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Filtering by Category: Journal

How Marc Jacobs Nearly Fractured my Foot:

Zuzu Tadeushuk

Might have, I say, because I still don’t know for sure. What I do know is that nine days later it’s still hurting when I walk. It happened mid Fashion Week at a callback casting, last Saturday at Marc's offices in Soho. Katie Grand, the riotous and revered stylist of the collection, and Marc Jacobs, it’s designer, were reviewing the final cut, so to speak, of potential models for their Spring-Summer show a few days later, but Marc was't there when I went in. The casting director wasn't either, but her smokey-eyed assistant was, and asked the models to put on slip dresses and large (7 inches high I heard?) platform heels, and to get in line to walk for Katie. The only pair of boots available when it came my turn was two sizes too big, not a good way to start.

I went into the viewing room anyway when my name was called and crossed to the wall where they take a polaroid. I carefully stepped in my big high heavy boots onto the paper that they use as a backdrop, and my step was too wide a step and my left foot wobbled when I transferred my weight onto it and I was on the floor next minute in an awkward crouch and a loud thundering of the paper backdrop that I tried to lean on. The long and narrow platform had rolled sideways just the slightest and that was that for my chances at Marc Jacobs.

I didn’t mind my humiliation at the moment so much as I worried about how the innards of my left foot were aching and how maybe that was the end of my New York Fashion Week before it had even begun. No such luck, though, for when I regained my feet I found I could indeed still walk, though it hurt to, and Katie Grand grinningly asked me now to walk my runway walk for her, which I did without mishap although I might have looked like the tin man cause I was stepping extra careful.

Two hours later my agent called to tell me that Marc had put me on first option, meaning they wanted me still to potentially do the show, and I did not understand it and was not surprised when in the end they never called for a fitting. Who would book a girl who had faceplanted in the very shoes she’d have to wear out on the catwalk? Someone fond of excitement, perhaps, someone I’m sure but not me. I have a doctor appointment on Thursday to find out how my foot is, and until then it's a Might-be-fracture, and it's by Marc Jacobs so I'll wear it with éclat. If my foot is not whole, at least my sense of humor is, and the peculiar insanity of my modeling job proceeds.

The Agonies and Ecstasies of Creative Family

Zuzu Tadeushuk

An Anecdote from our Vacation, Three Weeks Back...

I’m walking through woods carrying a large bowl of fake blood. We made it after lunch with some red food coloring and powdered sugar we found in the kitchen of the cabin we’re renting on the north-eastern shore of Lake Doolittle, the shore that sees the sunset. We’re staying here for a week, my family and our friend Sophia’s family, seven of us total, and all week we swim in the lake and boat on the lake and hike around the lake and photoshoot in and on and around it. Today we’re shooting at it’s far western tip, where the water grows murky and shallow and peters into mud flats that smell like ancient fishy farts but look beautiful with their rushes and moss humps like islands. Nicolai has chosen the fishy inlet as the location for what we’re about to shoot, the second segment of his newest “editorial,” a collection of photos with a constant theme. Reclaimed by the wild is the theme this week. Dressed in a khaki green polyurethane parka, black bikini bottoms, and inscribed on every inch of my skin with fake scratches and scrapes sketched with lip-liner that was once my mother's, I carry the bowl of blood ceremoniously along the path by the lake shore that takes us to the marsh. 

It’s hot and humid here and when we arrive Nicolai begins to sprinkle me with fake blood like holy water, and it’s sticky and smells sweet and I hope it doesn't attract more mosquitos. When we were shooting yesterday he was smearing me with mud he scooped from the bottom of the lake using a kayak paddle, and today like yesterday I complain a lot of the discomfort. That’s the thing about shooting with your brother: you can object to the annoying things he makes you do. You can’t do that with other photographers, the serious and professional ones you work with in the city, so I always make a fuss when I pose for Nicolai, partly because he makes me do more outrageous things than anyone else and partly because, well, I can. Of course I end up doing whatever irksome task he asks, though, because ultimately I trust his vision and know that the image he’s chasing will be worth the anguish of wading barefoot in a black and squelchy bog, as I did yesterday, or climbing into the upturned root bulb of a dead and centipede-infested poplar tree, as I’m doing today. 

Luckily, on shoots like these that we do at Lake Doolittle, I have our friend Sophia always nearby holding the LED light-wand aloft, and she came knee deep in the swamp mud with me and I thought to myself whatever found me would find her too and maybe four foreign feet would be more intimidating to bog creatures than two. I knew the fish and frogs would stay away, but I wasn't sure about the muskrats, I’ve been bitten by one here before, and what I felt most afraid of was the leeches I’ve spotted like small ribbon clippings flowing under the water’s surface with their soft black backs and flat, white undersides. 

No leeches appeared though, and today we are shooting on dry land, maybe too dry and about to disintegrate as I stand on it. I’ve climbed about halfway up the overturned root bulb and Sophia climbed up beside me with the light wand and we blow at the insects that move onto our arms and legs with terrible speed. My limbs are getting a good workout clinging to the wood and we shoot for almost an hour with the tree and other logs around it and then we use up the remaining blood in our bowl and shoot me standing gory on a bridge. Now we’ve lost the light and we’re all hot and hungry. It’s near dinnertime and our parents will be waiting at the cabin and I think tonight we’re having spaghetti. We trundle the quarter mile back along the shoreside trail to home, and Nicolai’s already enumerating his ideas for the next shoot and I’m already insisting I won’t do it, I have real blood on my hands from holding on and unless you’re more considerate dammit I won’t shoot for you anymore Nicolai and this time I mean it. Why would anyone voluntarily place themselves under their brother’s jurisdiction? I wonder this every time and yet I invariably find myself sooner or later knee deep in another swamp for him, or another blood bath.

When we reach the cabin he rushes straight to his laptop to upload the photos to Lightroom and begin the editing process. Half the creativity and half the work still remains for him to do; he’s excited and in his zone and it’ll take all our efforts to coax him away for the spaghetti. In the meantime I strip off my wet and sugary clothing and with Sophia jump into the lake. The lake here is cool and deep and there are no leeches. There is just bliss, what bliss-- nothing rivals being in this lake when it comes to being free. Let’s just hope sugar-blood doesn’t attract big fish the way it did mosquitos…

How to Have a Good Day

Zuzu Tadeushuk

Someone mentioned recently that a simple way to be happier each day is to lower your expectation of that day. At first to me this smacked of giving up— “I can’t make things good so I’m not even gonna try” kind of thing. But I realized this theory pertains less to what we do ourselves to further our well-being and more to the parts of our days that we cannot influence, like the punctuality of our bus to work, or whether we’ll be successful in overcoming writer’s block when we sit down to write a new blog post. These are circumstances outside our control: why do we categorically expect their best case scenario? 

Having understood this, I’ve started to practice it, and the lowering of my various expectations has indeed brought me increased satisfaction in a week when on some days I’m going to castings for New York Fashion Week even though I’m not sure how much of fashion week I’ll be able to do now that I’ve just started two honors courses at my local community college. On the days I don’t have class I run around the city visiting offices of influential fashion people so at least I maintain some involvement in the fashion season, and on these days it is extremely helpful to lower my expectations of the castings I attend so that I won’t be disappointed when shows start and I’m not walking them or when the week ends and I’ve actually lost money rather than made it because of my multitudinous bus and subway fares. 

Likewise on my class days I try to lower my expectations of academia. If I expect that my teacher won’t greatly like the essay I wrote or that I’ll have accidentally read the wrong pamphlet for homework, then I’m not as frustrated when it turns out I have indeed read the wrong pamphlet or whatnot (actually, I feel sort of satisfied at knowing my shortcomings so well…but that might just be me). This takes some of the unknown out of the labors of a day, and I fret less over the unacknowledged possibilities for failures that might otherwise weigh on my subconscious, ignored. I become less stressed. Does this not constitute an improvement on my quality of life? 

So in review: to have a better day it is mainly important that you don’t lie to yourself about the prospects of that day, that you think realistically about the rather large potential things have to not go the way you want them to. Just don’t expect what isn’t possible— seems simple, right? But actually it isn’t: I think these little glossy lies (or maybe not lies exactly, but refusals to recognize risks; denials) are simply our way of convincing ourselves it’s worth getting up every morning in the first place. What we have to realize is that ignoring uncomfortable possibilities and lying to ourselves that the day will all come off successfully will only wind up making us less satisfied with the outcome of our strivings, as well as distancing us from authentic human interaction and genuine emotion. As the formidable Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in the novel I’m currently reading: “Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love…”* and thus, I believe, ceases to be happy. So let’s all be honest with ourselves, and expect less than we might desire, for expectations exceeded will bring not disappointment, but pleasure. 

With that, I must go catch a bus to New York. Have a good Monday everyone! Or, you know, just a mediocre Monday— Monday’s aren’t realistically all that amazing, right? But we all make the best of them-- of them and every other day, too. 

*The Brothers KaramazovBook II, ch. 4, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 

Working on Laughing

Zuzu Tadeushuk

Hi everyone! I found a little mantra that I’d like to share today— don’t recall who said it or posted it or whatnot, but it resonates with me, and I thought it might do the same with you:

“Eat half

Walk double

Laugh triple and

Love without measure.”

The first few points are fairly simple. They are tenets of any healthy lifestyle: mindful eating (quality over quantity; full sensory engagement in each bite; gratitude for each bite) and physical exercise (no explanation required, right)?

But I’m still working on the last points. It’s surprisingly hard to get in enough laughs in a day! Either I don’t spend time with enough humorous people or I’ve an unusually stern and indifferent disposition. ….which both sound about right.

But what about infinite love? Yes, I love my family “without measure,” and my friends “without measure.” But could I love more? I love trees, I suppose. I love them almost obsessively (yes it sounds really weird but my dad has this too so maybe I’m hereditarily really weird). Should I love the sky as well? The sky is without measure. Should I love the rain as well? The rain is nearly without measure, or at least a measure of 1050 millimeters per year. The rain sustains our life, and though life itself is not without measure, the effects of a life are.

I'm starting to realize more and more that it's truly this last point, the love point, that makes all the difference in a life. Its been proven time and again that we become happier individuals when we are attentive of those around us, and act ethically. Ethical practice, as explained by none other than the Dalai Lama, means acting out of concern for the well-being of others, while unethical action is any deed that compromises the happiness or expectation of happiness of another. If acting ethically means not harming others, it requires that we be constantly aware of the feelings of others. This idea lies at the heart of many religious and philosophical doctrines-- but more importantly is something we all know already by instinct. We just don't always make the effort to implement it. 

So I for one will keep working on myself. I'll try to love more. I'll try to laugh more, hang with more funny people, maybe lose the resting b*tch face… Cause the things in life that matter are usually the shockingly simple ones, like chewing your food slowly or giving way to your adoration of trees. I know that that specifically may not be for everyone (though honestly look at trees more closely, I’m telling you), but there must be some things you can each find to revel in. Seeking them out and enjoying them— it’s a small price to pay for happier selves.

Close Encounters of the Criminal Kind

Zuzu Tadeushuk

(I seem to have a knack for running into the police)

I went to Chinatown the other day. I often go there when in New York, for many castings take place beside and around Sara Roosevelt Park, but Saturday of last week was the first time I went there for confirmed work. And oh, what work! I spent the first few hours of this shoot for Bon magazine literally in bed, lounging listlessly in various embellished wool dresses. Yeah, I could live with this. I could live with this any day…

But it wasn’t all tea and cake, so to speak (surprise!). In fact it turned out to be another day in my model life that I could file under my running “strange things I do for my job” tab, as the rest of the shoot involved standing barefoot in a puddle on drizzly Canal street (ankle deep in warm gutter water afloat with cigarette butts and trash that left my feet brownish colored) and climbing/being pushed from beneath by two men up a wall to get at an inaccessible rooftop for a pic with some illegally-purchased fireworks (the little backyard fountainy kind). 

I caught a cold from the sylist (poor woman was sick and had to stand out in the rain with us all evening) and then got stuck on the New Jersey turnpike for three hours on my way home: my Rockland Coach bus was maybe a hundred feet behind what was possibly an active “crime scene:” a fellow passenger who stepped out to investigate told us some cops had shot a suspected criminal after a heated car chase. But all we saw was a sea of flashing lights. Right in the middle of what is likely the most-commuted stretch of highway in the country— the Jersey entrance to the Lincoln tunnel. Our bus driver killed the engine and we sat in the dark until a passageway was cleared, hours later. I didn’t get home till midnight, but at least I did befriend a chatty CNN assistant producer who was sitting next to me…

And so that is how an initially lazy afternoon became a puddle-sloshing, building-scaling, firework-lighting, and finally crime-witnessing adventure. All while wearing wool dresses and trying not to look like a hot sweating farm animal. We don’t know if that last endeavor succeeded or not— the spread was entirely shot on film. So we’ll have to wait till September when it’s published to find out just what a ninety-degree day in raining Chinatown looks like, I suppose. At least I can’t say work’s boring!

Chad and Firecracker

Between shots

Empanadas and the Queen: My Week in Chile

Zuzu Tadeushuk

There was much to do in chile, and still more to talk about. First we covered New York (there was far less news of home than there was of my brother’s exchange), and then we talked of Chile. Chile, Chile, Chile… The place was hazy (rampant smog), mountainous (those Andes! enchanting…), and cold, much colder than I or my brother anticipated. Though the afternoons reached nearly seventy, the mornings and evenings plunged into the mid thirties. It’s currently winter in Santiago, and my brother arrived there three months ago. He only brought a pair of denim jackets. I arrived last Sunday, and I only brought a pair of wool sweaters. (Yes, our apparel tastes are reflected quite aptly there if you were wondering). I was to spend the week with Nicolai and his intercambio Fran (a twelfth grader in the Santiago Waldorf school) at Fran’s house in the semi suburban neighborhood of La Reina. 

La Reina— “the queen.” What queen, I wondered? Did it refer to the Spanish monarchs who presided over Chile during its colonial years, via a system of viceroys? Did it refer to an Inca queen who (more justly)  held power in the region before that? Modern Chile has had no monarchy, but it did have a dictatorship— I visited the museum devoted to it in Santiago: “Museo de la Memoria,” where we saw black and white video clips of tanks projecting spumes of gas into multitudes of protesting citizens. It was a rather gruesome morning as holiday sightseeing goes (28,000 Chileans tortured, 2,279 executed, and 1,248 missing between 1972 and 1990), but in my inquisitiveness about the identity and mentality of this cryptic country I was ready to devour any information or imagery that might help me understand it. 

Chile, though, proved a rather finicky thing to study. Something about it felt to me sort of primal and primitive; sequestered. The Chile I saw was devoid of the recreational trappings and luxuries of my suburban upbringing, and free of the societal stresses— the stigmas and the standards— imposed on individuals in a refined business arena such as New York. People here weren’t as concerned with (or defined by) prestigious advancements in some abstract career track. Nor were they concerned, in their daily lives, with the minutiae of lawfulness (as evidencedby the way my brother and his Chilean friends simply don’t pay bus fare when they ride the city buses) or cleanliness (demonstrated by the bemusing habit Fran’s dog had of pooping in the corner of the dining room every morning, unprevented and unpunished).

But what rather took me by surprise was the unmistakeable air of struggle in the country; of seeking, of irresolution. Perhaps it was leftover from the dictatorship, which still figures strongly in the national consciousness (grandparents and parents of current Chilean men and women are still missing, unaccounted for even 26 years after the fall of the regime.) Perhaps it’s just the way things have always been. I’m not one to say— given my short time here and my minimal exposure to the local reality, I can’t really draw conclusions. But I can share impressions, and I say that my impression last week was of a country still very much developing— still determining its stance on democracy and globalization; as we speak constructing (or reconstructing?) its identity. Chile is steeped in passion, and achingly stolid. It is going somewhere— it’s just not there yet.

I witnessed this passion firsthand when Nicolai, Fran, and I happened upon an illegal demonstration in the city center on Tuesday. We were searching for lunch when we found ourselves confronting a plaza packed with the student movement for education reform in Chile. Eager to explore (and understand, fill in some blanks), we skirted amazed around large armored tanks and groups of visored police guards, pausing as we did to take surreptitious photos of them until they started nudging each other and gesturing towards us and we would scamper on down the sidewalk. A group of kids behind us started dislodging cobblestones from the street and heaving them at guards. Retaliation was not long in coming— the foremost of the tanks lurched into motion, and with surprising speed drove up onto the sidewalk and aimed a powerful stream of water—laced with some chemical variant of tear gas— into the crowd. The exact image I had just seen that morning in the Memoria museum. With the tear gas came (duh) tearing eyes, running noses, burning throats, itching skin, and, an instant later, salesmen with wagons of lemons, which apparently counteract the chemical. We didn’t go for the lemons but we did nab a fistful of napkins from a street cart selling toasted peanuts (…now toasted peanuts a la gas lacrimpógeno)!

I saw their passion resurface two nights later. It was eight pm and I was at a bar with an old friend in the popular Plaza Nuñoa, seated at a sidewalk table. A modest group of high schoolers marched by with a sign I couldn’t quite make out but which had something to do with reinstating free tuition for Chilean colleges, a practice that had existed pre-dictatorship but was abolished with the rise of the military junta. On the heels of the marchers trundled the tanks, methodically spewing tear gas— onto all the customers at all the bars who were all just trying to enjoy a margarita. The whole scenario had the feel of a performance— a rehearsed dance between pedestrian and patrolman, something timeworn and even ritual. Generations have endured this, and continued striving. Chile, steeped in passion; Chile, achingly stolid.

My week with my brother in Santiago, however, wasn’t entirely spent clashing with police and inhaling mildly lethal chemical compounds. We filled our other days with strolls through the shopping district, a trip south to the artistic seaside village of Valparaíso, Pablo Neruda’s house, empanadas sold hot from a neighbor’s kitchen window, poetry writing sessions in Starbucks. A few divine alfajores (traditional South American chocolate/dulce de leche cookies), many mediocre coffees. A photoshoot on a bus at night and a faux birthday party (at a bar one evening Nicolai’s friend secretly alerted a waiter that it was my brother’s birthday, though of course it wasn't, and to our great bewilderment and delight the restaurant staff soon waltzed out of the kitchen with a flaming confection and a loud, unanimous singing of Feliz Cumpleaños). Getting to know my brother again. Something I needed to do not just because of these past three months he’s spent abroad: it’s been longer, maybe even a year or two, since my and his daily realities diverged, and I feel I scarcely know him outside the familial setting. This was our reintroduction, our reacquaintance, and, it happily transpired, our reconnection. 

All this against the backdrop of the city of Santiago, with its underpinnings of social and political tension. All this in barrio La Reina. The queen. What was her name, and what would she think of this era, this world? As I rode a taxi to the airport on my final day in South America, I realized that, more than all our fun shoulder-rubbling with police, the cheese empanadas and even the quality sibling time, the most valuable thing this week had offered me was a little sip (not too hot, not too cold) of the ongoing saga of a developing country finding it’s place in what’s becoming an increasingly arbitrary, uncivilized world. I realized that I, too, am a developing entity trying to find my place in this world. But learning a country and learning a brother are light tasks compared with learning oneself. What is my daily reality outside the family setting? Who is La Reina?  I, too, am going somewhere—like Chile, I’m just not there yet.

Do You Get to Keep the Clothes? (Ace & Jig, Ice Cream, Street Art, and more)

Zuzu Tadeushuk

The question I get asked most about being a model is this: "Do you get to keep the clothes?" No. I don't-- with all the models that pass through a designer's atelier this would hardly be a sustainable practice. However, if you're fortunate enough to work with such kind and caring people as happen to comprise the team of Ace & Jig, you might just wake up one morning and find a gift bag of clothes in the mail for you (and, if you're me, be eyebrow-raisingly gleeful for the next few days).

 I love clothes, as some of you might know. I especially love summer clothes (I mean, warm weather allows for all the creativity of expression that winter’s tedious coats suppress)! So I was remarkably lucky through this modeling job of mine to be introduced last fall to the brooklyn-based brand Ace & Jig— whose clothes (pure cotton textiles hand woven by a holistic manufacturer in India that even supplies its employees with organic food!) prove that fashion can be at once magically, obsessively beautiful AND practical, ethical, natural. Plus, Ace & Jig creations comprise the ultimate vacation wear, which you can imagine has me drooling. Have you seen anything that hollers “holiday” louder than this red ‘Frances’ tank top of theirs? Like many Ace & Jig pieces, it is reversible, oh-so-satisfyingly layerable, and suits a myriad of occasions. Pair it with a choker and slinky high-waisted pants for a night on the town, or over a wide flouncy skirt for a windswept stroll along the beach. Or imagine this shirt against a South American street colorful enough to match it’s own vibrancy— oh wait, you don’t have to. Because last week in Chile, I spent a day exploring the muraled alleys of Valparaíso, a saturated, art-filled village perched precariously on a hill above the Pacific— and I wore, of course, the most festive summer shirt I could conceive of (and one that doesn’t wrinkle in a suitcase, too)! My brother, camera in hand as usual, took some pictures for me, which turned out, in my mind, to be a photographic homage to the love I bear warm-weather clothes. Here were all my favorite things gathered into one tableau: sun and summer, paint and cotton, art and fashion (and a really tasty ice cream shop just out of the frame! Yes, we got some). This was Chile, this was summer, this was— and will, I hope, always be— my dearest, loveliest Ace & Jig.

Frances Top Flare by ace & jig, $ 172

Photos by Nicolai Tadeushuk, unedited.

London Times

Zuzu Tadeushuk

London has uncommon good weather during the week of June 20-25. I am here with a high school friend of mine for a hybrid pleasure/business trip. Our plan is to bundle a staggering amount of tourist sites into the two days that we spend in a centrally-situated Air BnB before parting ways for the next three days while I attend castings and stay with, appropriately enough, a high school friend of my mom’s! 

On one of the allotted tourist afternoons, my friend and I spend a few minutes on the lawn outside Westminster Abbey. The sun is shining, we have just been splendidly feted at an Indian/Persian fusion place in Covent Garden, and we are sleepy and footsore. Sprawled on the grass gazing up at a blue sky jaggedly lipped by the walls of the Abbey, I feel unexplainably, perfectly happy. It seems like an intricate, golden gladness is enveloping (or emanating from?) all the nearby trees and clouds and cars, crafted especially for the frequency and color of my heart. I know, though, that it’s just a temporary perfection. That it is no more than a translucent membrane of present time stretched across the turgid, marbled flesh of all the years gone by. I and my tiny gladness hardly form a flicker in the consciousness of Westminster Abbey. After all, there are hordes of other tourists and politicians and priests and queens and sirs and soldiers and laborers and beggars for the Abbey to notice. Centuries and centuries of them! Did you know that this site has housed England’s coronation ceremonies since 1066, when William the Conquerer enacted his namesake conquering and claimed the throne? Did you know also that Westminster’s not technically a Cathedral, but a “Royal Peculiar,” which puzzling title it received when Britain deserted the Catholic Church over the divorce case of Henry VIII? Oh to have witnessed so much history with one constant gaze! to be marigram to the ebb and flow of Europe…    

I’m marveling at this legacy but thinking; really, for all Westminster’s greatness, I like myself more than it, and I wouldn't trade places with the Abbey for all the world. Is any human existence equal in value to a landmark such as this? I mean, would they destroy Westminster if such was the price of saving a single somebody trapped inside? Or would they prioritize this bastion of national identity over an ordinary person’s life? Public scandal! it would be a public scandal to do so. A thing the British, as a rule, avoid.

We get up, blink, stretch. Down “Broad Sanctuary” street and round the bend into “Little Sanctuary” street, I leave behind my bulging brainiac bliss, spangled above the green. My brain— exhaustive, convoluted thing— moves on with me (what ho! does it really belong to this head?) and it thinks now on other things. 

 * * * *

I am thinking of Brexit. It is Friday, one of my allotted business days, and also the morning after the Referendum to leave the European Union. It’s 5:45 am. I have woken so early because my kind hosts are relocating to Seattle today, and within an hour the couch I’ve usurped as bed will be boxed up and brought to the quay. But before deserting said couch (and the lifeline of wifi that appends it), I linger, knotted in my blankets, to scroll through my phone— and I can hardly believe what I find there. Throughout the past four days in London I have seen only support to “REMAIN” in the bloc: picketers on train platforms, social media propaganda (#bremain?), raucous coffee counter rants about xenophobes. Where then did the “LEAVE” support come from? Through what cobblestoned cracks of rural Britannia scuttled this ra-ra egoism and brazen prejudice? Public scandal, public scandal: it’s a debacle that now can’t be avoided.

Through the course of that day and a wide swath of London town, I overhear a variety of reactions:

  • Breakfasting dames over croissants at Gail’s bakery: “Well, what in Heaven’s name comes now?” 
  • Security Guards in the Degas room of the National Portrait Gallery: “mumble mumble Bloody Hell mumble. Miss, are you looking for something?” 
  • Cabbie driving me to my afternoon casting: “It’s about time we start running this place our own way, I say!”
  • Young businessman on the Tube to a curious group of American Girl Scouts: “It’s a grave mistake, a grave mistake.”
  • Taxi driver outside Kings’ Cross: *shrugs shoulders* “I suppose Europe could use a shaking up.”

And shaken up it does appear to be. And I am a little bit, too, as I board a train at King’s Cross and rumble off towards the northeastern suburb of Waltham Abbey, where I will rejoin my friend for our last day together before she returns to her career in Israel and I to mine in New York. (My full-time coffee-drinking career, that is). I muse on what has struck me most today: the way strangers search each other’s faces in passing. The way no one directly mentions Brexit, but rather looks it, shoves their keen awareness of it into one another’s eyes on the street, in an elevator, on line at Marks and Spencer. Is it just me who gets a sort of ice cube thrill from knowing that all these significant looks, grim nods and cocked eyebrows reference one and the same subject? That we’re all in something together? Whether our opinions concur or not is inconsequential; what I relish is the strange unity of our brains as we each absorb separately some common information. Shared experience. Society is knit of shared experience.     

And so is history, really. What classifies something as a historical event if not the fact that it effects many individuals at once? So, then. This must be what witnessing history feels like. I'm no Westminster Abbey but at least now I've seen something mildly momentous... I step off my train in the beige township of Loughton. Trees once more surround me; wriggling, vibrant trees drying after a brief rain. I stand on the station steps, shade my eyes as I scan the parking lot. Who of us knows really what will come next? An ebbing of a vast European tide? A lawn sprawled bliss? I spot my friend, we move, brain follows.  

The Strange Things I Do For my Job, Part IV.

Zuzu Tadeushuk

These strange things are mounting in imaginativeness, as last week I was asked to take a video of myself “jumping on rocks.” It was to be casting material for a French perfume advertisement; the client wanted to see how I moved on camera— specifically, how I sprung amid imaginary stepping stones in an imaginary lake trailing imaginary silks and streamers. At home in the suburbs between a doctor’s appointment and trip to the supermarket, I got my mom to film me bounding about our garden; a slightly shaky, substantially overexposed, thirty second iPhone clip complete with our neighbor’s lawnmower hum in the background. Jump, hop, squint, skip. Send off to Paris with a signature iPhone whoosh. Maybe they’ll ask for cartwheels next?

Virtual Fairy leaps in a Virtual Fairy Pond...

Things That Filled My Gap Year

Zuzu Tadeushuk

At this mild time of year, in the pleasant, pastoral month of May, my ex-classmates (still the strongest peer family I have) are all returning from far-flung dorms and libraries and reconvening here, in the glorious county of Rockland, NY. In the twelve months since we all, in our staggering sum of 23 individuals, graduated from high school last June,  they've been through the thrills & throes of the American college freshman experience. And I? How have I sprinkled away these months? As what in September I called my "limbo hinterland" hurtles round its final bend (and perhaps into another incarnation?), I look back on just what exactly it is that has filled, and fueled, my Gap Year.  

The Strange Things I Do for my Job, Part III

Zuzu Tadeushuk

You may be familiar with the above apparatus. Or, like myself a year ago, you may have never seen it before, as it is a tool I— with my geek-meets-granddad personal style— have little use for. But this, my friends, is an eyelash curler, and I can now vouchsafe I know most everything there is to know about it, for a few months ago I had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with a pink Japanese eyelash curler on the set of my last French Vogue shoot. It was a windy night and, in a studio in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, a small team of artists from all continents and climes was working to create what an internal memo dictated should be “an atypical beauty shot.” The antics involved in realizing such a vision included me getting black acrylic paint dabbed into my eye rims so I could cry black tears (which I did no problem!); biting limes while still attempting to look composed and edgy; and trying to balance thin rounds of an orange over my eyes as the fruit inevitably inched down my cheeks in a sweet and juicy exodus towards the floor. 

Enter eyelash curler. Enter confusing pink contraption and the dictum from somewhere off set: Play with your eyelid. Play with my eyelid? A thing I’d never before contemplated. But it did the trick— it achieved atypicality for a thing by nature fairly typical. I left the studio that night wearing an unusually slack upper lid on my right eye— and a grin. Cause after all, one can never expect beauty to come without pain, right? Not to mention French beauty— VOGUE beauty! Neither, it seems, can one ever expect to do the expected when it comes to fast-paced—and sometimes fruity— fashion.

Photograph by Ben Hassett, Makeup by Georgina Graham. Vogue Paris April 2016.

A Curiosity Satisfied: The Edible Edition

Zuzu Tadeushuk

My Brief (and Blessedly So) Encounter with Vegan Cheese

I’ve been a Vegetarian all my life. Which means that I depend on dairy (cheese, mostly) as one of my primary sources of protein— and for a little indulgent, high-caloric yumminess every once in a while.  Well, more than once in a while: cheese goes with everything, what can I say… Well, imagine my dismay— nay, horror— when my doctor told me that in hopes of remedying the recurring stomach bugs I’ve been having recently I should…quit dairy. Me, quit dairy? I can live without meat (duh); I can live without gluten (there are so many worthy alternatives); but please doctor, not the cheese! Did she know what she was asking? 

Just for three months, she assured me— just to test it. So I resignedly abandoned dairy, one and a half months ago. Alas not longer yet… but it does get easier as I go. The hell becomes a bit less hellish, you could say— in all respects but one. Though the nostalgia for milk in my coffee may wane daily, what does NOT lessen is the utter grossness of VEGAN CHEESE. Hush, hush! don’t even invoke its name! It is a living (literally: fermented) force of evil, the eleventh of Moses’ Ten Plagues— arrived a few millennia late, perhaps, but for all it’s tardiness no worse equipped to rival the frog deluge or boil epidemic of Ancient Egyptian days. 

But hope springs eternal, they say, and in an ongoing attempt to find something to occupy the hallowed position cheese held in my life, I’ve been conducting some vegan research. Today in some free hours, I did a “cheese” taste test (forcing my poor family to participate— trauma, I know), and my results are charted below, in the most-commonly agreed-on order of worst to best. If you’re obligatorily vegan I apologize in advance for verbally crapping on the products you’ve probably convinced yourself are perfectly palatable— and necessarily so. Sorry, but… as one Huffington post editor said in an article on the stuff, “Ick x 3.”

Vegan Cheese Sampling, Worst to Best

#5. Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella:
Ok.. never get near this stuff please. First, the texture is like that of melted plastic (as is the flavor, it just so happens) but worse by far is the filmy aftertaste it leaves in your mouth: bubblegum. This, however, is bubblegum that you stuck behind your ear for a few days (during which interim you neglected to shower) and then decided to eat again. Yes, folks, this deserves to be the dictionary definition of “Blech” (although I don’t think “blech” is actually in the dictionary yet? Soon it will be, though— and with a picture of “Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella” beside it)!

  •  “Maybe would be edible if melted.”
  •  “Like the worst American cheese I could imagine”

#4. Treeline Aged Artisanal Cashew Cheese, Classic:

This cheese comes in a beautifullll, fancy package— but don’t let that fool you. It tastes more like wallpaper paste than any aged, artisanal food product I know. 

  •  “Honestly this could be glue.”
  •  “More like a spread than a cheese… I could eat it though.”

#3. Homemade by Recipe, Cheddar:

 I tried a recipe I found online, and was sorely disappointed. After diligently boiling and pulverizing carrots, potatoes, and cashews with garlic, I found myself in possession of a sort of pungent cement that was posturing, it seemed, as fondue. Even down to it’s lumpy orange color. Meh.

  • “It’s ok when it’s fresh and still hot”
  • “Would never voluntarily put this in my mouth”

#2. Treeline: "Soft French-Style Nut Cheese in Garlic Herb Flavor:" 

Basically, “Garlic Herb flavor” says it all. When it comes to this spread, the only thing I really have to say about it (aside from the fact that it was criminally overpriced at $8.29 for a tiny jar!!!) is that it is very, very garlicky. It is palatable, yes, but just as another dubious-looking, breath-befouling hors d’oeuvre you find at a family party. Not quite as cheese. 

  • “Too sharp. Bitter.”
  • “Not bad. Kind of like Boursin”

#1. Chao Slices, by Field Roast: Creamy Original

This is the most cheese-like non-cheese I’ve tasted to date. I actually found myself eating it straight by the slice, without having to mask it’s taste with crackers as I did the others. Right color, right texture…quite a happy discovery. 

  • “Very good, very believable”
  • “Yeah, I would maybe eat it.”

Know a Good Thing

Zuzu Tadeushuk

A modeling career requires flexibility. Whatever the season, I must always be prepared to pack a bag, board a plane, and fly somewhere on even day-of notice. So when I’m at home, I have to take life, literally, one day at a time, and make plans no further in the future than dinner tonight. “Seize the day” is an adage quite befitting of my situation here, and seize I do, but not always in the get-up-and-do-something-spontaneous way you’d imagine (my job brings enough spontaneity to my life: in my free time I tend to be monumentally, prodigiously unspontaneous). For I make the most of the present moment not by deciding one morning to take a road trip or start a not-for-profit, but by doing prosaic little activities that to others might seem banal but for me constitute the myriad delights and satisfactions I dedicated this year to exploring— things I know I won’t have time to do once I’m drawn off to one city or another by the veiled mechanisms of fashion:

  • I get up at 6:45 every morning but Sundays, eat breakfast alongside my family all piled in my parents’ bed, then go for a long walk through the woods and fields nearby. 
  • This done, I usually sit down to write— at the nearest coffee shop. Writing at home is a snag-prone business (such an abundance of distractions! That chocolate bar you stowed under the egg carton in the fridge. Mom accidentally putting tinfoil in the microwave. The Romance novel you’re two chapters from finishing. Mad Men Season 7. The list goes on). At Bulldog, though, (the coffeeshop) I can enjoy a more focused, disciplined environment— and a strong cappuccino, too! The bench in the corner by the window becomes my very own office for two hours each morning, and has seen many a post hammered out that you’ve hopefully read here. 
  • When I start to worry I’ve been hogging the corner table too long I fold up my laptop and walk home to make lunch. After which I spend about as much time persuading myself to go to the gym as I proceed to spend actually at the gym (almost an hour lol), before coming back home to paint, read, cook, see a friend, write …

At the start of this blog I claimed to be no Liz Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love. If you’re not familiar, she took a sort of gap year from life to do some soul-searching, and got a book deal out of it to boot! The lady certainly knows a good thing when she sees it.) But now I begin to question my assertion of dissimilarity more and more. Of course certain things haven't changed— I’m still not a middle-aged divorcee like she, not to mention renowned writer published in 30 different languages!— but something in my between-jobs lifestyle has certainly come to resemble the routine of someone far older than myself. And I’m talking FAR older…Grandparent older. In fact, I’ve dubbed this routine I step in and out of Intermittent Retirement, for the only things distinguishing me from the frosty-haired, golden-aged members of our populace are 1) I don’t yet have frosty hair and 2) I live with my parents— a luxury not many other retirees have access to. That, and the little matter of walking runways, another thing I haven't seen many seniors up to. Maybe there’s a new business there? Step aside, girls: Maggie Smith's in the house! 

Anyway, this retired lifestyle is peaceful and, on most days, productive. Whether it’s affordable— or desirable— outside my current circumstances is another question entirely (and spoiler: the answer is probably no, even for such a homebody as myself). But at this moment in time, it constitutes an ideal counterpart to the job I pursue, balancing the tumult of travel with the tranquility of routine; the pressure of publicity with the security of seclusion; the breathless tempo of fashion (many brands churn out between 4 and 8 collections a year!) with the plodding pace of my writing (it takes me between 4 and 8 days just to finish one piece to satisfaction)…in short, it balances in considerable harmony the outward and inward forces of my gap year. What better arrangement could I ask for? 

None that I’m aware of. Which is why I’m considering taking another year off before starting college: a Gap Year 2.0. I’ve been pondering this now for a few months— decisions always put me through the wringer, and this one was no exception— and I have concluded (at least, I think, maybe?) to defer school again this fall in favor of my job, my blog, and, yes, my honorary grandmahood. It is in some ways a leap of faith (what if I don’t continue to get work? What if I lose all my hair? Lose my teeth? Lose my curiosity?) but I feel that I’ve had the great fortune of hitting on something good here— a rare synthesis of freedom and responsibility, a precious interlude between one of my lives, which has already ended, and the next, which has yet to begin— and it just so happens that sometimes I, too, know a good thing when I see it. 

At least, I think, maybe.

Ironically, just as I wrapped up this very post, I got a call from my agent: Could I perchance fly to Dallas tonight? Apparently sometimes we can't even plan as far ahead as dinner!

How to Make a Difference: Water Crisis and Water Hope

Zuzu Tadeushuk

Water is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. We depend on it for almost everything we do, and we also waste it in almost everything we do. Today in America, we have become accustomed to the idea that the planet is running out of fresh water. But only the idea of it. When instances of water shortage actually present themselves to our population in temporary, circumstantial forms (2011-17 drought in Cali, 2016 contamination in Flint, etc), the nation is thrown into a royal uproar over the inconvenience. But these immediate issues are only the fleeting shadows (or foreshadows, I should say) of the greater global water crisis that is now our planet’s slow and stealthy death knell.

What I want to make clear, though, is that it’s not actually all that slow, or stealthy. The demise of our life-source, lifestyle, and planet, of our civilization, not to mention our own charming species, is advancing fast, advancing now: and right in front of our own charmed eyes. Scientists predict that by the year 2030 more than half of the world’s population will live under chronic water shortage, a condition defined by the Water Stress Index as having less than 1,000 cubic meters of water available per head per year. That's only fourteen years from now: MOST OF US WILL STILL BE AROUND to experience this chronic shortage. Talk about California droughts and Flint contaminations— these sorts of irksome scarcities are going to become a year-round reality for 50% of humanity.

The sooner we address the water crisis, then, the better, for each year that passes sees roughly 3,750 billion cubic meters of fresh water consumed worldwide— a figure that shows no sign of diminishing, as the global rate of water consumption, driven by growing population, increases by no less than 64 billion cubic meters per year. To the best of my minimal mathematical ability, I tried to put this in perspective, and calculated that the world consumes 4.3 million Olympic swimming pools worth of water every day. That is enough Olympic pools to cover the five boroughs of New York City SEVEN TIMES OVER, EACH DAY. In other terms, all of New York could be submerged daily under 46 feet of water, enough to reach the fifth floor of the Empire State Building.

So what might we do to slow the course of this trajectory? There are various technological, legislative, and economical reforms that can be made to help conserve water. For example:

  • farmers can implement more efficient methods of watering crops, such as drip-irrigation.

  • Politicians might impose higher tariffs on water purchase and fines for pollution.

  • Nations might privatize the management and distribution of water: if companies handle our resources rather than governments, water would be better shielded from political corruption and partisan power struggles.

But these aren’t really things you and I can jump up and do right this minute (Unless, of course, you happen to be a state governor, in which case I doubt you are reading my blog). Anyhow, for those plebeian, non-state-governerning members of our society, I propose a list of day-to-day measures that will allow us each, in our own orbit, to impact this wretched state of worldly water affairs.

Ways the First World Water Consumer Can Help:

1. You may look at me funny when I tell you that one of the most effective ways you can limit water consumption is by eating vegetarian. But let me explain. The majority of water consumption is concealed in something known as "virtual water”— all the water that goes into the creation of a product but cannot be seen in its outcome. Beef is the most water-intensive product that we make, as beef cattle have an average lifespan of three years in a holding tank before their slaughter: the virtual water in a single kilo of beef accounts for the water that the cow drank for three years (24,000 liters), the water used to grow the grain he ate for three years (3,060,000 liters), and the water used to service the farmhouse and the butchering procedure (7,000 liters). The total? A staggering 15,400 liters of water to create A SINGLE KILO OF BEEF! Other meats (especially goat and poultry) are less water-intensive than this, not to mention vegetables and fruits, which are exceedingly more efficient to produce. Moral of the story? Maybe allot a few days each week to eat vegetarian. Opt for a turkey burger instead of a beef one next time. Or dare I suggest…a veggie burger? 

2. Stop wasting food! Agriculture is by far the largest consumer of clean water, accounting for more than 70% of global water usage. But the average household in an advanced economy like that of the US throws out 30% of the food it buys. That means that of all that water we dumped into agriculture (and that inefficient kilo of steak!) an entire THIRD of it goes down the drain when it reaches our tables. So please, buy only as much food as you’ll eat; cook only as much food as you’ll eat; serve yourself ONLY as much food as you’ll eat! Store the leftovers— and don’t forget them at the back of the fridge for months!!

3. Be frugal with household water. The largest consumer of household water is the flushing of toilets. A thing quite necessary, to be sure. But perhaps over-used. I know I’m volunteering myself for all sorts of ridicule here when I remind you of this nursery saying, but… “If it’s yellow, let it mellow— if it’s brown, flush it down.” Sorry.

You can also conserve household water by

  • Turning off the shower faucet while you shampoo or shave.

  • Turning off the sink faucet while you soap your hands before dinner, or scrub your dishes after. Rinsing requires water to be running: sudsing does not. Just shut it off for a minute.

  • Don’t shower every day. It has been proven unnecessary, and even unhealthy, to strip the skin of its natural oils so persistently, so do yourself (and the planet) a favor and decrease your shower and bath time. No one will smell the difference: our bodies adjust their oil/odor production to our washing schedule, not vice versa.

4. Stop using lawn products. Fertilizers and insecticides get washed away with rain and run into ground water supply, polluting otherwise clean reservoirs.

5. Any other ideas you have— I’ve done a bunch of research but am definitely no expert. What else can you come up with?

Because the issue of water shortage is one that people of all ages, races, and religions can and must take an interest in— it’s not yet too late to shift our fate. Though we can’t keep water on this planet forever, we may at least extend its presence here by a few centuries if we pull ourselves together and make some amendments to our lifestyles. Starting now! Use less, pollute less, and spread the awareness— three…two…one…GO.


A Feast for More than Just the Eyes

Zuzu Tadeushuk

I was graciously invited to guest-write this piece for a fashion blog by my friend and fellow fashion geek who runs the wonderful Rice and Beans Vintage shop. It's a throwback to December, and one of my favorite experiences this year to date!

I’m about to bite into this big, smooth macaron when— is that an eclair that catches my eye? And thimble-sized raspberry tarts beyond it? With a gelato bar, peanut roaster, truffle counter and more, this is the most extravagant French patisserie I’ve ever seen (and believe me I’ve sampled no small number). But what makes this one far superior to others (besides it’s being entirely free!) is that it is part of the set of the Chanel Metiers D’art show in Rome! Yes, you heard that right— this is a faux patisserie, in a faux Parisian neighborhood inside the Cinecittà film studios. And yes, it’s in ITALY. Makes complete sense, right? Naturally— because what else does one do when in Rome with Karl Lagerfeld but be quintessentially, bourgeoisly, CHANELiciously Parisienne?

It is early December and I have been stationed here in Rome for the past two days— my first visit to this beautiful city, and luckily I’ve had time to explore a good deal between fittings and makeup tests (my favorite Roman site? The Trevi Fountain, into which tourists toss an estimated 3,000 euros each day! The coins are regularly harvested to feed the homeless of the city, I hear). Most of the Chanel staff and the entirety of it’s model covey descended Wednesday evening on the antique Hotel Intercontinental, where a makeshift atelier was erected in the spare dining room, sheltered from neophytic eyes by drapes on the doors and windows. Living, eating, and sleeping every day among the Chanel population was like a brief sojourn at summer camp— just a tad more decadent: no moldy bunks and refried beans here!

A few moments of agonizing deliberation between the fruity and chocolaty realms of pastrydom settle me with a raspberry tart and and a hazelnut truffle (the best of both worlds, I think), and I set out to see what else Chanel’s afterparty has to offer. The set of the runway, a contrived street lined with a pizzeria, fromagerie, and produce market, has been brought to life post-show in this interactive culinary soiree, and the high and mighty of the fashion industry now sip cocktails and nibble oysters in the cobbled alley where I just walked the runway. Master Lagerfeld certainly spares no expense where his events are concerned— nor where his collections, either! The Metiers d’Art show was one long (87 looks), muted (most prominently black, grey, and beige) parade of capes, jackets, and evening gowns. All the iconic Chanel silhouettes were present, and as worship-worthy as ever, but this time with a younger, punkier twist: skirt suits were cut of quilted black leather and belts and chokers featured centered metal rings. 

My look for the evening consisted of an adobe-colored cashmere sweater—evoking the russet walls of Rome— and a long leather skirt that was high-waisted and quite narrow around the knees. It was simple and elegant (if a bit hard to walk in: the catwalk required me to climb two sets of stairs and my stride was constricted to a granny hobble). Hobble notwithstanding, though, I felt undeniably magnificent as I took my place in the lineup before the show sporting dark, smoky makeup and a bouffant— “seductress hair,” one hairstylist called it as she back-combed my tresses. Given the circumstances, how could I not? Magnificent…and a wee bit anxious. 

The waiting, however, soon came to an end. The chic editors outside took their seats along the sidewalks of the set, the various production assistants assumed their posts with headsets ready, and at last the band began to play. Literally— there was a live jazz band installed in the gazebo on set, and as the first agile keyboard notes broke over the movie warehouse, the first agile— and not so agile, cough— models climbed one by one from a pretend Parisian metro station (line 2, stop “Rome”) and began casually to saunter through the streets; mysterious, elegant, watched.

And the rest is history: a beautiful show, an extravagant afterparty, and plenty of champagne to go around! Wandering through this crowd of familiar and unfamiliar faces hailing from all corners of the world, with raspberry tart in hand and Chanel bouffant on my head, I’m thinking this is the sort of otherworldly experience that I’m not likely to encounter again— or to forget. I’m thinking of the Trevi fountain, and howbeauty, whether in marble or cashmere, has a way of linking unlikely characters together; bridging cultures and centuries through the veneration of art. I’m thinking that this Chanel show, like the Trevi, is a gift that keeps on giving…at least for another hour. As the Trevi roars on in the heart of Rome, this fashion fantasy will end and the splendor will be folded away for next time, leaving me only the privilege of its indelible memory. But while still it stands, dazzling and surreally real, that faux pizzeria is really smelling too good to resist… Dinner, anyone? It’s on Chanel.  

The New Holy Trinity? Words, Weather, and Wee Little Wonders.

Zuzu Tadeushuk

It is still dark this morning when we leave the house for Hook Mountain. I am only half awake, feeling drowsy and a bit like a wilted tea leaf in last night's drained mug that's still on my dresser. Today is Sunday- Easter Sunday no less- but this morning there's no limitless lounging twixt the sheets,  no slow, easy emulsion of coffee and undisrupted reading. This morning I am climbing the “Hook” to watch the sun rise over the Hudson River— with my family, close friends, and a backpack full of breakfast.  

As I walk the sky lightens and I am impressed by the bland, brown beauty of this Hudson Valley terrain I live in. I am quiet, running words through my head with a pattern that I step, a verse—

“A Walking Writer”

Is writing as she walks.

Is she then a writing walker?

Stomping a search for synonyms. Not cinnamon. That’s already in the cupboard.

Did you know “rust” is a synonym for cinnamon? 

Sepia, snot

and singalong are not

synonyms for cinnamon, even when sung along

a lot. 

Now there’s a way to warp a word--

sent from a word-warping writing, walking walker-writer

to you-

with greetings too.

We reach the peak of the Hook, a tall, bald lookout on the west bank of the Hudson. The river is wide and a dull, wrinkled grey; reflective of the overcast sky that is shrouding our treasured sunrise. Oh well: a narrow strip of pink is all we’re graced with, just a glimpse of dawn “spread out against the sky / like a patient etherized upon a table,” as T.S. Eliot would elegantly put it— or, as I might paint the image, like the slimy orange slabs of smoked salmon whose unique odor drove me from the kitchen as a child vegetarian, holding my nose.

Breakfast is eaten alfresco and the hike is reversed. Back home by ten, we rally to prepare an extravagant lunch (soups and grilled veggies and quiches, oh my!), host a humbly extravagant (if such a paradox can be tolerated) lunch party, and decorate eggs in the ancient Ukrainian Easter tradition (which is to say playing with fire, melted wax, raw eggs and lots of pretty plant dyes)! 

When the party is over and the creative stores exhausted, we all begin to feel the toll of our early start. The remedy to drowsy afternoon hours? A power nap… and writing another little poem :)

“Power Nap”

Consciousness clots

and my mind glides like mud

into a nap

that obscures the precious smolder of evening

and clears only after

the sun has set. 

Sleep stole from me those ruddy, gilded hours

so glorious through the trees,

but got me a snatch of rest instead

and a dream almost

as vivid. 

So you see, on this lovely day of March 27, 2016, this mild Easter Sunday, I was robbed both of sunrise and sunset: one obscured by stratocumulus fog, the other by my leaden lids. What I did see of this day, though, far made up for the solar splendors I missed, and was peaceful, luxuriant, and- in our own  haphazard, familial way- gleefully, wistfully sacred. 

Concert and Dead Man

Zuzu Tadeushuk

At the outset of this year— in the inaugural post of this blog— I hoped my months would be strung together by the two themes of satisfaction and delight. And so they have been-- with the additions of many other wonderful things (French hot chocolate rich as Trump), and unwonderful things (Trump), and of course many unexpected things, the most prominent and constant of which has been MOTION. To my surprise (and delight and satisfaction, if we're true to form!), I have travelled oftener and covered vaster distances in these past six months than I had in all my combined years hitherto. And nearly all of that motion has been through public transportation. Wherever I am in the world, and in whatever vehicle, I rub shoulders with the quirky and the elegant, the militant and the musical, the sleepy and the scornful alike— and catch a glimpse of the lives of each.

Characters of the Commute: 

1. On the metro between castings last week in Paris, my train car was serenaded by two different street performers in quick succession: the first, an elderly gentleman with a trumpet and a mustache, played very well, and I gave him a euro for his skill and for reminding me how romantic Paris can be. To the second performer, an old lady who had only her voice as instrument and howled rather tunelessly, I also gave a euro— for her grievous lack of skill and the bad luck of having such formidable trumpeters to compete with. Moral of the story? If you should ever wish to take your musical talents (or non-talents!) to the subways of Paris, choose wisely the acts you follow. That, and… it seems my wallet is rather easy prey regardless, so scratch that about skill and wise choosing!

2. There is a dead man outside Port Authority. It’s a February morning on the steps leading to the terminal. Two EMS personnel are propping him up on a chair draped in a white sheet, darting forward repeatedly to uphold a tumbling limb like two children vainly persuading a heap of stones to stand upright. His bare feet lie splayed on the concrete, grimy and relaxed. I want to get far away from him, fast, but some perverse curiosity detains me on the steps to watch and wonder at his fate. I’m expected at a shoot, though, so I pass through the doors and to the subway. What would my agents say if I told them t'was a dead man made me late?

3. On a puddle jumper headed from New York to Dallas the other evening, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation of two men in the seats behind me (the rows were so tight, it was impossible not to!). One was old, the other young; one was Texan, the other a New Yorker; and both were strangers to each other. The older man, wearing a pink polo shirt, slacks, and loafers, was reminiscing to his seat-mate, unbidden, about his youthful dalliance with the army. 

“When I finished school,” he claimed, “I joined the US army, for two reasons mainly: shooting a gun is fun, and I wanted to also see the world.” Korea was the US enterprise of the time, but our pink polo fellow didn’t get very far because, it seems, when he went to basic training he fell “madly in love with a flight attendant, and… that was it.” He decided not to go to war. 

“Looking back at my youth,” he growled, “my biggest regret is that I never fought for my country.”


“Well at least, you know, you, um, had a happy ending,” the New York man timidly supplied.

“Not really.” Polo laughed. “We’re divorced!”

4. Meandering along a dim subway platform in midtown Manhattan, I passed a homeless man soliciting alms. A scuffle broke out a few yards ahead of me, where a tall man with a slavic accent was vehemently chiding his tall, small-headed son— “Homeless are garbage! Do you talk to garbage? Eh?”                                                                                                                    

His son gazed silently ahead. What hope rests on new generations!

5. This is the second morning that’s found me seated next to a mothball lady on the Rt. 45 commuter bus to Manhattan. With a broad-collared, spring-green coat on her lap, she smells like my grandma’s closet and she’s asleep. Snoring delicately. I’d like to snore too; I am so drowsy and the ride so monotonous, the jostling so rhythmic, the hum so hypnotic. Passing trees, curb, trees… 

So monotonous.

So monoton—

So m…

Photo By Nate Igor Smith

Finding Paris

Zuzu Tadeushuk

This piece was commissioned and featured (in a modified form<<See here) by Vogue. com during Paris Fashion Week. See the original version below:

When you’re in Paris for work it’s often easy to disregard your setting and overlook all that the city offers— especially when your work happens to be fashion week. For fashion week, like a parrot, is a glittering, captivating creature of ever-shifting humors who demands all of your attention and most of your time. Fashion week keeps you up late with midnight fittings and wakes you up early with 6 am call times. Fashion week blisters your feet with extraordinary shoes and fries your hair with flatirons. Fashion week worries you and thrills you and disciplines you, swoops you up to giddy heights and drops you down at the end of a month feeling at once drained and exhilarated. But mostly drained. So why all the bother for a month of shows that leaves you wondering what hit you? Because not only are there practical rewards to be gained from a show season (like exposure and client relationships that may pay off in jobs down the road), but also a huge amount of insight and worldly experience to be gleaned from this month of madness.  Fashion week, and modeling in general, is a window into this most complex of world-wide industries, and provides a view not only of some of the most renowned artists of our modern era, but also of the culture we live in. It is for this view—the privilege of seeing these artists work and this culture evolve, of witnessing the most enchanting and absurd of characters, of experiencing society and experiencing the individual—for this I immerse myself in the frenzy of this month and pursue the unpredictable runway circuit. How’s that for living on the edge of your seat?

This job, however, isn’t entirely about change, and there are in fact some aspects of show season that for a model are quite predictable.

Five Mainstays of the Fashion Week Mechanism:

1. Castings— Sometimes a blast with a bunch of your best friends and other times long and uneventful, castings are the standard way to meet the high and mighty of the fashion industry and (hopefully) book jobs!

2. Fittings— Fittings and sleep deprivation go hand in hand, as fittings usually occur the night before a show and are no instantaneous process— no effort is spared nor detail neglected when the realization of a designer’s vision is at hand. Seams must be altered, shoes insoled, jewelry paired, bags stuffed and belts hole-punched. At the end of the night—sometimes with the first light of dawn— an abstract concept or sketch on paper has been given life. Quirky hours and sleep loss notwithstanding, I find fittings to be consistently wondrous things. 

3. Meeting Interesting People: As a model my itinerant job exposes me to quite a parade of characters, like the dresser at Isabel Marant a few days ago who assured me that dog walking was more lucrative than baby-sitting (not to mention dogs more managable than children); hadn’t I ever tried it?

4. Blistered Feet— Pediatric woe is an inevitable byproduct of show season. You may not imagine that shoes could actually create blisters in such short periods of contact (let alone blisters of such considerable size!), but once you try wearing a few new, cutting-edge (literally) pairs of shoes every day sans socks, you’ll quickly come to understand!

5. Wearing Interesting Clothes— As someone who reveres craftsmanship and beauty, it’s a thrill for me to be able to represent the brands I find myself regularly ogling through store windows. This black chiffon shirt belonged to my retro/punk outfit at Isabel Marant, and take my word for it: it looked much better in real life.

But amidst all this hubbub of work, it is important to occasionally pause and remind yourself that you are in fact standing a few hundred feet from the Eiffel Tower over there, or perhaps around the corner from the granite wonder that is Notre Dame. Because, though shows may change, and trends and tastes fluctuate from season to season, the one circumstance in all of Paris Fashion Week that never, ever alters, is Paris.

Five Ways to Appreciate Paris While in the Thick of Fashion Week:

1. Food: Start your day off like the Parisians— that is, with a delicious, not-exactly-nutritious breakfast. A fresh croissant, crispy on the outside, stretchy on the inside, is the holy marriage of butter and dough…and pairs lamentably well with a hot café creme.

2. Music: Get serenaded by a street musician— it’s not hard to arrange. On nearly every subway at nearly every hour throughout the day and city you can find singers, saxophonists, trumpeters…I even saw one guy playing a harp! When you hear La Vie en Rose warbled by solo trumpet in a near-empty metro car late at night, you can’t help but feel drawn into that magical, heart-warming romance Paris is so famous for.

3. Sweet Meetings: Grabbing hot chocolate with a friend is the best way to break up the stream of castings and remind yourself that in addition to a lot of other things, Paris happens to be capital of sugary treats! Especially when the hot chocolate you're grabbing is no less than “the best hot chocolate in Paris” (according to Coco Chanel), and as far as I can judge rich chocolaty things—which is pretty well— the best hot chocolate ever, at cafe Angelina. Thick as gravy and rich as Trump (but a good deal more palatable), it is just extravagant enough to make a rainy hour in a hectic day feel like a special occasion.

4. Wander the streets: My favorite part of Paris (besides the pastries, of course) is the architecture. If you have time enough to walk somewhere rather than take the metro, go for it— every alley is a feast for the eyes.

5. Get Inspired: Write a poem in a spare moment— it helps evoke the city's abounding literary past. Because it’s sometimes refreshing to shoo that fashion parrot from off your shoulder, and listen a little, taste a little, contribute a little to the indomitable essence of Paris. You see? Life on the edge need not always feel hectic— sometimes it can simply feel French.

Tales from Texas (yes, more of them)!

Zuzu Tadeushuk

Sorry I'm posting this quite late, but I've been in the thick of fashion week and what with travel and work haven't had a minute. But I'm done now, and here you go-- one from two weeks ago!

I spent the last two days in Dallas shooting for Neiman Marcus (yes, not just a 24 hour sleepover,— two days this time! I’m moving up in the world…I hope), and for some reason they put me up not only in the king of all kingly hotels, the Four Seasons, but in the king of kingly rooms, a suite. And this wasn’t just any suite. This was a stand-alone suite the size of an Adirondacks cabin, detached from the main hotel building and located down a path that wound by the bubbling (and odorous) hot tub and over a bridge straddling the shimmering outdoor swimming pool (there’s a tongue twister for you)… Anyway when I finally reached my room (or shall I say, apartment!) I was amazed to find what all I had to myself: two bathrooms, a huge bedroom with a desk, sofa, and master bed; a living space complete with dining table, fireplace, and another sofa; and a patio with wooden chairs overlooking the resort’s golf course. All these luxuries, and only me to enjoy them! These two days in Texas were very busy— and not all with work!

Five Things to Do When You Have a Gargantuan Suite to Yourself:

1. Order room service and eat a portion of it at each table in the suite-

2. Try both the shower AND the bath… leaving some time between, of course, to let your skin un-wrinkle… as much as I appreciate (and exemplify!) the granny look, it isn't always optimal-- especially when you have a shoot the next morning!

3. Turn on the tv in two different rooms and on two different channels while you wander around packing and getting ready for bed. I don’t have a tv at home, so this was an unusual treat, and a great way to see a bit of everything— wander through the living room to glimpse the news stories (politics politics politics, peppered with a few fresh atrocities from the innumerable pockets of unrest in the world); then through the bedroom to catch up on the contrasting first world unrests of the Kardashians and co.

4. Do some yoga on the terrace at midnight: after a long day in a studio bouncing between makeup chair and set, it is wonderful to stretch your body and breathe some fresh air at last, even if a bit chilly!

5. Once you’ve worked out enough (like after three minutes) make a cup of tea in the little water boiler and throw on a coat. Sit out there in the deepest of the deck chairs, sip your tea, listen to the quiet buzzing of the pool filter nearby and survey the large, flat, dark Dallas sky and the occasional golf cart that goes silently by.

Nothing Personal (just your earlobes)

Zuzu Tadeushuk

When newer models ask me for advice about modeling (not that I’m an expert by any means, but occasionally it happens), I always tell them it’s imperative to learn not to take personally the losses and gains of jobs, especially in runway. The competition for work is great (there are so many stunning girls out there), the frustrations frequent, and the only way to avoid chronic devastation is to detach yourself emotionally from the “confirmations” and “releases” of bookings: in reality neither have anything to do with you, but rather with your height, your hair color, the relationship (or shall I say rivalry) between two casting directors who won't both hire the same girl, or even the shape of your earlobes (as in the case of a Vogue jewelry shoot I was considered for a few months ago)! To be disappointed over these arbitrary circumstances would be foolish— and useless. 

Then this week my doctrine was put to the test. This week was New York Fashion Week, and my ruminations— maybe premonitions?—of the previous journal entry proved eerily close to the reality that has come to pass. Somehow— from a combination of scheduling conflicts that tied my hands, a trending hunger for catwalk populations of edgy, unexpected faces that I can’t satisfy, and an industry-wide disinterest in models who aren't seasoned enough to be someone yet no longer new enough to be no one,— from such an agglomeration of circumstances, and probably others I’m not aware of, I struggled to book shows this season. Walking for only three brands (three wonderful brands, to be sure, but three nonetheless), I received an unprecedented opportunity to try my detachment theory. And I found it tricky— like many things, easier said than done. It’s hard to dismiss something as being “not about you” when getting booked for or dropped from a runway show seems so directly about… you. The earlobes, though; the rivalries and heights and hair colors, must all be remembered at these moments. You’ve really worked yourself up over nothing: this modeling job, you remind yourself, is just that: a job, holding no more significance than any other service we perform to pay the bills. Stripped of the thrilling idea of glamor and prestige, it no longer warrants any special emotional attachment. After all, it’s not glamor and prestige that matter— those come arbitrarily to those of good earlobes and certain hair colors. At the end of the day only diligence and perseverance are meaningful. 

After thus praising perseverance, I will now seem riotously hypocritical when I tell you that in light of my meager New York fashion week I have decided not to continue on to Milan. Phony two-faced shrew, am I right? But let me explain. I believe there’s a certain time and place for perseverance, and a certain time and place for prudence, too. Spending my money and energy abroad in the pursuit of a show season that has given generous indication of not wanting me to pursue it would be sheer foolhardiness, and so I have strategically resolved to stay home. (Well, not exactly home… I have a job scheduled next week on the other side of country, but any place in this hemisphere is close enough to home for me)! 

After contemplating this all for the past few days I have come to view it in a contented light, if not altogether a celebratory one: it takes reality-checks like these to keep us grounded in so potentially heady an industry. It takes my career to falter to remind me of all the myriad pursuits that interest me outside of my job— and of the importance of maintaining these pursuits through smooth sailing and rough alike. The great seas of fashion may be expansive, but they do have shores, and distant ends that wash against other untold lands. Now my own advice of not taking things personally has been put to the test and proven effective, though challenging, and I can continue to dispense it when asked without any doubt of its validity. Other counsel I can offer? Well, ice-cream flavor pairings is an issue I’m quite well-versed in… (hint: pistachio and bubblegum goeth not well together). But that’s a blog post for another time…

In doing some "fact-checking" for this piece I discovered that most of Europe is actually in the Eastern Hemisphere, which was a convenient but unexpected fact.