Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Steve Jobs, TED and thinking different…

Beach plastic necklace. Crosses made from crate embellished with seed pearls

Today the ether is atwitter with quotes from Steve Jobs to “think different”.

Everyone is encouraging everyone to think different.

(A paradox I think)

The TED movement is based on this Steve concept, in fact TED has branded thinking different with “Ideas Worth Sharing” and encourages people from all over to share their ideas, their ways of different thinking, around the globe.

Many people are asking about my TED talk, “How did you get in? How did you do it?”

To be honest it had not occurred to me until I was invited by TED to share my recent work at their next event in Miami.

The evolution of my relationship to what I find on the beach and what I do with it has been organic and compared to the speed of my previous life on 7th Avenue where a new collection was due every six weeks, it was slow.

Very slow.

Slow is good. Slow gave me more time to think . But, because the thoughts happened over an extended period of time, they no longer feel different. They have become part of who I am.

So when I talk about my passion for beach plastic it does not feel like I think different.

Different may well be in the eye of the beholder and it’s in constant flux.

For instance.

Sixty years ago plastic was a “different” material. It was introduced as the material that would give nature a break because we were depleting wood, bone, ivory etc. Now there is not a moment in our life when we do not interact with it. The entire planet is awash with plastic. Oceans carry plastic particles around like cells in a bloodstream. Plastic has been found in tens of thousands of living species, including us. Single use plastic is no longer giving nature a break, it is suffocating life.

In the past I put my creative work out there, but not the thought behind it. I have always been more interested in the outcome rather than the explanation of the creative process and believe that authenticity resonates on its rightful frequency.  But because my work now has an element of activism I succumbed.

Still

I’d hate to preach. I am not here to make any individual feel guilty. I can inspire but I cannot tell you what to do.

(Corporations, hell yes, I’ll make them  guilty all day long, as well as government and policy makers).

But as individuals we have free will. We are in charge of our own destiny. We can inform ourselves and choose to act. We can decide to  bring our own bags to the supermarket instead of using 20 plastic bags instead. We  can recycle, reuse, repurpose and refuse. We have the choice to take responsibility.

in between the lines

My personal transformation started  in Eleuthera 8 years ago.

On my first beach walk  I noticed,  in between the lines in the sand,  bright flecks of color. My initial thought was how pretty but then I realized these specks of plastic were  not supposed to be there.

By the end of that first walk I had encountered everything that mankind had ever made in plastic.

Crates, chairs, brushes, lids, containers, barrettes, flip flops and sneaker and endless lengths of nylon rope.

Even on this remote “pristine” beach I realized that we live in a man made world.

Being a designer I look at almost everything as shape, color, texture and inspiration and what I saw that day I’d never seen before.

The beach plastic had been tumbled in sand, salt and coral. and was bleached by the sun. It had been in nature for so long that it had taken on a natural patina. Some pieces looked like stone, like little colored gems.

I started picking them up.

My love hate relationship with plastic started in that moment .

Back  home I tried to find out more.

I learned that we each consume roughly 300 pounds of plastic a year of which a mere 7% is recycled and 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into the ocean every day.

What could I do?

I had an ever increasing “collection” of beach plastic in my studio and I started making earrings.

Eventually I had an awakening to the possibilities of this material that was never really owned but had been thrown to the mythical place called away.

To make jewelry was a transformation, not just for me, but also for the material.

Think of a water-bottle top. Does anyone ever feel that they own a plastic bottle top? It just keeps the liquid inside the bottle, right? Which you don’t feel you own either. Does the manufacturer of your water feel he owns that bottle?

Nobody owns single-use plastic.

I like finding weathered bottle tops. They make great earrings, and I love selling single use plastic, beach plastic, into ownership.

If plastic is made to last forever then maybe, like diamonds, it can be loved forever.

I got this comment yesterday:

“Keep cleaning up the beaches lady.. but what are you gonna do with all those balloons with the plastic string ties and can you make something with all the garbage those people in Miami leave on the beaches while you’re at it???”

He does NOT think different!

I am not cleaning up the beaches for him or anyone. I do it for me. Creating beauty with beach plastic makes me happy and by getting your attention I implicate you in the tragedy of our single-use throw-away culture.

I hope I make you think.

Not just different.

Different is fleeting.

But think.

All the time

About everything.

website:

http://www.plasticisforever.net/


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How to prepare for a TED talk with the Seinfeld method….

Almost four weeks later and my TED talk is not online.

I practice my ZEN patience and wonder if:

When one does a TED talk and nobody can see it,  is it still is a TED talk?

As I write this I have not seen myself TED talking.

Still.

I am glad it is over.

Was it fun?

Did I do good?

I did terrible in the dress rehearsal. Like really awful, like I wondered if they could fire me.

It was the clock. Right in the middle of the audience, at perfect eye level, is a monitor. It shows the slides or video that is projected behind the speakers so we don’t have to keep turning around to address our images. Its about 3ft by 18″. But I could not really see  because over my pictures there was a giant fluorescent 13 that took up the entire screen. 13 minutes for my talk. Seconds and minutes passing backwards, like the proverbial bomb in James Bond movies and I was James, responsible for saving the world in 13 minutes.

photo: Ilmar Saar

So.

At 8 minutes I thought.

As I was talking my dress rehearsal TED.

I thought. 8? 13 minus 8? Thats is 5 minutes done. Is that all?

Seriously, I did math while I was still speaking. Isn’t it amazing? The gymnastics of which the mind is capable.

Then I worried. Could I fill those 8 minutes?

I lost my train, my momentum and I blanked.

Bluh.

Mouth and head full of cotton wool.

Bluh.

Nothing came to mind. Nothing came out.

Nada.

Was I stupid?

I had felt really stupid late August when I had written my entire talk and started practicing. Almost 2000 words. I did not really memorize, which, as I was told by both husband and Gina from TED, was a bad idea, but I did have an order and a rhythm for what and how I would TED talk.

Besides I had a 13 minute multi-media show which played behind me.

Not that I would talk to slides.

Like manually click them.

I hate that format.

“Oh, and here we have me, at the beach, finding my beach plastic…”

Too much like those family vacation slide shows of our neighbors that my parents sneered at as ever-so bourgeois.

Anyway I was stupid when I started working my TED.

Unable to memorize anything more than one paragraph.

I got advice from everyone.

Do it in the mirror. In the car. Film yourself and play it back. You will be fine, wing it, you  know your stuff , just make it up as you go along…

Right.

I felt so dumb that I bought Gingko.

I almost overdosed on Gingko.

I still felt stupid. I am too old I thought.

I have an old brain.

Then I worried about what to wear and I felt shallow.

I had my roots done, but did hair dye kill more brain cells?

I told husband who was still in Milford.

I had not seen him in weeks but he was coming to Miami for my talk.

He sounded sharp, bright and cheery.

“Not to worry, you’ll remember when you’re up there.”

Hmm.

Then I remembered.

(Yes, at least I did remember this!)

The Seinfeld Theory.

Do you remember?

Put to the test and proven in episode 143.

My problem?

Husband was away. But husband was coming to Miami three days before my talk.

That would give me enough time to clear my mind.

And he would love it.

As soon as he arrived I started clearing my mind.

Wow, he said. This is great. I should stay away more often.

The next morning I practiced my TED and could remember four minute spans. I had two days left to dress rehearsal, three to actual night. That was four to five mind-clearing sessions.

It so happened to be our 21st anniversary.

An excellent excuse for siestas. Back rubs. Jacuzzi’s and what may ensue…

By Monday morning, driving back from Iona’s school, I remembered my entire TED in exactly 13 minutes. What had been the big deal? I could do it backwards…

But then.

There was the clock.

The unknown factor.

That screwed me up.

“Its why we have dress rehearsals,” Gina said. “Now go home and forget about it. Do not look at your speech again. Relax. You’ll be fine tomorrow.”

I did relax on Tuesday the 13th of September. I had a pedicure and told husband I was having a nap at 2pm.

Afternoon delight, he hummed rather absent mindedly.

But happy.

Afterwards I confessed that I had been using him.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“You know, the Seinfeld Theory?” I hinted.

Wha’? he said.

You know that episode where George thinks lack of sex makes his mind sharper and he feels smart, then Elaine  uses this abstinence method  but she becomes more stupid. So she begs Jerry to have sex with her  just so she can clear her mind.

You know? No? You don’t  remember?

Nah. I don’t think so. What day is it again? shall we go and see a movie tonight or something…?

Yeah, something!

 


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TED and me and more on Trash Culture…

siding of a building in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera

OK

I am procrastenating ( I need spell check) writing this new blog.

Its been a while and I have  much to tell you.

Like I have been less than fair to those who may have wondered whether I did get picked to be one of the eight speakers at the TEDxMIA talks on September 13th in Miami’s New World Center.

between the lines

Yes! YES I did.

Maybe I did not post this jolly news sooner because I was kinda in denial.

Like getting it was one thing, doing it another.

And when I write now, I have to be serious and write about what I’m gonna talk about. Fifteen minutes is apparently only 1500 – 2000 words and thats not very much. I have a lot to say. I want to be poignant yet funny yet serious yet positive yet convincing.

I think too much about it, get dizzy with info and ambition and then I start  loitering around the internet .

nature paints with trash

I visit HuffPost to feel manipulated.

Like this trash story about a woman,  Sandy McMillin, who was evicted from Walmart for wearing a string bikini that she had bought there a year earlier (and visibly worn 24/7 ever since).

“Dress code”, was Walmart’s defense.

I have an opinion on the Walmart dress code.  A strong opinion in fact. I’ve had this opinion for a while, like ever since I’ve had the opportunity to shop at Walmart (which opened in Milford circa 2000.)

You see, if  Walmart really had a true customer dress code then I’d be applying for the job of enforcer (or counselor while I evict).

With enthusiasm.

Call me a snob. Call me shallow. But before you do check out the link  to the tattooed/leg-braced/shaven headed  Sandy McMillin, who was spotted shopping for sour cream in the clothing aisle (was she looking for a new top, and decided on sour cream instead?) and her 15 mins of fame interview and  then check out an entire site devoted to the standard Walmart dresscode, link.

Now I dare you to be saintly yourself.

BTW, can someone explain to me why the story of this year’s “celebrity inspired” bikini  trends, where the fashion reporter chirps: “Kate Middleton and Pippa looked white hot and we loved their sporty chic style”  earned prime exposure  spot right under poor Sandy in her once turquoise threadbare bikini top?

Is HuffPost merely cheering me up?

Or is this a novel guerilla tactic to sell the masses a new bikini? Like, “Well, my last year’s bikini is a lot like Sandy’s and I’d rather look like Pippa diving in that white little number so off to the mall I go….?

synergy

Another reason for not writing sooner was that I went to Eleuthera to teach two workshops. (See ,I’m not such a bad person really, just a Walmart bigot for personality texture).

The first one was at the Tarpum Bay Cultural Center (The Prep) which opened officially with my beach plastic jewelry making event. Twenty-three local kids, teenagers, had signed up and on the first morning we went to Winding Bay  for a beach clean up and to collect plastic that we’d turn into jewelry. I had brought the necessary tools and trimmings, aka findings, like wire and earring hooks and stretchy string.

The inauguration of The Prep in Tarpum Bay

I  displayed my jewelry and showed a slideshow of my work so far for guidance.

It’s hard to describe what happens next, but it feels like a breeze of inspiration enters our space and sweeps everyone along to a level of awareness where creation comes naturally.

Like a spell almost.

After lunch the next day I strung a (recycled) fishing rope between the porch columns and everyone, in turn, dispayed the collection they had created. I made a short film of each workshop and here is the first one:

The next beach plastic workshop was at the Haynes Library in Governor’s Harbour.

Haynes Library porch that overlooks the beach

This landmark building was first built in 1897 but was ready to be demolished when Michele Johnson, local superwoman, and her friend Ros adopted it about two decades ago and carefully restored the ruined site to its former glory. To me it is the most beautiful library anywhere. It sits on a slip of land with Caribbean sea/beach on either side. Every summer the library runs programs for the local kids and this year I was invited to be part of the recycling program.The video below tells it all.

Since I taught these two workshops I’ve answered questions about where to buy tools, supplies and findings to make more jewelry. Michele, Shaun, Toni and others have brainstormed about opening a retail outlet, or maybe just have stalls that sell beach plastic jewels to the tourists who leave their artificial floating environment, i.e. cruise ships, to sample some “local” culture.

Now that would be poetic justice, since those floating cities are one of the worst polluters of Eleutheran beaches.

Sabrina from Haiti and beach plastic star at the Haynes Library


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Barbi does NYC on July 4th

Its my 25th NYC anniversary.

Twenty-five years ago, July 4th weekend 1986, I moved to NYC.

It was Liberty Weekend, the weekend of the 200 year celebration of the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty. I arrived here, in the energy axis, in the exact same place, same loft, same bedroom, as I am now.

Cause for reminiscence I’d say.

So:

I came here alone, a cast-off from the London fashion recession which hit as suddenly as a tsunami and swept me and several other designers out to fashion purgatory, doors to my studio bolted shut by my backers, denying me access to stuff like my life-long button collection which they would sell to some rag trade vulture for a few bob.

All because within six months, the magic fashion calendar in which fortunes changes for reasons ranging from a bad review, a wayward fabric shipment, a biggest customer going bust, a factory forgetting to produce an entire order to a performance anxiety related nervous breakdown ( you are only as good as your last collection and your last collection is never good enough),  the exchange rate changed and the pound got stronger, the dollar weaker and all of a sudden those golden American buyers who brought me 50% of my business, decided to “skip” London.

WANTED - my gangsta collection

Suzy Menkes (London Times and Herald Tribune) announced that London designers were out of control, unruly children who needed to be punished until they started treating fashion as a business.

Bullshit!

For several years they had loved our (Malcolm Mc Laren led) anarchic style. It made for great window dressing, and those US windows were enough to keep all of  us  creative maniacs going.

But Suzy decreed we were so passe´, fashion changed into a grown-up place and the new crop of celebrity designers followed.

Never one to sit around in the here and now, I was already in my future (It was not until later that I shed a tear over that lost button collection). I followed the money. I went to NYC where they loved me, and I’d heard that designers could be paid as much as $75.000 a year. I was sick of making do on £12,000 several thousands less than my superstar PR was taking from my business while putting Menkes’ poison in my backers ear.

from a softer collection

Never mind.

NYC welcomed me with a party.

Three-days of festivities, right here at the loft home of my  friends Murray and Gail Bruce.

I felt like I’d landed in a castle in the sky, their 13th floor penthouse with its massive deck and windows all around with views of the celebrated Statue of Liberty, the Hudson river filled with flag-flying boats,the  Twin Towers and to the north-east the Empire state building and the rest of Manhattan.

Their friends (who soon became mine) came from all over the world arrived and stayed. A dorm with dozens of cots was set up in one of the spaces but not much sleeping took place. It was a hippie-like love fest, a free-for-all celebration so typical of the Bruces’ all-embracing style.

I made friends that first weekend who now, 25 years later, are still among my dearest, like  Vicky and Ed, and their daughters, one of whom, Mika, became my twin’s god mother.

I met a  crop of potential boyfriends who kept me busy dating (a concept so different from getting to know guys in Europe)  till I met my husband four years later. Some dear friends have since passed on. Lenny, Bill, Michelle, Norma and recently Midge Steadman. Midge helped me believe in magic and introduced my practical and industrious Dutch soul to an aspect of itself as yet undiscovered: My spirituality.

Midge gave me crystals, passed me to Ashtiana, her Shaman, who in turn helped me enlighten my life, Midge took me to sweat lodges, witches circles, lend me her New Age books, and taught me the medicine wheel, rebirthing, and how to use a smudge stick to erase bad energy from the past.

Midge Steadman

It takes what it takes and these were the tools it took for me to become a woman who could  finally trust and commit to love, marry, have children and experience the passage of time without fear of its failures.

This Independence Day weekend the loft is quiet.

Now that I’m writing this memoir I think that maybe I should’ve thrown a party celebrating 25 years of Barbi in the US of A.

But I don’t look back much.  Not in a speeches and cream kind of way.

I am in awe of these past 25 years however.

How I lie here, same room, same place, and in the next room sleeps my daughter.

A young woman who will turn 15 on Monday,  July 4th 2011.

In the last week she has followed in my foot steps like an adolescent aboriginal sent walk-about on her mother’s turf  (she was part of  a Summer Solstice witches circle on her first night at the loft, posting on her FB status that she is now officially a witch).

Iona is an intern here, with Gail,  my American mentor and her two assistants, Carly and Camryn, in the space that was the inspiration for all the houses she grew up in.

Gail, the only one who called me Barbi

It is so natural for her to be here, so predestined, that words like imprinting, heritage, family, evolution and even love do not capture what seems as inevitable as breast feeding, her first steps in the sand of our Amagansett beach, letting go of her little hand as she entered her first class room (she hesitant then, me hesitant now),  her first sleep-over, money earned and spent, boy friend, her gradual path to independence.

Last night on our way to dinner, we went down and walked out of the building.

For 25 years I have turned right to walk to Hudson Street but Iona turned left.

I followed her….

Iona, my muse and guide


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No LOVE, just PRAYing for the end so I can EAT…

Last night I saw Eat Pray Love. All about a woman who is lost. Right?
I hated it. (I didn’t get past page 30 of the book either). And I wondered. Why? Why do 300 million people love this story in 48 languages, buy it, get inspired by it, and I hate it.

Like I wanted to leave. I wanted to scream over everybody’s head, why are you buying this  BULL SHIT ?

Anyway.

I think I figured it out. It lacks authenticity. Credibility. Like when Precious makes good we cheered for her. We admired her for facing horrific challenges and demons. But this?  This is the cliche of a spoiled pretty woman lost. Really, she’s more enviable than pitiable. She tells us she’s desperate but  shows us a gorgeous home, handsome husband, intellectual parties, NYC at its brownstone best, cutest actor rebound boyfriend, rambling apartment in Rome, all the prosciutto, basel and Chianti she can consume, fabulous funny friends who adore her, then onto the super cleaned-up version of India where she befriends the “I don’t want to have an arranged marriage” cliche Indian girl while scrubbing picturesque mosaic floors (all along her hair is Fekkai perfect) ending with the inevitable photogenic Indian wedding ceremony. Then onto Bali (How awful, are we suffering yet? I am, by now I’m so hungry seeing all that Italian food earlier) Anyway. Once there she finds out, like duh, that “giving” makes her feel good about herself, things start looking up… and finally she smiles!

BUT THEN.

While bicycling through a gorgeous landscape she gets hit by Javier Bardem in his white jeep.

JAVIER BARDEM!

Tell me, who here doesn’t want to get run over by Javier Bardem?

STILL…

Now she’s pissed off about that too!

After several scenes ( I only stayed this long because my friend Jessica swore there was steamy sex with Javier) of Roberts and Bardem  having fully clothed sex behind  bamboo doors the story reaches its end. (Phew).

The last scene is straight from the Bachelorette, radiant Julia at the end of the jetty, sun setting on the horizon, waiting for her knight in shining armor …

Fade out to “and they lived happily ever after.”

(Apparently not entirely, in real life the couple’s struggles continued because Javier, had “immigration” problems).

Now there is a movie I may watch:

Javier (without papers) in Arizona…. running his white Jeep over Julia Roberts on her bike…

Any suggestions for the title of that movie…?


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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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Womentor

At our candy-land bachelor pad in Miami Beach we have TV. I did not have  TV for years.  So I wanna know; WTF is up with all those shows that pitch women against each other, like portray us all as super bitches, dumb and out to get each other?  Like we’re always, always ready for the kill…

I have been shaped by women. My womentors. First my mother. I am who I am because of my mother. And then several of her coolest friends. I always have women crushes on women who inspire me, women who are so cool that their influence somehow changes me, makes me bigger and better and more fearless…

I don’t see women as my competition and I’m always taken aback when I’m seen as a nemesis. In the past nine months I’ve made great new women friends. All awesome in their own way, like Esther, Jody, Francesca, Sheila, Ineke, Iran, Sam, Suzy, Zaha, Petra, Lily, Victoria, Nancy, Astrid, Heather – all fabulous women.

My editor friend (and #1 writing mentor) Amy Ferris recently asked me to write a piece about an important woman-mentor in my life. The first person who came to mind was, of course, my mother. Gail came into my mind next. Gail is my NYC mentor. So this is what I wrote:

Gail Bruce at her Ramscale Loft

“When I was in my thirties I did not see myself as a mentor, I just saw you as a lifetime friend.” Gail Bruce says twenty-seven years after we met.

I was mesmerized when I first saw Gail. She was awesome, like perfect, fifteen years older than me, tall and elegant . A successful painter then, but she’d also been a top model who worked with Dianna Vreeland ( one of her mentors) and an actress, after being discovered by Howard Hawks. But what touched me most was her kindness, her sweetness. She immediately made anyone feel loved and seen. I wanted to be  bigger just to fit the way she treated me.

My mother never perceived other women as a threat and she was the first to teach me that women could be role models. Maybe she should’ve been a bit more careful since one of her best friends took off with her husband, but my mother even saw this as a blessing in disguise. Growing up as a teenager during the Second World War she became strong  in the face of adversity.  Her husband, my father, died five years after they met and even then she  taught me  that change, however painful, eventually leads to growth.

In the late sixties my mother got into American feminism through writers like Erica Jong and Marilyn French and had an epiphany when she realized that she was part of something larger – the cultural changes that allowed women to see that they were not alone, that the expectations and traditional roles they played all lead to the same question: Who are we beyond mothers, wives, and caregivers? With this realization she impressed on me the importance of independence and  a career that I loved.

By seventeen I had my own apartment in Amsterdam. I studied art and made money as a fashion model. Next I moved to Paris, then Australia, and I ended up at the Royal College of Art in London. I talked to my mother every day and her endless praise  propelled me into becoming a successful fashion designer.

When I lived and modeled In Paris I looked for role models but only found fierce competition.  I was too naïve to realize that the beauty business operated on the principle of divide and conquer  to sell endless products into the female void of insecurity. How could I find a mentor if most women did not trust models? I had to find someone who was bigger than all that. Meanwhile I had crushes. There was Zandra Rhodes, the outrageous designer. I tried to be her acolyte but she just needed a body to fit her collections. There was Mick Lindberg, an ex-model who had crafted a life so exquisitely perfect that I both crumpled in her shadow and aspired to be like just like her and there was Jenny, the ex-wife of my boyfriend, who left behind a trail of such enormous accomplishment that I was jealous and inspired all at once.

Then I met Gail. Gail was from New York. She came to stay in our tiny cottage in Dorset. My boyfriend Michael had known Gail (and her husband Murray ) for  years. We had an intimate weekend of cooking, drinking, games and long walks and when she left Gail said to me:

“I love you.”

I felt embarrassed. After all we were in England and in England nobody ever said I love you, not even my boyfriend.

Two years later  I stayed with Gail and Murray in New York. They had more friends than I thought  I’d ever have in my entire lifetime and their huge loft, the entire top floor of Westbeth, was its own universe.

My room overlooked the Hudson River on one side and the World Trade Center on the other. Every day another crew of photographers, models, editors and hairdressers used the white open spaces as a shoot-location. At night the cast changed into friends who stopped by for drinks and others who stayed for dinner. No one ever went to bed before three in the morning. Artists, writers, actors, directors, and singers from all over the world came and read their latest stories, showed their latest movies, played their latest songs, unveiled their latest canvasses. Gail introduced me as her amazing designer-friend from London.

My collection of  brightly colored washed silk clothes sat on a rack in the screening-room, Gail brought in her girl friends, I took orders,and she floated around ethereally, with a love and peace smile on her lovely face , while Dakota, her four year old daughter, toddled around, was passed from lap to lap, already with more friends and aunts and uncles than she could fit into her head.

That’s when I first learned that there didn’t need to be any  boundaries between work and home, careers and friends, eating and dinner-parties.

Everything was all just life.

I felt lucky to be included, lucky to know them and when I returned to London I tried to emulate their life. It wasn’t easy. The Brits were too reserved and private.  London now looked dull  to me. I wanted to be in New York with Gail, my soul sister

So when I moved to Manhattan in 1986 I stayed in the Loft while I looked for an apartment in the Village.

Gail had just become involved in a new venture, that was going shape the next twenty years of her life. Every night she met with her friend Anne Sward Hansen in the space under my mezzanine bedroom. I couldn’t help but be drawn in. Annie had recently visited the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota and had learned that of all the American Indians who left to go to college very few returned to their native homes. This created a brain drain to the reservation which was in desperate need of its own doctors, lawyers, teachers, business men etc. Gail, who is part American Indian, and Annie decided to create The American Indian College Fund. The plan was to raise scholarship funds for American Indian students at tribal colleges and also help these colleges grow from trailers into more sophisticated learning environments. What started as a dream is now an organization with assets of more than 28 million and annual scholarships for over 5,000 Native American students.

Over the years Gail has introduced me to many teachers – artists, medicine men, psychics, writers – caretakers of the mind, body and soul. I became design director for CK at Calvin Klein and married an American Scot. I had my daughter Iona shortly after Gail had a grand daughter, Tyler. Now our two daughters are best friends. Gail became my family in this country; she gave me a home and a sense of destiny and threw me a huge  30th birthday party,  two baby showers and she’s (fairy) godmother to Iona.

Gail has been a mentor and role model for many young women, like Ann Edinger, a young student who became Gail’s assistant on the Cultural Learning Centers Initiative. Together they instigated the construction of cultural buildings at the reservation colleges – homes for the newly repatriated cultural items that had been away from the tribe for a long, long time. Ann is now a successful lawyer with a firm that represents not-for-profit organizations.

One of Gail’s own teachers was an Indian elder called “Grandfather”- a Chumash Indian Medicine Man who taught her that compassion is the most important human asset, the ability to put yourself in some else’s shoes and open your heart.

“The most important thing to learn is to be kind to everyone,” Gail says. “You can kill just about anyone with kindness.”