A very kind reader left me a comment saying that my posts allow them to "experience New York in such a way that is both exciting and invigorating — as if it's this new, unexplored, uncharted land." And that really struck me as perhaps the highest compliment I've ever received. You see, no matter where you live in the world and no matter how familiar it may feel, if I can in some small way encourage you all to seek with fresh eyes, to marvel with renewed wonder, to explore with unbridled curiosity, well then, I'll feel like my online "influence" (whatever that means) will have been put to good use. Of course, this isn't to say every moment of every day will feel like uncharted territory, far from it I'm sure, but when it does strike, when it does tap you on the shoulder to beckon you to follow, you'll never regret running after it. I promise.
Of course, this got me thinking — I'd love to hear the best compliment anyone has ever given you? Was it something a stranger said while you were walking down the sidewalk? Or perhaps a really heartfelt thought from a friend or family member? More importantly, how did it make you feel? I'd love to hear, especially since I think we're all inclined to not talk about compliments out of fear of sounding vain — when really, I think that only makes us deflect them in the end. Or worse yet, we stop ourselves before giving them to other people.
And I, for one, will hopefully be one of them! I loved this excerpt:
"Americans are good at lots of different things, but going on vacation is not one of them. Every year in parts of Europe, summer turns into a mini-sabbatical. In Norway, during the tradition of fellesferie, the nation simply shuts down for a few weeks of July fun. In Italy, so many people take the last two weeks of August off that Rome’s transit system runs on a reduced “festivi” schedule. Meanwhile, guess which industrialized country is the only one that doesn’t guarantee time off to its workers? Guess which country left 768 million vacation days on the table in 2018? Guess which country … arghhhhhhhh."
Raise your hand if you've also been binge watching Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy on CNN. Last weekend, my boyfriend and I devoured the show. And I mean, we ate up every last, savory detail. What a beautiful, transportive program, made all the more poignant given that we're all home bound these days and can't jet off to Sicily or Capri or Rome (sigh). For the indoctrinated, Tucci (yes, that Tucci who I can't separate from The Devil Wears Prada) explores different regions of Italy, discussing culture, history, art and even some politics along the way all centered around one thing — why, food of course.
Naturally, Italy is the main character in this series and the cinematography is truly breathtaking — a visual feast for all the senses (confession: I might have started drooling during certain meals), but I think it's Tucci here who really emerges as an unsung hero himself. His wit, his charm, his ease in jumping back and forth between Italian and English and even his ability to broach certain subjects like immigration and refugees — make him my latest celebrity crush. Trust me, when you see him casually strolling down the streets of Rome in his perfectly cuffed linen trousers and unbuttoned, fitted shirt, you'll see what I mean.
So today, in honor of Tucci, Italy and all things wanderlust, today's playlist was curated with the idea of a big Italian road trip in mind. I hope it makes you twirl and dance around your apartment (or your neighborhood!) the same way it's done for me. Andiamo! (Fair warning though: you might crave copious amounts of Italian food while listening to this.)
Do you have any kindred spirits in your life? People who, in some inexplicable way, resonate at the same frequency as you, the same energy — I like to think of them as a phrase in the same paragraph as me, perhaps even the same sentence. Usually they share common interests, values and world views — and sometimes, if you're lucky, there's an unshakable feeling of déjà vu when you meet them, a fleeting memory from a past life of yours and theirs.
Of course, kindred spirits by design don't come around often (that's what makes them so special!) and if you happen to throw a global pandemic into the mix, the odds of meeting them certainly don't roll out in your favor either. But! Oh the operative but! When they do come around — it's magical! And Léanne is most certainly one of those friends for me — I could tell the moment we started walking around the Frick together, making up fanciful narratives for all the paintings and statues we passed.
You see, Léanne is a fellow old soul. One who loves history, art, cinema, storytelling and any and every excuse to dress up like she’s in a period drama just as much as I do — all of which I say to remind whoever may need to hear it today, that making new friends is certainly never easy. As someone with introverted tendencies, I know that. Moreover, it can be downright daunting the older we get and the more set in our ways we become. But (there's that operative but again!), every once in a while, the universe gives us little nudges that I've come to learn we shouldn't ignore, because they usually lead us somewhere amazing. In case there's a person you've been meaning to reach out to lately, to strike up or perhaps even rekindle a friendship with (safely mind you, given that social gatherings look vastly different these days), I hope this caption is the nudge you needed from the universe to do so.
After watching that horrific video of a 65 year-old woman being beaten in broad daylight here in NYC earlier this week, I'm beyond disheartened. I found this article to be very insightful with six Asian American women who are leaders in their fields sharing the solutions they believe will help stop Asian hate.
Have you been watching the trial this week? Even if you're not, I think this op-ed piece is terribly poignant to read — a reminder of the stakes, so to speak. Here's an excerpt that punched me in the stomach when I read it:
"As we settle into this trial, Black America is forced to watch — and rewatch — the slow-motion murder of yet another innocent Black person as the prosecution works to show just how depraved Chauvin’s actions were on May 25, 2020. It’s beyond challenging and painful to relive this day as an onlooker with no personal connection to Floyd, but an intimate understanding, nonetheless. Floyd begged for his life 27 times. Twenty-seven times. He begged until he had no breath left with which to speak, and even still, as his body lay drained of its life, Chauvin’s knee remained. I can think of no better metaphor for what it is like to live and die while Black in America — under the weight of White supremacy — than this one."
After a lot of online hunting and finger crossing, I was able to land a COVID vaccination appointment slot for Monday. While each state and city is run quite differently, I would recommend all my New Yorkers to check the CVS website between midnight and 1am to refresh for any new appointment slots that might pop up. Don't give up, just keep refreshing! It's also worthwhile checking these sites often, usually on the hour and every quarter hour interval, i.e. 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, 1:45.
When I was in elementary school, my mom insisted on picking us up from school most days, as opposed to letting us ride the bus home. While part of me, like any kid who feels deprived of "what the other kids are doing" felt like I'd rather be chatting with my friends and swapping leftover cookies we didn't eat at lunch on the bus, there was something undeniably nice about hopping in my mom's car at the end of the day. Like we had the rest of the day to get into trouble. And by getting into trouble, I mean heading over to Barnes and Noble where I might pick out a new book. Or perhaps to her favorite antique store, where I'd help her pick out silver pieces to add to her tea set.
She'd be sitting there, in her Toyota Landcruiser, sunglasses on, blasting her favorite radio station — Magic 95.5. I can still remember the station jingle and I bet if I heard some of the disc jockey voices, I'd be transported straight back, to the backseat with my sister, windows rolled down (the A/C didn't work well in her car), singing along to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Annie Lennox and, of course, the inimitable Tina Turner. Strong front women, with grit, with style, with presence.
Last night, like some of you perhaps, we watched the Tina Turner documentary on HBO, and I was instantly reminded of these late afternoon drives with my mom. And it made me smile. So this week's playlist is a sweet homage to Tina, of course, and a few of the other leading ladies of that era who, without my 10-year old self realizing it, taught me something about love, heartache, owning your own power and, yes, throwing your hair around wildly while you dance, because why the hell not?
What will life look like after all this? I don't know about you, but this question has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been pushing it back, trying to distract myself with other things, other tasks to get done and yet, it always returns. And you know what also returns with it? This strange combination of optimism and trepidation. The former because I'm so heartbroken by the devastation this pandemic has left in its wake and the latter, because I think I've finally found a rhythm in life that suits me. That doesn't drain me.
OK, I know that's strange to say — especially given how much I do miss my family and my friends and good God, what I wouldn't do to hop on a flight out of town— trust me, I want life to return to some semblance of it's normal pace. But there's also quite a bit about my newfound patterns and routines that make me happy. Like waking up early and going to bed early. No big evening plans, with back to back brand events that derail my downtime. The need to get creative at home with my own camera. Long talks while making dinner at home with my boyfriend. The welcome solitude of a neighborhood walk.
In a lot of ways, throughout the hardships of this past year, I've created a cocoon for myself— mainly out of necessity, sure, but now that I'm here in it, it's hard to feel excited about breaking out of it just yet. I feel safe and balanced in it. Can anyone else relate?
Whenever I think about the debate of gun control in this country, I think about this PBS Town Hall with then President Obama, where he quite pragmatically outlines how and why we need common sense gun control laws in less than 5 minutes. The fact that I can vividly remember when the Columbine shooting happened in 1999 (a kid not much younger than those involved) and can recall, in a hazy blur mind you, all the mass shootings that have occurred since, with zero progress made on gun control, well, that's just horrifyingly tragic.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit song and Grammy performance mirrors how millennial Black women are challenging respectability politics, says hip-hop scholar Aria S. Halliday. A great read anddddd you will get 'WAP' stuck in your head. Sorry, not sorry.
Why does the gender wage gap still exist? And what can be done to close it? This article unpacks the issue, in light of March 24th just passing— the date that marks just how far most women in America need to work into the new year in order to match their male counterpart's pay. And that date varies on race.
Over this past summer, I wrote a post all about romanticizing your life. A means of putting yourself and the details that inspire you on pedestals. A means of seeking out inspiration, no matter where you may be. A means of seeing yourself as the main character in a movie that you really want to see. A character you admire, one you root for. You can read the full post here.
Of course, I chuckled at the fact this past summer, Gen Z latched onto a similar idea — a phrase that aptly goes: "main character energy." And you know what every main character needs? An incredible soundtrack. One that narrates without narrating, cueing the quiet moments of introspection, the depths of melancholy and the swell of elation without uttering a word.
Oddly enough, just last week, Allie mentioned my other job really should be as a music supervisor for films and TV shows and before she could even finish her sentence, I yelled out, "I know! I would love that!" There's something about the subtlety to a beautiful musical score that conveys so much emotion and feeling for an audience — and I'm endlessly inspired by people who get to tell stories that way.
All of this is to say, this week's playlist is a sampling of some of my favorite (mainly orchestral) musical numbers from beloved movies and shows. I hope it reminds you, in some small way, that your scenes are always the most important ones.
The smell of daffodils as you pass your corner bodega. Fleetwood Mac playing from an open apartment window. The lingering sound of Saturday chatter outside your go-to cafe. The feeling of warmth washing over you as you walk down the sunny side of the street. Iced coffee and a good book enjoyed on someone else's stoop. Spring must be here in the city. And I was so happy to walk around with her this weekend. Like greeting an old friend. Almost strange to think this time last year, she and I couldn't really spend time together. Couldn't enjoy a walk along the water. Couldn't enjoy the newfound sunshine thanks to daylight savings. Couldn't enjoy a ferry ride in the same way. Much of spring last year was shrouded. In fear. In isolation. In uncertainty.
Of course, this isn't to say all of our struggle is behind us. Far from it. But as I mentioned in my "Memories of Your Last Day" post here, I do feel like we're slowly turning a corner. And the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how faint and distant, is certainly approaching us little by little each day.
With that renewed spirit in mind, I wanted to resume my seasonal bucket list posts here on the blog. They've become relatively infrequent as of this past year, largely due to so much of the world being in flux, so today, I'm reinstating it for my own seasonal happiness. A way of keeping the big and small things I can control in focus and in my mind — something to look forward to in the coming months, as life hopefully starts to resume its old former rhythmic patterns.
Quite a few of you have been asking if my photos might be available for sale and I'm happy to report, I'm finally getting my print shop up and running!
Sign up for a virtual dance lesson with my guy — perhaps a salsa class?
Rent a small, single propeller airplane for a shoot idea I've been dreaming about for weeks now.
Make more middle of the week, photo shoot excursions to different parts of New York. I enjoy them greatly because it's a wonderful way to stretch my legs and see a new part of the state, while also pushing my storytelling forward. Oheka Castle, Boldt Castle and the Vanderbilt Museum are high on my list!
"You tell yourself that the world cannot be filled with this much hate, hoping that one day these thoughts will erase the pain and that compassion will somehow manifest itself into every being - but the reality is, there is so much hate. In fact, you don’t need to travel far to witness it because sometimes, it will walk through your front door to let itself in. America has failed us as a community. Not only did the former administration fuel anti-Asian sentiment, but this nation has failed us from the beginning - from the Chinese Exclusion Act to utilizing Asians as the model minority to justify racist anti-Blackness ideals - America has always had a racist history of vilifying minorities in a time of crisis, while allowing white supremacy to roam its streets.
The senseless shooting in Atlanta yesterday is just more reason why we must all rise up to not only #StopAsianHate, but to proactively protect Asian communities. They were our women and they did not deserve this fate. They were daughters, mothers, sister, wives. As Asian women, we are often taught to stay silent and compliant, not to draw attention to the problem with the possibility of creating more problems, but this will no longer be. To my AAPI brothers and sisters, I hope we can use this anger, fear, sadness to root out hate. To our allies, please do what you can, not just as a display of solidarity, but participate in a more active role to uplift our community - we are not the virus."
I shared a few resources in yesterday's blog post but this guide is an extremely comprehensive starting point for allyship resources, key organizations to donate to and current stats and legislation measures.
"Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in."
~ Leonard Cohen
I remember listening to this Leonard Cohen song — "Anthem"— the day after the 2016 Presidential election, and just a few days after Cohen's passing. There's an introspectiveness and melancholy to Cohen's storytelling through song that always seems to find me when I need it most, in the most unexplained, but welcome ways. Sadly, I've needed Cohen more and more often the past several years. For many reasons, really. And for one reason mainly.
Cohen wasn't known to explain his music often but he did give a rare insight to "Anthem" in a radio interview segment from 1992. Given the horrific crimes we've witnessed this week in Atlanta against our Asian American Pacific Islander community— and in the previous months as well, largely thanks to inflammatory and racist rhetoric from a former United States President, I thought Cohen's words here could help us find our purpose and our courage to keep fighting for the humanity of others. To keep working to let the light in.
"The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring” they’re few and far between but you can find them.
This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.
And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things."
Like many of you, I am heartbroken, gutted and devastated by the proliferation of hate crimes against our minority communities in this country. And this week's mass shooting, that resulted in the murder of 8 people, 6 of whom, were Asian women is another horrific punch to the stomach. Make no mistake, this was a racially motivated hate crime, no matter how the shooter might explain his "bad day" defense. Which means, I can't even begin to imagine the pain and fear my AAPI friends are going through— to feel unwelcome and unsafe in America, their home.
Sadly, the older I get, the more I realize, there isn't much that surprises me anymore, particularly when it comes to racism in this country. And I hate that it's currently 2021, and that previous sentence is largely true for all of you reading this, too. Racism is an insidious, heinous disease that can yes, explode in the ways we've seen it splashed across headlines, particularly this last year alone. But the even more dangerous thing about racism is that it largely courses through a seedy underbelly, oftentimes undetected or at least, unchecked. Our own history books are a prime example of this, with omissions of important figures, alterations of events or complete falsifying of the truth. All in effort to perpetuate a narrative that supports and upholds systems of white supremacy.
To circle this back with Cohen, I know I may not have the perfect words at all times, but I am committed to standing with those who need me. Because we all need each other. To listen. To learn. To understand. To empathize. To champion. To defend. To love. Until we all receive those basic human rights, until we ALL feel safe, none of us are safe.
If you'd like to dive into ways to get involved or perhaps better understand how we can all take action against hate crimes, particularly in regards to our AAPI communities, I've put together a brief and by no means comprehensive resource list of stats, organizations and charities working to stop Asian hate. Please join me in helping to let the light in.
40% of U.S. adults believe "it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began" (Source: Pew Research)
More than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans were reported between March and May of 2020, according to a United Nations Report (Source: CBS News)
By late April, a coalition of Asian-American groups that had created a reporting center called Stop AAPI Hate, said it had received almost 1,500 reports of incidents of racism, hate speech, discrimination, and physical attacks against Asians and Asian-Americans. (Source: Human Rights Watch)
Create to Stop Hate: If you are or know anyone who is an AAPI artist, brand, creative or maker, this organization is currently looking for submissions to be auctioned off as a means of raising funds for Stop AAIP Hate, the organization I listed above. For questions regarding submissions, head to the @createtostophate Instagram profile for more details.
And as always, if you have any resources you'd like to add to the above list, please do let me know!
This week's playlist started first with the Black Pumas song "Colors."
And it snowballed from there. I actually went for a long walk around the neighborhood last night with this as my soundtrack and it struck all the right notes for me. Introspective. Feel-good. Quiet at the right moments. Beat on your chest at others. Given how heavy the world feels, especially at this very moment, I wanted to create a playlist that helped clear your mind but also lift your heart.
Just a heads up: there's a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Los Coast and Gary Clark, Jr. that will most definitely make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. In a good way. Hope you enjoy!
Without fail, this is usually my favorite dinner conversation subject — a fact that I'm sure surprises none of you. If you happen to tune into my Stories on a semi regular basis, you know I love playing a documentary in the background while I work. Perhaps I'll be editing photos and videos. Perhaps I'll be writing and catching up on admin work. Perhaps I'll be shooting a few self-portraits in our living room. I just find it to be a relaxing way to focus on my tasks for the day with a current of something interesting, educational or thought-provoking buzzing in the room.
I suppose you could ask why don't I just tune in for podcasts — a valid question, but I think I prefer the format of a documentary more. There's something about the music accompaniment, the breath allowed in a film that feels easier to digest in passing. When I listen to a podcast, I feel like I have to pay attention the whole time or I'm completely lost.
As such, I'm happy to be kicking off a new monthly series where I recap all the documentaries I watched the previous month. And perhaps quite fittingly, our first installment happens to be for February, where I committed to watching a new documentary each day about a different Black historical figure, in honor of Black History Month. In case you're looking for something new and substantive in nature, I have 16 films waiting for you here!
Hitsville: The Making of Motown: A look at the birth of Motown in Detroit in 1958 until its relocation to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Featuring rare performances, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage offer insight into the history and cultural impact of Motown Records. Available on Hulu, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
Miles Davis: Birth of Cool: Unpack the mythology of Miles Davis and learn the true story of a jazz legend with never-before-seen footage and celebrity interviews. Available on Netflix, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
All By Myself: The Eartha Kitt Story The Eartha Kitt Story is a deeply moving and personal account of the iconic star's life and career. Her strong, independent manner portrays a woman who has lived and loved for herself, her music and her child.Available on Amazon, 7.6/10 IMDb rating
August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand Explore the life and legacy of August Wilson, the playwright some call America's Shakespeare, who chronicled the 20th-century black experience. Available on Amazon, 7.8/10 IMDb rating
Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes This revealing biography, told in Count Basie's own words, uncovers for the first time the private passions and ambitions that inspired the world-famous bandleader and pianist. Available on Amazon, 6.8/10 IMDb rating
Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things Canvassing six decades of Ella Fitzgerald's astonishing trajectory from a teenager living on the streets of Harlem to her life changing appearance at the Apollo Theatre, Just One Of Those Things illustrates her sublime transformation, reconstructing the stale stock narrative into a well-rounded examination of her mixed fortunes. Available on Amazon, 6.8/10 IMDb rating
John Lewis: Good Trouble Using interviews and rare archival footage, John Lewis: Good Trouble chronicles Lewis' 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Available on Amazon, 7.2/10 IMDb rating
How It Feels To Be Free The inspiring story of how six iconic Black female entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process. Part of the PBS series American Masters. Available on Amazon, 8.1/10 IMDb
Nina Simone: What Happened Miss Simone? On stage, Nina Simone was known for her utterly free, uninhibited musical expression, which enthralled audiences and attracted life-long fans. But amid the violent, haunting, and senseless day-to-day of the civil rights era in 1960s America, Simone struggled to reconcile her artistic identity and ambition with her devotion to a movement. Culled from hours of autobiographical tapes, this new film unveils the unmitigated ego of a brilliant artist and the absurdities of her time. Available on Netflix, 7.6/10 IMDb rating
The Gospel According to André Leon Talley From the segregated American South to the fashion capitals of the world, operatic fashion editor André Leon Talley's life and career are on full display, in a poignant portrait that includes appearances by Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Bethann Hardison, Valentino, and Manolo Blahnik. Available on Hulu, 6.5 IMDb rating
A Ballerina's Tale A feature documentary on Black ballerina Misty Copeland that examines her prodigious rise, her potentially career ending injury alongside themes of race and body image in the elite ballet world. Available on Amazon, 6.4/10 IMDb rating
Being SerenaBeing Serena is a documentary series chronicling tennis icon Serena Williams at a pivotal moment in her personal and professional life. Provides viewers unprecedented access to Williams during her pregnancy, new motherhood and marriage, while documenting her journey back to supremacy on the court. The intimate first-person show delves into her landmark career, family life and expanding role as a businesswoman and investor in the worlds of tech, fashion, fitness and philanthropy. Available on HBO Max, 5.8/10 IMDb rating
My Brother Jesus After an unorthodox painting of Jesus goes viral, the artist and his muse discuss its significance in the wake of BLM protests in Richmond, Virginia. Available on YouTube via the Netflix film club, no IMDb rating yet
Charley Pride: I'm Just Me Traces the journey of Charley Pride, from his humble beginnings as a sharecropper's son on a cotton farm in segregated Sledge, Mississippi to his career as a baseball player and his meteoric rise as a trailblazing country music superstar. Available on Amazon, 8.6/10 IMDb rating
Gil Scott-Heron: Black Wax Black Wax is a musical-political entertainment film produced and directed by Robert Mugge. It centers on the late Black poet-singer-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron - the man Melody Maker called "the most dangerous musician alive" and many dubbed the forefather of rap music - and his Midnight Band. HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored. Available on Amazon, 8/10 IMDb rating
The Case of the Three Sided Dream Exploring the phenomenal life of multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who went from blind infant, to child prodigy, to adult visionary, to political activist, and finally to paralyzed showman. Available on Amazon, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
Now tell me, what documentaries have you recently watched? Any favorites?
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were." ~ Joan Didion
I've been thinking about this Joan Didion quote a lot lately. Particularly in regards to this past year. A year that many of us, I'm sure, would resoundingly say, we will likely never forget. A year that brought deafening silence to our streets. A year that left so much pain and devastation and loss in its wake. A year that, despite our best efforts to stay connected, left us feeling more and more alone by the day. Sometimes by the minute. A year seared into our memories — our lives turned upside down seemingly overnight. To forget it at this point, seems almost impossible. Unthinkable perhaps.
And yet, that's the thing about hard memories, isn't it? They're the first thing you try to block out. To run away from. To avoid. At this stage, I'm not sure where we'll net out when we all reflect back on the year 2020, especially as it becomes a more distant, bad nightmare in the years to come. As someone who is incredibly thankful for the fact she emerged relatively unscathed (for the most part) from the pandemic, with the health of her close friends and family in good standing, it's been a year that's made me vow to myself over and over again the same realization: "I can't ever forget how fortunate I am."
But the same creeping fear returns to whisper back, "You will forget." Maybe that's self-preservation talking. Perhaps it's just lazy convenience. Or maybe it's faulty nerve connections in our brains — age taking its toll as it inevitably does one way or another.
Whatever the reason, everything that follows past this point is a means of reminding myself (and perhaps some of you) for an idle Tuesday down the road, let's say in 2052. A recording of my chapter in New York City at the brink of the strangest year where I witnessed, first hand, the world almost instantly, stop spinning.
March of 2020 for me started off on a hectic note. Fashion week had concluded just a few weeks prior and I had two back to back work trips almost immediately afterward — the first to St. Lucia and the second was a press tour around California. It was a blur of flights, rental cars, taxis and Ubers, early call times and late night dinners, waiting in TSA lines, lugging around overly packed luggage and trying to document it all the while. I vividly remember feeling exhausted in a visceral way, vowing to myself, "I need to take a break from traveling for awhile" not realizing just how ironic that statement would feel over the coming weeks.
Of course, COVID was a very real news story at this point developing around the world, but the murmurings of it potentially locking down the United States didn't feel concrete enough to worry about. Surely, that wouldn't happen here. That couldn't happen here, could it? It wasn't until we were sitting at LAX on March 8, waiting for our final red eye flight home to JFK that it hit me just how deserted the airport was. No crowds. No long check in lines. TSA was a breeze. We sat in the lounge area for Delta, sipping coffee and reviewing headlines. Our flight was eerily empty. Even the crew carried themselves in a way that felt like they knew something we didn't. Something palpable felt looming in the air. I closed my eyes at takeoff and reminded myself, "You'll be home soon."
That week back in New York felt oddly calm at first, now that I think about it. I fell back into work, prepping for projects, editing photos for brand review, riding a packed subway around the city for meetings. Life was still beating along as it always does, as it always had. I was scheduled to host a brand event here in the city on March 12, a little soirée uptown on Madison Avenue. In a flurry of text messages, I was reminding my friends of the details for the event, letting them know how much I was looking forward to seeing them. We joked back and forth about picking up extra toilet paper and hand sanitizer, not truly seeing the tsunami wave that was about to hit us all.
On Wednesday March 11th a day before my event, the NBA announced their cancellation of the 2020 season until further notice. Around that time, NYC had over 700 confirmed cases of COVID, rising each day and schools were slated to close, with NYC restaurants, bars and businesses to follow soon after. I distinctly remember sitting in Fairfax, one of my favorite restaurants in the village where I often work, texting my manager, "We need to cancel tomorrow's event, right?"
Looking up and around at the restaurant I was working from, I started to wonder, "Should I even be here? Is this safe? How can I tell if I'm actually 6 feet from the patrons next to me?" If I'm being completely honest, had I known that would have been my last time in a restaurant for many, many months, I think I'd relish it a bit more. Perhaps order that indulgent burger on the menu as opposed to the salad. Maybe ask for that cocktail, instead of the green tea. I suppose a part of me still believed, as I'm sure we all did in those initial weeks, this will pass. Give it some time and things will be back to normal soon.
I sent out a mass text to everyone I had invited to my party, letting them know the event was canceled and that I wanted them all to stay safe and stay at home. The tone was very much "This is crazy but I'll see you soon."
I packed up my laptop, settled my bill with the waiter and walked home. It was an usually warm March day and I had a craving to sit out on my fire escape. So I did, blissfully unaware that same fire escape would largely become my window to the world for the better part of the next 365 days to follow. That night, my boyfriend and I placed an online grocery delivery order, somewhat encouraged by the idea of trying to cook more at home — a goal we typically failed at thanks to Seamless — and settled in for the night. Two homebodies not necessarily upset at the prospect of a now very clear social calendar.
Of course, the weeks, and subsequent months that followed were unlike anything this homebody anticipated. How could I? How could any of us? Those initial weeks in March and April were hardest for me. I'd wake up each day, tune in for Gov. Cuomo's daily Coronavirus briefings and try to make some sense of our new reality. The numbers were staggering. PPE was scarce. Hospital beds were limited. And here I was, living in the U.S. epicenter of it all. Miles away from my family. Scared to go outside. Or be near anyone. With work contracts indefinitely pushed back, some altogether canceled, I wasn't sure how my business would ultimately fare through this storm.
Outside, the city hibernated, streets and avenues where life usually bustled, now lay dormant, except for the constant echoing of an ambulance siren piercing the March sky. I know I'm not alone when I say it was a living nightmare. None of us knew what each day would bring, in big and small ways. And that anxiety was downright crippling at times.
To cope, I threw myself into creative outlets — photography, writing, editing — but when the weight of the world forces you into a bubble of your own making, it's only a matter of time before those outlets don't fuel you in the same way they used to. But then again, what option did we have? The stakes were too high. So we persisted on.
I'd like to pause here and remind my future self in 2052, that 2020 held a lot of promise, as well. Some silver linings that showed us our true strength, our connections, our resilience. Some unexpected outcomes of solidarity and commitment. Some big and small blessings and yes, some hard, long overdue reckonings that showed us just how broken and fractured our society really is. In a lot of ways, 2020 opened our eyes and hearts to insidious social injustices that had been persisting for far too long. I can't definitively say 2020 was the catalyst, but I do think it played a pivotal role in helping us truly see and recognize our own humanities and those of others.
I never want to forget that. Moreover, we can't forget that.
I titled this post "memories of your last normal day" for a reason — not so much for us to yearn for a time before this all happened, but more so as a reminder as to what's at stake if we forget about the 365 days that followed that last normal day. In order for us to return to some semblance of life as knew it, we have to honor the price we paid over the course of 2020. And my friends, that price was high. Extremely high.
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."
Perhaps Didion is right. She often is. Perhaps to forget is just a part of human nature. And maybe that's the inevitable thing we have to fight here, with every ounce of our being. We have to remind ourselves of who and what we used to be, what we went through, what we overcame, whether we liked it or not, or we're predestined, doomed even, to wrestle with it at 4am maybe in the year 2052, when our mind goes wandering.
So in the spirit of remembering, here's a sampling of your last "normal day" memories that you shared with me on Instagram. May their recounting be a harbinger for brighter days ahead. For brighter days for us all.
I went to the pub. We hung out all afternoon in the sun.
I went to a department store that was closing that day to buy things for my daughter's 21st birthday in June! I never thought we'd still be in lockdown then three months later.
I was in Cozumel, checking the news before snorkeling and realized we would return to a lockdown.
We had a family game night.
I ate tacos while overlooking the city with my best friend of 25 years. It was damn near perfect.
I saw my five day old niece and then didn't see her for three months even though I only lived 5 miles away.
Unfortunately, I can't remember.
I went out with friends in the Mission (in San Francisco) thinking we'd see each other in two weeks.
I went to dinner with a girlfriend at Hillstone (in NYC) because we joked it might be our last meal out.
It was actually my birthday! I went out for a dinner at a crowded restaurant with family.
Peeking through my curtains to see if there was a free seat at my favorite spot across the street.
I remember standing on the train platform and thinking how gorgeous the weather was!
I went out with a friend for some sushi at a Japanese food center in London and then for a glass of wine.
Family style dinner with 8 girlfriends sharing dishes and drinks and laughs.
My daily 200 mile commute for work, 100 miles each way.
My husband and I used to go to the movies a lot, our last one was March 10th. We saw Emma.
Celebrated my birthday and met strangers while out dancing at a crowded bar.
A packed Trader Joe's with my mom, mask-less. Received an email recommending we work from home.
I went on a date for the first time in two years -- we then virtually dated all quarantine.
Happy hour with coworkers and a venue tour for my 12/21 wedding. I thought I was planning ahead.
Spent hours wandering through the National Art Gallery in DC.
I was at school. The last day with the kids.
I remember my students being very excited that school was going to be canceled. How naive we were.
I saw Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall.
Now tell me, what memories do you have of your last "normal" day?
Sometimes, the smallest details distract me in the biggest way. Yesterday for instance, the afternoon sunshine poured in through our living room windows, creating the most beautiful shadows across our coffee table. I immediately stopped writing the email I was mid-typing and grabbed my camera. Ten minutes later, I was dipping this vintage Chanel bottle into its own mini private pool, pearls and all, thinking almost out loud to myself how divine a bath of Chanel No. 5 would feel.
Then, I started to notice all the imperfections on the bottle itself. Little scratches here and there, fading in the ink on the label, small patches of age discoloration — and it made me love it even more. So much charm and character packed into one small bottle that I was just now getting to fully appreciate, magnified underwater.
Where am I going with all this? No where really, other than to remind you to celebrate and honor the small details. No matter how fleeting, whenever and however you can. Even if it’s just the afternoon sun, reminding you to look up from your laptop every once and a while.
As we find ourselves at the one year anniversary of a chapter that has changed all our lives in big and small ways, I hope you can remember to take joy in details — at least for me, they've made all the difference these past 365 days.
My friends at Farfetch asked me to join a tribute they were putting together for International Women's Day earlier this week and I'm so honored to be featured alongside so many amazing women, whose platforms I truly admire in this space. We were asked to emulate a favorite female icon and I made a younger Krystal proud by selecting Amelia Earhart, an aviation pioneer who I dressed up as when I was younger for a school project. Love when things come full circle like that.
I know this isn't the sexiest thing in our list today but trust me, you should be getting a jump start on your taxes now — there are a lot of changes this year that could cut your bill or even generate extra refunds.
If you're still thinking about last Sunday's Oprah interview — I'm in the same boat. This essay on colorism is a great, succinct read — here's an excerpt that stood out to me:
"Is “light-skin privilege” a thing? Yes. It is, and I say this as a Black woman with lighter skin. I do not take pleasure in recognizing that I have experienced a certain level of privilege due to my skin tone at some point in my life. But just as heterosexuals must acknowledge their privilege and as Whites must acknowledge theirs, I have to recognize that in the U.S., Black folks who have lighter skin often experience preferential treatment. If this weren’t the case, colorism would not exist."
Frida Kahlo. Dolly Parton. Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Toni Morrison. Susan La Flesche Picotte.
Of course, if given the chance, I'd add many, many more women to that list. But for now, as of this moment, these ladies have made the cut for my dream dinner. An intimate soirée that I'll only ever be able to host in my mind, which means, 1.) the venue is most definitely a Tuscan villa 2.) everything is catered and 3.) there's no curfew, so I hope my esteemed guests stay for many bottles of wine after dinner, enjoying the Italian summer air with me. Of course, we could certainly add a few notable men to this list, dead or alive, but in light of this month being Women's History Month, I'd much prefer to focus on the ladies, wouldn't you?
Earlier this week, I asked you all for your dream dinner invite list and I was so blown away by the responses! So many familiar faces yes, but it was the unfamiliar ones that got me the most excited! Today, I wanted to compile all your responses, with brief bios (even though you know most of these women), in case you need a little inspiration the next time you're asked to plan a very hypothetical, but no less magical, dinner with your closest role models and inspirations.
So without further delay, let's introduce our guests, shall we?
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.
Dolly Parton is is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her work in country music. She's sold over 100 million records worldwide and also donated $1 million of her own money to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in September 2020.
Toni Morrison was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor who won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987); she gained worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
Susan La Flesche Picotte was a Native American doctor and reformer in the late 19th century. She is widely acknowledged as one of the first Native Americans to earn a medical degree. She campaigned for public health and for the formal, legal allotment of land to members of the Omaha tribe.
Anna May Wong was an American actress, considered to be the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition. Her varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage, and radio.
Princess Diana was a member of the British royal family. She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales—the heir apparent to the British throne—and was the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Diana's activism and glamour made her an international icon and earned her enduring popularity as well as unprecedented public scrutiny, exacerbated by her tumultuous private life.
Nina Simone was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Mary Magdalene was a woman who, according to the four canonical gospels, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion and its aftermath.
Marlene Dietrich was a German-born American actress and singer. Her career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema.
Dijana Budisavljevic was an Austrian humanitarian who led a major relief effort in Yugoslavia during World War II.
Erykah Badu is an American singer-songwriter, record producer and actress. She has been called the Queen of Neo soul.
Meryl Streep is an American actress and singer. Often described as the "best actress of her generation" Streep is particularly known for her versatility and accents. She has received a number of accolades, including being nominated for a record 21 Academy Awards, of which she has won three and a record 32 Golden Globe nominations, winning nine.
Michelle Obama is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.
Madame VP Kamala Harris is an American politician and attorney serving as the 49th vice president of the United States. She is the United States' first female vice president, the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history, and the first Black and first Asian American vice president.
Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York's 12th congressional district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In the 1972 United States presidential election, she became the first African-American candidate for a major party's nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
AOC is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district since 2019.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
Eartha Kitt was an American singer, actress, dancer, voice actress, comedienne, activist, author, and songwriter known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of "C'est si bon" and the Christmas novelty song "Santa Baby", both of which reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the world"
Jane Fonda is an American actress, political activist, environmentalist, and former fashion model. She is the recipient of various accolades including two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, the AFI Life Achievement Award, the Honorary Golden Lion and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She was the first Black woman and first Native-American to hold a pilot license.
Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. During her 35-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. The space agency noted her "historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist".
Anna Wintour is a British-American journalist who has served as editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and global chief content officer for Condé Nast since 2020; she is also artistic director of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue.
Gloria Steinem is an American feminist journalist and social political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Sinéad Burke is an Irish writer, academic and disability activist, popular for her TED talk 'Why design should include everyone.' She is the Director of consulting organization 'Tilting the Lens', working to raise the baseline standards in accessibility, to design an equitable and accessible world.
Janis Irwin is a Canadian politician who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in the 2019 Alberta general election and is a champion of women's and LGBTQ2S+ rights.
Amanda Gorman is a poet and activist. Her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. Gorman was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate and she became the youngest inaugural poet in 2021 as she delivered her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
I’ll let you in on a daydream of mine. Someday, when I’m a little old lady, retired and happily set in my ways, I’ll walk into my garage at a summer home I bought in Tuscany and pick out a classic car to drive for the day. Perhaps it’ll be a 1962 hunter green Mercedes convertible with the most beautiful tan leather interior. Or maybe I’ll opt for something a bit more sporty, a two-seater MG from the 70s — candy apple red. And I’ll drive into town at a speed “too fast for my age” (a comment from locals that will only make me drive faster) and I’ll pick up my groceries for the week. I’ll apply my lipstick in the rear view mirror with the utmost dexterity thanks to years of muscle memory, fasten a silk scarf over my already wind tousled hair and I’ll smile and playfully wink at some of the tourists in town, as they wonder, “Now who could that be?”
Of course, until this day arrives, I’ll happily dream about it every time a classic car catches my eye, which thankfully in New York, happens quite often.
As for this week's playlist? It's very much inspired by this daydream of mine — a collection of swelling, feel-good, roll the windows down, step on the gas and drive kind of songs. And now with temperatures creeping into the mid-60s this week here in New York? Well, all the more reason to daydream about carefree spring days not too far off.
Hope you enjoy and if you have any mood/theme requests for these weekly playlists of mine — please do let me know!
4minute read4minute read "I think when you begin to think of yourself as having achieved something, then there's nothing left for you to work towards. I want to believe that there is a mountain so high that I will spend my entire life striving to reach the top of it." ~ Cicely Tyson