When I reflect on the most incredible icons of our time, I think of their immortalized images.
Or, more specifically, the legacy these depictions left behind. With her standout performance in the cult classic Breakfast At Tiffany’s, actress Audrey Hepburn popularized the look of the little black dress, best paired with an elegant updo and stylish sunglasses. Then there’s the revolutionary artist Frida Kahlo who, despite her scathing critiques of capitalism, has had her face — including her legendary unibrow — plastered on almost every form of merchandise imaginable. And lest we forget my favorite superstar Amy Winehouse, who even years after her untimely death continues to live on through her elaborate eyeliner, unique tattoos, and iconic beehive hairdo.
Star quality is a nebulous concept. Some say you either have it or you don’t, and those who do spend a lifetime trying to sustain it. Charm, commitment, and talent are one-half of the equation, sure, if only finite characteristics. What ultimately renders someone (or something) so iconic is the ability to live on in the public imagination, to make a mark so ubiquitous it’s almost annoying. Maybe one day, if you’re lucky, adoring fans will wear your signature style as a quirky Halloween costume without even the slightest hint of irony. Such is the social contract of fame: to be remembered for what you represent, not merely who you were.
I’ve always found this prospect unattainably alluring. Growing up, I daydreamed of becoming an actress or a model, mostly because it was the only way I envisioned a life where I could dress fashionably every day and get paid for it too. In a moment of sudden adolescent kismet, I stumbled across that legendary photo of Joan Didion smoking a cigarette, her steely-eyed gaze locked intensely with the camera, and my whole understanding of chicness changed. I realized I didn’t need to walk the runway in order to flaunt my inherent fabulousness. I could cultivate a persona as a writer instead.
After I discovered art history in college years later, my calling finally clicked into place. I loved writing about art almost as much as I loved photographing it, taking refuge in the intricate textures of my favorite paintings. On the weekends, I started gallery hopping in Chelsea, tagging artists on Instagram, and occasionally inserting my observations in the narrative. I didn’t just want to post a picture with a basic caption and be done with it, though. I wanted to interact with my surroundings, for my opinion to be respected, to transform into a masterpiece myself. I guess that’s why I gravitated towards artfluencing.