– as told to The Silver Women
Women who inspired you as a young girl?
My mother and my aunt because they were beautiful, strong and free-spirited and made me laugh. They were also tougher than any man I knew and always made me feel protected.
As a young girl, I liked watching TV and movies. Charlie’s Angels – loved Farrah Fawcett, Superwoman, Bionic Woman, Police Woman. Loved Pam Grier in Foxy Brown and all her movies and later on Xena. And why? They were all women who kicked ass and were beautiful!
Women who inspire you now?
Still so inspired by my mother, who continues to be an example of strength and authenticity. My aunt, who is intelligent, so funny and fiercely loyal. My beautiful younger cousins Robin and Jeanette who I learn so much from. They are smart, creative, strong and my confidants, they are like my sisters. This is my small but mighty family of women who have overcome some real-life struggles and can still laugh together.We have a ball together! Other inspirational women are Janet Mock, Christiane Amanpour, Phylicia Rashad, Susan Sarandon, Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes, Cicely Tyson and Beyonce.
Most valuable lesson taught by your Mother or any other women growing up?
My mother taught me…Live your life fully and be yourself.
At 18, when I said I wanted to go see the great masters of art and study in France she sent me to the American University in Paris. I saw the Mona Lisa and was there to walk on the Pont Neuf when artists Christo and Jean-Claude wrapped the famous Paris bridge. I traveled throughout Europe.I went to Greece and laid on the black beaches of Santorini, went to Venice, and saw glass blowers and sat in the same bar as Hemingway.
“To be given this freedom and opportunity,
to experience those things at such a young age made me understand life is about living not existing and experiences are worth more than possessions. My mother gave this priceless gift to me and I’m forever grateful to her.”
Do you think older women are valued or celebrated enough?
It is getting a little better but I don’t think older women are valued enough. It’s a shame. Older women are women of endurance, generosity of heart, have life experience, confidence and beauty and should always be celebrated.
Have you made career changes over the years?
I am a visual artist and have been creating art all my life. My work is female-centered and through my paintings, collages, installations and more recently videos, I examine issues related to women, identity, and beauty. It’s interesting because when I think about it when I was a young girl, I was always drawing portraits of women. I was surrounded by the warmth of so many women and truly believe women have the ability to bring out the humanity in others, that’s why it’s important we are involved in all areas of life. As a child, I knew that art would be my career, but it took me a while to figure out how to make that happen. I worked in boutique hotels in NYC, Miami and Los Angeles. While in LA, I wanted to do my art full time and also share my artistic abilities with youngsters, so I became a teaching artist. I am an advocate of youth expressing themselves through the arts. I love supporting and mentoring young people and continue to do so. I also was an art columnist for the New York Beacon and wrote about contemporary artists and interviewed some of my favorites.
Through the decades!
20s: In my early 20’s, I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism and became a member of the Soka Gakkai International. A lay Buddhist organization that works for peace, culture and education. It has been the spiritual and philosophical foundation of my life for over 30 years.
I was having a wonderful time working at Ian Schrager boutique hotels the Paramount and Royalton as a PBX operator then moved to South Beach for the opening of the Delano. It was at its height and my life was like ‘fantasy island!’ I also worked at Chris Blackwell’s hotels and then became the front desk manager at The Tides Hotel on Ocean Drive and had so many funny experiences; door handles falling off, hurricane parties, losing Prince’s dry cleaning LOL! Just sun and fun!
30s: My singing hobby turned into being signed to EMI Germany with a Latin pop group called Candela Azul and I moved to Cologne. We were dropped, but I continued to perform on my own. I sang at the Pop Com festival in front of thousands and lived out a fantasy of mine as a pop star!
I met the woman who became my wife when I returned to the US. I’ve now been with Rhonda for 18 years. I lived in LA and went back to school (I had TOO much fun at 18 years old in Europe- I never finished college) and got my BFA from USC Roski School of Fine Arts and Design. I exhibited my work more consistently and began finding my artistic style.
40s: Graduated from USC with honors. Moved back to New York. Fell back in love with my hometown. I was living in Harlem, teaching art and making art. Created my first installation as part of Flux Fair- a 30 ft. light pole installation made by braiding 1,916 synthetic braids. It was displayed in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. I was featured on WABC-TV’s Here and Now, my first TV interview to discuss my work. In my late 40’s, I also started thinking about wanting to be more financially stable and taking care of my mom in her old age. If she ever slows down!
50s: I turned 50 last year and was so happy! I am emotionally, spiritually and mentally solid. I think I look better now than in my 30’s and I feel sexier! Artistically, I have been exploring new mediums and collaborations and it’s very exciting. I became a Community School Director at a K-8th school in East Harlem where I create after-school arts programming, parent workshops and bring resources to young people who really need it. My wife and I have just launched a podcast on iTunes called “We Choose Love ” about the complexities of love, relationships and marriage, and our passions for the arts, sports, healthy living and pop-culture.
What are you most grateful for?
My family, my faith, my wife, my creativity, my artistic talent, my friends, my opportunities and my good genes!
Has there been a significant circumstance good or bad that changed your outlook on life?
My mother had a stroke in 2015 and as an only child and also being very close, it shook me. She is independent and amazing and I realized she will not be here forever. I moved back to NY to be with her and we have been having a blast together ever since.
Thoughts on aging,
The downside…Changes in my body, like hot sweats, grey hairs down there! And did I see a wrinkle?
The upside…At this age, I feel more confident and the experiences I have been through have given me wisdom. Love being able to share my wisdom with women younger than me and give them hope that they will get through the challenges and become stronger. I know who I am and love this woman!
Your advice to young women of today?
Live your life true to yourself, if your heart is telling you ‘do it!’ but your mind is telling you ‘cant do it’ or ‘how are you going to do that?’ Listen to your heart and go for it. You don’t want to look back when you get older and regret not trying something. Surround yourself with inspiring people, especially women you can learn from and laugh with and you will always have a wealth of resources and wisdom to support you. Remember what people do for you. Be grateful and apologize when you’re in the wrong. Relationships in life are so important, not just romantic but all of them.
-Mira Gandy xo
Images courtesy of Mira Gandy unless credited otherwise.
FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS!
Book/Novel: Caucasia by Danzy Senna
Song: Imagine by John Lennon
Film: Imitation of life, Boomerang, All About Eve, The Best Man- I just saw Black Panther and loved it!
Scent: Carolina Herrera (the only scent I wear)
Flower: Sunflowers, Lilies
Style Icon: My mother Irene Gandy
City or place: – Puerto Rico, Puerto Vallarta, Paris, Italy, going to Japan in March!
Food/Meal/Cuisine: Italian, Chinese, Soul food
Skincare product you can’t live without: Black African Soap and Raw Shea butter
Make-up product: I can’t live without blush and mascara- like to look warm, not pale and have long eyelashes!