Abrams Books sent me a copy of She in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and from the heart.
I keep thinking about a blog post I read about Kate Spade shortly after she died. “It is important to not only celebrate her life,” wrote Kate Arends, “but to try and understand her death in a way that changes the dialogue around what it means to create a persona and be a person.” The stark contrast between Spade’s public persona and private pain does not make her brand any less authentic, Arends says. “I can only assume that so much of the Kate Spade brand … came from a deep understanding of what it means to be human,” Arends says. “The highs, the lows, the beauty, the darkness.” It’s a great post and I could quote it all day (you should read it) but what I’m getting to here are two things: 1) that Kate Spade herself belongs in the pages of the brand’s fourth book, She: Muses, Visionaries and Madcap Heroines; and 2) that the women celebrated in the book — even those larger than life — each experience (or experienced) struggles that informed who they are: whole, fallible, three-dimensional people who can inspire us by their words and actions, regardless of how much of their inner lives they choose to let us see.
So what’s in the book already? Well, it’s a coffee table book that’s gorgeous to look at and lovely to read, with a mix of photographs, quotes and short and longer profiles of celebrated women, both real and fictional, alive and dead. Everyone from Gloria Steinem to Miss Piggy; from Frida Kahlo to Nina Simone (and many you may never have heard of as well). The book came out last October and I’ve been coveting it ever since.
Here’s a look at some of the women featured in the book, and one of the “she” statements I love.
“iris apfel (1921–) used to cut class in astoria, queens every thursday afternoon when she was 11 to explore manhattan. she haggled her first vintage find — a sixty-five-cent brooch — in greenwich village on one of those outings. she was an assistant illustrator to robert goodman, a writer for women’s wear daily and by her 30s, was criss-crossing the globe through european flea markets and souks in northern africa collecting artisanal clothes, furniture and fabrics for her burgeoning interior design business. when 17th-, 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century fabric supplies dwindled, she co-founded old world weavers with her husband to replicate them, using specialist looms and craftspeople all over the world. greta garbo, estée lauder and faye dunaway were her clients; as was the metropolitan museum of art and the white house. (she did historic restorations for nine administrations.) now in her 90s, she’s a visiting professor at the university of texas. ‘i always feel like a big sponge, i feel like i learn lots of things by osmosis, and i feel that i’m always absorbing. i mean, when people say ‘what is your inspiration?’ i could throw up. i mean, i’m inspired by the fact i still get up in the morning. and i’m still here.'”
“gildna radner (1946–1989) once swanned around a party while holding her index finger to her forehead to hide a pimple. She laughed her way through her saturday night live audition before joining its debut cast. and then made candice bergen laugh on air during a scene about the right to extreme stupidity when candice misses a line and gilda adds her to the list. on screen, she and bill murray made the most authentic love nerds; off-screen, she told gene wilder on the first night they met she was going to marry him. (she did.) lucille ball was her childhood idol and she played her opposite desi arnaz on SNL. she was the first comedian to poke fun at a news anchor. (barbara walters, or ‘barbara wawa’ as gilda said.) she thought dogs were role models for living because of their unconditional love. she hailed from detroit, performed in second city with dan akroyd and jim belushi, and would pick being funny over being gorgeous any day. she was both.”
“chimamanda ngozi adichie (1977–) tells stories within stories, overlapping perspectives of richly complex characters; realist fiction (purple hibiscus, half of a yellow sun) set on a continent that is often otherwise seen by musch of the world as possessing a single story: africa. she writes are america (americanah, the thing around your neck), her part-time homeland, too. ‘now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about’ she titled her new yorker essay in the wake of the 2016 elections, a rallying cry for a diverse freedom of voices in a country born of the liberty of self. she is nigerian. black. feminist. igbo. a writer. a recipient of the macarthur genius grant. a graduate of yale. she did fellowships at princeton and harvard. but it’s amiss to categorize her as any one or two or three of these things because it’s the sum of all her parts that creates her story. ‘culture does not make people, she wrote in her 2014 speech-turned-book we should all be feminists. people make culture. if it is true the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.'”
“She prefers both her drinks and her conversation to be sparkling.” — Kate Spade New York
Have you read She or any of the other Kate Spade New York books?
Images and text shared here with permission from the publisher. 1: Isabel Wilkinson, “Iris Apfel on Individuality, Her New Movie, and Being Famous” 15 april 2015, nymag.com; 2: Irving Penn © CN; 3: chimamanda ngozi adichie (email, The New Yorker and We Should All Be Feminists); 4: © Steven Lewis.