Coffee & TV

This version of me smokes cigarettes with the depth of a film noir diva. This person drinks coffee as if it was a rare elixir, a fountain of youth. This version of me is a beautiful and perfectly calculated woman. She is sultry and her sex is a lethal weapon. She is Gigi from Casino, Cookie from Empire, Gloria from Gloria, Lauren Bacall and Jennifer Lawrence all rolled into one.

The truth is that this woman has been emulated over the years through my actions, my decision making, my diatribes and my behavior towards work, life and particularly sex. The power that she has is almighty but her heart is shattered. She maintains an approachable aura that in fact prevents her from being touched by anyone. Inside she's frail, she is alone. The struggle between self-sufficiency and loneliness is ever present.

This woman is who I wish I was or could become. She is what I wish I had as a role model. I will never forget the first time I saw Sharon Stone on the screen, a bewitching being unlike any other I had seen before. In person, Stone is even more fascinating. She is loud, tall, has an arresting smile, and a contagious laughter. Her body is like a statue, even at the height of her fifties, she is still one of the most gorgeous women I have ever met.

As a kid I wanted to be Sharon Stone, or what I believed Sharon Stone was like. In Basic Instinct she had more power than any of the other characters - she dominated them with a look. When the doors to the world shut down and she found herself alone, she had the same effect on herself, drowning in her own seduction.

I always worshiped women. Women to me are untouchable. Growing up I listened to female singers pretty much 95% of the time, my friends were all girls, I spent most of my family time with my aunts, and my TV idols were also all women. I always envisioned myself as one of them, sashaying across a stage, dancing and trading energy with the crowd. I could see what the cover art of my CD would look like. I could hear the sound of my music. None of those things ever happened, perhaps because I am not a woman, or anything like the woman I believed I should be like. What could have prevented me from pursuing my goals? Could it have been fear of having to deal with the results of whatever endeavor I'd throw myself into? Could it have been fear of unraveling, like many of my idols have when they accomplished their dreams?

Inherently I feel that I am my happiest as a man, I love my body and the life I have created for myself. My life inspires me too. Still, when I close my eyes and daydream, my constant lady reappears, her who takes no shit from anyone and is adored by most. My hope for this girl however, is that she realizes she doesn't need anyone else to feel less alone, no walls to protect her, she has herself and her dreams, that is the poetry she is meant to be living.

The idea is to accept this woman as another part of myself. Having this other side protected within me is important because that is also what protects me. I will keep Cookie, Ginger, Gloria, and Lauren tucked away. I will continue to bring them out, as sometimes I do, for opportune appearances in my day to day life. I will incorporate Cookie when I need to serve a cold dish of revenge, or Gloria when I need to protect my people. Nothing defeats me, nobody messes with me, not even myself.

C Train

9 am on the C train
Holding on, squeezing in

trying to fit in
Grab the bag, hold the pole, take control
Holding on to what's left
Holding on to the dream

Living the delusion
Feelings and confusion
It's never what it once was
It's never what it will be

Found a place for myself
In your arms no one else
How have I done wrong
How was I so wrong

Alone in my head
The chill in my bed
And my heart feeling sad
Breaking
Once again

Broken

Your shoes in the rack
Nothing but a token
Words unspoken
Left me with a wound open
Bleeding

Trying to face my feelings
Facing the ultimate rest
Uneasy
Facing the test

It's all about you and none of the rest
It's all for you for my life to relax
To keep actions in check
To stop words from causing distress

The Race

mind racing

too many faces and places

where I’ve been and where I don't belong

the mind churning, the year's turning

Life doesn't play on like a song

 

mind scattered

thoughts shattered

memories lost

paths that have been crossed

Never to go back again

 

drugs to calm the pain

to alleviate the brain

time for restraint is time for complaints

time for complaints no time to feel vain

there is no measure

the extent of damage

far beyond the pleasure

held as a treasure

 

the drug is the drug is the drug

the weapon of choice is louder than my voice

The weapon  of our time is stronger than our minds

 

Will power

Maybe only to take a shower

Won’t cower

Not even when my life goes sour

 

Wasted 20 lbs of lazy

On a hazy daisy

Winning at being lazy

 

Try to fight

Make things right

But shit is stronger than my might

 

Racing but not facing

This is gonna be your last game.

Silent All These Years

In the careful decision to peacefully sit in his living room with no music, no phone, no books or television, he hoped for the sweet comfort of silence. He listened to the white sounds in the background, like the hum from the neighbor’s air conditioners, the airplanes flying in and out of JFK, or the cars driving down Flatbush Avenue, at a safe distance. He carefully examined the brown sounds of the blue jays, hawks, canaries and a myriad of other birds he couldn’t name, but wish he did. He did not hear any pigeons and found that to be rather amusing. There were occasional dogs barking, a giggle from a child, or a door to a patio opening up. How lucky must these people be, to live in New York and be able to afford the outdoor space?

In this mix of delight and anxiety produced by the sounds of early morning he hoped to find clarity and direction. He hoped these moments of stillness would bring him closer to a solution to the many dilemmas that haunted him. He felt elated by the ability to be still and alone without wanting to rush to the left or the right. Sometimes he wondered if his life would've been easier had he been born an idiot, a complete clunk. He thought of those people who only own one sheet and one shoe and yet cherish them like gold, without desiring for anything other than what they have. Who are these people? Do they understand the world they live in? Have they always been this way or did life condition them into passiveness?

These are thoughts that go through his head. Certain times these thoughts can be perversive, and their simple occurrence frightens him. Would he really be able to act on any of them? Do other people also carry darkness within their bright spectrum?

In the silence he sat, trying to block out the white noises until he accepted them for lack of choice. He really did believe he was listening to the silence, but the silence was listening to him all along. Like a sponge, the muggy air of the late summer soaked in the thoughts that seeped through his soul, the air was drenched. Perhaps all that humidity he was feeling was in fact a product of his own thoughts?

The silence is quiet and pensive, it pushes you to arrive at your own conclusions. That's how he felt then, as if he was making progress in his interval for sanity. The truth is that the silence fed the thoughts back to him, filtered, unscrambled, clear of pollution. He suddenly had the answers he needed. Only the ones he needed, not the ones he wanted.

Faces and gestures remained in the membrane that separates the body from the soul. He was pulled towards these faces of people he had known and not spoken to for more than ten years. At college, some of these people seemed as if they would last for an eternity, but they vanished faster than a sunset.

He thought of his friend who lived alone in an island and wondered about her well-being. He decided it was time to check in. He felt guilty but warm too, for having her in his thoughts was like having his old pal sitting next to him talking trivial talks, like the maintenance of a swimming pool or the life of a circus freak. He missed those talks and wondered how was it possible that they had now gone over three months without even exchanging a single text message. He pondered whether he had done her wrong in any way but decided none of that had anything to do with anything anyway.

He pushed the thought away to return to the silence but her face kept coming back as if it was magnetized and being pulled by his aura. Finally, a new thought came and the moment became a new minuscule obsession about interest rates on credit cards. He made an immediate financial decision and then realized he still hadn't changed the mailing address for the cable bill. In the busying of his head he was still in silence.

This occupied silence spoke to him in intense waves. He shed a tear first, then two more, for no particular reason. His chest felt swollen and the only solution was an unconscious physical reaction. He took a deep breath and shed a laugh instead. He now felt blissful, in ecstasy. He felt ignorant. He felt irrelevant. How beautiful it is to be irrelevant, a human among humans, without titles or borders. He cursed on technology and then apologized for it. He realized how lucky he was. He realized how real he was. He felt valued, not by others, but himself. This was a novel thought, perhaps even an epiphany. The silence was talking to him, the silence was telling him things he never knew, things no friend, mentor or therapist had ever said. The silence told him to push through and be strong. The silence told him to come back, every day, and more would be revealed. It was now up to him, only up to him.

Reaper

“My mom said that I can't sing and I was like: I can't sing good, but I can sing mom, anyone can sing!” concluded the girl behind the counter at Starbucks.

For the first time that perspective had crossed my mind: anyone can do anything. How often do I hear singers who can barely carry a tune and somehow have huge careers? I don't suppose it's always only about the quality of the singing voice, it is also about having the balls to face the music.

I sat at Starbucks sipping my overpriced coffee and thinking about this girl, working hard behind the counter and still with great sense of humor and an interesting outlook on things. I was led down a path of wonderment: how many people prevent themselves from living their dreams for fear of not being accepted or talented? Furthermore, how many people with very little talent but huge balls and charisma follow through with their passion and to a fault, succeed? Could this woman have been a singer or a pop star had she had the proper encouragement and means to do so? Probably.

For me it happened like that, I had a dream and I pushed through against all odds. My parents didn't seem to believe it was possible, in fact those all around me were skeptical. I dealt with rejection and disappointment but the more I struggled the harder I worked for my goals and dreams. I succeeded. I don't know whether I am the talented one or the fraud who got away with murder, but I'm doing things today that I had dreamed about in childhood and never thought were possible.

There seems to be an ordinance in place that tells us that to do certain things in life we need to take pre-determined steps, as if we inhabited a board game. Got a raise? Advance five steps and buy a house. Bought a house? Advance three steps and get married. Got married? advance two steps and have a baby. Had twins? Go back two steps and borrow money from the bank for student loans.

But life is not “The Game of Life”. Life is fluid and full of surprises and new ways. I have always been a believer in the philosophy that everything works out if you put your mind to it and pair it with hard work and dedication. You wanna have a baby? Go for it! Who cares if your house doesn't have enough rooms? There will be a solution and if this is what will bring happiness to your life, why not just do it? Now, do I think that some people who are having babies should actually have babies? No, absolutely not, but that's none of my business; at least they're not telling lies to themselves but instead simply living life.

I suppose the central factor here is the question of destiny. Can we be reapers of life, ceasing control of things that aren't ours to begin with and make them our own? Can we bend destiny?

My experience tells me so. My experience tells me that even though the heavy weight pressuring my chest and generating anxiety is hard to overcome; it is not impossible. We put on our big boy shoes and go to the mattresses.

I've had my awards acceptance speech ready to go since I was about ten years old. I carry that speech in my wallet and update it from time to time. I keep it as a reminder to never stop pursuing my dreams and to work hard with focus and patience. Soon enough the day to actually use it might come.

 

I Am Not Writing Today

I didn't write today. Not a word on the paper, not a tap for the keyboard. I woke up early as I always do, I reached for the phone and that was the kiss of death. The sexual drive of the early morning took over my mind and I scrolled through a few inappropriate pages on tumblr. I thought of a cute guy who poked me on Facebook and went on to check out his page. On Facebook the notifications overwhelmed me, so I took care of those first, so I forgot to look at that page. 

I moved on to Instagram: Jordan had a birthday party and didn't invite me. Bianca got married and her dress was horrible. The other agency got the model that I thought I was getting. The picture of a vegan quiche makes my mouth water, I take a screenshot of the recipe but I know I'm never going to cook it. 

I remember I have to do groceries so I send myself an email as a reminder. I quickly look through my inbox and see there's an update for snapchat so I do that. I am now officially sucked into the universe of newly released filters. My neck hurts, my back hurts; shouldn't I feel refreshed after a full night of sleep? I stare at the phone screen for solid five minutes without moving a finger, in what can only be described as a near-catatonic state. An hour has passed and I haven't even gotten to Twitter yet. My life is so sad right now. 

I finally get up, feed my (very) patient cat, prepare my super strange green shake and start getting organized for the day ahead. The time that was allocated for writing and meditation is gone. Maybe I'll do 10 minutes of writing on my lunch break. I'll meditate tomorrow (next month).

The morning goes by and suddenly it's 2pm. There was no time for a lunch break, I'm moody, starving and pissed off at myself for not taking care of the things that truly matter to me. The phone rings again and I'm sucked back into the mess that my life has become. I lose my temper, I scream at people I should not be screaming at and I get lost in my self-pity all over again.

The day is done and I still have a full schedule ahead, so I cancel the coffee, the dinner and the drinks; I decide that my evening will be better spent writing and catching up on my finances. I visualize myself as the top executive in that movie from the 70's, walking out the door carrying his briefcase, shouting at his secretary:

“clear my schedule for the rest of the day!”

"but..."

I'm gone before she can utter another word. She is left with my mess to take care of. That  thought makes me smile. 

On my way home I run a list of all the things I still need to do. I stop by CVS, Pet Central, the laundromat, the deli, and the grocery store. I spent way more money than I should've and I haven't even been to the Vitamin Shop yet. 

At home I unpack, organize, feed the cat, play with the cat, look through the mail, remember that I forgot to pay the credit card bill, notice I need to take out the trash, and so I do it because it stinks. Another hour has gone by and I haven't written a word. My brain is fried and I have to catch up on Game of Thrones, so I decide I'm too tired to produce anything relevant. I make up my mind: I'm not writing today.

 

Becoming a Supermodel with the Help of a Supermodel

Yearly thousands of young kids reach out to modeling agencies in the hopes of becoming a model. They call, send pictures and letters in the mail, show up unannounced at the agency’s doorsteps, and call relentlessly to follow up, hoping to find a place in the spotlight. These girls and boys have no guidance or frame of reference. With that in mind, supermodel Claudia Mason, one of the members of that elite group of girls who made a name for themselves in the 90’s (alongside Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington); decided to lend a hand. With the new book “Finding the Supermodel in You - An Insider’s Guide to Teen Modeling”, Mason draws from her experiences as a model, breaking down the entire profession bit by bit.

Other than articles found online briefly describing the inner works of an agency, a model’s career, or modeling schools, there’s very little objective and helpful information that can be obtained to help in a model’s pursuit. Not only that, but modeling schools who are supposed to guide and manage aspiring models, many times are no more than a very expensive source of useless advice. These companies seem to be more concerned with padding their bank accounts rather than honestly selecting talent that has potential for a career in a very selective industry.

Claudia speaks from experience, from many years of trial and errors in which she navigated pretty much every scenario a model wannabe can dream of. Mason’s tips range from what type of clothing to wear when meeting agents and clients, to what foods to eat and which beauty products to pick at the drugstore.

Claudia’s career started when she was only fifteen years old. This native New Yorker was a dance student and professionally trained by some of the best the Big Apple had to offer. After her health prevented her from moving forward with her dream of being a professional dancer, fate took her for a spin. One afternoon after school, Claudia was approached by a model agent who saw potential in the young girl. Claudia’s first modeling job was with the legendary photographer Richard Avedon, who repeatedly brought her back for other shoots throughout the years. Mr. Avedon shot Claudia for multiple Vogue covers and editorials, various campaigns for Versace, among others. Claudia was “One of the Most Beautiful Women in the World“ according to her Revlon ad. This was the late eighties. Concerned with her studies, Claudia’s parents put a break on her career until she finished school.

By the time she returned to the scene at age 18, the nineties were in full swing and Claudia fit right in the middle of that famous supermodel group. The credits attached to her name speak for themselves: campaigns for brands like Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Christian Lacroix, Gianfranco Ferre, Gianni Versace and Versace Jeans; magazine covers for titles such as Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Mademoiselle and an enviable list of photographers which includes Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Helmuth Newton, Irving Penn, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino to name a few. Her list of runway shows would be far too extensive to mention, but it’s no less iconic. Claudia Mason had arrived!

As this girl’s career progressed from model to supermodel, Claudia started integrating some of her other passions into her bookings. Mason dove into acting as well as TV hosting, which landed her the top position on Mtv’s “Fashionably Loud“, a cross between fashion and music in one TV show. Her acting brought her awards in theater and many positive reviews by top critics. Upon her return to New York in 2010, amidst bookings with Katie Grand for Love Magazine and Vogue Russia, Claudia began to refocus her energy and work on a plan for her next career phase.

The tireless supermodel decided this was the time to give back to the world some of the good things she earned. She turned a negative health scare into a positive action and joined the American Stroke Association as a spokesperson, bringing awareness to an issue that affects men and women of all ages around the globe. On that same year she also began developing a TV show, which is currently in pre-production. Somehow, in the middle of all this, she still found time to work in movies and write a book - this, her biggest passion project.

In her guide to teen modeling, Claudia hopes to shed some light on matters that have been obscure to most people. She has no problems speaking out about health issues and drugs, topics that have always surrounded the modeling profession in the eye of the media. The model considers herself lucky for being able to work and still be close to home and her family, a luxury that most girls can’t afford. She also found a team that supported and protected her every step of the way.

With this book, Claudia is a part of her reader’s team. The author keeps things simple, the goal is not to pontificate, but to maintain an open dialog. Mason created check lists for the young girls and approached the industry’s top professionals to make sure that her reader would receive the best information available from every area of the business.

Claudia’s career is a brilliant example of fortitude and creativity. Here is a woman who was never afraid to brake boundaries and try new approaches. Because of that Claudia was able to live out all her dreams. Now Claudia enters a new phase, one that is more mature but not less exciting, one that aims to bring the dreams of many aspiring models to reality too.

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Article originally published in The Huffington Post Books, April 2016

500 Answers - Purpose in Life

What do you believe is your purpose in life?

When I turned 15 my stepmom’s gift was an astrological birth map. There were beautifully drawn charts filled with codes and symbols I could not understand. The package included two cassette tapes. We sat together on her bed and put the tapes on, carefully listening to the soothing voice of the astrologer, who along with my stepmom explained every piece of that delicate puzzle. This recording revealed, bit by bit, my entire life’s plan and journey according to the stars. I was impressed.

A lot of it rang true and sounded like I was on my way to making my dreams come true. There was one thing however that sounded odd. The astrologer told me I would have a successful career taking care of people and/or managing businesses.

    This makes no sense, I would never do something like that, I wanna make movies

Well, making movies might have been what I wanted, but it wasn’t my path. At age 17 I was approached by a modeling agency to join their staff and hired on the spot. Lo and behold, I ended up managing careers, making them into businesses and looking after people for a living.

Truth be told, I had been doing that all my life, I just didn’t know it. I looked out for my friends in school and helped out anyone who needed assistance. That is still true for me today. Whether I am at work or not, I’m always looking out for my people. To me, there is no greater pleasure than lending someone a hand. Friends and strangers benefit from this quality - to different degrees, but they all do.

I will never forget when Michelle Alves, one of the first models I ever worked with, sent me a note right before Christmas. She thanked me for what I had done for her, and that was it. All I had done was to send her flight details via fax and pick her up at a fashion show. I was a young assistant then and this was the first time any model had ever thanked me for my work. That day I felt for the first time that I had a purpose; I felt for the first time that I could make a difference in someone else’s life.

 

 

500 Answers - Message in a Bottle

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it?

 

 

Dear Gabriel,

You were once young, much younger than you are now, which was far younger than I am today. You didn't know, no one knew. We launch into life empty, some hopeful (as you were), some not. Some are barely alive, they can hardly be called vessels; but you were.

 

A shining example of endurance, fueled by dreams and passion. You lacked in pedigree but made up for it in the way you made those around you feel important. You made friends and brought them along with you. For every new victory you looked back to hug and acknowledge all those in your path. You would not have won without them: the nay-sayers, the cheerleaders, the silent companions; they were all there for you. You knew it and you shared it.

 

You inherently knew it, joy when shared multiplies. Through your suffering you gave joy, through your malaise you gave joy, through your losses you gave joy. You gave joy when there was none left. Where did you find it? I tell you, some questions go unanswered. Certain troubles not even God can reconcile, but that doesn't stop him from inquiring, as it never stopped you from seeking.

 

Don't stop now, don't stop ever, that's what makes you who you are. Believe in yourself, hold on to your friends and never stop asking the questions. This will make you a winner.

 

With love,

Gabriel.

The Hopeless State of Brazil

During a recent visit to Porto Alegre, my hometown in Brazil, I went to the supermarket for groceries. As my turn at the checkout approached my phone rang and I launched into an animated conversation, in English, with my American boyfriend. Suddenly I felt a presence around me. As I looked up from the groceries I was placing on the belt I saw eyes peering at me. The bagging boy whispered something inaudible to the neighboring check out girl and I decided it would be best to end the call. I said hello, in Portuguese, to the cashier who had her eyes wide staring at me. She answered with a murmur. After she finished checking my items she did not give me the final amount aloud, as they usually do, but pointed to the screen while staring back at me, as if her life was in danger. I gave her exact change and all of a sudden the woman behind me in line tapped my shoulder.

"I'm sorry to bother, but why are there so many Americans in town?" She asked in good english, as I anticipated.

The three surrounding registers and the bagging boys all stared at us, anxiously waiting for an answer. I told her I am in fact a local who lives abroad, visiting my family. That did not suffice.

"Why on earth would you come here?" Asked the checkout girl.

"Where do you live?" Inquired the next one.

"Are you really spending the holidays HERE!?" questioned the boy.

The general consensus was that I had lost my mind.

"Why would you come back here?" The question lingered with me several days after that.

I had not been to Brazil in several years. The recent developments of my country's political and economic state frightened me, not to mention a spike in violence that has not been witnessed in nearly twenty years. The type of violence that affects all layers of the population from housekeepers, taxi drivers and waiters to CEO's, TV personalities and everyone in between is a petty violence. They steal because they want your Tupperware with food, to feed their hunger; or your cellphone to trade for crack. Sometimes, more regularly than not, they'll kill for a chunk of change, they don't know any other way. It's a lawless state.

National magazines print stories covering a mass exodus of Brazil nationals attempting to build their lives on solid ground in North America or Australia. Hell, anywhere but there. It's a hopeless state.

The population revolts and takes to the streets. The government, corrupt all the way to the top, buys votes, steals money and rips to shreds an economy built strong over the course of two decades. There is no education, no healthcare and no public safety to speak of. Brazil is today a country with no infrastructure, but it's still a beautiful country. Brazil has insurmountable beauty, incredible fun and joy to offer. Tourism may very well be it's last threshold and hope.

I left Brazil in the pursuit of a dream, several years ago at the height of its economic boom. Americans would look at me in shock wondering why would I ever want to abandon such a paradise especially when the country was performing so well. Truth be told, I had serious doubts that the mentality of the population and its politicians had changed so rapidly. Unfortunately, I was right.

Today from where I stand, I see several people I know plotting an escape plan. I see several people I don't know having to sell homes they never actually moved into because they aren't able to keep up with inflation and interest rates. Brazil has in less than a decade created a real estate bubble of gargantuan proportions, similar to the one that took the United States half a century to build up. Brazil's bubble is bursting, what's worse, the little hope Brazilian citizens had in the future of its country is gone. The population stopped believing in the system, more than that, the population stopped believing in the population. The citizens of Brazil stopped believing they are in fact the decision makers, they stopped believing that they are in fact capable of affecting change.

The people of Brazil are so afraid of losing the bread crumbs the government throws at them, that they keep quiet. No one sues the government because they already know the judiciary will not push their suit forward. One alone, may be weak, but what about the hundreds of thousands of people who suffered together at the hand of President Collor and still have not received a penny back since 1992? Why aren't all these people banding together to fight the country for the money that is rightfully theirs? Because the people lost faith in the people. The people are afraid of the people. It's a snowball effect that allows for the Brazilian government to stay its course of thievery and impunity.

The impoverished population who had no access to decent homes, or any credit for that matter, all of a sudden saw the hands of bankers and lenders opening up. Suddenly families of six who shared a one-room home had flat-screens, laptops and nicer clothes. These families were immediately elevated to the status of middle class. But elevated by whom? The government, who saw fit to show the world how rapid change was possible in Brazil. It was all an illusion.

When the government believes it's more important for the people to have material possessions (and debt) instead of education and access to healthcare, there is definitely a strong misconception. When the population becomes so desperate that they have to steal food from their fellows standing at bus stops in order to feed themselves, the country enters a dark age. My feeling upon returning to Brazil was of anguish, and this feeling was shared with every person I came in contact with during my trip. The disappointment of seeing firsthand what it's like for people to turn against each other because their government is busy spending the people's money on better homes and vacations for themselves is painful, it's revolting.

I wish I could pose a solution to these issues, but I can hardly wrap my head around the problems of Brazil. For the moment I offer my thoughts and hope for better days. This country has stood in the dark for much longer than it's seen the light. It's time to change.

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Originally published in The Huffington Post / WorldPost, Feb 2016

How Models Taught Me it is OK to Miss Home

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One of my assignments on fourth grade was to read a book about a girl who traveled abroad on an exchange student program. This was a thoroughly engaging tale of chasing independence, dealing with language barrier, new cultures and experiencing feeling homesick for the first time. After the class had read the book and turned in the essays, the school arranged for the author to come in to give a lecture. The girl was probably no more than ten years our senior and had attended our school. I had a transcendental experience, it was the first time I had met someone who had actually left home and gone some place else. Everything started to make sense to me. Everything, but the idea of feeling homesick.

"Why would she be crying just because she wasn't home?" I didn't get it. To me, getting out should feel more like a blessing than a curse. There was nothing wrong with my family or my upbringing, but I felt a longing for life abroad ever since I can remember. It made no sense and I could not explain it, I only knew how I felt.

A few years later, when I was eighteen, I finally got my first opportunity to go somewhere. I didn't exactly make it out of Brazil but I was moving from Porto Alegre to São Paulo, which was significant. I was the first in my family to take such a big step and one of my first friends to go anywhere, for good. Think of it as moving from Charleston to New York. It was huge!

I remember dealing with models who were very young (but not much younger than I was), most of them between 14 and 16 years old. Many girls adjusted well to the life in the biggest metropolis of Brazil, pounding the pavement trying to make it in the world of modeling. A few others however, had terrible bouts of depression and loneliness and broke down quickly. Every now and then a girl would come into the office crying and desperate to get on the phone with her mother, just because she missed her parents or felt overwhelmed by the size of the city. I couldn't relate with that feeling. I never cried, I never felt separated, I never felt distant. I was happy. What could be better than pursuing a career in one of the best modeling agencies in the world?

The first few months in my new city went by smoothly. I had to travel down south a couple of times to gather more of my belongings, so I still maintained a fairly close connection with my family. I didn't have a place of my own, I was couch surfing with a friend of a friend until I figured things out. The distance from where I was staying to work was enormous. I had to take two buses and the journey could last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and that's not counting the late nights. The neighborhood was not only dangerous but the buses took longer than usual, as they ran more infrequently. As the challenges grew I began to understand, to a small degree, what some of those girls might have felt too.

Many years have passed since those first months in Sao Paulo. I now live in New York and find myself experiencing unique layers of emotional pain. It's been three years since the last time I've been home. A series of events kept me from making the trip back from New York, including a break up, a green card and a new apartment. Life happened and before I knew it I found myself feeling anxious and irritable. I became an emotional wreck. I watch cartoons and I cry, the Lipitor commercials come on TV and I cry, I listen to music and I cry, heck, even Homeland has been making me cry. I have become a running joke among the people who know me.

I send Christmas cards with corny pictures of me and my cat, I write letters, I FaceTime. I used to denounce the holidays; now I love them. These days I celebrate tradition, and all I long for is a home of my own. For this person, who always believed in being independent and in belonging to the world, it's quite a change. Could I be homesick?

Through a very painful process of shedding layers of pride and old resentments I believe I finally got to a point where I am able to accept my roots for what they are. I can finally admit that indeed I do miss home and all the drama that can be attached to it. My life may not be in the south of Brazil, but that doesn't mean I have to abandon it all behind.

I've grown to admire and enjoy some of the traditions from my home country and state. I am proud of our beautiful sunsets, the tree-lined streets, the quality of life, the cultural vain that beats stronger than in most parts of that country. I celebrate the gaucho culture, our funny musical accent and even our orange (or is it red?) taxi cabs.

Being home is an opportunity to remember, recharge and reconnect. Going back gives me the chance to look at how far I've come and how capable I am of chasing dreams and goals that sometimes feel unsurmountable. When I'm homesick I realize that all those things were possible because of where I came from. The fact that I came from a reality so distant from the goals I was looking to achieve made me even more resilient. Home may be difficult, but it's unlike any other place I've been to. Home is provincial, but it's where some of my most special memories and connections are. As I age and experience life on life's terms, I also realize that home is always going to be the place I turn to for reference and support, no matter where I end up.

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Originally published in THE HUFFINGTON POST on Novemeber, 2015

The Fashion Photographer Who Became Prince Charming

This is one of those cases of which came first - the chicken or the egg? For Alexi Lubomirski the answer will be different to that of most people. You may have been acquainted with his charming persona for the last decade, as the photographer who shoots celebrities and top models for publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, GQ and Allure. But the famed photographer with good looks of a male model, or even perhaps Prince Charming, is in fact a real prince. More specifically, His Serene Highness Prince Alexi Lubomirski of Poland. So which came first, the photographer or the Prince?

As hard to picture as it is, His Serene Highness’ current address is not a castle, but a New York city apartment and his story is nothing close to a fairy tale. Lubomirski has been familiar with his title since the tender age of 11, but only recently made it public. The revelation of his heritage came to him as a surprise and a shock, as the young child was coming to terms with his nobility, his mother was also responsible for explaining that other than the title, there was not much left to show for a royal life. No castles, no crown and no pomp, but in fact, there was a lesson to be learned. “If you are to be a prince in today’s world, you have to be a prince in your heart and in your actions.” That was the advice his mother passed on to him, when the family lived in Africa.

Alexi was born in London to his Peruvian mother and Polish father. At the age of seven, he moved to Botswana with his birth mother and English stepfather. Perhaps it was this eclectic mix that transformed Lubomirski into the creative force that he is today. His mother wanted him to become an international lawyer, but she never stopped him from pursuing his artistic endeavors, which earlier in his life included painting.

It was his stepfather who gave him his first camera at the age of 11. During his teenage years at school in Oxford, Lubomirski spent his free weekends doing odd jobs waiting tables, gardening and bartending in order to save up money to travel. His serious interest in photography developed whilst traveling in Peru during a gap year at college.

His interest later shifted from social commentary to narrative based photography during his studies at University of Brighton in the UK. It was shortly after finishing his studies that he was introduced to Mario Testino, whom he assisted for the next four years whilst living between Paris and London. Towards the end of his time with Testing, Katie Grand, a British fashion journalist and stylist, approached Lubomirski to shoot for The Face, and later for Harper's Bazaar US.

Since then Lubomirski has become an established name within the fashion industry with an impressive client list, shooting for such publications as Harper's Bazaar UK, Vogue Germany, Vogue Russia, Vogue Spain, Vogue China, Vogue Nippon and Wonderland.

He has also become a firm favorite with celebrities and has shot cover stars such as Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Scarlett Johansson to name but a few. In 2008, Lubomirski had his first exhibition, 'Transit', a mixed media commentary on television culture, comprised of pre-conceived film stills, at Milk Gallery in New York.

For his recent book 'Princely Advice for a Happy Life', Alexi's goal was to put down in paper concepts that are passed on from generation to generation, encompassing anything from good manners and chivalry to courage, honor and romance. The book was a personal project which would serve as a gift to his firstborn son. It was an illustrator friend of the photographer who encouraged Lubomirski to get it published. The illustrator was charmed by the advice contained in the pages and saw necessity for the youth of today to have a tool to learn from. After two years of insistence on the part of his friend, Alexi finally agreed and thus was published a very princely (and personal) book of etiquette. The book itself is evidence of Alexi’s own advice; all proceeds from the sales are donated to the charity Concern Worldwide, proving that the line “show appreciation for your blessings in life, by blessing others with gifts of kindness” is not just something to fill a page in a book, but something to be lived by.

The Prince was well taught and by living the principles passed on to him as a young man, he was able to become this larger-than-life photographer, whose career seems much greater than the ten years documented in his other book “Decade”. This, a collection of highlights of the photographer’s work, goes far beyond the 250 images contained in the tome. The photography book was conceived during hurricane Sandy, while Lubomirski was stranded at home without much else to do, and later on with the help of Alex Gonzalez, who fine tuned a theme which focused on the elegance of women, showing them in the way this photographer knows best - classic, happy and confident.

The images range from actresses like Lupita Nyongo, Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett to supermodels including Karolina Kurkova. When asked about the difference between shooting actresses and models, the photographer states that “a model will shoot in whatever direction you want, while celebrities impose more boundaries as they are not hiding behind a character.”

So one could assume that shooting celebrities would be a challenge, but not for Lubomirski. “I learned to give actresses a story line and let them act it out. Kate Winslet for instance, uses her body as a tool and has such a mastery of it, it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The way she moves her ankle and her shoulder and the entire body conveys an emotion, it’s remarkable. Models and actresses are both special in their own way.”

Having had such a wide range and so many experiences it’s difficult not to ask the obvious question of who has been his favorite subject to shoot? The answer is the most charming and unexpected: “My wife, for sure, when I take pictures of her I feel like I’m writing poetry. Perhaps this will be an entirely different book in the future.”

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Article originally published in The Peninsula Magazine, Fall 2015

On Beating the Taboo of Spirituality and Creating a Better Life

Spirituality is taboo. No matter how open minded we are, there's a glimpse of a thought that prevents us from launching into the topic as we would about a TV show or a play. Whether we hold back to assess the situation and those around us, there is always that voice that whispers "proceed with caution" in the back of our heads.

Over the years I've seen spirituality expressed around me in many different ways. It was this flora of beliefs and practices that helped me find my own expression. I've found that people make their connection through religion, meditation, music, dance, support groups and study, to name a few. All of the aforementioned fascinate me for the way that each person builds their own individual relationship with something that is greater and more powerful than themselves. The sum of these examples have touched me in different ways.

I have never considered myself a religious person. I grew up in the south of Brazil, an area predominantly Catholic. My grandmother enrolled me in Sunday school, I was confirmed, joined the Boy Scouts and all that stuff that most kids don't like to be associated with. I didn't love those obligations, but I didn't hate them either. The stories from the bible fascinated me. It was such a different world from the one I lived in. The 10 commandments baffled me. Not stealing? I get it, but some of that stuff just didn't seem realistic to the 10-year-old version of myself.

Around that same time I met Berenice, my first English teacher. Berenice was Jewish, something completely new to me. I asked her questions, poked around and soon discovered that many of my classmates (in the Catholic school I attended) were Jewish too. I grew fascinated by their rituals and culture; moreover, I was fascinated by the sense of community they possessed. I immediately wanted to be one of them.

One of our religion class teachers, Pedro, was the epitome of cool, and the precise opposite of all other religion teachers, who were middle-aged nuns. Pedro brought his guitar to class, sang songs and created a stimulating environment in which we were invited to ask questions. In his classes we learned more not only about Catholicism, but all religions: Buddhism, Judaism, Islamism, the Amish and everything in between. Suddenly, all of us were engaged

Some 20 years later I ran into Pedro at my younger brother's school, during soccer practice. My former teacher was still the same, dreadlocks and guitar included. I was surprised, he recognized me immediately. We caught up briefly and he told me he was let go from that job not long after I left that school. Polite, funny and sensitive as always, he didn't go into details but I can speculate that perhaps his open minded beliefs and creative methods were a bit much for a traditional institution.

From those classes I remember becoming very aware about a sense of "destiny" and how life is full of coincidences. I also recollect not exactly understanding those feelings. I didn't understand the purpose of prayer either. I didn't get what sacrifice of one's will for that of others meant. All I know is I always believed there was a force in charge of everything, making sure things happened according to a master plan. The problem was I never felt at ease. At one point I felt as if my life was spinning so fast that I was going to fall.

Around 2010, when I was in fact very close to falling, something clicked. My health had deteriorated and my career was collapsing. I had an immense sense of loneliness in New York and was completely afraid. I was then introduced to meditation. My friend told me about his spiritual practice and we launched into discussions about religion. To my surprise he had none, he was agnostic. My friend however, believed that he was in a spiritual path, and that all humans had a connection of the soul. Although agnostic he got on his knees to pray, daily. He did not pray to God, his prayers consisted of words of gratitude for his blessings, but also for all the negative experiences in his life. Those experiences taught him to push through, be stronger, and learn from mistakes.

It was from a simple conversation that the spark lit up a flame and I found myself no longer in the dark. There was hope. I started reading about different spiritual practices and learned to say more yes than no. Begrudgingly I started praying (not knowing what to, but I did it anyway), on my knees, as taught by my grandmother. I would then sit in silence and meditate; or at least I tried to. First for two minutes, than for five, and now sometimes I go for twenty.

Everything has changed and my practice has not remained linear. I've said prayers that belong to different religions, merely because I admired the meaning behind the words. I've studied different spiritual beliefs, like the Kabbalah, and I found a way back to myself through yoga, which if you had asked me before, I would have told you it was but a fashion trend.

I found that in the stillness of when I am alone I'm granted the answers I didn't even know I was looking for. I discovered that there can be many different paths that lead to the same destiny, and I can get there a lot more peacefully if I have a spiritual connection. Whether my pursuit is in religion, meditation, or yoga, that's all irrelevant. We all can connect within when we need answers or even if we simply want to feel re-energized. Millions of people on this planet can't be wrong, if they have a spiritual practice that works for them then who am I to argue? Exploring different spiritual paths doesn't take much time, it shouldn't really cost any money and no one's ever died from having too much spirituality and serenity in their lives.

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Originally published in The Huffington Post - GPS for the Soul, October, 2015

Meet the Man who Changed the Face of Advertising in America

When you hear the name William Helburn, it will probably not mean anything to you. Unless you were part of the advertising industry in the Mad Men era, or a fashion insider, Bill (as he's called by friends and colleagues) would have flown under your radar. Contemporary to other greats like Richard Avedon, Lilian Bassman and Irving Penn, Mr. Helburn's career started right after the war. Mr. Helburn shot faces like Dovima, Dorian Leigh and Jean Patchett for various publications including Harper's Bazaar and Time Magazine. In the book Seventh and Madison (Thames & Hudson) the reader is introduced to this key character of a long gone era, in which the United States lived what was probably the most exciting and innovative time in advertising.

This photographer never spent much time building an editorial brand. "I never made a point to put my name under my pictures; I was working mainly in advertising and unlike magazine editorials, you never get credit for that work," Bill explains with no regrets. "I worked a lot, I was successful, people liked me and I made a lot of money."

Mr. Helburn didn't really care about branding himself, so why suddenly have a retrospective of his work at the peak of his 90 years of age? "I have no idea, this is such a nuisance!" he laughs, "these people who followed my work, approached me and said they were interested in what I created and said they felt the world should know who I am." Bill agreed with the proposition but was skeptical they would be able to put a book together with the little material he had saved over the years. "I threw away three quarters of the work I did, anything that wasn't approved [to run] went to the trash, I didn't know people were gonna come back and make a book about me."


What Robert and Lois Lilly (authors of the tome) saw, was the indelible mark this photographer had left in the advertising industry. Helburn was making images that were outside the box and popped from the pages of the magazines and billboards, bringing new excitement to the ads he was hired to shoot. He was the only advertising photographer who was as trendy as the fashion photographers, roaming the world with top models and celebrities and putting them in new and unexpected situations for the sake of selling a product in a different way.

Never before would a fashion photographer shoot a car advertisement, and that's exactly what Bill did. "I made it more interesting. I wasn't showing the engine like most ads were. I had a model in the picture and I made that car sexy." And Bill gets excited every time he is invited to talk about his work. "I made advertising a little more fashionable. They would give me layouts and I'd shoot that, but then I'd also do what I wanted to do and more often than not they'd pick my idea over the layout." That was how models ended up with cruise ships in their hair, standing atop street signs or naked in the middle of a snow storm. Shock value was something this artist knew all about.


In times when the world talks endlessly about new medias and the end of the printed matter, it's valid to wonder what made such a successful photographer change from shooting stills to moving image. Eventually Mr. Helburn saw the expansion of the television as a new media and moved on to shoot commercials. "That was the way the world was going, advertising was spending more money on TV, so I started doing that," explains Bill. And he did that from the 80s up until the early 90s when he finally retired to enjoy his success and spend time with the family.

For someone who seemed so passionate about his work, one is left wondering if he keeps up with new advertising campaigns and magazines. The answer comes as quickly as the click of a shutter. "I couldn't care less, I don't keep track of it at all, I just want to enjoy life!". And that he does, with no regrets, only happy memories. "Doing this book... it's rewarding, they rediscovered me," concludes the master.

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Article originally appeared in The Huffington Post and VVV Magazine.

The Legends Interview

legend |ˈlejənd| noun

an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.


Picture this: between Pat Cleveland (who’s career started in the 1970’s) and Hannah Ferguson (who started in 2012), there are five decades of legendary careers in the modeling industry. One would think that for some of these women, things would have slowed down, but they don’t ever stop working. Frederique Van der Wal runs the most successful floral business in the world, Carol Alt hosts a daily show on Fox News, Claudia Mason is about to embark on a book tour and Pat Cleveland is also writing a book of her own in between photoshoots and runway shows. Hannah Ferguson, while young in the business, had hardly any days off since she broke the internet in the infamous Carl’s Jr. commercial, alongside Paris Hilton.


The irony is that neither of these women seem to see themselves as legends. “I don’t know what a legend is” says Carol Alt while the makeup artist works on final touches before the shoot. Strangely, Ms. Alt is one of the models for which the term “supermodel” was created to describe. “To me, if the image stays long after the person is gone, that is legendary” she completes.


The aforementioned women may not be “gone”, but their images will forever linger. These careers surpassed the runways and magazine covers, occupying the movie screens, televisions and even theater stages around the world. Additionally, each of them has a hand in some sort of humanitarian work, paying all the good they received forward. Whether they care to admit it or not, they have all created a legacy of their own.

Coffee Shop Ghosts

Who are these lonely crusaders of the keyboard? Who are these people who venture out into the unknown epicenter of words and numbers, in the middle of the afternoon, at quirky cafes or massive chains? Where did these beings come from and where do they belong? Do they not feel perturbed by the clinks and clanks of espresso machines and registers? Are they not phased by the screech of the milk frothers and the baby sitters shoving their strollers in whatever way they please?

Perhaps Benjamin woke up angry at his wife. He decided he needed to go write a letter to his high school sweetheart, the only person who ever really understood him, even in the silence. Gloria’s internet connection, on the other hand, was disrupted by the latest UFO to fly into town for the alien convention and she really could not wait another minute to wrap up her thesis on cloud anomalies. Actual clouds, not digital clouds. Could it be that Daniel has no place to call an office now that he is unemployed (staying at home creates an aura of depression and purposelessness)?

These people are magical beings, they populate areas which would likely go unused. These are creatures resented by some of the coffee enthusiasts, who would like to think they would go coffee tasting, if they had the space and the peace of mind to do so. What about the lovers who would like to sit at a table for a date and cannot, because there are ten computer rats crowding the environment? More intriguing are those who sit at the coffee shops and restaurants to watch movies or play video games. Is there really no better place to do it at than a crowded coffee shop? What is it about a busy restaurant that inspires someone to tune out the world and jump into the universe of Zelda?

I remember when I waited tables at a little cafe in Soho, a few moons ago, there was a girl who would always come in, order a regular coffee (which cost no more than two dollars) and sit there, on her laptop, working for hours. At the time I depended on tips and she never left any. She also took the space away from the good tippers, I thought. I couldn’t stand her, but at the same time I envied her. That woman had a purpose, she had things she needed done. For whatever reason, the non-tipper felt that our little cafe was welcoming enough that she could sit there for hours, entire afternoons! The owners of the cafe didn’t seem to mind, they probably felt she was good advertising, making the place look busy. The entire time I worked there I never saw her order anything other than her regular coffee. Not even a cookie! I bet that if I were to ask her, she would probably say she didn’t even like our coffee. I also bet she has a big career in astrophysics today, or something important like that. That girl had places to get to in life, she was tireless.

Cafes provide, perhaps, a sheltering environment away from loneliness but protected from interruptions. People most likely feel less inclined to talking to someone who’s on their computer, working. Nothing upsets me more than the person who feels comfortable enough to chit-chat with a perfect stranger. Call it social awkwardness but it’s at that moment when I really wish I’d have a computer to protect me.

A conclusion to this matter is still miles away but the endless amount of possibilities hidden behind each and everyone of these people is a thrill. The stories that run through my head during each trip to the local cafe are fabulous. The simple fact that they’re there, focused, makes me feel like they’re ten steps ahead of me. They’re the brave ones, facing the crowds, unafraid to explore their creative and professional needs, from full caf to decaf.

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Originally published on MEDIUM.

Bright Lights, Big City

The city of lights, romance and pastry, Paris is one of the world’s most effervescent cultural centers. The French capital sizzles and yet remains gentle in a beautiful paradox that allows you to live fast and party hard, while simultaneously inviting you to sit at one of its many immaculate parks to listen to music or read your afternoon away. The beauty of Paris is not in the bustling tourist attractions, but in the hidden corners and intimate settings. True, some of the most notable spots, such as the Louvre or the Trocadero still remain breathtaking, although somewhat impersonal. It was in the peaceful gardens of the Jardin des Plantes that I found my footing. After I realized that privacy was possible, even in the most public of places, I decided I'd take my time, soaking it all in.


No city in Europe makes me feel more comfortable and at home than I do in Paris. I understand this may seem odd, given the unfortunate fame the French have for their unpleasantness. I don’t find that to be true. Yes, they are ‘to the point’ and, yes, they can sometimes be honest to a fault, but I’ve learned over the years that part of what makes them so wonderful, are those exact things. They know everything; they are the best at everything; they have the best taste in everything. So what? No wonder they have some of the best food and wine in the world, not to mention art, literature, film and music. The French really got it all right – if it wasn’t for all the dog poo splattered around the city sidewalks and the occasional strikes, it would be the perfect place.
Whether in the seediness fun of the Pigalle or at the top of the hill at the Sacre Coeur - my favorite church in the world, which says a lot for someone who’s not religiously inclined - there was always an opportunity to stop at a hidden store, buy inconspicuous art and chat with the locals about what could be a great spot for dinner in the area, away from the extreme prices of the known locales.


L'Entrecote remains one of my favorite restaurants within Paris. Introduced to me during my first trip, it’s a French gem and normally my first stop whenever I’m in town. After standing in a long line out in the street (yes, it's that popular), you’re invited to sit down in a busy room, filled with vibrant chatter and delicious smells. However, no menu is ever presented; for a flat rate, you’re served L'Entrecote’s famous cut of meat with the secret mouth watering sauce, accompanied by fries and a salad. At the end of your meal, you’re given the choice of a dessert and the check. Just like that, in and out, no time is wasted, and it’s a fascinating thing to watch. This restaurant is such a big hit that it currently has three locations in Paris and even one in New York.


If my mood for dinner, however, is for a scene, I will most likely be seen at Cafe Ruc or Ginger. These two restaurants attract the core of the fashion industry. During Fashion Week, it’s an invitation to encounter some of the biggest top models dining alongside their agents and fashion editors from magazines from all around the world. For lunch, another restaurant favorite of mine that never disappoints is L’Avenue. Steps away from the Hotel Plaza Athene and smacked in between stores like Dior, Chanel, Ferragamo, Celine and the headquarters of Givenchy, this is the spot to have lunch in between fashion shows. The tables on the sidewalk are the most sought after and certain ‘fashionistas’ have been known to spend north of four hours there sipping champagne and nibbling on strawberries. For a quick and very traditional French lunch, I adore Le Castiglione, also one of Grace Coddington’s favorites. The overall environment of Le Castiglione is lovely and the food cooked to perfection. Only a few steps away from Place Vendome, the jewelry central of Europe, where one of the most infamous jewelry heists took place a few years ago, thus turning this location into one of the most well guarded on the planet. Also located at this square is the famed Hotel Ritz -- where the gliteratti gather and serves as temporary home to everyone from Anna Wintour to Beyonce.


Not all, however, needs to shine to be incredible. The fabulous burger joint, Ferdi, prepares what to me is one of the best burgers in the world. This cozy restaurant is a locally, well-known institution where patrons are hosted (or turned away) by the colorfully temperamental owner, which to me is the entire charm of the place. The Olsen twins, as well as the Delevigne sisters, have been spotted at Ferdi on several occasions and given their stamp of approval. After finishing the burger, it’s always a good idea to make a quick stop at Colette to pick up some of their exciting limited edition items. The store is design-heaven; just the right size and packed with all that matters in the fashion world - here, you can't go wrong. If your appetite in turn, is for something a little more mainstream do not skip the classic Printemps, Le Bon Marche or Galleries Lafayette, which are the most famous and large scale French department stores. In the afternoon, a visit to the Hotel de Crillon for coffee proves to be a wise and regal choice. If that’s not appealing, head to the Madeleine square and pick up some delicious tea at the iconic teahouse, Mariage Freres - my personal favorite is the Marco Polo blend.


Shopping may not be your focus (if you're anything like me), and, in that case, my top suggestion is the museum of the Orangeries at the edge of the Tuilleries Garden. More intimate than some of its counterparts, this museum holds masterpieces like Monet’s Waterlilies among many other impressionists and post-impressionists masters like Cezanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Sisley and Renoir. In case there's time (and patience) for the mainstream, do not skip the Dorsay and the Pompidou. A very important addition to Paris' cultural portfolio is the incredible Louis Vuitton Foundation. Designed by Frank Gehry, this new icon of modern architecture and the arts sits in the Bois de Boulogne, known for its mansions and leafy streets. It’s in this very neighborhood that the musician Lenny Kravitz lives and is known to host the occasional intimate party in which the pantheon of the fashion, music and film industry gather.


While in the subject of parties, the Paris nightlife is not to be missed, some of the most exciting times I’ve had at night were there. It was at the club L’Arc that for several years the designer Riccardo Tisci hosted names like Liv Tyler, Gisele Bundchen and Mariacarla Boscono at parties for Givenchy. The most recent and exciting club to open its doors was David Lynch’s Club Silencio. Hidden deep underground, Club Silencio has a variety of rooms and hallways, while also playing host to the an exciting group of characters in the most extreme outfits seen anywhere.


While in Paris, a wild night is not always a requirement for a good time, as can be experienced at the ever-classic Hotel Costes, where a toast to a glass of champagne is mandatory. For a cooler, and more relaxed environment, my all time favorite evening appointment is at the restaurant Derriere, which is fashioned as a house. You may sit for dinner at a bedroom or in a living room, you may even end up in the dining room! If all else fails, you can hang out at the bar or in the patio and play some ping-pong with the iconic and irreverent fashion editor Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, a fan of this spot who is always up for a good time and some laughter.


Of the more traditional touristic spots, I try to never skip visits to the Notre Dame cathedral during mass hours; the smell of incense and the echoing of the words in french are ever inspiring. The Luxembourg Garden always takes my breath away and just before I head back to the hotel to change for the evening, a quick drink or a cup of coffee at Cafe de Flore is essential. Before you leave Paris, whether you go to their cafe at Champs Elysees or to a kiosk at the airport, don’t forget to pick up a box of macaroons from Laduree to gift to some of your favorite people back home. These colorful delicacies are a French institution.


Allow yourself to be immersed in the local culture, stroll through the bridges and the streets observing every detail and every sign. Look for the markings on buildings that might show you the former homes of luminaries like Proust, Balzac or Victor Hugo. Take all of its essence and history in and maybe then you will fall in love just as much as I did. In the classic words of Cole Porter; "I love Paris, every moment of the year".

 

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Column featured in ONNE MAGAZINE - May 2015

Saudade

Saudade is a word without translation, not without meaning. Nothing prepares you for it. It sweeps you off your feet and lands you flat on the ground. It's a theory and a paradox, it hurts so much, but oh, it feels so good! It washes you like a tall wave, it tackles you to only then lift you up again, out to fresh air where your lungs feel free and your heart relief. 

Saudade misses homes and pets, fast friends and long term partners. Saudade takes care of all, above and below. This is a feeling that reminds you of who you wanted to be when you grew up and who you were, just a week ago. Saudade craves food and green pastures, it craves smells and flowers. It inhabits your childhood bedroom, your baseball cards, your knick knacks and mementos.

Saudade feels like the first kiss - stolen. Saudade hums tunes in your ears, recites lines from old movies, and plays long forgotten. This feeling longs for attention, this feeling longs for your heart. Saudade makes you tight and then it expands you all over again. A sensation which awakens you to your truths, it's not dark nor is it light, it just is - magic.

Love that remains, happiness that stays, long after it's gone. Saudade. 

Temporary Rooms

I observe with the human lens. I watch them from the dimly lit corner of a room. They parade around with importance, tidying it all up for the honorable guests. They believe this is important. They believe this matters. I observe as the mechanical lenses line up at the edge of the room, always ecstatic and a bit hectic. They take position, a square each. A square, denoted by the neon tape that feels nothing, that says nothing, that breathes nothing. This tape somehow, the unliving tape, holds more power than some of the living things.

I observe in silence, as the lights briefly dim up bringing to center stage an army of long-limbed tall exquisite creatures. They walk in poetic march, built to inspire, built to promote, built for desire. 

I track the movement of guests as the doors bust open. I track them as they observe their ticket, longing for better seating. I observe as the better-seated glance at other better-seated, in awe and admiration, in anger and envy. I glance as they smile and hug and laugh and throw their hair back. They never stop. This is the cafeteria of high school and everyone has their place. Except for me, I am displaced.

I look, I point my humanity, I shoot. Heavenly creatures reappear on the suddenly bright room. I record moments, I share them with the world, I document it, in the way I'm told. Told by my lenses, the human lenses, creating unique perspectives, developing plots, but never deciding on an end. This story has no end, but the room does.

This room has an end, the room has a time. The room will live in glory, every once in a while. The room will be light and dark, the room will be structure and de-structure. The room will come, the room will go, but I'll stay. I'll stay. I'll stay.

La La Land

The plane touched down and excitement filled the air. This was my first trip to Los Angeles, a place that existed in my dreams and was about to become a reality. The fast pace of the freeways, the palm trees - everywhere, just like the movies. My first experiences there were fun - but underwhelming. The excessive time in traffic really brought me down. I am the type of person who’s really a sucker for human connection, so to be in a place where people basically don’t utilize sidewalks unless they’re getting to their car or from the car to a building, was really jarring. Not only that, but where were all the celebrities that allegedly lived here? I mean, if people are constantly in their cars, how do you ever see them? 

My friend, who was married to a paparazzo suggested that he’d take me on a tour to show me all the houses, where all the celebs lived. Off we went, and I got to see wall after wall, gate after gate, door after door, and still, no celebrities. And no houses either. It was the most disheartening process. My dreams were being crushed. Even the paparazzi chase after James Marsden I got to witness seemed boring. Where was Julia Roberts when you needed her? 

And then, there was the nightlife, or should I say, there wasn’t. A place where clubs are required by law to close at 2a.m.? Seems excessive, but it’s the truth. I was simply not having any of it. Granted, during the day, the parks, the mountains, the beaches, all wonderful, really - the quality of life, I imagined, top of the line. If you disregard the gray fog of pollution that covers the city, of course. But all good, isn’t there pollution everywhere? Who knows, you tell yourself the fattest lies when you want to believe in certain things.

I had not given up, I was certain that LA had to be that magical place from the movies, with all the cheap glamour and phenomenal black-tie parties, packed with celebrities pretending to have a good time. That’s the place I longed for, a place of make belief.

On the following year, I was invited to attend an Oscar party, perhaps the most sought after invitation of awards season. This was a private affair, at the house of a major pop icon, no press (or cameras and social media) were allowed and the guest list was tight, only 200 of the biggest and hottest talent in the world were invited, along with some key Hollywood players. I could not believe that I was in, this was an honor. I felt as if my opportunity had finally arrived, to truly experience LA at its best, on its most important night of the year, Oscar night.

The city buzzed, all along Sunset Boulevard and wherever else there was a key party taking place, traffic was intense. None of it mattered, because the party I was attending would only really get packed after everyone was done posing for pictures at Elton John’s or Vanity Fair, this was the party where they came to throw their hair back and really have fun.

Fun was had. Oprah Winfrey grabbed me by the arm on a twirl, most likely thinking I was someone else, and very quickly moved on to pay attention to Tom Cruise. Sharon Stone, probably the most magnificent creature I had ever laid eyes on seemed bored at the music, until Puff Daddy took over the pick ups. In an attempt to actually socialize, I bummed a cigarette from Penelope Cruz, who’s dress was all ripped to shreds at this point, from all the dancing that was taking place. More than half of the women were trotting around barefooted, without a care in the world. We were all sweaty and we were all having the time of our lives. A momentary bond was created between me and Renee Zellweger, who kept trying to hit on my friend, but with no luck - he was engaged to be married. That would not be a problem, Renee and I still had the dance floor. The bathroom line was dispersed by a housekeeper who informed us the toilet was clogged. So it was true, celebrities are just like everyone else, they even clog toilets the same way.

The follow up to this brilliant night was a brunch at the iconic Fred Segal, where me and my friends would rehash stories from the night before. Sitting next to me on the curb, waiting for a table just like everybody else, was J.Lo with her BFF Leah Remini. And there it was, the moment I had been waiting for all along, the LA of my dreams had concretized.

I did not stop going back to LA ever since, two or three times every year at the very least, and I just keep on falling in love with it more and more. Over time I learned to love waking up early in the morning for a walk on the hills of Hollywood, by the iconic Hollywood sign, all the way to the stunning Griffith Observatory. Sometimes if I’m feeling adventurous, I will get in my car and go to Runyon Canyon, probably the most popular of the hikes in town. There, the occasional celebrity sighting is inevitable, my favorite being a fresh faced Kathy Griffin walking her dog up and down the rocky pathways.

With time I also learned to get over my traffic resentment. I now zip all around the city in my little rental cars. It was in LA where I had my first car crash, not in New York, the place famously known for its horrid traffic and crazy drivers. As I was parking for brunch at Laurel’s Hardware, one of the hottest brunch spots in town, a bus took half of my car along with it. Of course, this being West Hollywood, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian arrived just as I was giving my statement to the police. A very glitzy car crash indeed!

In the evening, dinner at Soho House among the likes of Al Pacino or Madeleine Stowe seems like a great choice, followed by drinks at the historic Chateau Marmont, location picked for the movie ‘Somewhere’ by Sofia Coppola and of many incredible parties, like the night where many gathered around the pool to celebrate Valentino on his last collection as the designer of his own label. And speaking of parties, it was at LACMA - Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art, where Rodarte threw their pre-Oscar bash a few years back. Now, I am not saying that’s the reason why you should visit, but it is definitely a place to be seen. Their art collection is exquisite and the place itself is definitely not to be missed, much like the Ghery designed Disney Auditorium, with it’s incredible architecture. Speaking of art, a visit to Prism Gallery is also essential. This gallery co-owned by the brothers xxxx is one of the hottest in the country, continually launching new talent into the top echelons of the art world. Next door is the restaurant Eveleigh, one of LA’s trendy spots where top models Carolyn Murphy, Irina Shayk and Gisele Bundchen can be seen dining alongside Mario Testino, Adam Levine or Leonardo DiCaprio.

One of my favorite places for dinner though is Pace, on Laurel Canyon - not only for its delicious menu but for the history that’s present in that area. A few doors down from the restaurant is the house that used to belong to Jim Morrison, and that street was what he used to call “love street” - made famous by the song of same name. From the balcony of his house, Jim used to watch his girlfriend coming home from work every day. The country store next door to the restaurant is where Jim, and many of his rock star friends used to go for their groceries. The basement of this store served as Mama Cass’s first apartment when she arrived, broke, in Los Angeles. What Morrison and Cass didn’t know, is that they had gone to school together, years prior to that and had never met until then. That store is “the place where creatures meet” that Jim mentions in his song because of this accidental high-school reunion. After this walk down memory lane, a trip up to Mulholland Drive is mandatory. Its winding roads took the lives of xxx and were made globally famous by David Lynch’s homonymous film. Make sure to stop at one of the overlooks to take some of the most stunning night shots of the City of Angels.

Rodeo Drive, once made famous by Julia Roberts is just another shopping spot like any other in any large metropolis, and if that’s the focal point of your trip, then you won’t be disappointed as luxury is not spared here. Don’t forget to make a stop for lunch at Ceconi’s to recharge the batteries or later on at the cafe at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, where the pretty woman and Richard Gere were staying in, in that movie. This is a magical city, infinite opportunities for entertainment, from the Walk of Fame to the seedy Venice Beach where Arnold Schwarzenegger was once made Mr. World to the Santa Monica Pier, with its traditional funnel cake and amusement park - days can be spent discovering new things in Los Angeles and the more I discover, the more I want to return. You will too.