Look at that little dynamo up there. Smart, beautiful, hilarious, humble, and sweet...my sister Emily. As some of you may know, her nickname for me is Pup, and my nickname for her is Poof. So I'll be referring to her as Poof, Em, and Emily in this blog if that's all right. Earlier this week we were in New York City for 20 hours, all expenses paid by....someone who wanted us to be there (I don't want to ruin the surprise).
I was thrilled to be Em's traveling companion. On Sunday night, I took a long train ride to her home in southern Illinois. It had been three years since Jeff and I were separated for more than a day, and I wished he could have come along. But he stayed home and took care of the cats--thank you, Jeff! We kept in touch via phone, email, and what seemed like a half-dozen social networks, but we missed each other a great deal. When I came home, I was touched to see the Kelly-shaped pillow-and-comforter configuration he had built on my side of the bed.
I arrived at around 10:00 p.m., but I was up again at 2:30 a.m. to go to work with Em. She's an anchorperson for WSIL-TV's morning news, and I had never seen the studio or watched the show from the wings before. A couple of hours of prep work goes into each broadcast. Here's Poof and her co-anchor Kevin working hard at 3:00 in the morning. The little sign taped to their desks says "Anchor Island."
News 3 This Morning runs from 5:30 to 7:00 each weekday, and while there's no way on earth I'd be able to read the news to its rather huge, predawn audience, Em and Kevin (along with weatherman Clint) manage to do a great job, day in and day out. Their small, close-knit crew is professional but laid-back and jokey. Everyone gets along, and Poof feels very much at home there.
After the show, Poof had a few hours of work to get through before we could leave. Again, this is the kind of job I would find difficult: calling complete strangers, setting up meeting times for future interviews, etc. But she took it all in stride while entertaining me and vibrating with excitement for our New York getaway.
We stopped by her house to say goodbye to Tyler, her husband of five years, and Cupcake, her kitty of one year. Cupcake looks a whole lot like Bun, but Bun doesn't have Cupcake's fluffy white patch. Poof improvised a song about the fluffy white patch, a little disco ditty called "Fluffy White Patch."
And then we were off to New York by way of the St. Louis airport, which was some two and a half hours away. Poof drove while I navigated with my phone's map program. We hit a bit of a snag around this bowl-of-spaghetti-looking tangle of interstates near the Mississippi River.
Luckily the phone figured out an alternate route in a hurry. Otherwise we had an absolute blast cracking each other up and enjoying extended conversations about Mad Men, snacks, Jesse Pinkman, top 40 songs, the fabulousness of going to New York on a Monday, and on and on.
Em had only been on an airplane a couple of times in her life and was nervous. Plus it was September 12, and we had each spent the day before watching 9/11 programming. But I helped her make her way through security and to the gate where our small plane was ready to go. We came up with a new tradition: during take-off, it's my job to distract Poof with the most random conversation topics I can think of, such as owls and hot fudge. I kept her laughing and gave her a hand to squeeze, and we arrived at Laguardia at around sunset easily and safely.
Our driver met us near baggage claim holding a sign with her name on it, and he led us to a sleek black town car. He reminded us of our brother and we enjoyed the ride tremendously.
We paused at a toll plaza, and I saw lots of police officers and other security types keeping an eye on things. They seemed beautiful and brave; their mere presence made us feel safe. New York sometimes seems like such an abstraction when you live in the Midwest, but when I spotted a billboard advertising the new 9/11 memorial I realized, Wow, we're really here.
Our hotel (the Sheraton Hotel and Towers) was near Times Square. The snazzy lobby made Poof make a face I've loved since she was little: her excuse me but this is pretty awesome expression.
We snagged a lovely room on the 47th floor, near the top. This was our view.
Exhausted but experiencing our fifth or sixth wind of the day, we decided to go to the pizzeria Jeff basically insisted we visit, John's, just off Times Square [Possibly the only decent pizza near Times Square, plus it's in a renovated church! --Jeff]. I had been there with Jeff a couple of years ago, and this was a great idea because look:
So good! We obliterated this pizza and talked and talked. I almost lost my voice on this trip!
Poof's big event was at 9:00 the next morning, so we got some sleep and woke up bright and early. We caught a cab to the Time Warner building by Columbus Circle. Here's a view from inside the building.
A high-end mall (and Adam and Eve sculptures by contemporary artist Fernando Botero) occupied the bottom floors.
We window shopped for a while and made sure the camera was ready to go.
Soon it was time for the event! Here's a teaser video Poof put together of the story thus far.
And here's why we were in NYC: to meet Mally Roncal, makeup artist to the stars. Such as Beyonce. Such as Jennifer Lopez. Mally, a celebrity in her own right in the world of beauty, has her own line of truly innovative cosmetics, and Poof has been a fan for a long time and knows Mally's products and story inside and out. Mally and her crew had put together a blogger's breakfast and invited beauty writers from Yahoo, MSN, and other big media outlets...and my sister. Em was the only YouTube personality there. Mally--who is beautiful, charismatic, funny, and truly kind--discussed her favorite products and introduced a couple of new ones as some 30 beauty bloggers, Poof, and I ate breakfast and listened from tables in a special events room of the Landmarc restaurant. At one point during her presentation, Mally paused, looked right at Emily, got excited, and exclaimed, "Oh my god you are so BEAUTIFUL!" Poof was in heaven.
About ten minutes into the presentation, Em was taken aside by one of Mally's crew; Mally wanted to demonstrate a "smoky eye" on her for the bloggers! Mally's right hand man Albee Franson removed Poof's painstakingly applied makeup and redid it, leaving the eyes for Mally to finish. (This marks the point in the video above where Poof mouths, "WOW.")
After a few minutes, Mally called Em up to her makeup chair. Adorably starstruck, she told Mally that this was the first time anyone had applied makeup on her, and Mally was like, No way! Pretty amazing that the first people to touch my sister's face with makeup also work on superstars. Excuse the poor photography below; I was videotaping all of this with my right hand while trying to take still photos with my left hand.
Mally demonstrated her products and techniques on three other women in the audience. Her talk went on for about an hour, and then she answered some questions and held an informal meet-and-greet. Mally's team had told Em in advance that she wanted to make a video with her after the event, so Poof hung back at the end of the photo-op line. And I will let this video speak for itself...here is the big meeting of the minds.
Seriously, how cute is that?
It was so wonderful to be able to witness this, one of the best days of my sister's life. I wrote to Albee the next day on Facebook:
Em and I are back home and still can't quite believe what just happened! You, Mally, and the whole team made her feel like a princess. That "little girl" means the world to me, and I am so thankful when people she admires treat her with love and respect and bring her joy. That's what you all did! Mally is such a heroine to Em. The mutual admiration the two have for each other was truly beautiful to witness, and I'm so glad I was there! You all gave her such profound validation for all of the hard work she's done over the past four years. She is inspired--refueled! And my goodness, the makeup you gave us was overwhelmingly generous. I am having a blast playing with it. It's honestly better than anything I have ever used, and so innovative. Congratulations to you, Albee, for being part of a very special organization!
After Em's one-on-one with Mally, which was filmed by Mally's people for we-don't-know-what-kind-of-future-use, the two put together a quick, impromptu video for Beauty Broadcast, and that will be posted early next week. Even though it was fashion week in New York and Mally had a QVC session later on, she seemed to have all the time in the world to talk with Em, as did her staff. The entire event was about two and a half hours long, from start to finish.
I was unprepared for how kind everyone was to us at this event. Fully expecting to deal with a bunch of jaded, so-over-it hipsters, I was delighted by how sweet and down to earth Mally and her team were. The compliments flowed like wine from them, including fun comments like, "Emily, we are obsessed with your ponytail." They didn't have to be so nice to the two of us, but they were. Expectations: exceeded and exploded.
After we said goodbye, Poof and I decompressed in Central Park with freaking exquisite macarons from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery. Jeff messaged me before we left the event and basically said, Yeah, you need to go there. We people-watched and made gleeful phone calls to Mom and Jeff. Poof periodically stared into space, grinning and slowly shaking her head. The next couple of hours and the rest of the trip home were essentially the first section of this blog in reverse. Lots of laughs, lots of OMG THAT HAPPENED. Poof was giddy and so was I.
And finally, I'd like to wrap up this rather long blog with a few words about what it was like to walk around NYC with Em. She's got this undeniable star power that makes people want to look at her, and there's something sweetly childish about her face, especially when she pulls her hair back and especially when she's happy, that makes people want to be nice to her. Any number of people asked us if we were sisters because we share the same smile, and one sweet older gentleman at the airport told us, "No matter what happens to you in your life, ladies, never lose your smiles." Midwesterners are supposedly a lot friendlier than New Yorkers, but I truly can't remember the last time a complete stranger said something like that to me in Illinois.
I've been to New York City a few times, but the people there seemed different on the day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11. More eye contact. Friendlier. Clearly in love with their city. It was as if everyone had spent all day Sunday crying and wanted to make a fresh start on Monday and Tuesday. Any apprehension Em and I may have felt about traveling to New York around the anniversary was replaced with gratefulness and admiration.
Thank you Mally, and thank you New York!