Minnie Meets… Zoë Jordan

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Stepping into Havana Boutique, I was immediately enamoured by the wealth of designers and intricate pieces which are available in-store. Nestled into a side-street in Donnybrook, you could find Simone Rocha’s beautiful pearl-encrusted Autumn/Winter ’14 collection hanging alongside the ruched skirts of American designer, Rick Owens.

I meandered into the store, not to fawn over their garments but to meet London-based Irish designer, Zoë Jordan. As the daughter of Formula 1 driver, Eddie Jordan, it would be easy but untrue to think that Zoë’s success stems from her family’s notoriety. With a background in finance and a clear vision as to what her design aesthetic is and how it may develop, the client-base which she has assembled is because of her own merit.

Collaborating with Havana Boutique, the designer showcases ‘Chicane’, her Autumn/Winter ’14 collection in a two week pop-up shop. Even as one of her first Irish endeavours, it proves promising but I’m eagerly anticipating what Zoë does next.

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How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

Oh gosh, I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I am probably a mixture of being quite balanced and laid-back versus a perfectionist, quite anal, someone who likes to succeed and a person who seeks out challenges and adventure.

Is it easy to balance those two elements of your personality?

I go with my gut and what feels most comfortable on any given day – particularly when I’m making decisions.

When you were growing up, you were surrounded by mechanics and you were the little girl who played with the ants and the worms but what first drew you to the fashion domain?

I have always been quite drawn to the design world, I loved design at school and went on to study architecture in college. My designs are quite mathematical and almost formulaic which perhaps stems from my background in finance and analytics but it is also because of the way I was brought up. From a young age, I was travelling a lot, seeing a lot and I think fashion is something, even without knowing, that my family were quite involved and interested in, in their own way. When I worked in the city, I wanted to feel that I was being taken seriously by people and fashion just felt natural to me.

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For What It’s Worth

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Whilst walking through Dublin this afternoon, it began to rain. Within minutes, what was a light shower, quickly became torrential and I had forgotten my umbrella. In the midst of searching for shelter, I crossed paths with a man who appeared to be homeless and was asking passers-by for their loose change. Reaching into my coat pocket, I had less than one euro in coppers and apologised for the small amount but placed the coins into his polystyrene cup.

As I continued my fast-paced walk, I heard someone calling ‘Love, love, love’ from behind me. I turned around and the man who I had just given money to was trying to gain my attention and was asking me to come back to where he was sitting on the concrete. He asked me if I had an umbrella and having explained that I’d left mine in college, he offered me a navy teddy-bear umbrella; one of the very few possessions he had on his person. I refused and said that I couldn’t take it from him but it fell on deaf ears. He told me that the rain was too heavy and I would get sick if I was walking around in it for much longer. He placed the umbrella in my hand and merely asked me to return it the next time that we run into each other.

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I was completely flabbergasted. I asked him his name, introduced myself and shook his hand. The rain continued to worsen and as I raced back to college, I could not help but think of how cold and wet that man must now be. Two hours later, the weather cleared and Dublin experienced some brief sunshine. With the umbrella and a thank you card in-hand, I meandered back to the location where I first met him and luckily, he was still there. Shaking his hand, I thanked him for his generosity and incredible kindness. His response? You’re welcome.

How often do we walk past the people living on our streets and think little of them or even worse, ignore them completely?

An umbrella doesn’t have great monetary value but when you are homeless, it’s worth is more lucrative than money. For the rest of the day I found myself asking, if the roles had been reversed today, would I have offered my umbrella? I hope the answer would be yes.

Extraordinary Women: Áine Lawlor

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This blog began as a college assignment, whilst I was studying to be a primary school teacher. It was never supposed to amount to anything other than be a fictitious link between my prospective class and their parents.

Several years later, it is somewhat unfathomable that it has provided me with several opportunities to converse with and meet such an array of talented and incredible people. As inane as it might sound, sometimes it feels a little surreal.

One such ‘surreal’ moment occurred earlier this month; it involved me drinking tea with RTÉ broadcaster, Áine Lawlor. ‘Morning Ireland’ was the soundtrack to my college commute for almost five years and hearing news bulletin at 9am was my measure as to whether or not I was late for lectures.

Áine is the presenter of RTÉ One’s ‘The Week in Politics’ and the co-presenter of RTÉ Radio One’s ‘News at One’ but more than that, she is one of the most warm and generous people you could meet. Conversations with Áine challenge your biases and alter your perspective – even when you’re discussing gardening!

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How would you describe yourself both professionally and personally?

I’m a woman, I’m a journalist, I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a sister, I’m a daughter, I’m a friend and I’m lucky. They are all challenging but I get to enjoy them all and I revel in each experience and role.

What first drew you to the profession of journalism?

It kind of happened by accident. I was President of the Students Union when I was in college which probably meant that I was a blabbermouth and a bit of a student activist. When I left college in the mid-eighties, my Mum was sick so I didn’t emigrate like most of my friends. I kind of ended up in RTÉ’s newsroom and I’m just lucky that it suited me.

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Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story

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Recently, there have been a number of discussions encapsulating what defines an Irish film and also, the caliber of the genre. For me personally, I am constantly in awe and somewhat surprised by the measure of talented actors, actresses, directors, writers, costume designers, assistant directors and crew that exist and work on this isle. Furthermore, I’m extremely proud of the work that they produce and the stories which they present to audiences at home and abroad.

At the beginning of this month, I experienced something that I hope never to forget; ‘Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story’.

The feature-length documentary denotes the story of Mark Pollock and his partner, Simone. Mark lost his sight at age 22 and ten years later, he was the first blind person to race to the South Pole. Throughout the film, the audience follows Mark’s triumphs and challenges and narrates the ways in which a couple re-build their lives after an accident leaves Mark paralysed from the waist-down.

The film made me think, question, laugh, cry, smile, angry and feel. It altered my perspective, not only on the world itself but on my own life and the challenges and highlights that I have experienced.

When an opportunity arose to speak with the film’s director, Ross Whitaker, I jumped at the chance – quite literally. Speaking with Ross was one of the most fruitful and thought-provoking experiences I’ve had this year and could not recommend the film more highly.

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What first drew you to the career of film-making and directing?

That’s going way back! I finished college in 1997 – Wow! That’s a long time ago…

I won’t tell you what age I was in 1997…

Please don’t! I studied Business and Political Science in Trinity. My friends all wanted to become accountants, management consultants and finance ‘people’ – whatever it is that finance people do – but it never really appealed to me. I had a grand idea that I wanted to spend my life doing something that I liked. So, without being too conscious about it, I took some time out. I worked and travelled in Australia, New Zealand and Paris in bars and on building sites. When I reached Paris, I arrived at this point where I had been travelling for around eighteen months and I started to think that maybe it was time that I should do something with my life. In Paris, they have all of these amazing cinemas where they show such a wide range of film; old, new, world cinema – everything really. I would go to an 11am screening before the bar (that I worked) in opened and see small independent films and old blockbusters. Everyday, I’d go to the cinema whilst still questioning myself, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ After about two months, it dawned on me and I thought, ‘I think this is staring me in the face! I’m going to see films every day, maybe I should explore a career in that domain’.

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Competition: Smile Like You Mean It

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One of my strongest memories from secondary school is encapsulated by the phrase ‘Do you want some Vaseline?’ Before you lose the run of yourself, I’ll explain.

Perhaps it was because I attended an all-girls school but we were quite taken by the routine of sharing one’s tin of blue Vaseline to ensure our lips didn’t dry out. Looking back, it was not the most hygienic of practices but it’s amazing what you choose to ‘forget’ for the sake of friendship.

This year, Vaseline are celebrating their 140th birthday and are re-launching their entire hand, body and lip range but with a twist. The traditional packaging of my teenage years has been updated with new tins showcasing a vintage design whilst maintaining the healing qualities that are synonymous with Vaseline’s Petroleum jelly.

Thanks to the lovely people at Vaseline, I have some of these beautiful tins to give away; one for you and a friend!

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How do you enter? Through snapchat! Simply add me via my username ‘minniemelange’ and send me a photograph of your best pout / duck-face. The more ridiculous – the better!

The competition spans until Thursday, October 16th but keep an eye on the Facebook page where the winners will be announced. You might even see an entry or two…

If you don’t have snapchat but still want to enter, please feel free to email me your ‘pout’ to minniemelange@gmail.com and your entry will still be counted!

May the odds be ever in your favour!

Extraordinary Women: Ramona Nicholas

Yesterday, this ‘Extraordinary Women’ interviewee received ‘Women Mean Business’ Female Entrepreneur of the Year award; an accolade that is extremely well deserved.

Why did she win? I have no hand, act or part in the judgement process but from speaking with Ramona, I imagine it is because she is diligent, honest, loyal, inspiring, modest, ambitious, competitive and incredibly hard-working.

Perhaps I should not admit to this but since interviewing Ramona, I’ve made a conscious effort to be proud of being the eldest child in my family and moreover, I’ve scribed a list of goals that I too want to achieve; maybe not today or tomorrow but someday.

Ramona NicholasHow would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

Gosh, that’s a hard one! That’s like something you would get asked in an interview.

Ha! In a sense, I’m turning the tables and being a ‘dragon’ of sorts…

Let me think! Personally, I’m extremely honest; with me, what you see is what you get. I am not someone who has a hidden agenda and those that know me or are close to me know that I will never be anything but truly honest. I am an extremely loyal friend; when someone becomes a close friend, my loyalty could never be questioned. I’m not good at letting people in, but when people do break down those barriers, I would like to think of myself as a very open, loyal and honest person. I have been diagnosed as being a perfectionist with hints of obsessive compulsive disorder but on the whole, I’m a very happy and grateful person who is extremely family-orientated. Professionally, I must admit that there isn’t much difference as I am a firm believer in the notion that I don’t have a work ‘face’ and a home ‘face’, I’m just me. From an employee’s perspective, I would like to think that I am fair, honest, approachable, understanding – but then again, as an employer you have all of these aspirations for the characteristics you emit but you would have to ask the employees for a definitive answer. From the buyer’s perspective, I’d like to think that I’m concise and a good time-manager.

As co-Managing Director of Cara Pharmacies, decision-making must be a core element of your work. Do you find that an easy task?

I trust my gut. Frequently, when I’m buying new products or employing a new team member, I make my decisions on instinct and so far, it’s been reasonably successful.

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Extraordinary Women: Roe McDermott

In June 2013, RTÉ 2FM presenter Eoghan McDermott declared that Roe McDermott was the most ‘exciting, gifted & talented young writer / interviewer in the country’. Although the duo are brother and sister and some may consider Eoghan’s opinion to be tinged with a certain bias, I’m inclined to agree with him.

Thus, when the opportunity arose to interview Roe for this ‘Extraordinary Women’ series, I was awash with nerves and excitement. That lasted approximately thirty seconds as her warm, endearing nature envelopes you immediately and you feel almost at ease asking her the most intimate of questions.

I had the fortune of catching up with Roe prior to her brief emigration to the US as a Fulbright Scholar. It was a genuine pleasure to converse with her about feminism, social media, criticism and the treatment of sex in the media. It’s worth a read, even if I do say so myself.

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How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

I feel like I’m on a dating website.

This isn’t Tinder, don’t worry.

See, I don’t have Tinder because I don’t have Facebook.

Honestly, you’re not missing out.

I can’t imagine I am but back to your question. First of all, Roe isn’t my real name – I think Sinéad Gleeson first put that tidbit ‘out there’ – my name is actually Sinéad too and we’re all starting a girl band, I don’t know if you’re aware of that.

I’m not, but I’d most definitely like to join.

Of course! But yes, I’m an arts critic, I’m the film editor for Hot Press, I love doing book reviews, theatre reviews and radio essays. Then, I had an experience with a certain women’s lifestyle website, I came in before it was really established, we were told that it would be Ireland’s answer to Jezebel, but quickly it became apparent that that was not what we were doing. So, myself and a few other people decided that we needed to set up our own feminist website, so we started Fanny.ie and I became the ‘Fanny Sex Girl’. As you can imagine, my parents are so proud. At dinner parties, they gush how their daughter is the ‘Fanny Sex Girl’. So yeah, that’s the general ‘thing’…

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The Walworth Farce

In the final summer of the 1980’s, my father migrated from his home in Birmingham to the smallest apartment imaginable on Dublin’s south side. The rationale for his transfer was to be part of a summer production in the Olympia Theatre. Throughout the course of his three month stint, he met my mother.

Two years ago, I also had the wonderful opportunity to perform on the Olympia Theatre stage as an entry in the final Alternative Miss Ireland competition. My performance narrated the traditional Snow White fairy-tale but from my own unique perspective; the leading lady stood at 3’5″ whilst the ‘dwarfs’ towered above her. It was an incredible honour to have my parents join me on stage for that performance. For me, it was the perfect ‘happily ever after’ to a story that spanned almost three decades.

In January/February 2015, another family trio will take to the Olympia Theatre stage. You might have heard of them; Brendan, Brian and Domhnall Gleeson. For just one month, audiences will have an opportunity to witness three of Ireland’s acting aficionado’s at ‘home’.

Earlier this week, both I and John McBratney had the privilege of speaking with Brendan and Brian Gleeson about their upcoming play, ‘The Walworth Farce’. Written by Enda Walsh (of Ballyturk, Misterman and Once fame) and produced by Landmark Productions (of Ballyturk, Howie the Rookie and Dandelions fame) I could barely contain my excitement in the midst of the interview.
The Walworth Farce

Brendan, you mentioned on stage that Domhnall (Gleeson) first brought ‘The Walworth Farce’ to your attention; did it take much to convince you to pursue his idea?

Brendan: For a while now, the three of us have been looking for something to do together. Domhnall suggested ‘The Walworth Farce’ because he believed that it would fit the bill. Brian had seen the play before but I hadn’t but the way they both spoke about it, it seemed perfect. I guess that there was no convincing at all really, it was the perfect fit.

What drew you in, Brian?

Brian: Well, Enda Walsh is so well known, it wasn’t like ‘Here’s this project that no one has ever heard of, let’s think about it’. He’s such a brilliant writer; we seemed to slot into the roles so well, we were very well served by the play. There wasn’t much to think about really!

Brendan: Yeah, there wasn’t a whole load of casting that had to go on! The two lads had to decide who would play the elder and young son.

You didn’t want that part, Brendan?

Brendan: I did! They wouldn’t let me! There was a little bit of thinking about that but a little light went off in our heads and we knew it was ‘the one’. After that, it was just a question of whether or not we could bring it together and if Enda (Walsh) would be up for it.

You both have huge experiences in theatre and film but what is different or special about being on stage?

Brian: When you go to see a play, the performance will never be the exact same again and I love that. It makes each night special!

Brendan: Yeah, I kind of feel that it’s a different craft. Film is a very inward art form; the camera follows you and you hide from it or give to it sparingly but theatre is different particularly in the Olympia. It’s such a big theatre and I remember playing here and the gods being full. You have to be conscious that you interact with those people too – not just the stalls. The actuality and reality of it is a different experience for both the actor and the audience.

Having not performed on stage for quite a while, does the upcoming performance instill a sense of fear in you or is theatre simply in your bones?

Brendan: No, it doesn’t. The last play that I did was approximately fifteen years ago. Prior to that performance, I hadn’t performed on stage for another six years. On the opening of that Billy Roach play, I had all of that trepidation that you mention. I was terrified but I remember hearing the first laugh and being completely invigorated by it. I had totally forgotten how the audience help you. For ‘The Walworth Farce’, I’m slightly nervous about the technical aspects along with making sure that I have the right pitch and being certain that my voice patterns aren’t too low…

Brian: …but if you’re surrounded by good people?

And family!

Brian: And family, exactly!

Brendan: I’m safe with the lads and because I spent so much time in this particular theatre in my younger years, it feels like a safe place and I really just can’t wait to get to work.

In some ways, are your two sons providing a caring role for you during this production?

Brendan: Ha! In a sense, I guess they are! You know what they say, ‘Once a man, twice a child’; I’m heading into childhood again, they’re starting to take care of me! It’s not just because they’re family but I know that I’m sharing the stage with two actors who are both committed and generous of spirit. I firmly believe that they’re going to bring huge amounts to the table and neither have an agenda other than making this play the best that it can be. That is comforting!

My final question for you both, what would you like the main talking point of The Walworth Farce to be?

Brendan: Exhilaration!

Brian: Yes exactly! Introspection too but hopefully audiences come away flushed and affected by the experience.

Thank you very much to both Sinéad and Sabrina for all of their assistance. Tickets for ‘The Walworth Farce’ are on sale now.

See you in Maureen’s Bar, yes?!

Selfie Syndrome

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On August 30th, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on RTÉ 2FM by Dave Fanning. I was on the airwaves speaking about my life as a little person, whilst also offering an Irish context to the viral video ‘Don’t Look Down On Me‘ by my friend, Jonathan Novak.

Through the medium of a spy camera, Jonathan’s video highlighted the reactions or lack thereof, fellow New Yorkers had to his short stature. Some people point, others stare and a few even stop to take photographs of him. Growing up in Ireland, I have experienced some of what Jonathan’s video documented but thankfully, to a much lesser extent.

As an avid user of social media, this concept of taking photos of anything or anyone that we perceive to be different or newsworthy, without asking the individual’s permission, is something which equally fascinates and horrifies me. Recently, I was standing on George’s Street in Dublin where a cyclist had been injured. Three people were attempting to offer him first aid but a much larger group surrounded him taking photographs and videos of the incident. Why? I’m not entirely sure but perhaps social media has given individuals the perception that they too are a media outlet and it is their responsibility to report it to the world.

It’s a worrying trend and is not something which uniquely needs to be addressed pertaining to little people, but to society at large – even celebrities!

“I’m very very comfortable there; I find it an extraordinarily warm and informal place to live. I’m left alone there. On the street people say, ‘hi how are you,’ and I say ‘I’m grand how are you?’ It’s a very easy going place to be and I love Ireland for that reason.”

The above quote is from an interview with Dame Angela Lansbury on Irish Post earlier this year. The most pertinent line? “I’m left alone there.”

When Kim Kardashian and Kanye West spent their honeymoon in Ireland, it would be reasonable to say that the previous statement did not ring true. Perhaps you think that as famous people / reality television stars, they deserve it? I’m not so sure.

Yesterday, the superbly talented Fiona Byrne pointed me towards ‘Aspirational'; an exceptionally well made short-film by Matthew Frost which satires celebrity interactions in the selfie era. Made for Vs. Magazine, it stars Kirsten Dunst and at just two minutes long, I won’t spoil it for you with endless descriptions. Most importantly, it made me think and question how I would react to an impromptu meeting with a famous face.

What are your thoughts on all of the above? Tweet me or comment below!

Minnie Meets… Peter O’Brien

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Last night, I had the absolute privilege of attending the launch of Peter O’Brien’s fifth collection for Arnott’s. The Irish designer’s name has become synonymous with feminine tailoring and beautiful knitwear.

His sharp eye for detail and innate ability to predict not just what Irish women want but also what their wardrobes need, make him one of the most talented fashion designers on the island.

What I admire most about Peter is his sharp wit, kind nature and modesty. Thus, it was a great honour to interview him about his first steps into the fashion domain, his experiences of being the house designer at Chloé and of course, his take on the frivolous language often employed in fashion writing – pun intended.

How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

Contrary to today where everybody is exposing everything about themselves on television and in the media, I was brought up in an era where it was considered impolite to talk about oneself. Thus, that kind of question sends me reeling! How would I describe myself? Well professionally, I’m a terrible procrastinator – if it can be done tomorrow night, I’ll do it two days later. I always function better when a deadline is looming. Personally? I think we delude ourselves as to what we really are. I always thought that I was terribly easy-going and very easy to work but when I say that, people in wardrobe or those who work with me, look at me with a raised eyebrow. So, I think maybe I’m a bit of a perfectionist but I hope that I would never be unkind. As a person though, I hope that I am loyal, kind, generous and a nice friend. I’m not one of those people that are hugely driven and sometimes, I kind of wish that I was and that I had that ‘killer instinct’.

I’m not sure if it’s something you learn but instead is an innate skill or ambition.

Well, I think I’m very lucky. I do what I do and I have a relative facility for it. It’s never painless but I guess I’m lucky that I can do a specific thing and people come to me and ask me to do it. You do have to consider yourself incredibly lucky when you get paid for doing what you love to do.

In your early years, what led you to the domain of fashion design?

There was never a second’s doubt in my mind, I always wanted to draw and I always wanted to draw clothes. You could ask my Mum – I always had a pencil in my hand. Even my copybooks in school were covered in drawings of ladies in ball-dresses.

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