Tag Archives: Los Angeles

I’m not sure why I started blogging ten years ago today.


The blogging world has changed a great deal since my first post POST.    Back then nobody was making money from blogging.  It was way to communicate, connect, and create.

I rarely read old posts.  Some make me cringe (and not just because of all the typos), others make me thankful I got the heck out Los Angeles, and then there are the posts with the hilarious comments.  The randomness of the posts is bizarre.  One post would be about some serious foreign policy debate and the very next day I would write about an annoying Black Eye Peas song.

At first I used a pseudonym and didn’t tell anyone, outside of close friends, in Hollywood that I had a blog.  Like many other long-time bloggers, I don’t delete old posts…even the embarrassing ones.  These posts are a snapshot of what was going on in the world and/or my life at the time.

There’s much debate about the future of blogs and blogging.  Who knows what will happen. I do know that readers are turned off by constant shilling.

I’m glad I started a blog a decade ago.  Through it I found my voice again and met some great people (several who are close friends to this day).  I wouldn’t have moved to Italy without that blog.  My life would be completely different.

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!

Meeting Peter Dunham was one of the highlights of Kathryn M. Ireland’s Design Workshop.  I have adored his textiles and design for ages and was excited to see his showroom. He was lovely.

I think it’s very interesting that he downsized.  When I lived in Los Angeles, most of my peers in entertainment were all about getting to the next level.  You had to have the right address, the right car, and even if your house was perfect, the minute you could afford to (or not) you would upgrade to a bigger, better, house.

In this month’s issue of HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, there is a great interview (and slideshow) with Peter.  He talks about why he moved from a house that was 3,500 square-feet to an apartment that is only 550 square-feet.

Living in a tiny space forces you to edit.  You cannot surround yourself with just “stuff.”

There is some fantastic design advice for small spaces in the article.  You can read it HERE and check out more photos of his charming home.




Today’s edition of Stylish Simplicity highlights the ERES bikini.


Work it J.Lo 

Photo. Vogue June 2012

This French brand has some of the most beautiful bathing suits on the planet… classic and well made.

I never wore a bikini until I moved to Italy.  NEVER.  I grew up seeing magazine covers constantly saying, “Get A Beach Ready Body!” or tabloid headlines that screamed, “Worst Beach Bodies!”   In Los Angeles many of my colleagues gleefully ripped celebrities to shreds, calling them fat and what not.  Celebrities who were no larger than a size 4.

What’s the point of starving oneself for the season?  What happens once the summer is over, back to bad eating habits? I blame the Puritans for this madness.

The first time I went to the beach here I was stunned by the variety of shapes, sizes, and ages wearing bikinis and Speedos.  Italians were chilling, just doing their thing.  I stood out with my very sensible one-piece for a woman of a “certain age.”

How do my friends in Italy get ready for beach season?  They put on a bathing suit and go to the beach.

I’m not sure what made me decide to take the plunge and finally buy my first bikini.  In the fitting room, I told the saleslady there wasn’t enough coverage on top. She looked at me like I had two heads.   She said that’s the way a bikini was supposed to fit.  I was skeptical.

The day came when my Eres bikini and I went out in public.  The world didn’t stop spinning.   The Italians couldn’t care less.  The only reason I stood out is because I was one of the few people of color on the beach not selling a trinket.

Now my sensible one-pieces (which actually made me look heavier) are sitting at the back of my closet.  To me function is just as important as style.  A two-piece is more practical than a one-piece.

I wish I could go back and talk to my critical younger self. I’d tell her to get a grip, just go to the darn beach, and enjoy herself.

In 2011 the Italian fashion label Miu Miu started Women’s Tales, a series of short films about women directed by female directors from all over the world.

Their most recent short was directed by Ava DuVernay.  Ava won the best director award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Here is more information about Ava’s short from Miu Miu:

The Door, by Ava DuVernay, the fifth Miu Miu Women’s Tale, is a celebration of the transformative power of feminine bonds, and a symbolic story of life change. The symbolic centre of The Door is the front entrance of the protagonist’s home. As she opens it to greet a friend in the powerfully framed opening scenes, she is shrouded in an oblique sadness. “In the film, characters arrive at the door of a friend in need, bringing something of themselves,” explains director DuVernay. “Eventually, we witness our heroine ready to walk through the door on her own. The door in the film represents a pathway to who we are.” Clothing is also a symbol of renewal, each change of costume charting our heroine’s emergence from a chrysalis of sadness. In the final scenes, she takes off her ring, pulls on long, black leather gloves, and walks, transformed by the emotive power of the clothing, through the door.

Not a word was spoken, but Ava told a beautiful story.  For some reason, I didn’t recognize Gabrielle Union at first!

The Door combines three things I’m passionate about, dècor, film, and fashion. Several of the pieces in the short need to be in my closet and hello, that house!

I’ve seen many films with “a glass house in L.A.” set design but this one really captured that L.A. loneliness vibe.  I loved it.

Last month I attended Kathryn M. Ireland’s Interior Design Bootcamp in Los Angeles.

That would be Kathryn the internationally known designer, NOT Kathy the former SI cover model.  One Hollywood exec said to me, “I thought you were talking about the model the entire time.  Alas, now our conversation has become less interesting to me.”  Too funny.  Gotta love Hollywood.

It would be hard to describe a packed four day schedule in one short blog post.  Overall, it was fantastic experience.  I was very impressed by Kathryn and her team, Jen, Rebecca, and Francesca.  I learned a lot and enjoyed meeting my fellow bootcampers.

There were only seven of us.  Six were in different stages of our careers. One bootcamper had a new house.  For her it was a good opportunity to see how a designer works.  Some bootcampers had degrees in Interior Design and their own showrooms, while others were self taught and just starting out.  It was a great mix.

If you watch the show MILLION DOLLAR DECORATORS or have read anything about Kathryn you know that along with being a talented textiles and interior designer, she’s a fantastic host.  We met some heavy hitters in the business and it says something about Kathryn that everyone she introduced us to was warm, and down-to-earth.

The workshop was organized (binders, books, baked goods!)  We received excellent nuts and bolts information and advice about the business of design.   There were guest speakers who talked about the state of the industry, branding, product development, publicity, and social media.

We also visited several high profile showrooms with Kathryn, like Lucca, Nathan Turner, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Peter Dunham, Christopher Farr, Jasper, Pat McGann, etc.

Martyn’s was our last showroom stop. He had drinks and quips for us.

There was down time too (and plenty of wine with meals). We went on a hike in Will Rogers State Park with sick views of the Pacific.  It wasn’t mandatory but a nice way to kick off a long day.  That day we visited  Kathryn’s print shop.  She opened it in Los Angeles instead of outsourcing the work.  The time it takes to hand print fabric is no joke and that’s why it’s expensive.

We worked on our mood/presentation boards for our projects with input from Kathryn and her team.  I wanted to pull my hair out as I tried to draw my floor plans by hand. Luckily for me, one of my fellow bootcampers was a kitchen and bath designer.  She talked me down off the ledge.

I can’t really say which highlight (there were many) of the workshop was my favorite.  I can say I returned to Rome feeling excited about the future and inspired.

For more information about future Bootcamps, check out Kathryn’s WEBSITE.

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