Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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WOMAN – OCTOBER – 2016

milford_readers_writers_gloria_1

I am different this month. And if I am different then millions of women are different this month. I am one of many and I am never alone. I am woman and I am different this month.

I am different because two weeks ago the Milford Readers and Writers festival happened. It happened in the town I love and I was one of the organizers. I am different because I listened to Gloria Steinem, up on the stage and in front of the logo I had designed. I am different because my long-in-the-works book, Stupid Model, was published and I sold fifty copies over three days. I am different because I was doing it with all with my friends. I am different because for those few days I felt centered and within myself.

I read a passage from my book to a room full of women and they laughed and applauded. They heard me and we connected. This changed me. Then it was over, my old and new friends went home, I tidied up the house and I too went home, leaving my home behind.

I am different now from who I was then. And I am different from who I was in September.

Together with millions of others I am restless. I am anxious. I am provoked. I am angry and I want the world to be different.

Is it true that change brings up everything unlike itself?

Together with an entire generation (or two) of women I have been forced to remember things that I had forgotten. Or had marginalized. Things that became threads woven into the fabric that made me into who I am today. Those small things that grab us and make us a little less proud. A little less confident. A little less…

I always fought when they happened. After being a scared, weepy child I stood up for myself when I walked away from my youth at age seventeen. To Paris where I fought the men who groped me on the Metro, followed me in the street clucking and whistling, took me to dinner stroking my thigh under the table while talking business with colleagues above the white linen, silver, china and crystal. I fought the photographers who demeaned me over and over and, on my last day, I physically attacked the ultimate misogynist, a famous couturier who had me thrown out of Paris.

Illustration from Stupid Model in Paris and Down Under

from Stupid Model in Paris and Down Under

Perhaps I fought because my mother fought. Fought her own demons. From the German soldiers who had controlled her town and her family when she was a teenager, the ghost of my father who drove his car into a tree and left her alone with me, a two-year-old babe, to my stepfather who was controlling and abusive and after fifteen years absconded with one of her younger friends.

I fought because those were the days that we “fought back”. A clinched fist was our symbol. Don’t fuck with us. But who were we kidding? When you could not be anywhere alone without at least one man grabbing you wherever he liked, metaphorically and physically.

I fought my way to success. I was ambitious they said, like a dirty word, dirtier than pussy and grab. Subconsciously, I learned to use sexism in a game of exchange that couldn’t be won. Like fake promises it never delivered that moment of pure achievement, because in the shadows there was always a baritone boasting – you’d be nothing if it wasn’t for me, and I can undo you.

October 2016. Women. What the fuck?

Did we really think it would come easy?

Just as it seems within reach we have to conquer our past and slay our ultimate dragon and not just metaphorically. He’s real and he looms, lies, interrupts, gropes, intimidates, demeans and threatens. Bitch is only one letter away from Witch, the she-devil, burn her at the stake, whipped into a frenzy the fearful-of-change masses promise to end her, cheering…

Change brings up everything unlike itself.

(I wonder if my daughters look at my rage the same way I look at my husband when he loses his shit in the car at the guy who just cut him off.)

It may not seem like it to the next generation, and it may not feel like it to us right now, but we have come a long way. And when Hillary is president our daughters will soon take it for granted and move on. That’s what change does: it sets the stage for more change, and they have plenty to do.

And we will have some laurels to rest on. Hopefully we can finally forget what we are feeling now, in October 2016, the fear that he can undo us. But remembering and standing together and visualizing holding hands with all women everywhere, yes, also the ones who wear T-shirts that say He Can Grab This >, we will undo him and finally allow ourselves to feel that sense of pure achievement.

LINK to STUPID MODEL:

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Repurposed in Miami

Last year was a transitional year.

I realize now that, for me, last year was still transitional. From  reading my blog you’d probably  already figured this out, but I was oblivious.

I thought the previous year had been transitional and that I was out of transition and in destination. But, just because I’d moved to Miami didn’t mean that I had arrived. I know what you’re thinking, moving to a new city is always a transition, and that is exactly what I would answer, if anyone asked.

But I’d already been in a real full-blown transition since early 2008. And it felt like being stuck. Like I couldn’t go back, and couldn’t move forward. I no longer knew who I was nor who I wanted to be. My identity had always been so wrapped up in what I created and I didn’t want to go back to designing “more stuff “. My last gig had been with Pantone as the Creative Director of every licensed product that carried its logo and name. Plates, stationery, shoes, a home collection, clothes, bags, you name it. A lot of stuff… So I helped Alastair with the design of Spaced Out and started  collecting waste beach plastic. I worked it,  made jewelry from it and educated myself in the causes and effects of plastic pollution. I did a website called Its a Man made World.

And I wrote. I wrote an entire novel about a woman in transition. A woman like me, who from one moment to the next realizes that her perfectly crafted life has fallen apart, and that nothing will ever be what she thought again.

I did both in a bubble. Not a pretty, floating-on-air Californian bubble, but more like a soundproof one-way-mirror bubble, feeling unheard and unseen. Lost even.

Moving to Miami had everything to do with breaking out of whatever it was that I was in. Husband knew it, like he was aware that a change would do me, and us, good.

And it did, almost right away. (SO, for anyone who feels stuck: Move! A different city, a different country, a different job, a new house, a whole new slice of of life to explore).

But then I thought Miami Beach was just playtime, and that’s hard for me because I was brought up with a huge sense of purpose and responsibility, and here I was having lunch on the beach!

Some days it felt like I was doing the same as I did before, writing and recycling beach plastic, only in better weather, in DJ Tiesto’s bachelor pad, away from the knick-knacks of my old life… and maybe I still wasn’t getting anywhere…

The only difference I felt was a sense of patience and maybe this comes with age. Maybe  the ambition endorphins turn into patience endorphins, and for the first time ever I enjoyed the process of what I was doing, instead of being anxious about getting to the pay-off: money, attention, a good review…

I added some beach plastic clothes and called the collection Plastic is Forever. I got a small order for scarves from Base at the Delano, which lead to picking, cutting and drilling the beach plastic and finding the local women who would sew it on silk georgette for me. I enjoyed meeting them, Lucia and her mother, at Normandy on Saturday mornings and buying organic vegetables and flowers at the market afterwards.

I enjoyed doing the Barbi does Miami blog, not only did writing about being here help me redefine who I was , but I also connected to my readers for the first time. I made friends with people I’ll never meet. This, for me, is the joy of writing. Not the sitting alone at a desk for hours on end, losing all sense of time, like passing through CS Lewis’ closet, entire days disappearing into what feels like an hour. I don’t like that aspect of writing. But I love the dialog. The ability to create a connection, a shared experience, a feeling that we’re never alone in what we go through and how it makes us feel…

But this year is different. I’m working manual labor in Miami. I have to produce 900 tee shirts for Barneys New York, using organic blanks from Loomstate. And 900 tees is about 35,000 pieces of  beach plastic, and about 50,000 drilled holes! Its a group of women beaders who need 50 kits every week between now and end january, and I’ll have to provide those. I’ll be working hard and I love it.

In fact. I think that…

I’m a bit like my beach plastic.

All that plastic I collect had purpose in a previous life, be it a bottle top, a crate, toothbrush, hair clip, spoon, detergent container, cup, plate, comb,  or any one of a million other things. Then it was useless. Discarded. It tossed around for a bit. Sand, sea, sun, salt even coral. Then it started to look good again. And now this patina-ed beach plastic has a whole new life as fabulous adornment on Barneys tees that’ll sell to green fashionistas for one hundred and thirty five dollars.

So.

I too feel repurposed and it feels good…

and there will be black and white...


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Janice Dickinson’s rules for success…

page from my journal

Someone kicked my door.

Janice and her sister Debbie stormed into my room. Debbie held a bottle of wine and Janice grabbed and opened my portfolio.

You can throw all this crap out, she said. If it isn’t shot in Paris they call it merde, shitte. You think you have some cute editorials? Some nice Dutch covers? Honey, they’re gonna piss on them. They’re gonna make you feel like hideous shit.

She pulled the cork from the bottle and filled our plastic cups.

So prepare yourself for the worst.

I wondered what she meant as I watched her, manically moving her bare feet back and forth through the orange shag carpet.

She never stopped talking.

Paris is not Amsterdam, she said. Things are different here, harder, and you’ll only work if you follow my, the Janice Dickinson, rules of success and survival.

Janice had become a star overnight but she was also pretty wild. I wasn’t sure what could I learn from her.

She put one finger in my face as if we were counting together.

The Janice Dickinson rule to success … ONE, she said, you need fabulous editorials for your portfolio. TWO – you have to get booked by ELLE, they do the hottest shoots – once you’re in ELLE, everyone else books you. THREE – the only way into ELLE is through the photographers, Demarchelier, Toscani, Bensimon, and Jean Loup Sieff. So. you have to make your booker send you to them and get these guys to notice and want you. Do whatever it takes. Every photographer you see is a horny rat. Don’t bother with any of them, if they’re not well known they’re not worth it. And always make sure you focus on what you need. Great pictures for your book.

Her loud raspy voice and in-my-face attitude made me claustrophobic. This room was too cramped for her, with the bright walls that were painted in a pattern of a psychedelic mushroom cloud of yellow, orange and red.

A-bomb on acid, she said. Mine is blue. Same decorator, different LSD I guess.

Two white molded plastic beds sat along one wall. Another globular blob was both my closet and desk and I had to walk across my bed to get to a bathroom where the toilet and the sink overlapped.

So my sweetie, she said and poked two fingers in my ribcage.

Next is my rule for survival. These rooms suck, every night you’ll wanna escape. But as soon as you go out alone French men will hit on you – like they’re cavemen who think every girl wants to get laid.

I didn’t believe her. In Amsterdam I always went out by myself. Why would Paris be so different?

Believe me, she said. You’ll find out. BUT. Armand, Christa’s millionaire partner, provides the solution. I call them the Playboys.

Who are the playboys? I asked.

Greasy rich guys who like to play with us, you know, party boys, jet-setters. They show up every night. Like dating models is all they do.

You mean the agency uses us as escorts?

Janice hooted.

You’re so bubblegum. Armand invests in this agency for the perks and guess what, we’re the perks!

I’m not a perk.

Honey, just use these guys the way they use you and you’ll have fun.

She got up and stretched theatrically.

Chill, you’re gonna be huge.

Debbie had not said a word, as if they had an agreement that Janice made all the noise, but on her way out, as she stood in my doorway, Debbie turned, blew me a kiss and whispered:

Sleep tight, don’t let those French bed bugs bite.

I lay down on my bed.

What was that all about?

It was still light outside and people were laughing in the street below. I was restless, my energy bounced off the walls and I had to go somewhere. See the Eiffel tower. Walk along the Champs Elysee. Have a glass of wine on a terrace. But I hesitated. What if there still were playboys downstairs, waiting for me?

This is an excerpt, for more from THE BLACKBERRY DIET


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Meet Janice Dickinson

Excerpt from The BlackBerry Diet:

photo: Jaap de Graaf

I was seventeen when I left home for Paris.

Two weeks after I’d finished high school and one year after my stepfather ran off with our babysitter.

On June 7th 1976 I arrived at the bottom of the stairs that led to Christa’s Modeling Agency.

Covers from Elle, Marie Claire, and Vogue went up the walls and familiar faces stared down at me and seemed to say:

We’re much more beautiful than you’ll ever be – go home.

Home was not an option. I was done with all that; My childhood, school and my wild mother who was indulging her new-found sexual freedom by taking a different lover for each day of the week.

All done. Even if these other models were prettier and skinnier and sexier, I’d been invited by Johnny Casablancas, the world’s hottest model agent, to meet with his partner Christa and try out for the couture shows in July.

There was no way was I going back. Modeling was a stepping stone to my dream career as a fashion designer. Through modeling I’d meet famous designers, wear amazing clothes and make enough money to go to art college.

I hesitated and someone tapped my back.

Allez. Allez. Go, go,

I’m Katja from Amsterdam, I’m here to see Christa.

Ah oui, I’m Christa, the woman said.

I followed her upstairs and she left me behind in a small reception room.

Purple psychedelic letters that spelled Christa were all over the walls and a patent white sofa was jammed between the wall and a door. Pictures of Pat Cleveland, Linda Morand, Kim Alexis and other familiar faces surrounded me. The stale smell of Gauloise cigarettes and strong black coffee made me nauseous and again I felt the urge to leave. Maybe I should enroll at the Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam.

Behind a glass door was the bookings room and I could see four bookers working the phones from a series of desks crowded with photos, calendars and charts. They were busy talking to clients. They pulled model work sheets from a central shelf and checked available dates for each girl. On the other side of the room three bored-looking models leaned against a windowsill. One of them, she looked familiar, must’ve cracked a joke and the other two laughed. Then she turned and stared at me like she’d just spotted the ugliest creature in the universe. To my horror she moved towards me. She pressed her face against the glass door and pushed it open with her forehead. This girl was crazy and she scared me.

Hallo, I said.

My voice shook.

I’m Katja from Amsterdam. Christa told me to wait here.

Then I knew. She was Janice Dickinson – the hottest model in Paris. She was the one, the badass American, on all those covers in the stairway.

Janice grabbed my clammy hand and dragged me into the office. The bookers and the other models stared at me but no one said a word. Even the phones seemed to stop ringing.

Janice turned around and put her face against mine.

I wondered if she was going to kiss me but instead she sniffed the top of my head, my hair, my face, my shoulders, around my back, to my breasts and down every inch of my body. She stopped at my crotch like a dog and made a disgusted face. Everyone laughed. I wanted to send her flying through the glass.

But I just stood like a stupid grinning giraffe.

Honey, she announced. You’ve got what it takes! Welcome to Paris, the capitol of lonely horny models.

more from  The BlackBerry Diet:


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The BlackBerry Diet – a novel by Barbara de Vries

“Youth is something very new.

Twenty years ago no one mentioned it.”

– Coco Chanel.

The BlackBerry Diet


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The BlackBerry Diet

The epilog of the BlackBerry Diet reads like this:

(oh, and it might sound familiar)…

– 100 –

I’m writing this from my twenty-fifth floor apartment in Miami.

Below me is the beach scattered with tiny figures and the endless ocean dotted with cruise-liners and container ships stretches ahead of me.

I’m surrounded by white, turquoise, and deep blue.

I’m definitely not in the Catskills anymore.

The kids are in school.

We moved a month ago.

News from Upstate is that snow came early this year, before the leaves had even fallen. It’s sunny here and in the mid-eighties.

I’m not homesick.

We rented the farm to friends, a gay couple who hope we’ll never return. But it’s too soon to tell. I try not to think too far ahead. I’m being here now, in the moment.

Finn has changed.

Almost losing me made him grow up, like he could finally celebrated his family.

Soon after I came back from Paris he sheepishly told me that he’d been invited to go on another PR junket.

Oh sure, I said.

They’re opening a new restaurant at the Fontainebleau in Miami.

Cool, I said, this time I’m coming along.

The girls stayed with Emma.

It was easy and to my surprise I loved Miami.

After going to Paris I’d fought not to slip back into my old habits. It was so hard. My life worked in a set way, and I didn’t know how to change it. I tried too hard to please Finn and then I was resentful. I could go from being loving and sweet to a screaming maniac in a nano-second. Finn stood by. Guilty like he deserved my wrath. I hated myself. I considered a separation after all. We talked about it, but Finn refused.

How about we take a year away from our old life, he said one day. And try a fresh start.

Going to Miami was a risk worth taking.

I do miss Emma and Manon.

Emma is on a book tour. Her book is selling well and it’s being turned into an off-Broadway play. Manon moved back to the city. The country was too lonely for a stunning Amazon like her. She loves New York and is dating a Dutch pediatrician.

I adore Miami women. Like my new friend Rio who dresses up for everything like taking the kids to school, shopping for groceries, sitting on the beach, walking the dog, or going out for dinner. I copy her. I no longer wear sweats and my roots never show. The only pills I take are vitamin pills, I swim every day and I’m even contemplating going to the gym.

I’ve started designing a new collection.

Finn and I are partying.

I go with him to every restaurant review and last Saturday we went to a crazy gender-bender Halloween ball.

We danced till two in the morning.

We have the best sex.

He thinks I’m hot.

He says he fell in love with me all over again.

I love him back.

Carefully.

I’m still exploring the place where he begins and I end.

He ends and I begin.

****

Doing my Barbi does Miami blog has been  a lot like writing the BlackBerry Diet, its about real life but also about knowing what to play up and what to play down, about being genuine, irreverent and open. I had to be honest, completely honest with myself when I wrote the the BlackBerry Diet. I crafted a narrative using my own life, adding highs, lows and tension. To be able to do this I created another persona called Katja, a husband called Finn, three daughters, and a parallel universe that expressed mine…

Now, after writing this blog for nine months I might be ready to serialize and  incorporate the BlackBerry Diet into this blog.

Whatya think?



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Kevin Vertrees performs: Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be writers…

Inspired by, but improved upon, my lyrics of yesterday, thank you Kevin, you made my day!

Link:

http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_4019759