Where are you from? What are you doing?
That’s always an interesting question for me. I feel like I have moved around too often to feel like anywhere is home. My family is from Sicily and I “grew up” in Detroit. I feel most at home in Los Angeles or in an airport. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid. I had a lot of time to talk to myself and discover myself.
At the moment I am working as a makeup artist. I travel a lot internationally for editorial, celebrity, and commercial work with the Jed Root Agency. I am also the Editor in Chief of The Work Magazine, which is an international conceptual magazine. We produce this twice a year in a limited print run of 1000 copies per issue. The Work Magazine is my creative outlet. We push the boundaries with it and connect with amazing artists that are itching to communicate something from their soul. After I do a shoot with someone, they express the high they feel from being able to do the work – it’s the most gratifying feeling one can have. When we do events and I get emails or run into people telling me what an amazing time they had and how great the energy was. I get excited when I hear this. Connecting people and discovering inspiration through others is true happiness for me.
What kind of education did you have?
I graduated from a private Christian high school and went off to an art college called Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. I couldn’t choose a major. How does one pick between sculpture, painting, metal shop, furniture design, textiles? I wanted to do it all. I decided on furniture design, but then shortly realized that I didn’t think I had what it took to be a conceptual artist. I knew I always wanted to be involved in the fashion world and knew I had a talent and an eye for it. So I dropped out of college and dropped into producing and styling photoshoots. I began everything from booking the photographer, model, styling the shoot and doing hair and makeup. It was a lot to so but that was my best education in that world. I believe if you want to achieve something, then …well… do it. What are you waiting for?
How was it growing up in a city like Detroit?
Detroit was an interesting place to grow up in. I never felt like I really fitted into any circles…I knew people liked me for whatever reason. I didn’t feel so friendly, and I always seemed to be getting in a fight to defend the underdog. I spent a lot of time playing alone as a child, even though I have many siblings, I am the youngest by a large age gap and my Mom was really protective so I found myself using my imagination and exploring the woods or other outdoor areas a lot; imagining I was in another world. When I graduated high school, I was finally able to wear and do what I wanted. I moved out at 16 and got into the punk goth scene. During college, I would spend my weekend at the industrial club looking like an insane person or at the punk bars and shows making a mosh pit. A lot has happened to Detroit over the last few years with the economic crash. It’s amazing what strong work ethics Detoriters have and what energy they have to make something as original and powerful as it can be. To say the least, I am very proud of spending years “figuring it out” there. Some of the best souls I know are from my hometown.
You spent a lot of time in Sicily. Tell us a bit about your childhood memories from there.
Every time I hear a church bell ringing, I think of sitting in my grandmothers villa by the beach near the town square. I think of the tile being the only cold thing around, and just laying on it for hours. I think of waking up to a rooster and the baker on the street yelling that he has delicious fresh bread and polenta sandwiches for you to eat, then going to the ocean and laying in the white sand for hours, coming home and taking a bath to then go back out to the square and eat dinner and have a beer and get yelled at by all the beautiful boys calling you a “Bella Bionda” from across the way. Basically, when I think of Sicily, I think of chillin’.
You certainly had an interesting childhood due to the occupations of your parents.
Growing up with parents who are artists is pretty special. Not to mention a bit crazy. My Mom would break out into random musicals, or dances in public, or any other odd whim she felt at that time. They both worked hard with their hands and minds joined. It showed me that yes, you can be a creative “type” as a career and be successful at it. I think this is what gave me my “why can’t I?” attitude. As hard as it was having irrational parents, I think I wouldn’t change much about it. Who needs to be rational, really?
When did you move to L.A. and what was the major change since then?
I moved to LA six and a half years ago. It’s hard to say what major change has happened since then. I feel like every year there has been such major change in my life. I think signing with my agency was a major work related change for me. It brought me to a whole new level in that world and I appreciate it every day. I also fell in love once. That may be my biggest change. I didn’t think I was capable of 1, falling in love 2, loving anything that deeply and 3, hurting so much afterwards. I wouldn’t take it back in a million years. I’ll probably always love her, and I am okay with that.
Is there another city you definitely want to live in one day for a longer period?
I have been thinking about moving a lot lately. Paris and Berlin have been coming to mind a lot. I just need to get more work out there and then I’ll gladly move over that way for a few months or so. I love it here in LA, but my itch to see the world and live in different ways surpasses it all.
How do you manage to balance your engagement as a stylist and your magazine? How do they support/stimulate each other?
It really can be two full-time jobs. Thankfully through being a makeup artist and being on set with so many different people helps me gain perspective on topics for the magazine, and same for the magazine. Being in this world has helped give me an eye on what looks good and what can be relevant. My makeup world can be very commercial and doesn’t always represent me as an artist or what I would like to see as a consumer, so with the magazine has helped me bring some of that back for myself and hopefully for others.
My days are spent waking up very early to get in a couple hours of alone time with no contact with others, just reading, working out, coffee. Then the day begins with a shoot or hours spent organizing things for the magazine blog or shoots If my day is spent on a photoshoot, a couple of hours in the evening are spent responding to emails or meeting with our staff. After the work day ends, I usually go and play hard. I sometimes have to remind myself that going out is also part of work, so I make sure to do it right. Dancing, dinners, and tequila are usually involved…and when they aren’t I am a grandma and read in bed after a bath.
Everything in balance…right?
What are your favorite spots for a day off?
Apparently my Pilates teacher is a dominatrix, that personal training has been pretty fun as of late. I also get lots of enjoyment from going to farmers markets and supporting local business and farmers. I love community and my neighborhood is super connected. I love cooking and have recently gotten into doing my own spice mixes. There is this great spot down the block called the Spice Station where I can buy any imaginable spice in whole form. I like to crush and mix them up based on healing qualities. I feel like a voodoo child when I do it. I’ve also been doing the same with loose leaf teas. It’s always exciting coming up, making, and then eating something all on your own.
What kind of music are you listening to while working?
My music collection is seriously the most random. I may be listening to Gil Scott-Heron remixes to Alice in Chains then go to Ariel Pink and Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine. But I take music very seriously…I will not date someone who has bad music taste – to my standards of course.
When did you start The Work Magazine and what was the main idea/concept behind it?
The Work Magazine was founded at the end of 2009. I wanted to be a part of a world that people claimed was dying. I believe in print and know the beauty in holding it in your hand, smelling the paper, archiving it in your bookshelf or on the floor. Also I was growing tired of seeing the same stories recycled, showcasing topics based on who paid them the most to do so. I wanted to make people feel a bit uncomfortable. Making it a limited print run of 1000 copies was also important to me. I remember when I was a kid and I would sit in the cassette bins and find tapes on bands that I thought no one knew about. I would sit for hours discovering new music, taking it home and feeling like I was the only one alive who knew about this band called Nirvana, or whatever it was. There is something so special about going out and hunting or stumbling across something you have never heard of or seen before. I want people to feel that way when then find The Work Magazine.
What Issue are you most proud of so far?
Each issue feel like I am gaining a child. It’s not so much that I love one more or am proud of one more than the other, but with that said I get so excited with each issue. It feels like after every release, we take it to the next level. We are growing and growing in the best direction and I am so proud of our team and all of the contributors.
What were the obstacles starting your own magazine?
I think that it’s been a pretty smooth run so far. Everyone has come together so organically. The right people who want to be involved for the right reasons are always present. The main thing we have had more of an obstacle with would be doing everything we need to do with a small team. At this stage we all wear so many hats while still working other jobs. It’s a labor of love at this point but we hope to grow in the direction of making it a full time presence in our lives.
We love the quote “She was both the message, and the messenger” by Patti Smith. Does that apply to you? In what sense?
Patti Smith quotes this in her book “Just Kids”. That line and mostly anything Patti says hit me hard. I do feel like it is part of who I am. In my daily life I try to be a message not just to others, but mostly to myself. I try to make choices and have thoughts on things that I feel I would be proud of and that are authentic to myself. With that said, I feel it’s part of my purpose in life to bring a new way of thinking or new discoveries to others. It brings me a lot of joy to show others something new, as much as it is for me to learn something new.
When did you get your first tattoo? What’s your favorite one you have, what does it stand for?
I got my first tattoo at 18. I was also dating a tattoo artist which lead to my addiction. I think my favorite tattoo would have to be the one I got on my head. Its hard for me to even remember I have tattoos at this point. I forget they are there. The one on my head says Abandon Hope. Most people look at me like I may not be okay when they see that. It’s actually a very positive tattoo. I got it while I was going through a really hard time. It is from a very transformative book called “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. It’s the idea of understanding that one should not have expectations. To understand that the ground beneath you is actually not solid but liquid. Once you can understand and accept this, then you can be present and realize the beauty in all things, even pain.
Tell us about your little map of symbols on your hand?
I love hand tattoos. I think they are one of the most sexy types you can get. I also love the fact that I can hide almost all of my tattoos. The symbols on my hand are astrological and represent identities that are important to me.
When you escape from LA where do you go?
I actually spend a lot of time alone. When I really need to get away I drive out of town, usually to the desert somewhere. If I can’t get out of town I either go hide in a sauna, or eat mushrooms and go on a walk. I like to feel connected to the earth as often as I can. Even if it’s meditation in a bath or a walk outside, or even just a moment to breathe. It’s important because we are always so disconnected to nature in our daily lives. When I can’t do any of the above, I dance it out.
What personal must-haves/items do you carry around every day?
I generally do not carry a bag, but on the days I know I will have free time I take along my trusted WANT Les Essentiels bag filled with A notebook, watercolors, headphones, the two or three books I am currently reading, a pen, chapstick, a black large brimmed fedora, my leather jacket, and my crystal around my neck and rings on my left hand.
Which personality would you love to meet one day but haven’t had yet the opportunity to do so?
So far all of the people I would like to meet are in another world. And Patti Smith, of course.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with ZEIT Online who presents a special curation of our pictures on their site. Have a look here.
Photography: Daniel Trese
Interview & Text: Zsuzsanna Toth