our friends in the City of Lights and attempting to understand the reality of what’s transpiring. I’m utterly devastated at the thought of such an idyllic, innocent and magical place undergoing any measure of horror – let alone a literal massacre of this magnitude. That said, when I choose to post a photo of the Eiffel Tower on social media and encourage people to pray for Paris, I receive feedback concerning the fact that we aren’t also being urged to pray for Beirut, Russia, Kenya, and Baghdad – as well as the sites of several other atrocities that have unfolded across the globe.

Upon reading the sentiments of many of my followers, I too, come to understand the conundrum that they’re justly grappling with. While no one would ever seek to diminish the extent of the devastation occurring in France (that would be ignorant and disgusting), it’s important to acknowledge to myself that I wasn’t even aware of the catastrophes happening elsewhere across the world. Of course, we all have a personal responsibility to educate ourselves on global affairs, but I can’t help but wonder how much of the distinct lack of coverage can be attributed to the media as a series of grand scale institutions, as well.

Here’s the thing: years after my stint as an intern at the news station in Boston, I move to New York and acquire that needle in a haystack position that I was so fervently seeking in the first place. At twenty-five, I’m producing and reporting content, much of which airs on MSNBC. It’s my chance, I think. I’ve made it to the majors. (Btw, this is the only time that you’ll witness me use a sports reference in anything that I write — ever). Committing myself to my work in a way that I never have before, I learn what it really means to shoot for four consecutive twenty hour days while on location, to willingly put my personal safety at risk in order to slip undercover in a series of cities south of the border (Box of cigs? Nope. That’s actually a covert camera being used to expose pedophiles on tape), to gently interview tiny survivors about a plethora of focuses so vile that they literally have the aptitude to bring grown men in the room to tears, to have my passport seized by a barrage of corrupt foreign police officers at 2am while being detained in a city that I can barely pronounce (let alone send out an SOS from) because of its insanely remote locale, etc.

And, truth be told, I can assure you that all of this feels entirely worth it if it means that you’ll be given an opportunity to spotlight a cause that you’re deeply passionate about and that will decidedly be advanced by receiving the national news coverage that it so rightly deserves. But what happens when you get all of the footage required to do justice to the piece, fly back to New York, spend countless hours in an edit station cutting it — and then the network — after giving it heaps of praise, unilaterally decides, without explanation, never to air it at all? What do you tell all of the survivors who were brave enough to come forward and share their stories with you in a quest to end such a ghastly epidemic? How do you explain something to them that you, yourself, can’t even understand?

I’m not being didactic or strident in suggesting that governments and grand scale media institutions alone mustn’t be the answer to our problems. But I do believe that all of us have some measure of personal power with respect to what happens to our world. It’s vital to be cognizant of the fact that regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or class, we inhabit one collective home – that is, Earth. And yes, evil is unquestionably everywhere; it’s in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, Baghdad, an upscale suburb just outside of Boston on a Saturday afternoon, in the pedophiles who travel from all over the world to take advantage of vulnerable/disadvantaged children from third world nations, etc. One of the most commonly used phrases of jihadis is “we love death more than you love life.” In order to combat this devastation, then, we must love and appreciate life in a way that we never have before. Often times, when tragedies occur, we exhibit our best behavior for a couple of months thereafter. But what I’m suggesting is a process of immersion, whereby we take advantage of the fact that we’re all united in our grief right now and use it to come together — accepting one another more, exhibiting kindness to those who we encounter on a daily basis, and actively seeking to find the beauty in all of our moments.

It was with a heavy a heart that I initially thought about putting up a post subsequent to Paris. But if I didn’t continue forward, appreciating my life and creating the best level of creativity that I could, then the majority of this entry would equate to nothing more than hypocrisy. So today, I’m sending you love and healing, and I’m encouraging all of us, through a process of immersion, to allow these tragedies to catalyze us to a stronger place of every day beauty.

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To Love Safely or To Love Deeply? My Complicated, Risky Road To Romance.

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[Photography by Alexandra Wolf]

Everywhere you look these days you see couples that have the ability to espouse the stories of their uncomplicated courtships in five minutes or less. Conventional tales of college first dates turned two year anniversaries turned neatly wrapped boxes with ribbons on top (I’m not speaking metaphorically here; I’m referring to those square shaped enclosures that harbor round/emerald/princess cut promises of supposed eternity within), always seem so organic and harmonious to me.

When I observe those people posting declarations of their unconditional love for each other on Facebook, timelines abounding with every single one of the wedding pictures that the photographer could’ve possibly captured within a span of six hours, and then eventually – invariably – the sonogram shot to boot, it doesn’t frustrate me in the same way that it might if I were, let’s say, a more cynical social media user.

But that said, I can’t exactly relate to such a scenario either because true love, distinguished from stable familiarity, struck me in a way that a lighting bolt does when it touches the branches of a seemingly sturdy backyard weeping willow tree. Innocuous sounding enough, right? WRONG. Ultimately, it catalyzed a chain reaction that prompted the friendly former shade provider to smash my proverbial slate roof to bits and render me temporarily adrift (no pun intended) in the midst of a full-blown natural disaster.

You know what I mean?

But – here’s the thing — now that I’ve experienced love in the way that Anthony Hopkins describes it to his on screen daughter in the movie Meet Joe Black, “Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. I say, fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. How do you find him? Well, you forget your head, and you listen to your heart. Cause the truth is, honey, there’s no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, cause if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived,” I wouldn’t trade the act of falling face first — and quite messily  — into my relationship with my now fiancé for all of the Kelley Bags, croc or otherwise, in the world.

Truth be told, our courtship was anything but instantaneous or uncomplicated. Although the two of us were great friends prior to the time in which we became a couple, for many years, we remained steadfastly rooted in the realm of the platonic – mostly because — well (how do I put this?), for the large majority of the time, I was engaged to another person. And for my fiancé’s part in the matter, he had settled in New York City and commenced a dating life that, by all accounts, rivaled only that of Christian Grey’s. Not only did he share many of the details of that life with me, but he also utilized my girl brain as a conduit to the ever-complex female psyche in a quest to streamline his own romantic encounters. Engrossed in my life in Boston, and focused largely on law school, I was always happy to hear fresh stories about the dating world and to offer advice from my perspective. Set him up with someone? Sure! Provide gift guidance upon the abrupt arrival of Valentine’s Day? A cinch. Serve as wing woman when a group of us would go out together downtown? Of course!

So, between both of our situations, respectively, it just never occurred to me that I might drop everything and commence my life’s great romance with my then best friend. Although my previous relationship was riddled with fundamental incompatibilities, I failed to recognize that the true definition of love is, in fact, passion, obsession and someone you can’t live without. So, for a long time (meaning – ahem – six years) I simply continued forward with my day-to-day existence.

And then things changed.

While the nitty gritty details of that transformation don’t really matter, it suffices to say that I made a number of fundamental, life altering decisions, which have ultimately lead me to where I am today – deeply in love and ready to share the rest of my life with someone who I love like crazy and who loves me the same way back.

It wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of confusion, messiness, catatonic moments, Bible reading/clutching, displacement across states, and the like. But candidly, I didn’t make the decision for anyone other than myself.

Recently, upon seeing a close girlfriend of mine, I was disappointed to hear her suggest that at thirty, it would probably behoove her to settle for someone who was “safe,” meaning a person who would possess the good qualities of a stable future husband even if he wasn’t able to provide her with a once in a lifetime kind of love.

When she asked for my opinion on the matter, we both recognized that she was already aware of what my response would be. After all, she had witnessed my own story unfold. While I don’t generally go around quoting Anthony Hopkins (because, I mean, Hannibal Lector?) arguably, no truer words have ever been spoken: to make the journey and not fall deeply in love? Well, then you haven’t lived a life at all.

 

 

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Aging — and What it Means To Me As a Woman.

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[Blanket Cape] [Over the Knee Boots] [Must Have Sunnies] [OP Every Day Red Nail Polish]

RS 5RS 3RS 2RS 6 RS 9

Dear NoteBrooke,

I flip my vanity mirror over to the 50x more magnified side – the one that’s meant to be used purely for cosmetic related tasks that require extreme attention to minute detail, like plucking away stray brows in an effort to maintain a strong arch or adeptly applying one’s black noir YSL liner back and forth between the upper lash line for maximum coverage.

Widening my eyes in a manner that would suggest that I might be capable of commanding a prisoner who’s situated in a hole twenty feet beneath me to put the lotion in the basket, I remain steadfastly in position and begin to examine my forehead. Horror follows.

I notice the faint trace of three fine lines that have surfaced across my skin.

Upon revisiting old photographs from a shoot that I did when I was nineteen, I realize that I am, in fact… aging. As is [presumably] the case with all harrowing matters like death, pregnancy and bill paying, I abruptly arrive at the conclusion that somehow – surprisingly, impossibly — I won’t be the one who’s hand delivered a Get Out of Jail Free Card from the Divine, permitting my dismissal from basic evolutionary processes that the human race has withstood since the beginning of time.

And before you call me a hyper paranoid, neurotic, superficial idiot (all three of those adjectives have assuredly been used to sum up the greater portion of my entire existence before, so don’t worry about sparing my feelings now), it’s important to note that I recently came across an interview that Anne Hathaway did with Glamour UK in which she discussed losing out on recent movie roles to younger Hollywood starlets. Anne goes on to say that she “can’t be upset about it, though” because “it’s the way things are” and wistfully recalls the fact that she, too, had been “that twenty-four year old once.”

When I read the article, I want to vomit – not because I’m a HathHater (That’s a bizarre subject for another post) but because I’m sickened at the thought of a woman’s social prowess being largely contingent upon a factor that’s as unreliable as a flaky college boyfriend becomes after he realizes that you’re just not going to give it up anytime soon– that is, ephemeral/transient/sure to fade away into the night.

Or did that just happen to me?

For a moment, I want to shake Anne like a flimsy American Girl doll and to remind her of the fact that she’s far too dynamic of a woman to accept such a gross mentality without putting up some measure of a fight first. And then, sarcastically, I want to ask her how she can even recall what being twenty-four was like in the first place. After all, at a whopping thirty-two years OLD, she’s apparently verging on elderhood, and we all know that forgetfulness is a trait that’s fairly ubiquitous with respect to the plights of our proverbial Grandmothers.

But then, at once, I also want to coddle her, reminding her of the fact that she’s a sterling example of a well-rounded woman and that she — of all people (!)– a particularly well-educated activist/actress, mustn’t allow her femininity to be subjugated by something as demeaning as ageism.

During my imaginary bipolar back and forth with Anne Hathaway, I finally consider the fact that I’m the girl who’s counting her forehead lines in the grey-green light of a 50x magnification mirror on my bathroom floor.

Disclaimer of the day? I’m not a bra-burning feminist. I don’t refer to God as a “She.” I shave regularly. I’m not even morally offended by the prospect of putting my fiancé’s dinner on a plate and serving it to him. And this isn’t, in any way, intended to be an attack on the male gender – because on some level, most of us buy into and propagate society’s disposal of old women.

Among the realities of my Tuesday, though: I walk down the street and I’m called a “bitch” after I have the audacity to tell a particularly incessant – and physically aggressive — cat caller that he’s being a little bit disrespectful towards me. I sit at a nail salon, look up at the TV and see side-by-side images of Brooke Shields, Bridgette Bardot and Raquel Welch splashed across the screen. Each actress is immediately compared to a vision of her younger self. The audience gets to decide which of the former sex symbols has aged best – meaning, whose been able to maintain the strongest resemblance to her twenty-two year old self despite the four plus decades of life that have ensued since her alleged “glory” days.

In the evening, I spot one of the world’s most talented and renowned actors wedged in a corner booth at a sushi haunt that I frequent. He’s doing the creepy snuggle beside a girl who appears to be about forty years younger than he is, and I can’t help but to wonder if he feels any mental or emotional connection to her whatsoever. Conversely, I think about how people would react if an old woman walked in with her twenty something year old lover and started ordering up some sashimi and a couple of bowls of lightly salted edamame.

And at twenty-eight, I’ve become an aficionado on the subject of ladies who are worrying about the palpable tick tocking of their biological time clocks. Where my single friends used to be generally affable, enthusiastic and free spirited about the dating world, many of them (not all) are now convinced that they will never meet anybody, ending up barren, wrinkled and alone. And it’s not that they mind the literal act of being single – ironically, in fact, many of them seem to prefer it; it’s that they fear that their marketability will decrease in the same way that Anne Hathaway’s aptitude to land a movie role has. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss this concern as being superficial and frivolous, but what about the strong, intelligent and wildly successful women that I know who are forty plus and won’t even look at a guy their own age because they’re convinced that he’ll only be interested in “some twenty-five year old” anyway.

Answers? Solutions? I don’t have them. But I’m confident in asserting that none of the anecdotal information that I’ve put forth here is anything that’s particularly staggering or jaw drop worthy. It only serves to underscore how our psyches can so easily become saturated with subliminal signs that suggest that youth is something to be coveted, chased and retained at any cost necessary.

But I can also share this with you — during New York Fashion Week, I sat front row at exactly one show (Better luck next year, B). To my immediate left, I noticed a particularly striking woman wearing open toe suede booties, a knee length wool skirt, thick framed optical lenses with Miu Miu like flowers attached to the sides and a 35 mm tan Birkin. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, posture straight, shoulders strong. While everyone else (disclaimer – myself included) Snapchatted the show away, IPhones and Tablets aglow, she looked straight ahead at the runway.

At some point, above the crowd, the woman and I locked stares, and I held her gaze for as long as I could. She smiled. In a sea of top models and fabulous fashion people wearing all kinds of origami shaped wonders (picture a cross between fortune cookies and Star Wars figurines), this woman’s splendor easily bypassed everyone else’s in the room – her confidence, her style, her swagger.

After the finale, she quickly picked up her bag and walked out. It was obvious that she had somewhere else to be – front row at another show perhaps.

Even now, months after Fashion Week has come and gone, I find myself thinking about this woman and her presence somewhat frequently. I’ve realized that somewhere within the sass of her strut, the purpose of her gaze, the confident warmth of her quick smile, I might have already found all of the answers that I could ever need about retaining the feminine mystique.

X,

B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Miracle of Makeup. My Go To Routine for Every Day, Shooting & Traveling.

Dear NoteBrooke,

I’m thirteen years old and I hate myself.

The list of grievances that I’ve formulated against my physical appearance include, but are not limited to: mid length velcro bangs that hang in lifeless chunks around the sides of my face, caterpillar shaped bushy brows replete with the unmistakable presence of a faint unibrow (Is there really any such thing as subtlety regarding the subject of unibrows anyway, though?), occasional bouts of mild acne, a skin tone that most closely resembles the color of an old hospital bed sheet, and a labyrinth of unwelcome freckles/moles present on various locales throughout my body – a genetic heirloom from my maternal Grandfather that’s turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, one day, I can’t stand it anymore: I deliberately wait in the passenger seat of the car while my Dad enters the supermarket to pick something up. Upon his exit from the vehicle, I pull down the mirror in an effort to examine my appearance with a microscopic zealousness. Staring at my reflection like a wide-eyed, catatonic serial killer – blaring afternoon sunlight emphasizing all of my imperfections — I say, emphatically and aloud, “Holy shit (fury emanating from within). I have the skin of a ninety year old.” Laden with a generally uneven complexion, freckles, an oddly shaped beauty mark on my upper left cheek, messy, massive eyebrows, and a mustache, I do, in fact, seem to have the face of someone who more closely resembles Quasimodo than, let’s say, a conventionally attractive high school cheerleader.

The rest of my early teenage years are characterized by a kind of lurking self hatred, a frustrated understanding of the fact that I’m not really ugly, per say, but that I have absolutely no idea how to go about making myself look even remotely close to something that would be categorized as ‘pretty’ either. Every blow dry resulting in excessive frizz that I attempt, every boxy Gap sweater that I purchase, every uncomplimentary lip color that I apply, is tinged with a lingering knowingness that I believe that I could like my external experience if I only had the skill set to refine it with some degree of savvy subtlety.

So, when I emerge from the dressing room at a boutique on Long Island with a flamingo pink, sequined, tulle crafted ball gown that eclipses my ability to breathe, I’m decidedly Sweet Sixteen ready. As such, I finally find myself at a professional makeup counter, where Bettina, the Clinique saleswoman at my local mall, picks out a slew of products and tries to explain to me how to apply them all. One after another, she pops them into a baby Saks bag and sends me on my way.

After going home and attempting to recreate the look twenty times in my bedroom mirror, I take careful note of the fact that well matched foundation can work wonders when it comes to evening out skin tone and airbrushing one’s complexion. As I build upon my formerly blank canvas, I find that I’m still myself – meaning, my natural features are assuredly in tact — but that I’m a beautifully enhanced version of the freckled face, self-loathing little girl that I had been fifteen minutes before. And despite the fact that Bettina didn’t include eyeliner in my bag of goodies (I think she thought I was too young – this was the pre Kylie Jenner era) and that I used sponge rollers to do my hair on the day of my party (why, God?), I felt beautiful in my flamingo pink, multi layered tulle dress. That sensation, that confidence, that knowledge about how to get myself to where I wanted to be, ignited a desire in me to learn everything that I could about the subject.

Years later, I would find myself working in and out of industries (on air reporting, modeling) that propagated the need to be camera ready in ten minutes or less. For my personal satisfaction, I found a select few trusted experts to coif my hair, give me an airbrushed golden glow before shoots, whiten my teeth once a year, etc. And because I genuinely love to feel my best, I studied the craft of makeup artistry in any and every way that I could, save for actually enrolling in beauty school. After working with industry experts, meeting the owners of huge cosmetic lines, watching thousands of hours of YouTube videos, reading books, and even seeing myself on a national news screen, I finally narrowed down a go-to look that works for me. With this look, I feel my best in person, on camera, and even when traveling.

Gone are my days of feeling like an ugly duckling. I love having the skill set necessary to whip out a few products and to feel like the best version of me. Investing in a Tweezer was decidedly a good choice, as well.

X,

B

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