My mother has always been the key arbiter of wisdom in my life—and not just because she taught me that my nipples must forever point upward in my bra. My Mami—equal parts powerhouse, lady and muse—taught me that beauty is not an adjective, but instead a verb, and raised me on the power of projecting confidence in order to genuinely obtain it. I remember thinking she looked like a movie star when she attended career day at my elementary school, enchanting my classmates (but mostly me) with talk of art and design, as her vivid green eyes flickered while she spoke, and her bright red finger nails danced in the air with passionate gesticulation.
Of course I wanted to try on every single pair of pumps in her closet, smear on her shimmery lipsticks and ensconce myself in her exotic jewels—but more than that, I wanted to read all the books that she read, know all the things that she knew, and radiate the sophistication that she naturally seemed to wake up with every single day. It wasn’t just the subtle perfection of her eau de toilette and seemingly effortless feminine flair that astounded me; it was really the gusto of her intellect, the razor sharpness of her savvy and the ardor in her expression that made her my very first icon.
My mother also gave me the gift of literature, and it was with her that I first discussed the concepts of magical surrealism and the impossible handsomeness of Howard Roark and the mystery of Milan Kundera and the perverse brilliance of little Owen Meany. She is consistently the first person I go to when I finish a great book, and the first person I go to when I need a good book to start. She taught me how to dive into a story as if it were mine alone to enjoy, and in doing so, also nourished my desire to write.
My mother has always been a master of balance—between art and design. Between beauty and brains. Between family and work. Between spirituality and identity. Between wife and mother. A complete wizard at blending the best of everything into a force of total inspiration and insight; a woman, who, in all of her manifestations as a consummate matriarch and gifted professional, is endlessly charged with the force of creation. I watched my mother, an immigrant in her twenties, start an interior business out of my childhood bedroom, and learned directly from her (and equally from my father, who has always been her co-pilot) that dreams are directly within our reach. She taught us that nothing is impossible, that ideas are building blocks and that creativity and laughter are two of life’s most amazing tools. She encouraged us to follow every single one of our imaginative impulses—be it painting, drawing, dancing, music, acting, sculpture or anything else that might strike our fancy. She gently pushed us to push our own edges, and showed us, by example, that our talents are to be used as personal fuel.