Our Duel With Duality
When my styling career began to transition from working on fashion editorials to working on music videos and with celebrities from film & television, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. It was exciting to be approached to work with some of the most talented artists of the day, and yet also a bit crippling. Not due to imposter syndrome. I didn't even know what that was back then. But because I consumed so much popular culture, the fan or movie buff in me was nervous about seeing these larger than life characters as real human beings. Flawed and fucked up, just like me. What was I going to do when the very artists whose work was my escape from reality became my everyday reality? As a fan, I wanted to uphold the illusion. As a stylist, I knew I was on a head-on collision course with having my teeny bopper bubble burst. I could only hope there would be functioning airbags to soften the blow. As opportunities continued to present themselves, I constantly had to check-in with myself. The overriding question was, did I want to really know what this person is like or live in my projected illusions? The answer was the latter. What I chose was the former. I mean a girl's gotta work, after all! And like with all relationships, there is the infatuation stage, the honeymoon stage and then, inevitably the cracks start to show and reality starts to seep through the glossy veneer of 12" single album covers and glossy magazines. The truth is, these artists as normal human beings are both amazing and underwhelming. Exciting and sometimes boring. Genius and neurotic. Charismatic and complicated. Just like me. Just like you. Just like all of us. What I began to filter for was the mirror. My duel with being conflicted about working with people whose work I admired started to reflect back to me what I didn't know and wasn't willing to look at about myself.
"Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa. Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony. And God made one version of you."
- Max Lucado
It is my belief that our life's work is to get to know ourself. All of ourself. When I first discovered the work of Pablo Picasso, I couldn't understand upon first viewing, why I was so drawn to his portraits of Dora Maar, a French photographer, painter and poet. She had a nine-year liaison with Pablo Picasso. They met in Paris at Les Deaux Magots in the Saint-Germaine-des-Prés district. I stop in and have a café au lait and croissant there every trip I take to Paris. He abused her physically and often pushed her to fight for his love with the woman he was married to for the entire duration of their affair. Needless to say, it ended badly. She had a nervous breakdown. His paintings of her spurned a visceral reaction in me. It was like looking at a car crash. Horrific yet seductive in its ugliness and tangled mess. It was, in fact, me looking at myself. This is how we are with ourselves. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. What I have learned is, we lose the duel with duality when we are too cowardly to look at the ugliness in us and choose to consistently look away and project a false image to ourself and the world. My career transition specifically as a celebrity stylist forced me to stop objectifying artists and accept them as they are. This journey was in many ways the death of my innocence. As I worked more and more in the world of make-believe, I had to be more and more in the world of reality. It was both brutal and beautiful. And looking back, I wouldn't change anything. I saw and experienced the most amazing and magical people, some of whom became friends. I also saw and experienced some of the most destructive aspects to humanity. Much of which has been discussed in the #MeToo movement that began in 2017. I became fractured and destructive, just like Dora Maar. Until finally, I chose to clean up the mess I was living in. Like Humpty Dumpty who sat then fell off the wall, I had to put myself back together again. No lover could do this for me. I tried that route and it was a disaster each time. The men fell in love with a successful stylist, a bubbly girl they met on set and were horrified to discover how broken I was in reality. In a nutshell, it wasn't what they "signed up for". Although I don't recall ever handing over an application form. When I became committed to breaking the illusions of my life, sustaining relationships with men who were attracted to the illusion of me, not prepared or interested in holding space or witnessing the journey of healing, became a one way ticket to a dead end road. My relationships resembled a cul-de-sac. And just like a cul-de-sac is someone's suburban dream, it fast became my freedom fighting nightmare. No one could convince me to let it go and let it be. It was the equivalent of asking me to abandon myself while feeling I was the only one who could save me. And that's the kicker, you're the only one who can save you. Your parents won't do it. Your friends won't do it. Your husband or wife won't do it. Your siblings won't do it. Because they can't. And no matter what anyone tells you, Jesus won't do it. Buddha won't do it, he will simply remain quiet, because he's Buddha and the quiet is where the truth is. Allah won't do it - maybe he will, but in the after life. I realised if I wanted to be alive, I had to give birth to all of me. The good, the bad and the ugly. I knew there would be casualties. Getting real is brutal. Getting real comes with death, burials and being burned alive. Getting real comes with mourning the loss of the bullshit you think is real and call your life. Getting real is the most profound and beautiful thing you can do for yourself while you're here in this human form.
"We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves."
- Blaise Pascal
For many years, I was hiding stuff. It's super confusing as a child to be told to tell the truth and then simultaneously told to hide the truth. The conflicting messages go into a human who hasn't developed cognitively and it basically feels like the beach ball spinning on your computer screen. Looking at something that isn't working and not knowing how to get it working again. So we just start pushing a bunch of keys in different combinations hoping for a good outcome but not knowing a clear formula of what to do, how to shut it down, reset or restart. We just pretend like we know what we're doing and sometimes that pretending results in a quick fix and we carry on. Without ever really exploring what the problem was in the first place. We're just glad it's not a problem now. So many children are brought up this way. Because our parents and their parents and now us, are obsessed with protecting and projecting a false image. What we aren't taught is how to deal with conflict, conflicting messages, life situations when they go tits up and how to ask for help. I mean, real help. Hiding the truth fractures us. We all walk around with a Mona Lisa smile when in reality, we are Dora Maar. My attraction to paintings by Picasso and Francis Bacon started to take over and eradicate the shallow pretty pictures I was drawn to as a young girl. The ones of pop stars with eyeliner and pastel suits and models with head bands and crimped hair jumping for joy. The more curious I became about exploring the cracks in me, the more this was reflected in the art I was drawn to and interested in. This is how we can access the deeper pools of wholeness that we are but feel like an abyss. Through self exploration. Through culture. Through curiosity. I could not be comforted in church or in a psychiatrist's office. I wasn't looking for someone to tell me I was okay, I was looking to find out why am I the way I am? Do I like who I am? How can I become this feeling of sensing my essence that lurked in the shadows like a stranger in the darkness of night, but one I never saw, felt and only experienced for a moment here and there, in the light of day. For me, the work had to be done by me for me. Art is a potent vehicle for self discovery. Be it paintings, photography, poetry, music or film. If something repulses you, don't look away. Look at it more. Get close. Then closer. In there, you will find yourself.
For years I covered up a rage that was eating away at me. A rage of hiding secrets of physical violence and abuse. I had nowhere to place it, no one to talk to about it. Often the abuser was around. Working with my friends and clients. At parties and events. In the same studios I was shooting in, at production meetings. The villains don't hide away like boogie men to come steal your soul in the night while you're sleeping like some kind of incubus. They give you air kisses and inappropriate hugs in the light of day, in front of a group of people. For years, we just had to act like it's normal. Show me a girl whose worked in Hollywood and I'll show you a girl with a story to tell. Pretending to be okay became a way of life. I was slowly rotting. The beautiful thing about being a human being and not a piece of fruit is, we are naturally inclined to heal. It is our attachment to our story and our resistance to change which prevents healing. The natural intelligence that runs our physical bodies, however, is inclined towards healing. To do this, we must wake ourselves up in the middle of a nightmare.
In 2008 I really committed to waking up. This commitment led me to manifest the opportunity to go to India for 4 months and immerse myself in a yoga teacher training in 2009. The opportunity was a gift and even though the person who gifted it to me is no longer a part of my life, it is a gift that keeps on giving to this day. Because I am kinder, more honest, more centred, more healed and more committed to telling the truth. In India, I closed my physical eyes that looked to the world of illusion, lust, desire and image for my sense of self worth and began the journey of opening my third eye. I began to wake up. By no means did I leave India 100% healed and integrated, but I did allow myself to become fertile soil for the seeds of healing to be planted. It was in India that I showed up at high noon ready for my duel with duality. Except high noon was at 5 am, aka 'yogi time'. How sleepy I was each morning illuminated to me how asleep I was in my life. As the months passed, I began to naturally rise earlier, more alert, slowly... more awake.
You may be wondering, what is the point of this post? It's this...to anyone who finds a grain of truth in it. Yoga in Sanskrit is yuj which means union or to join. There is a way to practice yoga off the mat. Join your two, three, four, five, six... faces and become one face. I see a lot of people online creating opportunities and 'buzz' and 'kicking ass' at life or work, or the opposite strategy, sharing your struggles, not as a form of authentic sharing but as a way of getting attention. Your intent is directly linked to your ability to be authentic. Another is using filters to blur your wrinkles to the point kids won't ever have a memory of what their parents looked like for real. I get it, everyone does it and we all want to look better, younger more beautiful. But what about our children who will crave looking at their parents faces and all they see is a digital veneer? There is also the confessions of undying love to the person you sleep next to at night over long posts written out over a mobile phone that would probably have greater impact whispered in their ear while you hold their face in a dimly lit room before bed or upon waking. We are in essence becoming Picasso, digitally painting and creating Dora Maar, while pretending to be Mona Lisa. If you are doing this, you may feel like you are winning in the moment, but you are losing the marathon. And that is what life is, it's a marathon. As long as it is short. The trend of promoting, posturing and pretending are taking over and creating a lot of duplicities. There is a lot of talking about female empowerment, being Queens and fixing each other's crowns while knocking each other down and judging what the other is creating offline. If you're espousing the importance of speaking your truth and you haven't found your voice to share your ugly beautiful story, you may need a timeout and someone to tell you to shut the fuck up. Don't confuse a moment for a movement if you haven't done the work to make yourself. Take it from someone who did it and lost years of living. I was looking like a success but feeling like a failure all the time. My advice is shut it down. Shut down the bullshit, shut down the pretending to be and take some time to kick your own ass over pretending to kick ass at work, in the gym, at life in general. Stop pretending to be Jimmy Page when really you're David Lee Roth. We cannot air guitar our way through life. I know I sound harsh because the truth often is. Our only one true job is to take a long hard look in the mirror, make friends with our secrets and lies, learn to love the ugly until we find beauty in it... then execute from that place. That is when you will be potent. That is when you will feel you are living with purpose. Everything else is just pretending. Now that I've burst your bubble, take a bath, wash off your bullshit, take a nap and begin again. I won't be there cheering you at the starting line or waiting to give you a hug & high five at the finish line. Because I'll be running the race with you.