Beautiful You

There is a lack of elegance, sexiness and mystery missing in photographs of women today, especially celebrities and the overexposed, blasé way they brand themselves and how they are portrayed through the lens.
Social media and fashion have made women seem like untouchable objects, loud, fake and even desperate at times.
The “look at me” culture screaming for more and more attention.
I have always had a more hate than love relationship with modeling and fame.
Yes, I realize that sounds trite.
I was a model, white and privileged.
But I was a young, impressionable girl, who today is a woman with decades away from the spotlight by choice and a fresh perspective.
I wonder when future generations look back at images of women will they be curious, or exhausted by the sheer volume?
I can only appreciate now the mystique of a three am shoot in Milan,
a lost era and the simple gesture of adjusting a dress, caught and frozen in time by the keen eye of a sharp photographer.
Women are magical creatures, real and raw and the most beautiful when unaware of themselves.
They do not need a movement to define their power; they have been beautiful, raw, strong, passionate warriors for centuries and centuries birthing ideals, children, and nurturing souls.
Less is more, so do not ever undervalue or compare yourself to someone else’s million followers.
Find your own unique way, and remember true beauty is forever more.

Fashion is Fickle

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FASHION IS FICKLE

When did we become a society of images scrolling past on someone’s smartphone? It’s nonsensical, comical and yet. Modeling was my life for two decades. I never felt entitled, prettier, skinnier or better than the next girl. In fact, I always felt a little less than. Maybe if I was thinner, smarter, or a skilled marketer I’d be a smarter brand, book better caliber jobs even though at the height of my career I was working for Vogue. I never let myself enjoy modeling. I took the lifestyles of the rich and famous for granted. Wait, before you crucify or criticize me. I understood the privileges, perks, and dollars being thrown my way. I understand how truly lucky I was.

I come from everyday middle class parents, nothing more than average but oh so much more beautiful than any pretty face I’ve known. Love, honor and respect mean more than some fucking photograph that would eventually crinkle and fade. My BFF who was a model too, said to me the other day, “I wish we had made more money.” Yeah, me too sometimes. Although money won’t solve any of my problems today. It’s all such a cliché. Small town girl leaves for the big city and makes it big. Well, you tell me what the fuck is big? How about doing something that requires brains, or better yet compassion? You’re not supposed to regret the past, or even look back, but I have a trunk full of old images staring back at me. I was a child who had no idea how lucky she was, traveling the globe, working one day a week making the same money it took others months and months to earn. A young girl who got caught up in the fickle that is fashion. It’s funny, I never thought it would end, and like most things that end abruptly and ruthlessly, I would find myself job-less and less, going through my savings in lightning speed. When you live in New York, and have to pay hefty rent money goes fast and furious. I always find it sad and a bit curious, when I post a modeling picture from a hundred years ago and they get way more likes than my serious writing pieces.

Maybe the world wants and needs to be entertained by unavoidable celebrities and Reality TV, to see pretty things because it is in fact, so brutally unfair and fucked up. Maybe. I loved modeling for a couple reasons, despite the plastic ones. My BFFs are the same beautiful women and ex-models I met when I was 19. They are, like me, normal and no longer immersed in the world of fashion. I got to visit, and actually live in cities I only dreamed of seeing, or watched on The Travel Channel. That was cool; to immerse yourself in a culture that was completely different than anything you’d ever known or called home. To eat cuisines you could barely pronounce. To try and decipher languages that sounded like gobbly gook. I discovered something along the way; people are pretty much the same. There are cool cats, interesting characters and funny humans across the globe. There are also beautiful assholes all over the world. Maybe I was an asshole sometimes too, entitled for sure. Not these days, no not anymore. I sort of cringe when I post an old picture from my modeling years, and then watch in wonder as the likes come flooding in. Not exactly flooding, more like a slow dribble. Fashion is fleeting, one must adapt to the superficial world we live in and move on. It’s high tide time to embrace the past, and hope the insides match the perceived beauty on the outside.

 

 

Take a Picture, or Not

Take a Picture, or Not

By Jacqueline Cioffa

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This face.

This face has been scrunched and smothered by new new talc scented infant kisses

This face has been covered in mud, dirt, blood, open-wounded, stitched, patched and put back together

This face has been brave, kind and stubborn pout five-year-old defiant

This face has been bullied and attacked by mean girl high school drama and self-important syndrome

This face has been pummeled, scarred and attacked vicious

This face has been glorified, mystified, beautified, and plastered on billboards

This face has worn one million types and varying hues of chalky sultry makeup

This face has known privilege, spoiled riches and possible envy

This face has rested her cheek against a sterile cement floor curled in fetal position lying beside the hospital bed where her father has died

This face has been on the receiving line of sweet, melodic nighttime sexy soft forehead kisses from momentary star-crossed lovers fleeting and delicious

This face has felt rejuvenated immersed in sea salt and sunshine encapsulating and inviting Miami oceans in wintertime

This face has burrowed deep under a pillow dark, terrified, tears and snot escaping all orifices

This face has been bronzed and sunny

Filled with Angel kisses and brown spotted freckles

This face has been the recipient of 450 V currents sent to an exploding brain through wires attached to her scalp, voltage dialed up to maximum

This face has been overly expressive, exuberant, surprised and giggly

This face has been grey, pallid, aged and wrinkled

This face has been acid burned to obliterate Squamous cell carcinoma riddled blotches

This face.

“The camera is a save button for the mind’s eye.” — Rodger Kingston

This face is tired, exhausted, despondent, devoid of Vitamin D and defeated

This face is not the who, how, or where

This face is not the who, how, where, or when

This face is not the who, how, where, when or why parts of me

It’s cellular skin alive, hazel eyes, pointy nose, scarred forehead, potty mouth lips and cheeky cheekbones

This face cannot carry the weight of a life nor mask the beauty

It’s just a face like all others

It’s mine though, this face

Raw and unfiltered

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams

 

Take a Picture, Or Not 2015 © Jacqueline Cioffa

Originally featured on Paperbacks and Wine

 

 

Waiting on Oprah: Never Quit Your Dreams

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Waiting on Oprah

I close my eyes and can almost see the perfect fairytale life I envisioned in my wildest dreams.

Dear Fantasy (Oprah), “I feel that I am a very fortunate person …”

I was fifteen. Fifteen, gawky, wickedly uncomfortable in my so called ‘model frame.’ Somehow fifteen was the perfect age to concoct wild fantasy adventures and the fastest way out of a stifled, small town. There was a kaleidoscope world waiting for me, exclusively.

Strangers, intoxicating places and new faces I ached to see.

I guess Oprah never received the letter or maybe it got shoved to the bottom pile. There were one billion other worthy dreamers, perhaps more worthy than me. Maybe it got filed away, who’s to say?

I barreled ahead out on my own and concocted the fantastical dream anyway.

I had my picture taken, a lot, wearing expensive, sequined designer gowns. I lived in far away lands. Swam naked in cerulean silk seas with infinite sparkling black diamond sandy beaches. I stood atop glaciers touching the clouds where the landscape was breathtaking white, and the earthly humans invisible below. It was lonely and cold, and I felt nothing but numbness. Decades and decades past, I was stuck bone cold.

I could no longer picture my paralyzed, frozen feet on solid ground. Be mindful, careful, and specific before dreaming.

I woke up. No longer a child, no longer a pretty pawn, no longer me, no longer an identity, just a jumble of misfiring neurons.

I had freedom, for a time. Airplanes, buses, pre-packed duffle bags ready, lavender mister, passport, baby pillow became the two ton heavy, overweight baggage. I could not lighten the load no matter how much stuff I discarded. The heavy barred down on my brain, burrowing deep under my skin.

Change is so excruciatingly difficult when you’re living the dream.

Oprah never told me dreams can shift, that there can be more than just the one.

Or maybe, I wasn’t listening too busy running scared. Maybe I had to live through the dream to get to the here and now. Maybe I grew up, a little. Maybe the dream plain wore out.

Shivering, dizzy from submersing my head in the clouds surrounded by foreign tongues I did not understand, the physical me grew bored and misplaced. I dined on spicy and sweet, savoring cuisines that were taste bud delicious yet soured the stomach.

I was grinding, squirming, picking, pinching awkward, drowning inside the fifteen-year-old expired notion of bliss. I think when one is asking for a dream, one must be specific.

I’m sure being kicked to the curb no longer the prettiest, youngest, skinniest ‘photo op’ of the day did nothing for my already damaged low self-esteem and defunct, busted aspirations.

My life has been filled with love. Looking back and forward, my life has been filled with love.

That must be the first thing I cling to while reminiscing. My life has been filled with heart swelling, shattering, terrifying, emotional, easy breezy, destructive, goose-bump alive love.

The heart is a muscle it cannot possibly feel yet it does. Bizarre but so blazing sun, crescent moon, silly stars, perpetual movement sea elements comforting.

I am loved; even on the days I forget how to love myself.

It has not been easy, my middle, it’s been split open, fractured; please God let me end the crucifying. That, and all that mess that is my life are for a different tale. Perhaps when we have a little more time.

I’m back home now. I’m not fifteen anymore. My dreams are simpler, quieter, not half the screaming loud as before. Home, that’s what I’d been missing all along. Not the physical dwelling perhaps, although that helps joggle the mind.

Sensory memory.

The giddy anticipation of my mother’s White Shoulder’s perfume, her lips brushing against my forehead, the charms on her bracelet jingling and dancing on her wrist. Giddy elation alive.

“Go to sleep, sweet child of mine.”

I’d pretend sleep, twisting and squirming awaiting her return. Back from a well deserved evening out way past midnight to stroke my hair in the dark. I was sugary five not smart mouth saccharine EMO fifteen, not biting sarcastic know it all twenty, not disillusioned complacent crazed thirty, not even bitter shattered fragmented forty.

I was five.

I was living the dream.

Dear Oprah, “it’s okay.”

I think I’d like to give this living thing a shot, keep the next dream nestled close.

Readily accessible in my front not back pocket.

Dreams change.

And me, I am transitioning.

I’m not waiting on Oprah, not this time.

This dream is waiting on me.

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Gypsies and Pixie Dust

92_1Gypsies and Pixie Dust By Jacqueline Cioffa

I exist therefore I am, mistakes and imperfections one and all. I don’t want to be considered an artist. I want to be thought of as a student of art. I want to ingest the human condition, live and breathe it. I want to eradicate all traces of ego and relate. I want to roam the globe and hear the stories, while not missing out on the neighbor hood tales right next door. I am a traveler and connoisseur of fortune and mishap. I am a believer in fate and love and a hopeless romantic at heart. I have fallen in love many times over; sometimes reciprocated while others not. I am a gypsy leaping joyously headfirst into the new and unknown forever anxious for a fresh start.

So much of our lives are spent in the world of what if, instead of the place that is right now. I am present, I am now and I am looking up towards the sky and watching as the pixie dust falls. For today I will repeat that statement over and over, every time my mind starts to wander to a different road. I am present, I am now and I am looking up to the sky. Watch for it, you might miss it if you’re not looking up towards the heavens as the pixie dust falls.

I miss my friend. She was 90 years young and taught me many life lessons. I started visiting her out of duty and obligation and continued out of delight. She once said to me, “I wish I had known you when I was younger, we would’ve been great friends.” And I replied, “You know me now.” I only realized the weight and validity of that statement by her passing and what it truly meant. To spend time with another being and listen to their choices, the many paths and winding roads. 

I love all kinds of travels, roads carved out by dirt and gravel, uphill wood and branch covered trails, 6 lane freeways that go nowhere in particular, route 66 and the generation beat and all that trip meant.  I adore white finite sandy beaches with no end in sight, and enjoy the lazy comfort of a trip taken in old woman’s living room filled with black and white pictures and endless stories of a life well spent. 

There were many days when I didn’t want to get on the train and make the hour-long commute to her tiny modest east village apartment.  She’d tell me about her life in Italy, the seven brothers and sisters and the father who worked for the rail.  How much she loved them and how there was always food on their table and laughter in that house in spite of war.  She told me how scared and sad she was when she left home and made the trip to America with this new husband towards a fresh start.  She’d remember with remorse how she’d stay with an abusive Italian old school man who came back from America to Italy to fetch her offering dreams of a promised land.  She sighed as she remembered his gambling and the cancer that would ravage him and caring for him and the mess she endured out of duty for 50 years long. 

She’d ask me every week, “why didn’t I have a boyfriend for I was such a pretty tall girl?” Then she’d smile and shake her head saying it was better and smart.  She’d tell me to wait for someone who had dignity and honor and settle for no less. And I listened and nodded my head, a smile on my face. I believed her when she spoke to me, for I could see the pixie dust and the angels flying all around.

She could hardly speak without a tear as she showed me a picture of her dead son and the pain would creep up as if she was discovering this story for the first time.  I’d watch her face, the lines sketched deeply over time and listen to her travels and I’d love her all over again. I knew the journey downtown was worth it. And our voyages were forever melded and meshed and she was no longer a little old lady that was alone. She was a storyteller who was deeply loved and admired and respected and an old woman who had 9o years, but was forever young in my heart. When I would leave her apartment she would give me a hug and say, “Get home safe.” And I felt giddy and well and loved. I was a journeyman who’s life had a purpose. She made me miss my mother who is still here, but far away enough.

You don’t really have to go anywhere to be a traveler if you stay alert. Sometimes others make the journey for you. I remember curling up under a crocheted blanket with my mother on our cozy couch in wintertime. I was five and we would magically cover our heads and end up in Ireland.  The land of County Cork and the Blarney stone and dumb Irish luck. The land where her father left the only home he knew at eight and crossed the seas towards a new beginning. He would live stoically and walk tall throughout life.  He would make a family that would prosper and procreate and live on. His would be a life filled with honor and purpose and the quiet elegance of simplicity in a rural American town.  It would be a small village, a no place in particular, but his journey would be filled with substance galore.

Stories have been the essence of my life. Since I was old enough to recall I’ve been asking my mom about her stories so I could get the tales right. I would travel back in time with her to her youth and the trip made sense. That’s how I’d grow into the gypsy with a love for words and new undiscovered lands in her heart.  

I’d travel the globe.  I’d walk the Champs Elysee in Paris savoring a chocolate crepe.  I’d smell the age of the earth rise up from her streets and admire the Seine by its yellow lights and the dark. I’d fall in love with Chagall and the Pompidou and grow to appreciate Brie and Sunday afternoons and La Tour Eiffel from the park. I’d scour flea markets in search of the perfect vintage leather coat.  I’d fall out of love with a man and cry real tears and learn to hate the person lying next to me. I’d wish I was anywhere but Paris with this lover who had outstayed his welcome and squashed my zest for adventure with every beat of his soured heart. The days would become long and the streets would appear dirty and food would lose all flavor as I lost my appetite. Summer would feel like an old maid and I would silently pray for wintertime when he would pack his bags and leave me for good.

A finality that would lead to a different kind of voyage, a much needed repose from an outdated life.

Spring in Paris would magically reappear much like the Easter bunny and I’d fall head over heels in love with a different kind of man. He’d make music in the rain and Paris would come to life again. His would be a short visit, but long enough to renew my broken heart.  Paris would appear pretty again and she was soft like talc and every bridge oozed new found sex appeal.  Sometimes love appears for a mere mille- second, yet your journey is changed forever and your lives are intertwined. You remain not together, no. However bittersweet the visit, the gleam of admiration in his eye and his presence in your world is felt. His trip makes your trip valid and you feel the sparkles and except the magic and gladly move on.

Steadfastly, you recognize your good fortune and tuck it away in your hope chest and you walk straight and tall. There are many beaches to visit and stars to count and fish and sea turtles to swim with. There are wooden bridges to be crossed and mountains to trek. There are fears to be faced head on. There are dreams to be realized and cards to be dealt and bags to be packed and unpacked.

My good fortune has always been the ability to see myself through others. The voyages I have taken would lead to life changing lessons, affirmations, a needed hug, an unexpected caress, and a knowing nod.  There would be trips made out of duty, filled with sorrow and grief.  Perhaps those were the hardest kind. Yet, they were definitely the most rewarding. They showed me the kind of stuff I was made of.  I was able to face death and sorrow and not be ripped apart. I would find the strength to continue on the trek.

I’ve loved all sorts of travel. Trips to exotic lands in first class, the ripped leather seat of a beat up bus on my way back home, a road traveled so frequently I know every sign, every rest stop along the way.  I love the endless possibility of a new road, but as I grow older I learn that I am a deep lover of the familiar journey and all the comfort she holds.

A shared look, a glimmer of hope, pixie dust and perpetual movement. I exist now. I am present doing nothing in particular. I am ok with that. I am full. I am a traveler, a student of art, and a lover of the human condition. I want to be pliable; I want to bend like the next road I find myself upon. I want to savor the journey; I need to remind myself to look up. Remember to keep looking up.  It’s there, the pixie dust. I know it is, I’ve seen it. It’s the infinite possibility that a battered old duffle bag holds hanging in my closet whispering my name.

Originally published via Frame Lines the magazine 

Gypsies and Pixie Dust by Jacqueline Cioffa

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls #StolenMoments

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From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls

Jacqueline Cioffa 1998

Oh little girl

Stop for a minute

Let me enjoy your youth

Your radiance

The sheer innocence of fearlessness

Can I ride with you just one more time?

On your bike with training wheels

Let me float free on your back

As you learn to glide without safety wings

Don’t fret and don’t be afraid

Your youth will never leave you

She’ll grow on with you

As you and I both grow up

Drowning by Mouse

Woke up to a flooded basement (only a little), and a head that feels like it’s in a vice-grip. I have taken half a Benadryl, Alka-Seltzer and Flonase with only marginal relief.

Not matter what’s happening or how shitty I feel, my personal summer goal is to swim every single day.

And, it only counts if I get my head wet. Duh, everybody knows that.

Don’t they?

Went to the gym and for a dunk even the asshole mouse floating past, more like sunken did not stop me.

It would have thwarted my goal day three, if I had seen it. I might have passed out.

Can you pass out in water? Huh, I’ll have to google that.

Mouse??? I DON’T DO MICE. Let me be clear, reiterate, I DO NOT DO MICE.

“MOOOOM!!!!” 

I’ll spare you the yuck factor and unpleasant bloated, furry black pink tail imagery. Squeak. Eek.

Yeah, no. I will not go down that easy.

Drowning by mouse.

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"This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best. My very damnedest. And it looks like this…"

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I felt like this today.

You don’t need to hear about the numbness, excruciating pain, overwhelming anxiety, residual anxiety, paranoia, dizziness  or that I prayed to whomever was listening to just end it. Fucking end the ridiculous, relentless, ad nauseam, non-sensical hours that consume my days. Frankly it’s wearing me down, ripping me to shreds and fucking exhausting fighting invisible monsters.

Yes, I know I’m sick. Yes, I understand tapering off benzos is worse than hell it’s maggot filled shit. Yes, my empathetic, cool therapist talks it out. Reassuring me I am indeed strong enough.

Resilient enough. Tough enough. However. Makes me wonder.

Where in the hell am I going to replenish precious missing elements when the planet is currently fluctuating between earthquakes, tornadoes and drought? In a constant state of chaos, flux. How to replenish when I can’t remember pieces of yesterday. Blurred and hazed memories clog and pollute the brain.

Where? How? Why? Great questions. With zero answers.

I said NO anyway. For shits and giggles, ya’ know.

I don’t feel like shit, I feel eradicated, violated and obliterated.

I go to the hairdresser’s armed with my peppermint and lavender doused washcloth unsure I can make it through the hour-long dye process without flipping the fuck out.

Home. I want, need, have a deep desire to be home.

Grey roots and I have a larger more burning desire to feel pretty, alive, and validated.

Breathe, just breathe. You are safe. You are fine. You’ve been through this before. You are safe, breathe.

Your stylist is your dear friend who knows and loves you well she will take you home if necessary.

FUCK YOU anxiety, fuck off, go fuck up someone else’s day/ existence.

It’s sitting there threatening strangling my neck, throat, cramped shoulders, tingling extremities and limbs. Sitting patient, greedily waiting to pounce.

I apply eyeliner (Armani #02 pencil my fav.) and concealer to brighten my shiteous, difficult existence and in spite.

Tomorrow will come with or without me, isn’t that the cliché? What they say? Whoever the hell they are, Martians maybe. Fuck if I know, can’t be sure.

This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best.

My very damnedest.

And it looks like this… on the outside

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee