Archive for 2015

Dev Patel and Jake Gyllenhaal at DIFF

Friday, December 25th, 2015

It’s no secret that sometimes I watch movies for all the wrong reasons… Because I like the stars in a rom-com or admire the actress in a drama. Yup, cat’s out of the bag, cinema for me is a visual art… Isn’t it for you??

So both Dev Patel and Jake Gyllenhaal are high on that list of mine where I would go to watch them read the NYC phone book (as if such a thing still exists!) or just read out the menu of Shake Shack.

I recently came face to face with Patel and listened to a talk with Gyllenhaal at the epicenter of all good things cinematic, the Dubai International Film Festival and you can read about it all on the HuffPost.  A teaser you say? Well, they are both handsome… And all grown up!

Read my blog post on the Huffington Post.

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I’m in Love with Dior!

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Yes, I see the house of Christian Dior everywhere. At the mall, make that The Dubai Mall, I recently went to the press preview of “Le Théâtre Dior”, a gorgeous exhibit of miniature mannequins recreating lilliputian versions some of the house most famous designs.

After that, I simply had to get a bottle of their iconic Diorissimo, a scent that includes a favorite flower of mine, Lily of the Valley. I even do my brows all Dior style these days, thanks to their Diorshow Brow Styler and Structure and Style Brush-On Brow gel.

I’m addicted. Or do I have to call myself a Dior Addict?

I’m even seeing a lot of Dior at the movies, Dior and I, as well as on the gossip columns which are buzzing with speculations of who their next designer will be. From where I stand, the maison can’t lose.

Anyway, I wanted to share my piece on the traveling exhibit from The Huffington Post Style vertical. Read it in full here, but enjoy a video for now.

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Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At the Marina Yacht Club

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

There is no two without three, and the third blog for The Huffington Post I wrote about chefs and design in Dubai, is a magical one. I really enjoyed meeting all three of the talented chefs, but Chef James impressed me with his kindness and humanity.

Finding the Meaning of Life, and Cooking in Dubai

The Dubai Marina Yacht Club, seen from the bay
When I recently asked three world-class chefs in Dubai to create culinary creations inspired by fashions discovered at the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience, I did expect I’d get to peak into their kitchens. But I never imagined that I’d also get a wondrous insider’s look into their humanity.

Chef Steve at The Palace Downtown Dubai, was inspired by the colors and cultural heritage of the African Java-print fashions by Dent de Man, while chef Abel at The Address Downtown found his inspiration within the structural look of a Max.Tan red mesh dress, thus recreating a modern take on the classic red velvet cake.

The reason I love doing what I do so much is because I often get to the heart and soul behind film, food and fashion. Think of it as a direct, private line to the men or women behind glitz and glamour. Even with celebrity chefs, artists, fashion designers and movie stars, their humanity is what interests me most.

And what wonderful warmth and candid intelligence I found in the figure of Executive Chef James Knight-Pacheco at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club! His interpretation, of the black and white structural looks created by Korean designer Byungmun Seo, went straight to the form of both fashion, and food. He overstepped the obvious, color (or the lack thereof) to discover the essence of the composition. What a beautiful experience this all turned out to be.

When I say “only in Dubai” I mean it. I love the grandness of this place, and those who understand it best are those who possess a spirit of discovery. One only has to sit perched on the second floor terrace of the Aquara, chef James’ first class restaurant inside the Dubai Marina Yacht Club — overlooking the water dotted with multi-million dollar boats and framed by the impossibly high buildings of the area — to understand why. Perhaps, if there is one thing these three great men I got to interview last week have in common, and whose culinary generosity I thank for the extra notch I’ve had to begin using on my belt these days, it is their pioneering spirit. Dubai is a city that can boast over 6,000 restaurant, nearly 14 million visitors a year, and still doesn’t have its own Michelin guide. It was chef James who brought this important fact to my attention.

In terms of world-standing, Dubai is still a baby on the global foodie map. Sort of like NYC pre-2005, the year when the first US Michelin guide, focusing on the City, came out. I often draw parallels between Dubai and the Big Apple because I truly believe there is something about this city borne out of the desert, with a thirst for the future and a hunger for glamour that truly feels like NYC in the good ol’ days.

Chef James’ background is, in his own words, “half Venezuelan and half British; I was born in Venezuela and came over to the UK when I was 8.” He attributes his love of food and cooking to his Venezuelan culture, which is family oriented. “My family is all female led, four sisters, my mother, my grandmother, lots of aunties and I was always in the kitchen,” a place he calls “magic.”

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Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At The Address Downtown

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

In the second of this trio of blogs for The Huffington Post, I got to catch up with another magical chef, and admire (but also taste of course) his creation.

The Red Velvet Side of Life in Dubai

The Dubai Fountain and neighboring hotel, The Address Downtown
Don’t know about you but hearing the words “red velvet” always makes me think of those wondrous events where mere mortals are kept away from the celebrities by velvet ropes. In the United Arab Emirates, there is no lack of premieres or celebrities, as highlighted by recent sightings that ranged from Jackie Chan to Brad Pitt (plus Angelina), Dennis Quaid, Malala and the entire Star Trek Beyond cast. Things are only bound to get steamier once the Dubai International Film Festival kicks off in early December.

Yet when I asked three Dubai-based master chefs to draw inspiration from the fashion exhibited as part of the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience and create their own gourmet creations, I never expected that this style and taste experiment would turn into a kind of metaphor for life. And I definitely did not anticipate that a red mesh dress by Singaporean designer Max.Tan would be turned into an edible study in deconstructing, and then re-assembling, the perfect red velvet cake.

I started out knowing full well that I would be awed by the wonderful ambiance of Downtown Dubai, now a must-visit tourist destination but also a gourmet and fashion mecca for any self-respecting jet-setting world traveler, and that the chefs’ creations would remind me why I love food — and those who prepare it with passion — so much. But what I didn’t expect was to find such distinct interpretations by three men who each represent the best the world has to offer. As chefs of course but also, most importantly, as human beings.

While seafood was conquered by chef Steve in part one of this series, dessert undeniably belonged to chef Abel Vieilleville, the Executive Pastry Chef for The Address Downtown. The wonderfully soft-spoken, Cannes native explained that when he went through the collections by the various designers, the red-mesh dress creation by Max.Tan, a design house based in Singapore, “inspired freedom in me.” And what a beautiful word that is, freedom. Chef Abel continued, “the design is really wide, the dress is made out of mesh, it is beautiful, and although like a structure that looks really fabricated, it’s really light.”

Chef Abel has worked in the food industry for the past 24 years, after studying in the South of France. His parents owned a restaurant for 26 years and so, chef Abel explained, “I was brought into the business at an early age, always focused on dessert.” His first move away from French kitchens was to England, where he worked with Michelin-star chefs, and after working with Chinese-French fusion cuisine in the UK, decided to move to China, which he called, “a fantastic experience.”


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Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At The Palace Downtown

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Thanks to a friend and some Arabian desert magic, I got to work on a trio of pieces that combined three of my loves: Fashion, food and going out in Dubai.

We asked three chefs to look at designers participating in the recent Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience and each choose a look that they could be inspired by in their cooking. The resulting gourmet creations were incredible, truly mouth watering and the pieces I got to write, after meeting the chefs and visiting their venues, a delight to work on.

All around, what I like to call a win/win. Check out all three blogs, starting with this one. Of course, the full piece you can always find on The Huffington Post, my home for all things great.

Thai-ing Up at The Palace Downtown Dubai

When American movie star Chris Pine called Dubai the “Future-land” during a press conference earlier this year, I finally found within his observation the perfect way of describing a feeling I’ve had for some time now. Whenever I’m in Dubai, this marvelous city of possibilities, I feel like I used to feel in N.Y.C., in my early days there. Because Dubai — like the Manhattan of Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat — is a land of visionaries and pioneers, but also a megalopolis that is achieving its stellar place on the jet setting world map at dizzying speeds. No other place does is better, bigger and faster.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in its Downtown district. If you want a five-star plus luxury hotel, that is where to book. If you want the latest designers clothing, you step into The Dubai Mall. If you want to eat at world class restaurants, savoring dishes created by Michelin star chefs, this is where you book your table. The choices are endless and the possibilities, limitless. Even when you think you’ve done it all in Dubai, there will be a new restaurant opening up, a trendy designer will install their flagship store here, or you’ll discover that a world-class celebrity chef has moved to the city from Paris, London or New York City.

Recently, everything I love in life — fashion, food, glamour and fun — came together in one place, under one roof I already adore, The Dubai Mall, in this hotbed of activity and excitement. The end of October saw the second edition of the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience taking place in the fashion capital of the Middle East and I kick myself for having missed it. But with the help of a few friends in the right places and the willingness of three master chefs to step outside their comfort zone, I managed to find a way to celebrate glamour and gourmet, in my own very special way.

Chef Steve Deconinck, Executive Chef of The Palace Downtown Dubai
At The Palace Downtown Dubai, I found in the figure of their Executive Chef Steve Deconinck a magnificently inventive soul. Of course, the hotel itself had me at “hello”, from the moment I stepped into their Arabian-inspired lobby, complete with central water fountain and the fragrance of exotic flowers in the air. And I can’t wait to go back for some spa treatments and another Palace cappuccino, which came complete with 24-carat gold leaf and four scrumptious, perfectly chilled macarons. But I digress, which is easy to do when surrounded by the understated grandeur of the place.


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Stand #withMalala in Abu Dhabi

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

There aren’t a lot of positive stories coming out of the Arab world these days. Between ISIS, Syria, the refugee crisis and the contorted dances of modern diplomacy, the Region could look pretty grim to an outsider.

Yet if you move in the right circles, mingle with a select cultural crowd and call cinematic crews your playing grounds, the Middle East is actually ripe with beautiful and heartwarming narratives. And even more so if you live and love cinema as much as I do, you begin to realize that our way back from these dark times could lie in the healing and unifying power of the seventh art.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at a recent screening for He Named Me Malala inside the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, introduced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi CEO Michael Garin. One look around the crowd, gathered there by invitation only, and I could see English boys in black suits mingling with their female counterparts in pretty floral dresses, Emirati men in starched white thawb talking about this, that and sports, women in fashionable black abayas detailed with lace “Instagramming” about their lives, and a variety of expats from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Jordan, with plenty of Palestine sprinkled in, all enjoying the global atmosphere.

Because that’s the alternate truth of the Middle East, the story not told on the news.

Check out more from the Middle East premiere of He Named Me Malala and feel your inner activist (and feminist) emerge by reading my whole piece on the Huffington Post Entertainment blog.

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More Pitti Fragranze: Scents & Sensibilities

Sunday, November 1st, 2015


The model turned perfumer Annick Goutal, a legend of the scent world, once wrote “perfume is the music of my dream.” Perhaps there is no other art that brings us back to a place and time quite like the olfactory art and yet perfume isn’t limited to memories alone. It deserves its own top place in the firmament of wearable art.

I found out at this year’s Pitti Fragranze, a labyrinth of the best the scent world has to offer held inside the atmospheric Stazione Leopolda, that I’ve been somewhat wrong all these years to pine for long lost loves and far away times when I smell a scent that reminds of an ex or of my childhood. Yes, perfume can and will do that, but it’s the scent of imagination and wonder than give it the honors it deserves. As a stand-alone, one of a kind, truly magnificent art form.

The person responsible for this newfound mindset when I look at — better yet, when I smell — a fragrance, is NY Times “nose” Chandler Burr. Burr is a perfume historian, a journalist who has been the scent critic for the NY Times, and a curator of the olfactory art. Based in NYC, Burr travels all over the world, partly in search of fantastic new scents but mostly to enlighten his fellow human beings on the true art of perfume.

In all his kindness, he let me sit in on an interview he was having with a fashion editor on the phone from NYC, while the woman pushed for him to reveal his ideas of the “best new trends” in fragrance. With class and grace, he answered by saying, “I was a perfume journalist at the Times, not a beauty writer. I didn’t focus on trends and brands, marketing doesn’t play any role for me at all. I’ve always held a different position from most of the people who deal with perfume.”

For the entire piece, some exclusive videos by Mike Figgis for Diane Pernet Paris and a whole lot more, check out my Huffington Post Style blog.

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Pitti Fragranze: Scent and Sensibility

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

There are two people in Florence who contribute to my life in so many ways! They are Roberto Ruta and Lisa Chiari, two exceptional human beings who have enlightened me, from film to fashion to fragrances. I’ve never met anyone like them, and I vouch for it right now, will never again. From Pitti Uomo and Pitti Fragranze, which they’ve introduced me to thus rekindling within me a passion for menswear and perfumes to the Middle East Now festival, a yearly event truly helping the dialogue between the Middle East and the West, these two would be my nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. But enough gushing, here is the intro to a piece for the latest wonder I’ve discovered, thanks to them: Pitti Fragranze.

Read up on “Scent of a Man”– two companies and one scent connoisseur, Chandler Burr, that are changing the way we “look” at perfume today — and a fascinatingly scent-astic profile of actor Luca Calvani, which I titled “The Perfume Affair” both on the Huffington Post. And in case you need a visual prompt to entice you to the latter, well, here it is. Yes, I like my job. A LOT.

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‘Questa è la Future-land!” — la conferenza stampa di Star Trek Beyond raccontata da una Trekkie riluttante

Friday, October 9th, 2015

For an English version of this article, published on the Huffington Post USA, click here.

« Spazio, ultima frontiera. Eccovi i viaggi dell’astronave Enterprise durante la sua missione quinquennale, diretta all’esplorazione di strani, nuovi mondi, alla ricerca di altre forme di vita e di civiltà, fino ad arrivare là dove nessun uomo è mai giunto prima. »

Comincio con l’ammettere che non mi considero una vera ‘Trekkie’ eppure sono cresciuta guardando la serie originale in tivù. Forse parte di me bambina si sentiva accettata nell’universo futuristico di Star Trek, oppure erano proprio l’emozioni che provavo vedendo un mondo del futuro, così diverso dal mio a Firenze, con quel piccolo televisore in bianco e nero che mi aveva regalato la nonna.

Penso però di averli visti tutti gli episodi della serie originale, che poi non è durata tanto a lungo, solo tre stagioni, come i veri ‘Trekkie’ saprebbero dirvi. Mi ricordo il bacio ‘proibito’ fra la afro-americana Uhura e il capitano Kirk, anche se a cinque anni per me i baci sembravano tutti un po’ una schifezza. Mi ricordo lo sguardo diabolico di Spock, che con le sue orecchie a punta era il mio personaggio favorito, e poi quei paesaggi lunari che assomigliavano tanto alle rocce della Sardegna, dove i miei mi portavano per le vacanze.

Ma poi, con la vita, i miei gusti sono cambiati. I baci non sono più fonte di ribrezzo, il televisore è una grande Smart TV a colori, i paesaggi non sono più quelli di Firenze o la Sardegna, e le vicende di Star Trek, in tutta la loro gloria, erano da lungo scomparse dal mio hit parade. Fino alla settimana scorsa, cioè.

Si, perché agl’inizi di ottobre mi sono ritrovata una delle fortunatissime partecipanti alla conferenza stampa di Star Trek Beyond, l’ultimo film della franchise che sarà nelle sale a luglio del 2016, e che al momento, stanno filmando a Dubai, negli Emirati Arabi. Con Idris Elba, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, lo scrittore e attore Simon Pegg, il regista Justin Lin, lo scrittore Douglas Jung e il produttore Jeffrey Chernov, ho passato una mattinata da incanto — un’incanto futuristico, fantascientifico.

Dentro una sala conferenze nel magnifico Burj Al Arab hotel, quell’iconico edificio a forma di vela che non scherza come visione architettonica futuristica, questo numeroso gruppo di talenti mondiali si è radunato per spiegare, e raccontare alla stampa la decisione di filmare Star Trek Beyond nella megalopolis di Dubai.

“Siamo andati in cerca del futuro e l’abbiamo trovato a Dubai!” Ha esclamato con entusiasmo il produttore Jeffrey Chernov poi continuando, “Missione impossibile 4 [Protocollo Fantasma, anche prodotto da Chernov e filmato in parte a Dubai] ci ha fatto capire come i film aiutano il turismo, il cinema aiuta le grandi città a crescere e svilupparsi, e questo a suo turno aiuta i filmmakers.”

Il chairman della Dubai Film and TV Commission, Jamal Al Sharif ha confermato questa fiducia nella città e l’ottimismo di Chernov dicendo, “qui alla Commission lavoriamo sodo per offrire un processo lavorativo che sia piacevole e facile, aiutando produzioni di ogni tipo e calibro. Questo senso di collaborazione fra tutte l’entità nazionali, case di produzione e fornitori rende Dubai una destinazione mondiale cinematografica unica al mondo.” Una situazione idilliaca che viene solo rinforzata dalla presenza del prestigioso Dubai International Film Festival a dicembre di ogni anno, l’unico evento del genere nella regione, e nel Medio Oriente.

Mentre pensavo che Idris Elba per me sarebbe stato la ‘highlight’ della conferenza stampa, devo dire che il silenzioso, contemplativo Chris Pine, che nei film di Star Trek interpreta Kirk, si è rivelato una piacevole sorpresa. Quando gli ho chiesto se credesse che il cinema fosse un ponte che ci può portare a comprendere altre culture, diverse da noi, Pine ha risposto con grazia, “l’arte è un bellissimo specchio, sia se guardiamo un dipinto, o siamo ad un concerto, o al cinema, quello che ci ritroviamo davanti è la nostra umanità. Siamo esseri umani. L’arte è la perfetta equalizzatrice, e c’insegna a celebrare le nostre similitudini, invece di notare le nostre differenze.

Comunque Elba, che ormai sono convinta senta dentro di se una sua colonna sonora personale, sensuale e ritmica, dal modo in cui prende possesso della sala nel momento che ci mette dentro piede, ha risposto anche lui in modo magnifico, “alcuni di noi, che siamo anche genitori, amiamo il cinema, e amiamo introdurre il cinema ai nostri figli. Ma vogliamo anche introdurli ad una certa cultura, per cui penso che sempre di più facciamo riferimento al medium per educare, e presentare altre culture in modo completo, giusto ed espressivo.”

Il co-scrittore, e anche co-star di Star Trek Beyond, Simon Pegg, ha aggiunto un’altra dimensione con la sua risposta, tirando in ballo proprio questo film, e la serie, “Star Trek è la massima espressione di questo [ponte]. Ovviamente, lottano alieni con i tentacoli, ma ha molto a che fare con questo ‘cultural bridging’, perché ci offre l’idea utopistica che sì, possiamo tutti vivere insieme, senza giudizi, senza pregiudizi, ed è una cosa fantastica. Un universo al quale dovremmo ambire, perché forse Star Trek ha molto da insegnarci… Immaginiamoci, se potessimo tutti andare d’accordo.”

Il momento più triste per me è stato quando Zachary Quinto ha parlato di Leonard Nimoy, che recentemente è venuto a mancare, “eravamo incredibilmente vicini, è stato come un padre per me,” ha confessato l’attore che interpreta Spock in Star Trek Beyond, il primo film dopo la morte di Nimoy. Quinto ha continuato dicendo, “sento l’importanza di questa responsabilità ora più che mai, perché Leonard ha sempre avuto un effetto così positivo e profondo su milioni di persone. In questo film, per me, c’è un’altra dimensione… Quella di rendere omaggio al mio caro amico, e continuare la sua ‘legacy’ che ha lavorato così sodo per creare.”

Alla fine, la frase chiave che hanno usato quasi tutti i giornalisti del golfo, e anche nel titolo dell’articolo di un collega dell’Hollywood Reporter, appartiene a Pine, che da vicino è veramente tutta un’altra cosa, credetemi, “mi piace sempre scoprire nuovi posti, e Dubai è una città stupenda. Stamattina mi sono svegliato, ho aperto le tende e guardando fuori ho scoperto quello che sarà il domani. Questa è ‘future-land’.”

Star Trek Beyond è programmato per una distribuzione mondiale dal 16 luglio 2016.

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The True Cost su L’HuffPost Italia

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Per quelli che non mi conoscono, io sono bilingue. Parlavo l’italiano molto molto tempo prima che cominciassi mai a parlare inglese. Oggi, sono fiera di aver cominciato finalmente a scrivere nella mia lingua madre, e che alcuni dei miei articoli sono pubblicati su L’Huffington Post Italia. Che bello!

Cliccate sul link per leggere il blog in italiano sul film prodotto da Livia Firth, The True Cost (il vero prezzo). Non guarderete mai più un vestito nello stesso modo, ve lo garantisco.

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