One of the most exciting and thrilling things I’ve done as Style Crone is facing the Wendy Brandes Jewelry Ad Campaign. As a back story, I met Wendy, who had been blogging since 2007, in the blogosphere after I launched my blog Style Crone in 2010. The Wendy Brandes Jewelry Blog was fascinating and I was hooked on her blog as soon as I found it. Wendy was an exceptional writer and her jewelry was exquisitely unique and filled with meaning.
Photo of Wendy Brandes from her website Wendy Brandes Jewelry Blog
In the past, I’ve written about Wendy and her jewelry on Style Crone. Seven years ago I published a blog post about the hashtag ring that I purchased from Wendy. Then again, several years ago, I published another post wearing her cherished hashtag ring. Interestingly, both posts documented my attendance at reggae concerts!
I also remember, in the early heady days of blogging, Wendy would request from other bloggers an image of a look that she was writing about on her blog, such as leopard print or houndstooth. She would then feature on her blog her favorite submissions from bloggers who represented that look . She also wrote a column on the Huffington Post with slide shows of bloggers wearing the look she believed was trending at the time. I was featured several times, which was so exciting for me, and I’m sure, for other bloggers. Here’s an example of Wendy’s post from 2011 about wearing leopard print. So as you can see, Wendy and I go “way back.”
Below is a paragraph which describes Wendy’s history, which is taken from her website. It perfectly and concisely describes her background!
Jewelry design is Wendy Brandes’s second career. Wendy started out as a business journalist at the Wall Street Journal and CNN, later switching to pop-culture coverage during her tenure as managing editor of People magazine’s website. Her story-telling skills remain as strong as ever — but they’re now expressed in carat weight and grams of gold instead of word count. Her line is divided into three distinct collections, inspired by the unique qualities of specific precious metals but tied together by the fact that every design earns the title of “Fine Jewelry for Witty People.”
Wendy first contacted me by email about modeling her jewelry in March of 2018. I read the message while waiting outside my mother’s hospital room shortly before she passed away. The message and request was timely in that it lifted my spirits during a difficult time. Wendy has always been a mood elevator.
The shoot for the campaign took place this past February in NYC. It was very emotional for me to meet Wendy face-to-face after knowing her virtually for nine years. She is even more beautiful and witty in person, and welcomed me with open arms.
The team was incredibly talented, skilled, kind, and engaging. The artists and their instagram accounts are: Creative direction and styling by Shannon Sense, Assited by Jade Mayo, Photography by Courtney Moore, Makeup by Beau Derrick, Hair by Christopher Fears, Nails by Yuko Atrie.
I was thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of this artistic team. The creative energy in the room was palpable. It was an enriching and expansive experience, and an honor to embody the vision that was the focus for the shoot.
The part about modeling that I love the most is taking on the role of a chameleon and inhabiting another persona. It feels like theatre to me and similar to wearing a different hat on any given day, to express myself in a novel and unique way.
Several months after the shoot I received the final selects, and my first response to the unretouched photos was colored by my inner ageist. I felt exposed, vulnerable and unmasked, with my 76 year old skin photographed close-up and very personal. My inner ageist dislikes the skin changes that appear with aging. My inner activist loves them. Many times I don’t live up to my own expectations when confronting ageism.
I’m happy to say that after a struggle between the two opposing forces, my inner activist prevailed. The work by Ashton Appleton of This Chair Rocks was helpful in sorting out my struggle. Her book, A Manifesto Against Agism, has been life-changing for me, as it has supported my understanding of the unconscious invasion of numerous inner and outer saboteurs that feed our culture’s fear of aging. I have believed for years that when we view the skin of an 80-year-old woman to be as beautiful as the skin of a 20-year-old woman, just different, we will know that we have conquered ageism.
If I am to consciously love myself as a crone, why not let the camera tell the truth? It was an opportunity to expand the definition of beauty with pride, push past and against stereotypes, and live my life fully exposed and present. To be the face of this campaign coincides with my own individual process of living and evolving with authenticity and embracing and owning my age, and taking a deep dive into my own individuality.
As I write this post today, I’m overwhelmed and humbled that Wendy chose me to inhabit this role and embody “Immortal Style.” I’m proud that I said yes to the new experience of portraying a queen with a fierce and unflinching gaze and that I wore a gold tiara and a mullet in the process.
In talking to Wendy over the phone as I was writing this post, I gained a more thorough understanding of her vision for the “Immortal Style” campaign. Her jewelry has been about royal women and conveying female power. She has a deep and impressive knowledge of history and women of power from the past.
Queen Elizabeth I of 16th century England was majestic, regal, and monumental in her formal photos. Her powerful and unflinching gaze enforced authority, inspired awe, and reinforced the concept that people could feel safe under her rule. She did not smile or appear approachable or friendly, and had nothing to hide.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is another example of 16th century royalty. I was proud to represent her essence in the photos wearing Scottish tartan. Wendy also designs skull and snake themed jewelry, believing that this jewelry is for everyone at any age. It also represents female power, and I have to say that wearing this jewelry made me feel regal and royal. As with yoga, I’m taking that feeling into my life in the here and now.
Writing this post was as monumental to me as wearing a gold tiara. I wanted to describe my experience of working with Wendy and her team as accurately and flawlessly as possible. I wanted to convey how meaningful it was for me to be featured as the Queen of Immortal Style. This is my ode to the process and a documentation of the journey that brought me to this memorable experience.
Publishing this post communicates my belief that taking risks and moving forward with something new, such as launching a blog and throwing oneself into the unknown, creates opportunities that could never be imagined.
Thank you Wendy, for trusting me with your vision and providing me with challenges and inspiration. I appreciate the chance to deal with my own internal barriers and move through them to another level of self acceptance of the march of time across my face and the pleasure of age pride. It has been grand!
Watch this video by Wendy which goes into depth about why she chose a woman of 76 for her ad campaign and her ongoing commitment to diversity. It explores her focus on the theme of female power and regal, royal, and monumental women of the past in her jewelry designs and in her entire life.
*This post was originally published on StyleCrone.