Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer Reading

As we prepare to set sail for a little vacay across the high seas next week, it's a toss up for me as to who will make my summer reading list: James Frey or Scott McClellan.

Okay, so I do try to steer clear of politics on this blog, and I will make another feeble attempt now. But I realized with all the hullabaloo surrounding these two men, how curious it is that they share something so obvious in common. They are both two people who have made extremely profitable careers out of trying to pass off lies as truths, and are now making even more money after coming clean about it.

That's the thought that struck me as I watched Keith Olbermann last night. I nearly gagged when Keith turned to Scott (yes, we're all on first names, here) and said something about the monumental contribution Scott was making to history. OK, that's probably true, but I swear Keith was poised to just pat Scott on the back when he said it.

We're talking about the guy who fronted for the administration from 2003-2006, here. A man who, now he admits, knowingly deceived the press on many accounts about the current administration. Remember when journalist David Gregory pinned him down about Karl Rove leaking Valerie Plame's name? Scott wasn't even squirming then, even though he had been caught red-handed on national television for all the world to see.

I realize I'm painting a thin line to follow. But I guess I'm wondering if somehow it just isn't better to have sinned, than not sinned at all. Or, put this way, is a self-professed liar any better than a successful one? Only Scott, James, and their bankers may be able to answer that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Invasion of the Pods

After so many false starts to spring, I know it's finally here. What with the passing of Memorial Day weekend and the humid whether, there's no doubt. What really clinches it for me, though, is one thing: the flood of house guests we have lined up from here on 'til Labor Day.

For those of you in multiple bedroom houses surrounded by an expanse of immaculate lawn, visitors are no big deal. But in New York, where every square foot is relished, a house guest can mean chaos. Thank goodness, we've actually got a spare room and bathroom for out-of-towners. But my work day (since I work from home) is turned upside down and everything is lamentably put on hold.

Now that things are starting to take off for me, and losing a work day is a little more critical, we've come to somewhat of a solution. We just send our friends all the info they need on the city's pod hotels.

Have you heard of them? I know in Europe there's one in Heathrow, and the frugal Dutch have had one in Amsterdam for some time now. It's just a room, a typical Manhattan room, with or without bath. Typical Manhattan meaning tiny, that is.

But with all that the city has to offer, who wants to spend time in their hotel room, anyway? Which is exactly the point. The idea behind it is that the economy of scale translates directly into economy of savings. They're clean, they're modern, even a bit trendy, I'd say.

Though I have to admit, the Japanese have taken this idea to the extreme. Of course, space is an even greater commodity in Japan, so I have to be a bit more understanding. But the pods there look too much like a morgue, for my tastes. Hey, I've heard of kinkier things becoming fashionable in Japan, so maybe that's just the point.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Setting Sun in the City

Just coming off a blog lamenting how the city is changing, I feel like I need to make amends. There's no place on this planet like New York, and tomorrow and Friday, something will happen that will make me remember why I think that.

Do you know about Manhattan-henge? It occurs twice a year, when the setting sun is aligned perfectly with the grid of Manhattan's city streets. For the last fifteen minutes before sundown, every single cross street (that's those that run east to west for you out of towners) will be fully illuminated.

It's kind of a magical moment, if you happen to be outside during this time. All the windows on these cross streets glisten in the setting sun, as if they've been tapped with fairy dust.

It's moments like these I want to spread my arms and shout to the sky, "I love this city!" It's true...grit, grime, and all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The End of An Era

It seems like every week, a new crack forms in my little heart, you know the one, sandwiched in between the I & NY on the white tank I break out on the weekends. This is no big breaking news here, but it's taken me a while to own up to it. Florent is shuttering its doors at the end of the month.

First it was that donut shop, a teeny mom & pop joint on the corner of 86th and Lexington, which made Boston creams to die for. Then it was the barber shop down the street, the Chinese Peruvian joint (yeah, I know that that's about the weirdest combination you'll ever find, but somehow, it works), the Dominican guy who fixed my heels and would always put an extra hole in my belts when I bought them too big.

Maybe it's just the necessary result of spending more years here than I can now count on one hand. It would be silly to think that the city could always stay the same, because then what fun would that be? But I have to wonder sometimes: is New York changing for the better when every time I go out, all I see is a blanket of homogeneity whose fiber is predominantly white upper middle class?

I mean, everywhere I turn, there's some luxury condo project going up where an apartment starts at no less than an easy million. So, no wonder that Florent is closing. Who, besides maybe a Jean Georges or Keith McNally can afford to pay $30,000 in rent anyway?

When we used to live a couple of streets away, Florent was the place to eat on weekends, as opposed to the much trendier corner cafe, where I felt like I had to be dressed head to toe in Marc Jacobs to fit in. OK, so ever since I've frequented the French eatery, the clientele has always pretty much been Wonder Bread (as opposed to the tranny set Florent is famous for after hours.) But, the food was always good, and more importantly, there was this sense of permanence, like whatever happened, you could always go back next week, and everything would be exactly the same.

Even if owner Florent Morellet were to reconsider retirement and open up shop someplace else, the place just wouldn't be the same. But as a resident of a city that prides itself on change, were that unlikely scenario to happen, I have to remain open to the possibility that, though it probably wouldn't be the same, might it actually be better? Maybe.

A Little Bitty About an Alpha Kitty

I may have mentioned meeting Andre J for the first time last week. The experience was so special, I think the encounter deserves its own blog.

Besides being immortalized on the cover of French Vogue by none other than Carine Roitfeld, in a Burberry coat no less, what really comes to mind when I think of this gender bending phenomenon is his smile.

Despite the packed room, it was a little hard not to notice Mr. J off to the side of the room...his gorgeous hair, the bright pink frock he happened to be wearing. But really, through the smoke and in the dim of the room, all I could see was a set of the most pearly whites nearly glowing in the dark, and framed by that infamous beard.

From what I know of him, he, like many of us, have survived a lot of adversity. Which is what makes him all the more special, I suppose. He's just a bright glowing light, who also happens to be a revolutionary when it comes to how we look at the world, how we define our sex, how we define others.

And yes, to compliment his smile, he also has the most amazing mane of gorgeous hair that I've ever seen, on man or woman alike.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Model Bash

Last night's party celebrating Rootstein's launch of the new Agyness Deyn mannequin was probably one of the best I've been to in some time. Alas, I couldn't stick around long enough to see Aggy in the flesh as she was apparently stuck in a shoot and scheduled to drop in towards the end of the bash. But talking to self proclaimed Alpha Kitty Andre J and seeing Michael Musto somewhere other than on my tv screen as a commentator on Keith Olbermann...oh, and how could I forget glimpsing the subject of my previous blog, Arlenis Pena?...almost made up for it.

The really big highlight though? Finally getting to meet Kevin, who owns the gallery...and Rootstein really is more gallery than mannequin maker. I say finally because there's a bit of a back story here. I used to live in Chelsea, literally across the street from Rootstein, and our apartment window looked out onto the gallery. I passed the storefront every day, and have been a big admirer of their work for years. Whenever Rootstein held one of its launch parties, I'd always look out from my window and gaze at the crowd of people overflowing into the street.

"That's looks like some party," I'd comment to my then boyfriend. "Wouldn't it be great to go?"

Recounting that story to Kevin in the flesh, we both got a chuckle. And then he proceeded to tell me about the work, answering all the questions I was aiming at him in quickfire succession. Kevin took over the business from founder Adel Rootstein when she retired some years back. He is a visual display artist and stylist by vocation, but a designer at heart, making all the clothes adorning the PVC beauties himself.

Rootstein has collaborated with some of the most legendary faces: Twiggy, Pat Cleveland, Veruschka, Suzy Parker, Diane Brill, Karen Mulder, Elaine Paige, Joan Collins, Erin O'Connor, Maggie London and the list goes on and on.

I nearly had to push my tongue back into my mouth when Kevin told me about his archive of photos, dating back since the company started, and numbering thousands upon thousands of shots.

And hopefully, I"ll be able to own some of these priceless images sometime in the near future. His next project is to compile a book about the company, which sounds like a great reason for another party to me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Waiting for Margaret Cho

Who knew that Margaret Cho was working on her own reality tv series? I didn't actually, until I met one of the show's producers and he spilled the beans. Since then, I've been chomping at the bit for "The Cho Show" to air on VH1, especially since he gave me a preview of what was to come.

Well, I won't go into too much detail, but the episode he did mention had something to do with a G-spot enlargement procedure.

"What's that?," I asked naively. "Most women don't think they even have one."

"Exactly, he responded, "there's an entire procedure that the doctor performs to find it first. And let me tell you, there's a lot of moaning involved."

I've been a big fan of Margaret Cho for years, even though I happened to miss her disastrous first foray into TV Land. (I had a good excuse, though...I was living outside the country at the time.)

But I've always keenly connected to her comic material, for obvious reasons since we share the same cultural background. And no matter how many times I've heard her impression of her mother, it still makes me laugh so hard, tears roll down my eyes every time. Maybe because it sounds uncannily like our mothers could be long lost twins.

I think, though, that one of the reasons why I admire her is that she's taken so much pain and distress and used it as material for her work. Her battle with image driven networks, her subsequent eating disorder, her alcohol use, and of course, cultural identity issues.

Now, I'm pleased as punch that my summer programming is shaping out so nicely. I mean, Kathy Griffin is one of my all time faves and watching her almost always guarantees me a full hour of laughs in the summer. With Cho on the program, I'm sure to have twice the fun. Let the shows begin!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Cautionary Tale with A Fairy Tale Ending?

Since the news broke last month that Miguel Adrover had found the backing he needed to return to the fashion world, I've been waiting with baited breath. And now the Mallorcan almond farmer is already on his press junket, showing his capsule collection for German green cataloguer Hess Natur.

Adrover's is the cautionary tale for all us struggling designers. He's the underdog we all rooted for whose financial demise was detailed in the pages in WWD. People wanted him to succeed so badly, they even volunteered and worked for him for free. I actually know someone who did precisely that, cutting fabric and patterns in the basement of his now almost legendary East Village boutique Horn.

Touted as the next big thing by the fashion elite, he had a cerebral, political approach to fashion. So when Pegasus stepped in to back him, the wide-spread beleif was that Adrover would become that next big thing, and you could literally hear the roar of the crowds. That is, until Pegasus went under, taking Adrover along with it.

Even Adrover's move back to the sunny isle of Mallorca was detailed in all the press. Of course, there was some hemming and hawing when he scrawled "Anyone Seen A Backer?" on his tee-shirt at his farewell show in New York....but how can you not love a guy with such chutzpah?

I hate to wonder, but I do: After an absence of several years, and the envious backing of a multi-million company behind him, however green, will he able to re-ignite the love affair a second time around? So far, this is the only pic I can find after scouring for more shots of his collection. But based on this, I think he can.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Today's blog might show the real geek in me, especially when I could certainly find loads of things to write about, what with New York currently hosting two of Europe's most pre-eminent designers: The Kaiser Karl Lagerfeld, and John Galliano, who could not accept an award in Savannah as he was confined to his luxury hotel bed with a 104 degree fever (get better John!).

But I'm still reeling from the news. Bill Blass owner NexCen reporting that it may fold and that it would likely restate its annual 2007 report because it didn't come clean with certain details about some debt repayment. The indiscrepancies seem to be so wide-spread, the company even said that KPMG's audit report and its analysis of management's ability to reliably report financial data could not be trusted.

How does that happen? I know that's a silly question after we've seen what a company like Enron was capable of doing. But really, how do companies conduct businesses that way? Well, not for long, seems to be the short answer.

So that leaves a big question mark over Bill Blass, again. The label was just being revived under NexCen's ownership, and had recently hired Peter Som to lead that revival. But the house has gone through a string of designers since Blass' death in 2002, all failing to do just that.

Now with it's new owner in dire financial straits, we can only hope that this venerable American label doesn't fall into the hands of some financially sound licensing mastermind who will dilute the brand into another money-making mass market Oleg Cassini. I shudder at the thought.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Seasons Change

I guess I haven't been able to get my head around spring, what with this fickle weather here in New York and all. With the rain and unseasonal cold, I wonder how that has been affecting us at the checkout counter. I guess I'm reminded every time I open up the pages of WWD, and see another mass retailer reporting record losses one after the other. But it also brings to light the divergent pulls in today's world, how the demand for luxury and good product is ever stronger. Case in point: Valentino and Versace reporting healthy sales despite lagging sales elsewhere.

Chanel is no exception. Ever since Karl Lagerfeld has been at the company's helm, he's magically transformed the company into gold. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the man's business acumen. Aside from his diet book, his accomplished photography, and his immortalization as a DJ in Grand theft auto, the Kaiser was the heir to a condensed milk legacy, so it must be in the genes.

Lagerfeld recently showed his resort collection in Miami, flying starlets and models to showcase what is otherwise a minor collection. Did you see his interview for and his response to how the concept of resort has changed? It's just such a practical, no nonsense take:

"It's not Resort anymore. It's another collection—in the story of Fall, pre-Fall, Paris/London, pre-Spring, Spring—called "cruise." It's like a code name, but the thing is that Chanel needs six ready-to-wear collections a year, every two months completely new things at the shops. There are hundreds of shops all over the world that have to have something new all the time or else there's no reason to go back. Or else you go to a place like Colette where they see 100 labels. If it's one label, this label needs to have something new all the time."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tutte Nere in Italia

I can't wait for the upcoming Vogue Italia featuring a star-studded cast of all black models. After Iman signed on, anyone else was just icing on the cake. But now, looking at the roster...Liya Kebede, Alek Wek, Jourdan Dunn, & Chanel Iman...the production is sure to go down in history as one of those iconic shoots, perhaps giving the legendary 1992 supermodel shoot for US Vogue a run for its money.

The freshest face will be Arlenis Pena. There's already been a buzz about her based solely on her polaroids, but it wasn't until I saw the stills from some of the resort shows that I realized what a singular beauty she is.

Hailing from the Dominican Republic, and having only just recently been signed in New York, she's already attended last week's Costume Institute gala on the arm of fellow Dominicano Oscar de la Renta.

There's been kind of a universal recognition that Arlenis is slated for greatness. I've heard that that happened with Kate Moss so many years ago when she was up for the Calvin Klein ad campaign. When she stepped into the room for her first casting for the job, everyone knew that something historic was happening.

Isn't it kind of great that we could be seeing that again, and now with a woman of color?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Listen Up

Yesterday´s blog got me thinking. If girls like top model Ali Michaels, who´s walked in every show that´s worth watching, face discrimination about her weight, what about real girls?

What about a girl like Beth Ditto, lead singer of one of my favorite bands Gossip? Even though she was nominated for Sexiest Woman of the Year by weekly UK music rag New Musical Express (and posed nude for one of its covers....kudos Beth!), I´ve been waiting for her and her kick-ass band to really hit it big stateside.

Are the English just more open to those of us who are a little weight challenged? I mean, Beth did perform in LA for Alexander McQueen´s new store opening, donning one of his couture frocks no less. While current Brit It boy in fashion Henry Holland has vocally expressed his wish to collaborate with the buxom diva.

Not only can the girl seriously belt out a tune, and give Lily Allen a run for her money in songstress style, Beth even pens a weekly column for one of my favorite English broadsheets, The Guardian.

So, what gives? When will Elle, Teen Vogue, or Rolling Stone finally put Beth who, incidentally, is out about being gay, on one of their covers, curves and all?

Forbidden Fruit

Anyone catch Ali Michael on The Today Show this morning? The soon to be 18 year old took to the podium to speak out about eating disorders in the modeling industry, along with Amy Astley of Teen Vogue, which is featuring a tell-all next month.

I have to admit, I am usually generally impressed by how smart young models are today, young people in general really. When I was 17, I hardly knew what I wanted to eat for lunch (no pun intended), much less articulate it.

Ali, who may now perhaps be using the more sophisticated moniker of Alexandra, or at least that was how her name appeared on the credits, is speaking out about her own experiences with the pressure to be ultra-thin as a model.

When she realized she had lost her period for a year, and her hair started falling out in clumps, she finally reckoned something was wrong. That was when she headed to a doctor and started working with a nutritionist. But after after gaining a healthy 5lbs, she was told in Paris that her legs were too fat to walk in shows. The girl is 5'9", and 105 lbs.

I guess The Today Show doesn't read WWD, because a former fashion editor who is embroiled in a public move to another magazine was quoted and credited her lost title. Not to take away from the gist of the story here, because the quote was spot on.

What does it mean when all these girls in fashion are held to unhealthy, unattainable ideals while the rest of America grows fat?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pros

Have you heard about Well, I'm a big fan of the French version because you have none other than doc filmmaker Loic Prygent interviewing the inimitable Carine Roitfeld, usually clothed in Balenciaga or Comme des Garcons, a scarf stylishly covering her shoulders in the way that only the French can seem to manage. But now, after learning that Vogue is rolling out its services big brother style, hooking up to various websites so that it can track viewership and the sales generated from its videos, I'm not quite sure what to think of it.

That doesn't prevent me from being a faithful viewer. One of the most recent segments was, of course, coverage of the recent Met ball. Claudia Schiffer came with the perenially tanned Mr. Valentino, and did she look amazing.

I've seen her pop up recently in a slew of ads. Not second tier, mass-market ads, mind you, but Chanel. And I can see why. While I've never been her numero uno fan, for a woman who's twice the age and then some of most models on the runway, a mother of two, and a Unicef ambassador (oh, and let's not forget sometime can't forget her cameo in Love Actually), Claudia could give any 16-year old It girl a run for her quilted Chanel ballet flats.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Going Home

Mother's Day weekend is one of the few weekends out of the year when I pack up a bag and head to Philadelphia, city of soft pretzels and hoagies (yes, if you're a Cosby fan, you know what one of those is.)

Living in the United States has always struck me because no matter where you are, from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, you can find pretty much the same goods and services with minimal degree of variation. Sometimes that's not a good thing.

I think that's why, whenever I make it down to the City of Brotherly Love, I always try to check out the thrift stores within a 10 mile radius of my parents' house. The greatest difference for me is the prices. Whereas vintage goods in the city tend to be somewhat astronomical at times, you can find a frock like this one elsewhere for less than a couple of gallons of gas.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I'm not a social butterfly, and am the first to suggest a movie night in and order pizza on a night off, so last night was a bit unusual.

After hitting the Playgirl party at HK Lounge, we went eastward to a bash H&M was throwing at the Gramercy Park Hotel to kick off their swimwwear line.

As ridiculous as this may sound, starting the evening off with Playgirl, I headed off to H&M to get some gratuitous kicks and check out the models walking around in little bikinis and swimming trunks. (Apparently, that idea was nixed after the last swimwear party, when the models got drunk and started making out with each other in the pool in front of all the none-too-bemused guests.)

The venue in itself was reason enough to go. The rooftop terrace, which is normally closed to the public, was stunning. While there, though, I wondered why the terrace was glassed off on such a beautiful night.

On the taxi cab ride home, which we happened to share with a nice couple we met at the party, I learned the full story. Word is that someone went up to the terrace in recent days to jump off to their demise.

Whether or not that person succeeded, I'll never know. But I could just imagine some jaded lover, hurling him or herself over, perhaps inadvertently leaving behind a Louboutin heel or Prada loafer, as they fell to their end.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sometimes A Girl Just....

Finishing my Holiday line, I've already dived straight into Fall production. Calculating yields, ordering yardages, trim, figuring grading rules, and fitting pre-production samples. It's enough to drive some designers straight out of their own label to work for someone else. And sometimes it does.

So you can imagine I needed a little breaky. I don't often consider designing a dress on the fly a break from work, since that's kind of what I do all day. But I've had this fabric for years, literally, and I've always taken it out now and then and wondered what I could do with it.

Thanks to Balenciaga and Stella McCartney, floral prints are back in a big way. So I won't feel like a goth Holly Hobby wearing this little printed number out on the town. I started on it after dinner last night. I've just got the neck and hem to finish, and it's a go.

I even have an event to go to this evening, but I'm on the fence about whether I'll wear it...only because Playgirl is throwing the bash. But heck, Playgirl was started as a feminist counterweight to its raunchier male edition. So I could show up in chaps and a leather whip, and fit right in.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Last ones...

I had to throw in a couple of tops into my Holiday line. I hate to make it sound like an afterthought, but I still do feel like we're in the era of the dress.

On the other hand, there's still a huge contingent of women out there who go out in jeans and need these tops to complete a look. With the warm weather finally upon us, that formula will change, but only slightly. We'll be seeing white jeans, and soft tops.

I think that's why funky shoes have become so important recently, either in color, or shape. But recently, I've been loving piggy pink and nude shoes as well, especially made of patent leather.

If you recognize my model Jackie, and are a fan of American Idol (like me) then I wonder if any of you caught her in the studio audience last night? She's a David Archuleta fan and was holding up a huge sign of support for him when the camera panned to her. (She was also wearing one of my dresses!...but alas, hidden behind her banner....she still looked great though!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Holiday Inspiration

The first time that Jerry Hall stepped into my realm of consciousness was when I first saw her in an old video of a Thierry Mugler show, the one inspired by bees. (I mean, of course I knew her as Mick Jagger´s ex, but this marked the first occasion when I saw her as something other.) The models were corseted beyond human dimensions, pinched in at the waist, sculpted out at the hips, all to achieve that apiary's waistline. And Jerry played the role to perfection, gliding down the runway as if she had transparent wings.

Despite her failed reality tv career (remember that awful show where she cast for men in a gender reversed pygmalion?), and her work as the face of Levitra, I still imagine her as a 6 foot tall glamazon. Her lips are rouged, her wavy hair is always immaculate, and she's robed in a flowy dress.

She's the perennial girl on the go. In my mind's eye, she's always just about ready to hit the city for a night on the town. Because at that moment, she looks perfectly cool and sophisticated, and I can only imagine all the antics of the evening yet to come.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dancing Queen pt 2

When I started to design Holiday, I thought of the kind of dress that I would want to go out for a boogie in. An easy boogie, at least. Because in these dresses, it's more likely that I'd order a cosmo and just sway to the music than break out in a proper shuffle on the dance floor. I might be able to manage an electric slide, but nothing more strenuous than that to be sure.

First glimpse...Holiday 08

I recently finished my Holiday/ Resort collection to show at a major trade show here in New York over the weekend.

The inspiration was very much Dancing Queen (think Jerry Hall and Studio 54.) It's a scaled down collection, but I already have my favorite picked out. It's the one Jackie is wearing in this shot.

I kind of went gaga over this leopard print, which is an unusual direction for me. I've never been the kind of designer to do dresses for sex kittens. And while this line still steers clear from being in-your-face, I wanted to go for a certain subtle sensuality which isn't always that easy.

My line book should be up soon on my website soon. But I'll be sure to post some more later.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Model of the Moment....I heart Hollis

It's not like I know the girl really, but I felt like a proud mama hen the other day when I opened up the pages of a glossy and saw Hollis as the face of the Paul Smith spring campaign.

I remember chatting with her at my castings earlier this year. The girl was cool personified. Hollis? I recall asking. That's an unusual name. Yes, my real name is Wakeema Hollis. Wakeema works in Tennessee, but in New York, I'm Hollis.

In the slot game of bookings during Fashion week, I lost out on Hollis. Then I saw her walk a succession of shows: Marc, Duro Olowu, Biba, and Westwood. And before this major Paul Smith campaign, I spotted her in a gorgeous Moschino ad. It's the one shot with just a bevy dark skinned black girls, all dressed in luscious ruby red coats. If you've seen it, she's the one next to the Moschino logo.

Now I wonder, where will we see Ms. Hollis next?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Muses of Yves Saint Laurent Pt 3

Loulou de la Falaise is perhaps the most well known of YSL´s muses. Though I had known had that she had always been universally credited as one of the designer´s inspirational forces, it wasn´t until I saw Teboul´s documentary about YSL that I realized the full impact of her presence in the design house.

Rather than mere muse, though that is by no means an empty title, Loulou was really the designer´s right hand, his directrice of design. No wonder that, following YSL´s retirement, she has explored her own creative side and delved into designing herself with her own maison of style in Paris.

I remember watching her in the moving pic, being captivated by everything about her: her double pleated pants, the way she would roll up her sleeves, or turn up her collar...even the way she would stand there half-akimbo, a cigarette in her hand.