Always around the holidays I am in NYC for appts, in store appearances, and other work type engagements. I enjoy this time of year - the beautiful windows, rosy cheeks, and all the rest of the charm that makes the Big Apple wonderful this time of year.
This post is about how I arrived in NYC with a portfolio and a couple of suitcases. I left with a career, a surrogate family, and surrounded by a sense of love, community and inspiring people. This spirit that was instilled in me by my experiences, these relationships I built are still with me today even though I call SoCal home now. I’m actually a New Yorker that lives in Cali - in every meeting, every presentation, and every idea I have that I explore - this spirit of what the city instilled in me stays with me. In my pocket, and also a phone call away. This blog post is about thanking the city, and one family, one woman in particular. Her name is Ms. Olivia Starr.
NYC is an unforgiving city - unless of course you have anchors. Anchors of support, love, knowing there is somewhere to go, someone that cares if your heart is broken, and someone to cheer for you and have the occasional home cooked meal. In my case it was the Starr family. They took me in as one of their own. I like that name Starr... in the Starr family there is one very special shining star. Her name is Olivia and she has been an inspiration to me. Had I not met the Starrs along my journey of finding my way in NYC I would be a different person today.
So I’m sitting at Bouchon Bakery in Columbus Circle - Central Park to my left, too-die-for brioche French toast to my right, and Olivia in front of me - surrounded by stars. The setting was perfect...like wayyy perfect. The thing is, I have a lot of gratitude for Ms. Olivia. She’s taught me a lot. She taught me strength when faced with difficulty. She allowed me to be a kid when I felt like just being a girl in the world with her - she let me take her dancing, we got dressed up and danced all night as if there were no cares in the world. These were some of my most carefree, joyous moments in NYC. If you haven’t taken one of your favorite girls out dancing just for the sake of going out and dancing all around, I highly recommend it.
Her life journey started off difficult. Yet like everyone in my tribe, she's a thriver and a surviver. As we relived our time in NYC, she bared her soul while offering 3 pieces of advice for anyone still figuring how to be what they want to be, and those who think they suffer alone (spoiler: you're not alone. :) )
AS: I like to start off by asking: who are you?
OS: My name is Olivia Starr. We’ve known each other close to two decades. We’re family. Just not blood family.
AS: We’re like sisters, just not biological sisters. Your mom feels like a mom to me, or like an older sister to me. To you, I’m kinda like a big sister/auntie kind of person, in that zone.
OS: Yeah, I agree.
AS: But you really don’t go clubbing with your auntie. We have moments where we’re like sisters.
OS: It’s fluid- exactly.
AS: I have a first memory of you, which was of you trying on dresses with me in the lower east side. What’s your first memory?
OS: I had a picture up on my mom’s bulletin board with me in one of your dresses. It was a silver and kind of bronze-y dress.
[These are dresses I designed for my master’s graduation runway show.]
AS: I remember- oh, it was beautiful! It was from my graduating collection. I remember bringing a fish to your room when you were at St. Vincent’s.
OS: I do remember that.
AS: And I remember also bringing you Cosmopolitan magazines, which had maybe inappropriate-stuff-for-your-age in it... and also doing pedicures.
OS: Yes! I remember that too.
AS: I don’t know what happened to the fish, but I definitely remember going over the magazines.
OS: I definitely remember that.
AS: Do you believe in magic?
AS: When you do believe in magic, what does it look like to you?
OS: Something that kinda makes my eyes pop, like maybe I’ve thought about it but never thought I’d see but then I do--kind of like this "AH!" feeling.
AS: You’ve had an interesting journey with your life. I’ve been alongside for a lot of that while I was in New York... So if you had 3 pieces of advice for another young person on their journey, from what you’ve learned, what would it be...? To help people feel strong and be on their path if it’s a little bit, like, maybe mysterious. If they don’t know what the future holds… or they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. What would you send along with somebody that might not necessarily have a grounding or faith?
OS: The first thing that comes to mind is that even at the time when you think that things are never going to work out, it may not turn out the way you thought, but it sometimes works out better in the end.
AS: I like that one a lot.
OS: The second one is- and I’m still learning this one- if you really want something, having drive is great but you also have to stand up for yourself. It’s one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned and I’m still learning it.
AS: Do you have an example?
OS: Yes- I previously worked at a school. And let’s just say I was treated unfairly. I knew what I did was right and what they were saying wasn’t right. I wrote them a letter and I had a few conversations with them. And even though they still said that I did something wrong, in my heart I knew I didn’t. To this day, I have to say, even though it was hard at the time and I really didn’t want to do it, I’m glad I stood up for myself, because in the end I know what I did was right. And I know the other people who cared about me and knew me as an individual knew I did the right thing.
And the third goes along with the first [piece of advice]: I’ve learned that when you really think you’re alone and you’re the only one suffering something, it feels bad but there really are other people out there suffering. It just might not be the same thing. And in a sense you’re never really alone. You may be completely unaware, but they’re there.
AS: That feeling in your heart is that you're not by yourself.
OS: In the end I feel that your suffering can help other people- in a good way.
AS: If you were able to pick one person that you really have a lot of gratitude for, or wanted to identify that helped you along your journey, who would it be?
OS: My mom.
AS: Let’s gift your mom something from you and me, from my collection. What do you think she would like.
OS: Something for the home of course.
AS: Thank you for doing the interview- I love you.
OS: I love you too.
Olivia Starr has medical conditions that has put her in and out of hospitals her whole life. I am filled with gratitude that I have been able to orbit with her and her parents during my years in New York. I always had a home to go to, a den mamma to call, and a sister to just silly around with. If I wanted a break from my design hustle, I knew i could also go “home” to the upper west side and get into it with Dr. Starr - discussions about formal color names like alizarin crimson, where indigo originally came from, or other design concepts that were usually very much over my head. They took me away from my everyday grind in the city. They kept me sane. Thank you to the Starrs for lighting my way on my journey in NYC. May you all always be surrounded by light.
My words are to encourage everyone to seek out kindness, connections with those that believe in you. See beauty in others. You can make it in NYC. You can make it anywhere if you stay on your path and allow others to guide you, help you along your way. Sometimes its connections, referrals, other times it's a family like the Starrs.
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