As her fans sashayed into the theatre, showcasing slinky silk dresses and towering, heavily-sprayed coifs, I realized that, despite the humble protestations of its star, the GG penchant for glitz, glamour and excess would not be silenced. It was the fascinating power over the social image that I really came here to see. What does it say about a stylist, make-up artist, or costume designer, when the character of their creation becomes the public’s muse in all things fashionable and fabulous? As Blake rightly said, “its [Jennifer Johnson] who creates the red carpet look of the Oscars. It’s not me.”
The bare, white movie screen blinked to life. The lights dimmed, popcorn nestled into the delicate dental crevices of many an attendee, and too-small wine cups sank into the oblivion of too-large cup holders. Cue the obligatory background noises. A phone rang. A baby cried (yes, a baby). Whispers. Hisses. Silence. A montage of films, each showcasing the outstanding work of Jennifer Johnson, Marianne Skiba and Donna Zakowska, played on the screen and I found myself in uncharted territory. A large portion of the audience was NYWIFT members; these are women whose professions predispose them to admire the hair, makeup, costume, and artfully-applied streaks of blood and gore on artfully-posed corpses. I am not so naturally inclined. A few minutes were all it took to adjust to this new sensibility, however, and I began to enjoy the pleasures of character illustration without the luxury speech or script.
Questions and answers followed, and each artist appeared at first to be a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight. Luckily Ana Gasteyer, SNL alum, was the perfect emcee. She coaxed, demanded, and cajoled answers from the seated lineup, who sat fidgeting in jet black director’s chairs against the white, now-silent screen. Ana lent her vivacity and electricity to a stage whose players this evening were those used to life behind the curtain. In turns stylists, mood stabilizers, dance partners, scapegoats, and visual magicians, these women are the true stars behind stage and screen. They provide indispensable support to the cast, and deserve recognition. (Side note: those without recognition this evening are the sponsors of the “schwag bag.” I was assured that I looked beautiful, that I didn’t need the fancy and expensive product within, that I probably already had it at home, and that I’d live to see another day without it. I’m no schwag hag, so I didn’t press the point.) The stars of the evening luckily showcased their product well, modeled as the true scions of top shelf style.
NYWIFT president Laverne Berry is a perfect example of New York media power and style. Her statuesque figure, softened by a disarming smile and willingness to please all, was draped in turquoise silk. When asked about her organization, and her dedication to supporting an extensive network of women in the media, she responded fittingly, with poise and self-assuredness. “It’s very different from LA,” she explained of the New York media scene. “This is a vibrant industry. So much of what gets done in film and documentary gets done in New York; so much production work is done here. We have films and TV shows that use New York as a backdrop because you can’t do it on a backset. Hopefully now (with reformed tax credit laws) there will be even more opportunity. After all, it’s New York.”