Yes, the title is a question not a statement.  This is a road my entrepreneur/freelancing friends and I are trying to navigate.

I was thinking about this while walking home after meeting up with some girlfriends.


They are a dynamic group of women.

However, one thing I have noticed time and time again (especially when I worked in Hollywood) is that so many of my female friends tend to downplay their success.  They say they’re lucky or get embarrassed when talking about their accomplishments.  Meanwhile, my male friends and colleagues would proudly discuss their success and many would take credit for things they didn’t even do.

Perhaps there is a fine line between bragging and just stating the facts.  What is it?

Is being too humble holding us back?  I’m not saying we need to go to a Trumpian level of bloviating but the constant self-deprecating, aww shucks thing needs to stop.

Even my friends who were born with a sliver platter, hustle.  True, their family’s influence helped them get in the door but they stay in the room because they’re great at what they do.  Luck is only a small part of their success.

Recently, the very talented Felicia Sullivan asked me to be part of a series she’s writing on successful female entrepreneurs.  At first, I wondered why would she want to interview me.  My friend Erica knocked some sense into me and I did the interview.  Then she told me I had to Tweet about it a few times over the next few months. I haven’t. Why not?

The fact that there’s a popular hastag called #humblebrag speaks volumes.  Why be passive aggressive?  A agent friend in Hollywood told me that there’s nothing wrong with with tooting your own horn as long as you also toot the horn of others.  Nobody wants to see or read a feed that is me, me, me, 24/7.

When I think about the self-promotion that turns me off, it’s because the person only talks about themselves. Always.

So I say go ahead and tell the world about the great things you’re doing. How will people know unless you have a publicist? Maybe some people won’t think these things are that great, special, or interesting. That’s okay.  It’s something you’re proud of.

I’m going to work on my own self-deprecating responses.  I now know I won’t succeed if I only dwell on negative things or what I haven’t accomplished yet in my career.  As 2015 draws to a close, I am thinking long and hard regarding how speak about my work and my business.

And yes, I’m going to retweet this interview:

When I first visited Rome in 2008, Arlene took me to the most incredible Italian restaurant–one I would never have found on a map. We were introduced by a woman who was interested in adapting my memoir for film. Although the project fell through, I’m thankful for having met Arlene and for our long-distance friendship since, punctuated by my occasional visits to Italy.

I admire Arlene deeply, embarrassingly so. She left a job, country, and life in pursuit of something other. She wasn’t tethered to age as a means of trapping one in one’s vocation, rather she set out to find her place in the world. Up until a few months ago she was a successful writer/producer and now tell stories in another form: interiors. I love women with verve, women who take risks, break ranks, and live without apology. Arlene is all of these things, but in the end she’s a truth-teller. I only hope to be as successful as I move through my acts. Let her story inspire you. –FS

When I first met you, you’d recently emigrated to Rome from the U.S. Truth be told, I admired you, how brave you were to leave a successful career behind for something other. This was a time before we’d read articles about expats and second acts. Your career has spanned politics, film and entertainment—but tell us how you returned to your first love: decorating. Why did you leave producing behind?

Arlene Gibbs: What timing. Until two months ago, I had two careers going on, screenwriter/producer, and decorator.

When we first met, I was writing full-time and developing a few projects as a producer. Everyone told me it would be impossible to be a screenwriter/producer based in Rome (especially without a trust fund). Even after our movie Jumping The Broom was released, and importantly was a hit, I heard the same thing. Nothing changed. Nobody cared. It was a “niche” film. When I pointed out to a producer friend that there were plenty of successful British screenwriters who worked in Hollywood but lived in London, I was told, “Yes, but they are British, white, and male.”

To your last question, it took me forever to see the light. Earlier this summer, one of my dear friends, who lives in Rome, said that the universe was screaming at me and I was ignoring the signs. This friend is usually not that crunchy. I needed to heed her advice.

Then I read this quote from JJ Martin, an American fashion and design journalist who lives in Milan, and everything clicked.

The best advice I’ve ever received was to look at everything that comes your way as an opportunity. Do not underestimate the power of chance and fate. Do what you love, what opens you up, not what closes you down, and makes you act like an asshole. Be responsible, be loving, be caring. That’s what I advise to anyone starting out. If you truly love fashion, it will come to you.

She’s talking about fashion but it could be applied to any creative endeavor. I wasn’t an asshole when I worked in Hollywood, my former assistants still speak to me, but I was not myself. I became a very bitter person.

I was recently hired for a decorating project in Los Angeles. It was my first trip back since making my big decision. It was a great experience. I returned to Rome feeling positive instead of depressed.

The rest of the interview is HERE.

Thanks again, Felicia!






First, I’ve just returned to Rome from a business trip to the States and the Caribbean.  Below are some random observations:

Los Angeles traffic continues to get worse. How is this possible.

Target is great.

J.Crew.  What is happening? I’ve been a fan since the 80s. Something is amiss.

Why is Ben and Jennifer’s former nanny in the press so much? What is her end game? Reality show?

Speaking of reality shows, what the heck is Hollywood Cycle?

Ina Garten.  Adore.

Guy Fieri. Why so many shows, Food Network? Why?!

My friend Erica posted this TIME magazine article that said Americans dressing like slobs equals freedom.  Perhaps I have lived in Italy too long or I am turning into my Caribbean parents because I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.  Freedom? From what? The tyranny of Dior?

The GOP debate. Fascinating.  Trump was peak Trump.

The flight attendants on Air France were very friendly and cheerful.  It’s a long flight from St. Martin to Paris (8.5 hours).  Meanwhile, the American Airline attendants on the Miami to St. Martin flight (only three hours) not so much.  Why?

Portions in America are too big.  I couldn’t finish a single meal.

The newish Restoration Hardware showroom in West Hollywood is odd. I don’t get it.  Is it just for the trade? Who thought it was a good idea to have a 40,000 sq ft store where you have to buy everything online or from the catalog? The scale is huge. How can any shopper, who doesn’t live in a castle, envision that massive furniture in their home?

It would never occur to me to combine these two things:


Second, in the past I have written about my Ferragosto issues.  Despite living in Italy for seven years, I was very American when it come to vacations and/or taking a break from work.

I said, “was” not “am.”  Finally, this year I get it.  I cannot wait for August 15th.  Truly.

My trip was intense.  I recently signed a Los Angeles based client and flew to Los Angeles direct from Rome. I have NEVER in my life been so happy to sit in a freezing cold plane for a thirteen-hour flight.  The six week heatwave in Rome was warping my brain. There were rumblings about Alitalia striking that weekend.  Thankfully, they didn’t and I got an upgrade to Business Class.  Nice.

That upgrade made a huge difference.  I had horrible jet leg during my trip to Los Angeles back in May.  This time it was much better.  I think it also helped that I walked to the Century City Mall shortly after arriving and stayed up until 10.30 p.m.

While I was running around Los Angeles with my client, I had deliveries and construction happening in Rome for another client.  Given the nine hour time difference, things were a little hectic.  I was only in Los Angeles for a few days and on my client’s schedule so I didn’t see many friends or “do meetings”.

Then I fly to Miami.  It was my first trip to the city.  I need to return and see more of it.  I really liked the vibe. I stayed at the Viceroy which was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the design district is shrinking after LVHM bought out several blocks.  It was still a productive trip. I sourced some great items for my Anguilla project.

From Miami I flew to St. Martin.  I said hello to my parents, and the next day took the ferry to Anguilla.

After all the flying, unpacking, repacking, shopping, meeting with contractors, painters, carpenters, project managers, receiving texts from clients in Rome about things we need to do ASAP, etc. etc., I hit the wall on Saturday.

While packing (again) I watch Flipping Out.  Can we talk about this show?  I have so many questions.  I wish Bravo aired in Italy.

I’m not complaining but a very strange thing happened during this trip.  I do not feel guilty about looking forward to August 15th. Not one bit.

Of course I’m not going completely cold turkey. There are quite a few back office things I need take care of during the break and meetings I must attend.

I bought a stack of shelter magazines in the States and the book The Bee Cottage Story.  I’m going to cut way back from the Internet and chill. I know September is going to be off the charts busy.  Everyone returns to town and I’m looking for a new apartment.  The latter will be an interesting process.

I may not be able to Dolce Far Niente for two weeks but can try for at least two days.  To prepare I need to put together a killer playlist which will include one of my favorite summer jams from August 1990.

Buon Ferragosto!

Of course there was drama.

My friend Marta and I decided to get the heck out of dodge as this heatwave is one of the worst on record.  There are no signs of relief.  I understand week or so with these kind of temperatures.  It is, after all, July in Rome.  However, an entire month of highs in the 90s and low 100s is not a good thing.

Did I mention that I don’t have air conditioning? I cannot keep my windows open at night as my pretty side street is filled with demonstrative high school Italian students, and drunk American exchange students until dawn.

I’m waking up at 4:00 a.m. as it’s impossible to sleep.  One of my clients is started a major construction project this week so I cannot work remotely in the mountains or at the beach as some friends have suggested.

All this to say Marta and I were READY to get out of here on Saturday but alas, Trenitalia had other plans for us.

It was one of those classic only in Italy moments.  The train was on time but then got stuck on the track just a few yards away from Termini Station.  There was something wrong with the current.  We couldn’t get off the train as we were on the tracks.  There was no place to safely walk.  They worked on the train and tracks for TWO hours.  Mind you, the train ride to Fondi is an hour or so.

At last, the train returns to the station and that’s when all hell broke loose.  Folks were not happy.  One woman was going off on the police.  I thought if she were in the States they probably would’ve tased her, then arrested her.

It’s funny, when we on the train things were pretty calm.  While there was some muttering, “ma che cazzo sta dicendo” (but, what the fuck is he saying?) when the conductor walked through our car to give us updates, people kept reading or chatting with their friends instead of complaining.

They did have another train waiting for us, on a different track, right away.  Trenitalia employees handed out bottles of water, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finally, we were on our way.  Instead of waiting for the bus (at this point we were starving) we hopped into a taxi mini-van with several other women who were going to Sperlonga.  They had been on the same train as us. When we saw the beach, they started clapping.  We kept cracking up because the driver was having a super animated conversation.

In a bizarre way the timing worked out better for us.  We arrived in time for lunch.  The restaurant, Scylla, was on the north side of the Historic Center and we wanted to be on the south side beach.  To climb back and forth wouldn’t have made sense.  So we sat down, had a lovely lunch, and then braved the sun to walk up and over to the other side.

Everyone was snapping photos of this sign.


I forgot all about the start to our day once we arrived.


Still thinking about this dish.


Sperlonga is a Blue Flag beach between Rome and Naples.


Starting our climb back up to the Historic Center.  I have written about Tiberius’s ruins HERE. It’s a great day trip from Rome.


A quick aperitivi in the main piazza before returning to Rome.  I didn’t want to leave the fresh air and cool breeze.


Fantastic signage.


The view from the bus stop.


A few years ago I wrote about how much I adore the boutique accessories label founded by Andrea Ferolla and Daria Rein, Chez Dédé.

There has been a lot of retail space turnover in our neighborhood.  Antique stores, artisans, etc., are shutting down and Subway fast food restaurants, and other weird sandwich shops are taking over.  There have been some great additions, like the Suppli spot but for every one of those there are four or five  places that leave locals scratching their heads.

Via Monserrato is one of the prettiest streets in Rome.  When I saw the large for rent sign where Ilaria MIani’s showroom used to be, I became very nervous.  What kind of janky business would set up shop on this street?

Then I saw this:



The store had its opening last week. Erica and I walked over and bumped into a bunch of our neighbors. One of our favorite bartenders, Fabrizio from Pierluigi, made the Kir Royales.

Unfortunately, for me, the store is stunning.  I should just leave my wallet there and let them take my money.  All of it.

Erica completely fan-girled LInda Rodin. I don’t blame her.  Ms. Rodin is a style icon for a reason. She was so gracious and didn’t give us the side-eye for geeking out.

I think I need to treat myself to a nice Grand Sac bag for my birthday.  It’s a big one (no, I’m not going to say which birthday it is as I still work in Hollywood).  I haven’t decided which bag yet. The island of Salina is one of my favorite places in the world but I also love the colors/style of the Portofino, Kenya, and Dubai bags.  I haven’t been to any of those places, so I think I should go with the Salina bag.

Below are photos from the opening.  Grazie mille, Daria for the invite!


Okay, I wrote this yesterday with the plan to publish today. I like to proof read before publishing yet, some typos still make it through. Grrrr.

On Saturday my friend Courtney called me and said she had to speak with me urgently on Sunday.  I asked what was wrong. Why couldn’t she tell me over the phone?  I was working all day on Sunday but said I would meet her in the afternoon.  Erica wanted me to stop by her daughter’s lemonade stand. I said I was on my way to meet Courtney but would stop by. I was worried about Courtney.  Erica said she was too and hoped that everything was okay.

I show up at Etablli.  Courtney sends a SMS saying she’s on her way and she asks me to order her a glass of wine. What the heck was going on? Was her news so heavy she needed to have a drink in hand?

She walks in and Erica (!) is right behind her.  They say, “Happy Birthday” and then this happened:


I had no idea they were planning this!  Erica thought I was going to buy the bag before my birthday so she and Courtney went into action over the weekend.  My birthday isn’t until August 26th.

I was/am floored.  I am not an easy person to surprise and they totally got me.  Well played ladies, well played.  I love my bag.

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Andrea is a very talented illustrator.



Linda Rodin. Fabulous.


Erica and Linda.



So true.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

The song UMBRELLA is playing on a loop in my head.

Finally, we had a sunny day in Rome today. I try not to complain too much on Twitter given what my friends who live on the East Coast in the States are dealing with.  I love snow but it’s easy to say that when you don’t have to commute in it or shovel it.

There are tiny signs of Spring busting out in Rome.  Flowers are starting to bloom, tourists are wearing T-shirts while locals still wear winter coats, and the Farmers Markets are filled with artichokes.

I have Spring Fever.  Hardcore.

Villa Borghese Park.




I was jogging in the park and saw this peacock enjoying the sunshine.



Another sign of Spring, the Rome Marathon.



Blooming tree in Villa Borghese Park.












Springy colors.



These strawberries from the Testaccio Farmers Market were delicious.



A clear sign of Spring.  Roman artichokes.



And spring peas at the market in Campo dei Fiori.


Photos:  Me and my iPhone


Recently, I wrote about how I was inspired by Garance Doré’s post on the New York City Ballet.

Last week I checked out IALS (Istituto Addestramento Lavoratori dello Spettacolo) aka the Fame school in Rome. It was a straight-up disaster.

I had signed up for a Beginner’s class.  There were three other women in my class who looked like ballerinas.  The teacher, an older gentleman from Eastern Europe, quickly shouted out some choreography.  I was overwhelmed within sixty seconds.

I thought I was doing this:


But it was more like this:

Not a good look.

The teacher stated, “You’ve never done ballet before.”   No, that is why I’m taking a Beginner’s class!  The other women had excellent turnouts. It was obvious they had experience. There are three different levels for Beginner’s and I was in the first one.  What the heck was going on?

During one routine, we had to put our legs on the barre.  I’m short and my leg could barely reach it.  The only time the teacher walked over to me was when I was struggling to reach the barre.  He pushed my torso closer to it and I thought my body would split in two.

When the three ladies started pirouetting across the floor, I had to pull over to the side.

I felt very discouraged after the ninety minute class was over. Clearly, I was too short and too old to take ballet lessons. I walked home (of course it started to rain) in a funk.

I spoke to my friend Courtney who studied ballet as a child and to this day still does the warm-up exercises she learned.  She told me not to give up and to try another teacher’s class.

I already had a monthly pass, so why not?  I did and it was a revelation.

The teacher, a svelte Italian man who could probably lift three times his body weight, introduced himself and asked me if I understood Italian. There were ten of us in the class and it was co-ed.  He showed us the choreography, calling out the different positions while drawing our attention to his hand movements.  As we danced, he would correct our form.

He had two assistants and they also demonstrated the moves.  If a sequence was too difficult for some of us in the class, he told us to watch the assistants, the more advanced dancers, and to do our best, “tranquilla!”

During my first lesson, I felt clumsy.  In his class, I felt graceful.  I appreciated how he would walk over and show us where our hands, feet, and/or head should be.  When we executed a move well, or corrected mistakes on our own, he would say, “bravo/brava!”

At one point, while he was changing our music, I could hear the music from the Advanced class in the studio across the hall.  It was “Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in D Minor”by Johann Sebastian Bach.

This is one of my favorite pieces of music. I was so moved, I had to choke back tears.

Once the class ended, we thanked Il maestro and his assistants.  The ninety minutes had flown by.  The next group of dancers and their teacher rushed in as we put on our street clothes in the hallway.

I know my turnout will improve and it’s okay that I didn’t start lessons when I was four. I’m starting ballet now and I love it.












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