Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Style Profile: Ilona Royce Smithkin


At 96, Artist and Style Icon
Ilona Royce Smithkin
Shares Her Wisdom 
with the World

Ilona Royce Smithkin has worn many hats during her first 95 years – visual artist, 
fashion icon, chanteuse and most recently, 
wise woman. Now, as the petite dynamo 
turns 96, she shares five tips 
“to make life more agreeable”:

1.  Comfort – "You have to have comfort. Comfort within yourself, comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes — or you cannot give all of yourself to another person. You also have to have people around you with whom you are comfortable."

2.  Balance – "Work alone is not enough; a person must have things which relax and enrich the mind. The arts — theatre, music, poetry, dancing — all of these things are part of the balance of life."

3.  Compromise – "If we are by ourselves, that is one thing, but when we deal with other people, they have their own needs and ideas, so we must learn to compromise."

4.  Contentment — "We always feel we should do something better, or that this isn’t good enough. Contentment is the ability to look back at what you have accomplished — even if it’s a good cup of coffee that you made that morning — and give yourself credit. Our lives consist of hundreds of small things — be grateful for them. The big things come along only once in a while."

5.  Awareness — "When you walk down the street and think of something else, you don’t see there’s a step in front of you, fall, and it costs you a lot of time and money to fix it. While you are walking, think of what you’re doing. Whatever it is that you do, be conscious in that moment... Your body is like a child you have to take care of, particularly as you get older."

How did she arrive at this wisdom?

"When I was 20, everything was a hardship. I was trying to find my way — I didn’t know who I was. Now, everything I touch and look at is much clearer."

She encourages her younger friends to put down their cell phones and “communicate with each other face-to-face… and learn the idea of priority. Namely, if you have two choices — either a big party or a wonderful sundown — learn what is important to you,” and reminds them that, “even the simplest things can have meaning, if your spiritual door is open.”

She also urges friends to forego the allure of instant gratification: “Everything takes time. A baby takes nine months; you can’t rush it. Of course, they’re speeding everything up these days, even strawberries. They make them bigger and faster now but they have no taste, no flavor. But go to the woods and find a wood strawberry. Even though they are very tiny, they have a wonderful flavor. Everybody strives for the superficial effect today, foregoing the essence of  ‘the real thing’ with their fastness.”

Ilona Royce Smithkin is, undoubtedly, the real thing. Subject of the documentaries, Ilona, Upstairs and Advanced Style, she is featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, released today by powerHouse books.