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Glorious Broad #11: Michele Saunders

PHOTOS BY ADAM DEEN

PHOTOS BY ADAM DEEN

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GLORIOUS PROFESSION: Realtor, Location Scout, Creative Catalyst

GLORIOUS PERSONA: Scenester, Bon Vivant, Direct

GLORIOUS QUALITIES: Independent, Provocative, Chic … in other words … French

GLORIOUS PHILOSOPHY:

Life is just a few passports ...

GB: Michele picked me up in her funky pickup truck in upstate New York, just off the Hudson, looking effortless and weirdly stylish in her red and black checked lumber jacket and lime locks  — surrounded by one million cassette tapes and two croissants for the road. We drove to her glorious home that has as many layers and stories as she does

There’s a certain kind of woman that brings out the tongue-tied Mary Richards in me. Michele, meanwhile, is Marianne Faithful. When you interview the coooooolest 75-year-old in the world — that’ll happen. An afternoon spent with the funny, no beatin’ around the bush Glorious Broad, Michele Sanders …

WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, DID YOU IMAGINE YOU WOULD BE THE GLORIOUS BROAD THAT YOU ARE TODAY?
I thought I’d be a nun when I was 10 years old — and then I started to listen to rock and roll. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be a nun any more. Then, I thought I’d be a journalist, reporter, traveling. And I always loved dancing!

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCE GROWING UP?
Music. Dancing. And Mount Holyoke College. I was on the French university’s ski team and had a terrible ski accident. So I applied for a scholarship to study in America and landed a Fullbright that sent me off to Mount Holyoke. I go back now and see boys in and out, girls kissing together. Back in my day — so completely different.

WHY SUCH A BIG INFLUENCE?
It was the 60s! I wanted to listen and see everything. My background is very bourgeois, very goody two shoes, very Catholic — though I am half Jewish ( I mean, look at me!) and I reacted to all this energy. I didn’t so much rebel — just came into my own.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER. YOU JUMPED AROUND A LOT EARLY ON, NO?
Not really. I married a guy from Yale when I left college — lived in Amsterdam where I became an agent representing English and French photographers. Moved back to Paris and worked with Elite models representing photographers, stylists, then went to America and became an agent for Art Kane for 3 years, then doing production, casting through the 70s and early 80s. After that moved to Miami to become a prop stylist. Now I’m upstate and am in location sighting. I don’t do anything but open the door, close it and make sure the place doesn’t have trash laying around. (Laughs) … But same world.   

YOU’RE GIVIN’ OUT INDEPENDENT AND SINGLE … BUT YOU WERE MARRIED?
I feel I was always single. But — oops — wasn’t for those 7 years in Amsterdam, and a brief marriage to a musician — a very sexy bad boy. Lasted one year — but it got me my citizenship!

WHY AMERICA FOR YOU?
The grass was greener for me here. The freedom!

WHEN WERE YOU AT YOUR HAPPIEST?
One of the best moments for me ever is when the DJ plays house music that resonates for me and I’m feeling good. That’s one of them. Or … when it’s really good spring snow — and I’m killin’ it on the slopes — total bliss ….

OK, CLUB KID. I WAS ONE TOO. STUDIO 54 MY FAVE. YOU?
54 too druggy for me. The best thing about my second husband was that he introduced me to Paradise Garage. I used to call it my church. Lots of famous people went there — Keith Herring, Madonna, Grace Jones, Basquiat, but it wasn’t about that. It was about the music. It was basically a gay, Puerto Rican, black club where I felt totally at home.

ANY DESIRE TO BE 20 AGAIN?
Sure! Absolutely.

FOR THE ENERGY? DANCING ‘TILL 5 AM?
No. I still do that. To have time to do everything I want to do. It’s horrible — when you’re 75 it’s like ohhhhh …

THE LIMITED TIME THING …
If I were 20 at least I’d know I’d have plenty of time! When I hear things like: oh in three years — or this is good until ______. I have an Amex card good until 2022 — ??? How many times am I going to renew my passport? Life is just a few passports …

When you’re older, the truth is, one thing you cannot do is — try to look “sexy” — that is so bad.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IN THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE TAKEN IN YOUR LIFE?
Having a child. At 45. Single.

DID YOU WANT TO HAVE A CHILD FOR A WHILE?
No. And I can tell you a single mom here in New York — it’s not easy. A walk-up — 5 flights in a stroller … 

Having a child is the most difficult thing. Ever. You are trying to do so many things and it doesn’t always work out. But it was incredible. I became a better person. I was selfish and it made me unselfish.

WAS HAVING YOUR CHILD ALSO A RESTART?
Oh yeah. In so many ways. That’s when I moved  — Miami was easier with the kid. And it kept me current. I am friends with my son’s friends now  – they are all kinds of artists fashion oriented … I am completely relating to them.

I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT YOU WERE IN MIAMI FOR SO LONG …
It was for the kid … That’s why.

THE CULTURE?
What culture?

DO YOU TELL YOUR AGE?
All the time now. I used to lie. I lied about it between the ages of 40 and 45 because I was always with guys who were half my age. It got a little weird. But when I had my son, I never lied again.

LOVE LIFE NOW?
I’m not interested in sex now. Makes things easier. It’s freed me up to do things I might not have dared when I was younger. I can talk with the hottest guy — I don’t have a problem with any of that because I’m not trying to attract anybody — specific — or at all.

WHEN DID THIS CHANGE HAPPEN?
After I had my child.

DO YOU THINK YOUR ESSENTIAL CORE HAS CHANGED AS YOU AGE?
I’m totally the same. Totally. I don’t see anything different. The body! That’s what’s changed. When I see things hanging, I don’t like it.

BUT YOU SEEM PERFECTLY AT EASE WITH AGEING PHYSICALLY …
What am I gonna do? Of course I am completely at ease. But it doesn’t mean I always like what I see. Especially when I wear something and I think it feels good, and I look in the mirror and it’s not happening. ‘Cause usually I know. That’s very annoying.

WELL, YOU’RE PULLING IT OFF 90% OF THE TIME. GIVE US SOME TIPS!
When you’re older, the truth is, one thing you cannot do is — try to look “sexy” — that is so bad. You’re better off being comfortable with a certain way of walking — so I am very careful with the way I step. That changes everything. I love rocking shoes that are really very different from what “older women” wear. If I buy a piece at Dobert Market or Opening Ceremony, it’s not to try to look younger, it’s because it makes me walk a certain way — feel a certain way.

DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A DIFFERENT ATTITUDE ON AGEING IN FRANCE VERSUS AMERICA?
Yes. Completely. In America, it’s everything or nothing.  Either who cares or grotesque and obsessed. There is a problem.

DO YOU HAVE A GLORIOUS TRIBE OF COMRADES?
I surround myself with interesting people ‘cause otherwise, well, I don’t need to be with anybody unless they are interesting. I’m completely happy by myself. A great influence in my life is my friend Patricia Field. I have been in and out of her world, which used to be mine at times, but I have my world of skiing and upstate.

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A FEMINIST?
I am for people.

LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR VERY PARTICULAR STYLE — FASHION IS A BIG THING FOR YOU …
Well, wait. It’s an expression for me. Difference. I’ve done some things and I like to mix them up and don’t go for any specific trend. I just do what I feel like — according to the day.

AND THAT CLOSET, GIRL …
I collect a lot of stuff. I would not call myself a horder at all. I hate that word. Everything is super organized. It’s things that I love that make me happy.

WHAT’S THE KEY TO THAT JOY YOU’RE GIVIN’ OUT?

Smoking weed! A little hit in the morning.

And in the evening, a little bit of wine.

Michele is da bomb. Make yourself happy by following her on instagram @michelesaunders43

Glorious Broad #10: Lauren Ezersky

PHOTOS: CHRISTOPHER SCALZI / DISTILLED STUDIO

PHOTOS: CHRISTOPHER SCALZI / DISTILLED STUDIO

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GLORIOUS PROFESSION: TV Host, Writer, Model

GLORIOUS PERSONA:  Moxie for Miles, Fashionista Behind the Scenes-ter

GLORIOUS QUALITIES:  Yonkers Tone and 'Tude, Signature Style, Brutal Honesty

GLORIOUS PHILOSOPHY:

I never say no to anything

Lauren Ezersky has been on the New York scene for decades — as host of the cult fashion insider gab-fest  “Behind the Velvet Ropes” and writer of Paper Magazine's howlingly successful “Lunch with Lauren” column, she helped create the scene itself. You can't get more New York than that.

She's everywhere — watching my new fave Netflix brain freeze, Dating Around,  — who steals the show in episode 4? Lauren. Best line: “I’ve got class with a K, baby…” Amen, sistah!

The typical descriptions for Lauren? Eccentric, outlandish, hilarious — all true. Beyond the bon mots, her no bullshit take on getting on with life really drew us in. My lunch with the very Glorious Broad, Lauren Ezersky in NYC …

GB: Well, you nearly created reality TV.
I DID create reality TV. No doubt.

GB: Do “they” recognize you for that? You were so fucking good …
Probably not. You know, I used to interview the cab driver, the elevator guys, the street cleaners — all on the fly – and then get backstage and talk to designers. Nothing was staged.

GB: Favorite moments?
I did a great interview with Alexander McQueen in bed …

GB: Do you miss that in your life now?
Sure. But I’d want to do it right or I don’t want to do it. Now it’s all competitive kinds of shows — like who’s the next Michael Kors? It’s mean-spirited. That’s not what I wanna do.

GB: And at the same time as “Velvet Ropes,” you were writing the “Lunch with Lauren” column for Paper magazine — interviewing every top dog fashion designer. One of my favorites was with Donna Karan, where you said: 'So, Donna. Tell me. Do you, like, pig out at night?'  
(Laughing) Love interviewing …

GB: So “Behind the Velvet Ropes” ends in early 2000’s — around the same time Paper shutters your column — did this promp a whole “who am I now” phase? Was it hard?
Not really. I was burned out. I was doing all of the show — me and my skeletal crew did ALL. And I wrote the column for 8 years. I worked my ass off. So I really needed time off. I had a place in the Hamptons at the time — and I chilled. Now, I have a place in Hudson. Same thing. Chilling. But I never say no to anything — if it sounds interesting.

GB: And now, girl — you are an influencer!
I don’t even know what that means …

GB: Well, here’s an example. I saw all over Instagram that Lady Gaga showed up at some event sporting EXACTLY your look 20 some years ago. Wha!!! Were you pissed?
Someone sent that to me. I just thought it was really funny. But I did have that coat, that hair, that makeup … What do they say? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery …

GB: You were ahead of the pack with your silver locks and black coal eyes among other things —an influencer before there were “influencers …”
The kids don’t know Liz Taylor much less me. But they do know Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and that whole crew. Half the people who are “influencers” don’t really have that much style. I look at the blogs and think — I would not do what this person says. They look terrible. And they don’t know fashion …

GB: With your signature look and Yonkers accent — you’ve always been your unapologetic self in the snobby fashion world. So — how’d you get IN? How’d you get the moxie?
I guess I didn’t give a shit. That helped. I went to an interview with a hot shot woman television host who shall remain nameless. And I told her “I love this kind of work, I wanna do your show, I think I’d be great at this.” You know what she said to me? “I am sorry to tell you, but you have a New York accent, you wear too much makeup. I think you should just try something else.”

GB: BIIIIIIIIIIIITCH
And let me tell you, that made me even more determined.
More than ever, I just kind of barged through. I got to really know EVERYBODY.

Half the people who are “influencers” don’t really have that much style. They look terrible. And they don’t know fashion!

GB: Your dark, exotic look has been “on brand” since before Karl sported his white ponytail — yet the blonde WASP type was the bomb then …
Oh it was. Cherry Tiegs, Christie Brinkley — that was the look. Little noses. You can thank Eileen Ford for that. And people who looked different got shit back in the day. I would approach certain people who were unique — like Lynn Yaeger, Vogue’s hottest writer — and tell her how fabulous she looked. She was shocked to hear that. Fashion is the one world that doesn’t accept really stylish people — which doesn’t make any sense. It’s the freaks, like me and my friends, that really make the trends. Someone can’t get a job at Vogue or Harpers Bazaar if they dress too outrageously — huh?  

 GB: Your parents: Did they “get” you?
Not really. I was the only child. That may have helped. I hated school. I kind of educated myself. They let me be …

GB: So what are you up to now? Where’s your passion going?
I model sometimes. But I am either too young for certain things – or not old enough. I’m not Carmen or Maye Musk — yet.  I do occasional TV. And travel’s what I want to do more of …

GB: I’ve been wanting to move to Paris for forever … been on my “bucket list”
Then just do it, ya know? Not just talk about it. I love New York. I’m never leaving …

GB: Are you a woman’s woman?
Yeah. And I’m not jealous. I love to hang out with beautiful women. I compliment, tell them ‘you’re so fabulous’ …

GB: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yeah. I lived my life as a man. I kind of did what I wanted. When I wanted. I just can’t put up with a lot of the man bullshit. Seriously. I just can’t. You have to make them like primary in your life. No. I don’t want to do that again.

GB: So what do you want from men now?
I’d like companionship. Someone to travel with — to love and be with. But I can’t say I will get married again or live in someone’s smaller space — unless they have a lot of money and a really BIG space.

All the age appropriate men though — which could be from 60 to 70 — they complain everything hurts them. Don't tell me 'cause I got my own issues. We're young and we're fabulous.

GB: Age appropriate’s okay, but I don’t want to hear desperate pleas either …
Yeah … I mean, everybody’s lonely, you just don’t want to hear about it…

GB: Do you miss being young?
Well, I can’t cause I’m not. If I could be 20 knowing what I know now — that would have been great. But it is what it is. Every day you learn something, get better — and then — poof — you die.

 GB: Do you tell your age?
Yeah. I’m 64.
Why deny it? Ridiculous.

GB: As you age, do you feel you are getting more happy?
No. I think aging kind of sucks — but the alternative’s not pretty. I think a lot of creative people are not as happy as they age — look at Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Life isn’t easy — no matter how much money or success. I’m relatively happy. But every day is mostly like mundane … you wake up, you have your coffee … it’s not that exciting. It would be great if it was — but — c’est la vie …

GB: What does being a Glorious Broad mean to you?
You know, I’m just me. And if somebody else thinks I’m fantastic — great. I don’t think I am so fantastic. I do think I’m unique  — everybody is unique. I’m not the girl next door. And that’s cool with me …

P.S. A little something extra — Lauren in her “Behind the Velvet Ropes” days ...

Can we just get this woman her own damn show please with a huge budget? I could have stayed awake through the Oscars if she was on the red carpet. ‘Till then we'll keep up with Lauren's being the “groovy gal about town” — that’s the sig on her IG account @laurenezersky — and it really says it all.

Glorious Broad #5: Faith Ringgold

Photo by Bryant Norman

Photo by Bryant Norman

GLORIOUS PROFESSION: Painter. Feminist. Educator. Author. Activist.

GLORIOUS PERSONA: A No-Holds-Barred Glorious Broad

GLORIOUS QUALITIES: Persistent, Creative, Fun, Ferocious

GLORIOUS FACT: She waited fifteen years – FIFTEEN – for her memoir, We Flew Over the Bridge, to get published. And what did she do in the interim? How about authoring sixteen award-winning books at last count. And she is still at it...

GLORIOUS PHILOSOPHY:

I don’t buy expiration date — as a woman — as an artist. I will do what I can do when, where I can do it. So there it is...

GB: Faith's fierce, determined, beautiful face beckoned me as I was flipping through a New York Times T Magazine article called “Works in Progress." While I was aware of her art, and thrown by her looks, it was her spirit that clinched me with the quote “If you live long enough and you persist, you are going to get recognition. You have to stay in the game. I wrote her that very same night asking for an interview and immediately got back the response: “Let’s do it.”

We met in her spacious studio — walls filled with art, sculpture, exhibits she was orchestrating. She was warm, she was funny and she was sheer power. A gorgeous woman at 85, we talked of our mutual love for Dinah Washington, for all things old jazz. She told me a story of her move to Jones Road in New Jersey, where she still lives. It was a story of racism she had never experienced before. She came from Harlem and hadn’t a clue — but oh, she prevailed. She ended her tale with “you really don’t know who you’re messing with.”

 But I knew — I knew it from one glance at her beaming through “T.” It is an honor to share this No-Holds-Barred Glorious Broad I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with.

STAYING IN THE GAME: 9 Questions for Faith

WHO DO YOU CREDIT FOR YOUR DRIVE?
My mother.  You work hard and you will get where you are going. Just keep going. That was my mother.

DID YOU EVER HAVE TO HIT "RESTART" — A PERIOD OF COMPLETELY STARTING OVER?
No. I’ve never had to hit restart. I never stopped. When I had kids, there were certain media I could not work in … so I worked smaller. I made dolls. I made sculpture. But — I’m working. All the time. 

YOU DIDN'T QUIT YOUR "DAY JOB" AS AN EDUCATOR UNTIL YOU WERE 41. NOW, THAT'S PERSISTENCE ...
Well, it took me until the 80s, when I was in my 50s, before things got really good and I was able to live off my art. And that’s because I stayed in the game and had so many wonderful people who helped me to reach my goals, like Robert Newman at my first gallery. I will never forget him …

WHY?
He was the first gallery I had ever been in, The Spectrum Gallery. Art was HUGE in the 60s — and I was the only one working smaller and more political. He wanted me to just do what I was doing — but let’s see what would happen if you get bigger. He gave me the keys to his gallery when he closed it to the public and said — here’s your studio for the summer. That’s when I did Die, my first really big painting — and The Flag Is Bleeding.

I was there when they said Black Power. I thought...wow...when have you ever heard of power and black used in the same sentence. It was a fantastic time to be alive and I was so glad that I used that time to record it.

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU'VE TAKEN IN YOUR LIFE?
Being an artist! If I had known the problems of being an artist, what you have to go through and how HARD it is, I wouldn’t have done it. And that would have been a mistake I now know. But it took everything …

IF YOU WERE TO CHOOSE A GLORIOUS TRIBE TO LIVE WITH — WOMEN YOU ADMIRE — WHO WOULD THEY BE?
I am gonna start with Hillary. She is brilliant! And should have been President … and Louise Bourgeois, Selma Burke, Elizabeth Catlett, Louise Nevelson … I had been to her house. There was no furniture that I can remember — it was all sculpture. All of these women were very very powerful, very inspiring.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FEMINISM...
Let me tell you how I BECAME a feminist. I was involved with the black power projects. I was recognizing the fact that the art world was exceedingly racist and we were trying to open up the museums so that black artists were getting in. So, we were going into the Museum of Modern Art with the art coalition group to demonstrate against the fact that no black artists were there... they would invite the men artists to come and sit around the table and — you know —  talk about the “situation.” Now, I was the one who had mostly engineered this demonstration, and yet, I am not even invited to sit around the table...  The next demonstration I called was at the Whitney. And that one was to demonstrate against the fact that there were no women being shown in the Whitney Biannual — and that — that was powerful! 

GB: GORILLA GIRL!!!

YOU'VE FOUGHT FOR FEMINISM, AGAINST RACISM, SEXISM ... WHAT ABOUT AGEISM?
At this point, I just live my life! And we’re not going away! We’re no longer just some little old person sitting in the corner. I just became a vegetarian this last year, taking 30-day challenges and feel fabulous. Bad food doesn’t taste good to me any more. How’s that from a former junk food lover ...   .

TELL US ABOUT THIS PROJECT YOU ARE WORKING ON...THIS QUILTUDUKO...
It’s an app I designed based on Sudoku. Wrote the music for it and  have more than sixty diagrams and thousands of beautiful images. They keep that brain functioning and use the color and design for it.

WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU WANT TO GIVE YOUNGER WOMEN OUT THERE?
Be generous. Help people … not only maintain your success and achieve it –— but pass it on …

GB: Let me get this straight: Faith wanted to take a break from writing and making art — so she invented a game requiring over 60 visual diagrams and then wrote the music for it. And she has a new book out since I interviewed her on Amazon called “A Letter to my Daughter, Michelle Wallace.”  Ummm, what did YOU do today?

Faith is GB's Queen. That simple. You can learn more about her on her site faithringgold.com.

Describing her new project: Quiltuduko