Archive | July, 2011

My Big Fat Italian Family Reunion

26 Jul

Stereotype us Italians if you want. Who can blame you with the cast of the Jersey Shore “gracing” us with their ever-embarrassing, alcohol-driven reality television stunts (which, I must note, have been actively denounced by Italian-American groups)?

Two stereotypes you won’t find my family disproving are: There are a lot of us and we’re tight knit.

I always knew these two things to be true of my nuclear family along with my closest of extended family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, first and second cousins). Not a holiday goes by that I’m not with my family, and I’d easily rank family more important to me than anything else on my profile (if I had one).

So it’s an understatement to say that I was excited to attend my first official Ottavio family reunion this past weekend.

Before this weekend, I had only heard second, third and fourth-hand accounts of distant cousins and great grandparents who braved rickety ships from Acquaviva and Calabria, Italy for a chance at a new and prosperous life in the United States. We have records of family members coming through Ellis Island to then settle in Amsterdam and Utica, NY, and models of the boats that brought them here. Needless to say, I was shocked during a third grade class project about tracking family history to learn that not everyone’s family came over during the early 1900s on a boat to Ellis Island.

One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to my grandfather, Sam Ottavio go on for hours about our family lineage (I know, I’m a dork). Sharp as a tack even up to the last weeks of his life at the age of 98, my grandfather remembered and shared intimate details of our Ottavio history.

This weekend offered me an entirely new and eye-opening perspective on my family that even Pop, in his thorough accounts, didn’t provide.

The scene at My Big Fat Italian Family Reunion: A punishingly hot day at La Cucina in Amsterdam, NY. Outside on a patio, 120 people, old and young, gathered on a porch to drink and eat merrily, and to catch up with familiar faces or meet family members for the first time. All guests wore name tags including but not limited to the surnames Carzo, Pomadoro, Ottavio, Fontana and Vaccaro. One of my cousins joked with my Polish/English/German mutt boyfriend that he looked out of place and should add a vowel to his last name.

I met and heard of a lot of Sam’s, Charlie’s and Peters (my family apparently has a penchant for these names) while the women of the family trended toward a more varied group of names. I did meet a Catherine, but won’t say I was named after her because my spelling is different and I’ve always been told I wasn’t named after anyone.

I learned a lot about my family this weekend and enjoyed doing so. Most noteworthy though, is my reaffirmation of how important family is. No one’s family is perfect, normal or typical, but we’ve all got ‘em. I feel blessed to spend the time I did with everyone over the weekend and look forward to reconvening down the road when our family grows even larger and more diverse.

I never knew I had an eye for design

5 Jul

I earned the unfortunate nickname Laura Ingalls due to the doilies I had in my first apartment out of college. Don’t blame me; blame the hand-me-down wooden furniture I got and the threats pending any stains, scratches or watermarks.

I consider myself a pretty good judge of style and fashion, but when it came to interior design, the only thing I was, was jealous. Jealous of the budget, insight and taste so many interior designers and their clientele had. Photos of color and texture-rich sitting rooms, dens, dinning rooms and bedrooms in the pages of Architectural Digest and Elle Décor among others made me hungry to learn more about the art that is interior design. However, I didn’t have any experience in the subject or any connections to help me get an “in.”

Fast forward to present-day in my role as a real estate publicist for multiple residential properties such as the Beatrice, Trump SoHo® Hotel Condominium and The Centurion®, and I’d consider myself at least a step above the novice interior design observer. Speak the names Holly Hunt, Celerie Kemble, James Huniford and Amy Lau to me and I’ll no longer have a questionable, inquisitive look on my face. Nay; I have now had the opportunity to work with and observe a number of designers and their work, continuously fascinated by their impeccable taste and talent as I try to absorb as much as possible.

This realization hit me when I was accompanying brilliant photographer, Ed Lederman and interior designer Alberto Villalabos of Etos, for a photo shoot at The Centurion. Alberto and his partner Mercedes Desio were tasked with showcasing a client’s collection of items from all over the world in a one-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the only ground-up residential condominium project in New York City designed by internationally renowned Design Architect/Pei Partnership Architects with I.M. Pei.

Creating an environment with this client’s affinity for clean lines yet maximalist tendencies, meant Desio and Villalabos had to contain the magnitude and multitude of his collection, while making the home livable and uncluttered; cocoon-like even. An incredible feat!

All that said the job wasn’t done on our end as the publicist. We now want the design community among many others to know about this apartment and the work that went into the interior design.

Accompanying the photo shoot for this residence and assisting Alberto and Ed in capturing the best angles that would grab the editor and eventually reader’s eye for a design feature, was an eye-opening experience that yes, I did have a knack for this interior design piece of my job! Will I be heading out to ABC kitchen tomorrow and start freelancing? Absolutely not. At least I know for a fact there will be no more doilies entering my apartment! However, this experience and realization go to show the multifaceted knowledge one gains in the public relations industry and how imperative hands-on experience is.


This post can also be seen on Quinn & Co. PR’s Purple Lounge.