The Truth & Beauty of a (Scoliosis) Scar

Wow I am so very touched by the pictures from the latest royal wedding. Not because it’s a royal wedding and not because I care about Eugenie and her (now) husband but because Eugenie has proudly showed her scar from her scoliosis surgery - and the media has not only noticed but has positively commented on it.

It took me many years to find pride in the scar from my scoliosis surgery. My scar stretches all the way down my spine. But after years of trying to hide it (which you can’t really, if you love the beach as much as I do) and a few thoughts about plastic surgery, I learned to carry it with pride. I learned that my scar is actually my medal - from a terrible battle only a few have fought at such a young age. (I must ad here that one of the most beautiful things a man ever told me was my husband shyly admitting that he finds my scars (I also have one on my hip from the same surgery) sexy.)

Approximately 2-3% of population suffers from scoliosis - a degenerative curvature of the spine - and it’s mostly girls. Wearing a brace is the first thing in trying to correct the curvature. I was stuck in my brace for six years (for 23h a day!) of my life - from 9-15 years of age. It’s a horrendous experience. It’s horribly painful - I sometimes had open wounds from the brace; it terribly disturbs your practical life; and it turns a child - in the years she’s most vulnerable to her image - into a freak. I spent many years in a metal brace that went all the way up to my chin. Try walking to school, sitting in school, having a social life , doing your homework in a painful medieval torture tool.

After years of the horrors of the brace and daily physical therapy, my doctor concluded I had to have surgery. I described the surgery in detail in my book Titoland and it is too painful to repeat it here. Let me say this: a week of being stretched out with heavy weights before the surgery; being cut open, stretched out, spine fused with a ling metal rod - and then woken up still open on the surgery table in order to prove you can consciously move. The most indescribable pains of recovery - you’ve been cut open, your whole skeleton has been realigned, and now you have a long metal rod sticking to your spine. Six months in a full upper body cast followed by six months in a brace.

I can proudly say the horror I experienced at the fragile age of 15 did make me stronger. I know what really matters in life. I know what a blessing health is. I know how fragile we are and how we should LOVE every moment when life is ok (not great - ok). I know not to let minor pain scare me.

Every time I enter a ballet class and feel the wood of the bar in the palm of my hand I’m overwhelmed by being endlessly grateful that I can move.

A few years ago, I was approached by a mother of a girl wearing a brace for her scoliosis. She told me how scared her daughter was - and I knew this feeling. I was so happy I could share my experience with the girl, send her pictures of my wedding dress with an open back, videos of me dancing - and tell her her beautiful, healthy self is waiting to reveal herself.

I wish I had the opportunity - like Eugenie does - to do this for more girls suffering from scoliosis.

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ND Walsch & Marie Diamond: On Change and Who's Producing this Show

My big article on the spiritual side of Los Angeles lead to two interesting interviews with two famous spiritual teachers who were not only successful with their own messages but also appeared in The Secret (I do turn red when admitting it, but I love that book): Neale Donald Walsch and Marie Diamond.

ND Walsch was 50 years old, had a row of failed careers, failed marriages, health problems, financial problems and was homeless when one night he yelled out at God in desperation and asked him what he was doing wrong. God answered, Neale wrote his answers down and turned them into a book. “Conversations With God” became a New York Times bestseller and stayed on that list for 135 weeks. Neale went on to publish 28 books, six of which were NYT bestsellers. His books are translated into 37 languages. The most interesting thing I learned from interviewing Neale was how to initiate change. Many of my friends found themselves in a rut and knew they must do something to change their lives but didn’t know how. Very few people are lucky, as I was when writing discovered me and I left my corporate career, to have change happen to them. Most people feel they must initiate change but don’t know where to start or in which direction to go. I asked Neale about this and he told me you have to start with a feeling: “The first step is to know who we want to become as a result of that change. What is the inner change that the outer change should bring? Once we’re clear about this, we should go on and feel what we’d like to feel as a result of the change. In this way, the right change will develop from the feeling we want to achieve.” So it’s not WHAT to change but how do we want to feel as the result of the change.

Marie Diamond is a feng shui master and a spiritual teacher and here’s one of her messages that stuck with me: "Imagine your life as a TV show starring you and being produced and directed by you." I know, it’s cheesy, but it helped me tremendously to remind myself who’s in control here (or should be!). (Yes, one of my friends said it: You can get a girl out of LA but you can’t get LA out of the girl).

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Harley Davidson's 115 - A Lesson on Risk-taking

This year, Harley Davidson is celebrating its 115th birthday and  I wrote a big piece about it for the February issue of Gloria Glam. It was surprisingly interesting learning about its past, bikes in WWI and WWII, bikers, Hells Angels, the 1%ers, and all the music, books, fashion, films and TV series inspired by the free life on 2 wheels. 

But here's what I found most fascinating: since its beginnings, Harley was considered an elegant bike. It had many lady owners, and its early ads often showed pretty ladies in elegant clothes. But in 1960s Japanese bikes entered the market and Honda launched a campaign claiming that "You meet the nicest people on a Honda". Instead of trying to protect its existing image and proving that it's nicer than Honda, Harley did the opposite: it embraced its "Easy Rider" side and celebrated its rebellious image. And today, it's still the most legendary (and rebellious) bike around. Just a little lesson on risk-taking.....

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#me too

I didn’t plan to put my sauce into the whole Weinstein thing because sometimes I wonder if the world really needs my opinion every time I have one. But when the #me too thing started, I felt it’s not fair not to admit that yes, #me too. And then a male friend commented and questioned the authenticity of so many me too’s and wondered if they’re going to ruin male-female relationships forever. He also asked me why I stayed silent till now. Yes, why did I?

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Kings of Plastic Surgery

Welcome to Beverly Hills, a city of 35,000 inhabitants and 80 plastic surgeons, where face-lifts cost $150,000, girls get their labia done at 18 and their first face-lifts at 30. Where rich housewives kill themselves after their expenisve face lifts and movie stars claim they never had any work done, even when they have a completely new face. 

I interviewed five of the best plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills (which means in the world) for the April issue of Gloria. Join me down a rabbit hole!

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Not my Kind of Wonder. Nor Woman.

I so wanted to love Wonder Woman. It caused such a big explosion of feminist emotions in the USA in the past weeks that I had to see it, in spite of promising myself I’d never watch another superhero movie again (so fed up with explosions – of any kind). What really made me want to see it was an article by a woman who wrote a whole piece about how she cried during fight scenes. And then her female readers’ comments on the article – they all cried. I too wanted to be so inspired by the beauty and fierceness of a female superhero that tears came down my cheeks.

They didn’t. Only tears of desperation because for me, this movie was so wrong in so many ways. I expected more from a woman creating a female superhero than just copying (and punching) the men.

Here's how Wonder Woman disappointed the (European) feminist in me.

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Save the Children or Pet Obesity Prevention - You Choose

Oh well, so here I am a few days ago, accompanying a friend to a trendy LA hair salon where she was getting color and cut for her usual $600 (which isn't even considered so bad in the city where may cuts start with $400 and colours with $800). And I'm flipping through the magazines which I normally don't get to read. And find this (either in Harper's Bazaar or Elle):

 

So if you're like "Yeah, what's this?" please look closer. And then let me tell you: This is the reality of the world we (especially in the USA) live in. 

Seeing these two pages side by side (in a fashion magazine, while sitting in a place where they charge $600 for doing your hair ) made my stomach cramp. First, I took the picture. And then I went online for a little research. And here's what I found (and why I had such a gut reaction).

Left page - Save the Children: In the USA, 15 million children live bellow poverty line. USA is the worst country in the developed world. One in 5 kids live in poverty. Each year, approximately 3.1 million children die of hunger worldwide. 

Right page - Pet Obesity Prevention (!!!!!!!): In 2016, USA pet food market was valued at $24.60 billion (!), and is expected to reach $30.1 billion in 2022. 31% of cats and 34% of dogs in the USA are obese. 

So if that doesn't seem bad enough, here some statistics I found while researching for my article about dog's life in Hollywood: the whole world sends $30 billion a year in financial help to the whole African continent. That is how much Americans spend on pet food - so they can then be worried about pet obesity. Total US pet industry is estimated to reach $92 billion in 2019. Three times of what the world sends to Africa. 

So where do we start?

Or even better - where do we end?

P.S. Who and why put these two ads next to each other? Completely oblivious or subversive?

Happy Birthday, Mama!

Had she not changed her form on 1st October last year, my mama would have turned 70 today. Losing her literally felt like losing a part of myself. Both physical and emotional. I'm still learning to live this new life and give myself the courage, strength, optimism and joy she used to give me. 

Two days after she left, I wrote a piece about her for "Gloria". When I sat down to write it, I wondered if I was insane for insisting I could do it. The wounds were still bleeding. But I did it. And here, to honour my mama's birthday, the translation.

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Mama Jagoda and the Truth of Style

I just accidentally came across this: my mom at the film festival in Cannes in 1971, where she was promoting her film "WR Mysteries of the Organism", and only wore stuff she found on markets while travelling through ex-Yugoslavia. She was always endlessly true to herself, never followed trends or fashion. Never let a professional make-up or hair person come close to her, even when she was filming. Didn't even know what a stylist is. So it's a bit of a surprise - which it shouldn't be - to find her pictured as a style icon. Being true just always wins.

When a Stork Lands in Hollywood

Like everything else, having a baby in Hollywood can be quite an insane thing. The core of my story for the February issue of Gloria Glam was the embarrassment of having consciously jumped into that rabbit hole. For once, I wrote a story pointing not only at the insanity of the world around me, but my own. And that part got cut out. So here you go:

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It's a Dog's Life. In LA. But What About Humans? In Africa?

The big story for the December issue of Gloria Glam was lots of fun – until I started crunching numbers. It was a story about a dog’s life in Hollywood. The luxury and the insanity. The US pet industry is growing so quickly it is expected that by 2019, it will reach $92 billion (currently, $30 billion goes to pet food). Africa receives $30 billion in international aid a year. Please someone, prove me wrong!

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Prince on Wheels

Last October, I wrote a story about the trend and history of food trucks in Los Angeles. The funniest thing about the research was learning that the prince of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy has a food truck in Venice (Beach, California) called "Prince of Venice". How would you like your pasta served by a real prince out of a truck on Abbot Kinney?

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Women, their Careers and Children

Having - or not having - children is such an important topic for women today, and one that is very rarely honestly discussed. Trying to prove we are equal, women don't want to admit we aren't - because we have children. Even after 9 months, which for some women are a very difficult experience, our children stay a part of us and define who we are and how we function. Much (much!) more so then they do to men. 

This is a crucial topic, especially in the USA where it's being completely ignored. I still can't believe women in the USA aren't marching the streets demanding regulated maternity leave and subsidised child care.  

Here is the newest interview by Marina Abramovic, one of the most influential artists of our time, in which she is talking about how she chose not to have children for the sake of her career:

Marina Abramovic for Tagespiegel, translated from German to English by Artnet

It would be great to hear more honest stories about women's choices!