Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gamechanger: Ilona Royce Smithkin

"At my age, everything I see is twice as beautiful."
- Photo by Mike Schreiber,

In 2005, Kinetoscope, a film in which I appeared, screened at a film festival in New York. Also featured that night was a documentary, Ilona, Upstairs, about one of the most exceptional women I've ever met: 92 year old Ilona Royce Smithkin. 

An acclaimed painter and portrait artist whose subjects have included Tennessee Williams, Ayn Rand and Bobby Short, her landmark TV series, Ilona's Palette, established the instructional painting genre on PBS and was followed by Painting with Ilona (which spawned a companion book by the same title) and Finishing Touches with Ilona. She continues to paint and maintains studios in both New York and Provincetown. 

In recent years, Ilona's emergence as a chanteuse, style icon and modern-day oracle has inspired admirers ranging from David Bowie and Dita Von Teese to Cee Lo Green and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  In fact, she has grown so popular from appearances on The Today Show, CNN, LX-NBC and on the StyleLikeU and Advanced Style wesbites that I'm lucky to have her to myself once in a while!   

Here, the indelible, long-lashed "fairy godmother" shares her views on a variety of subjects. In her own words, "I'm well aware that I'm here for a very limited time. Since I've discovered who I am and that I have something to give, perhaps somebody else can benefit from what I have learned." 

"I handle difficulties with amusement."
- Ilona is pictured in the Japanese fashion magazine, Maquia.

Each individual
has been given limited strength and energy - no more, no less.
If you take that precious energy and piss it away, that's one thing -
but if you hold on to it and utilize it, that's quite another.
The choice is yours.

They are no shortcuts in life -
and that is something nobody wants to accept when they're young.
You only learn through the bad times.
The good times you take for granted and waltz around -
but the bad times really make you think!

You can't dance at two weddings
with one derrière! 

"I feel such a new stream of love and life at this time,
it's almost like being reborn."
- Ilona flirts with the media at an Advanced Style party.

Sometimes just a sentence 
can pull you out of the darkness.

There ain't such an animal!
Sure, we want to get better,
but if we are too fussy about being perfect,
we take our precious time and destroy what it is we do have.

Just as in painting - you have to know when to step back from a canvas and let it live.

My grandmother used to say,
Never throw out an old rag 
before you have a new one!

 "If you're oblivious to the little things, you miss a lot." 
- Photo by Laura Revercomb

In der Kürze liegt die Würze!
(In shortness is the spice!)


 "Der mensch rennt nach dem Glück. Das Glück rennt hinter her." 
("Man runs after happiness while happiness runs behind him.")
- Ilona lives it up at Vanity Fair's StyleLikeU book release party.

Our expectations can mislead us.   
We have a certain idea we've been dreaming about, an ideal - 
and when that doesn't come through the way we imagined, we're disappointed.
But we're not open to what may be standing on the next corner! 

What you need as a lover
is someone very calming.
Someone who knows their way and will accept you smilingly,
but who also calms you a bit and has things in hand -
like sunshine you can bathe in without being burned.

The lovers you have that just take?
They'll grow non-existent.
The ones you learn from?
Those you'll remember!

 "To like yourself should be natural, but it's actually an art." 
- Ilona basks in the limelight at The Lake and Stars fashion show.

When people ask,
What made you change and suddenly come into your own?  
I can't say "such-and-such happening produced it."
It's actually step-by-step. 
Each life experience - the good, bad and intermediate -  
develops you more and more  
if you're aware, if you permit it, if you look more deeply -  
instead of just walking by and accepting it.
It is a very slow process of recognition. 

It's wonderful thing to realize
you have something to give.
 It's your job to discover what it is - that's your treasure!

Don't ever forget: 
Take time to rest - no matter if you're young.
You need some time which you give yourself as a gift... better than chocolates! 

 "Most people don't hear the raindrops - just the trumpets.
- Ilona as pictured in Time Out New York

For more information about Ilona and her work, 
please visit Ilona and Friends and join her Facebook page
If you have a favorite quote you'd like to share, 
or a comment or question for Ilona, 
please enter it below and we may feature it in a future blog.