Uptown, Downtown, All Around
It wouldn’t be New York without uptown, where chic ways and cool sophistication reside. with the urbanity and thoroughbred vanity, the couture and the demure and the delightfully colorful insanity that runs in the family trees. We’re too rich and too thin, and we like our gin. We’re old school, blue blood, clubby and crusty and hoity-toity too. It wouldn’t be New York without downtown, where all the freaks and geeks and madcaps swarm. Where bohemians buzz and beats flee the fuzz and punkies and drunkies still rub elbows with junkies, all for the sake of art. We’re the new school, and we play the fool, and we’ll go to the opening of a door. We’re avant and proud, maybe a little bit loud, but it wouldn’t be our party unless it was chichi and arty, a gathering of all the tribes in this town. Socialites and troglodytes, mohawks and dreadlocks, stone fox and botox. we go uptown just to get down . . . and today it’s hard to tell who’s from where, and, really, who cares? The truth is that New York is an all-around town.
If you don’t know what it’s like to have a bucket of coldwater dumped all over your dreams, then you’ve clearly never tried to make it as a musician in Manhattan. It’s something that New Jersey native Atarah Valentine knows all too well. “I moved to New York and had a cello-rock band,” says the 28-year-old singer and songwriter. “I got signed to Atlantic Records. And then the whole band fell apart, like some classic VH1 Behind the Music story.” Nevertheless, Valentine has continued to ply his particular brand of orchestral pop around the East Village, only now as a solo artist. “It’s just another point in my life where I’m misunderstood and have to prove myself,” he explains. “But it’s fine. When I have people to prove wrong, I tend to work harder.”
Nikolay Saveliev & Katie Gallagher
Two weeks before he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, Nikolay Saveliev met then-sophomore Katie Gallagher and promptly proceeded to steal her away from her boyfriend of five years. The two moved to New York, got a cat named Sveater, and embarked on a creative life together: Saveliev, 24, is a fine artist and an art director, and Gallagher, 22, who is currently finishing up her last semester at RISD, is already working as a fashion designer and does freelance patternmaking. “We have a relatively unified aesthetic and a shared worldview,” says Gallagher of their relationship. “And we have matching candy-corn tattoos on our wrists.”
It’s hard to outrun a legacy, and Dree Hemingway would appear to be living under the shadow of one a mile long: Her mother, Mariel, portrayed the quintessential precocious uptown teen in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979), and her great-grandfather, Ernest, was an author of some repute. But the 21-year-old budding model and actress is intent on making her own way, with upcoming editorial work in W, Vogue, and Self Service, and a part in the indie feature The Truth About Angels. Raised on the Upper West Side, Hemingway attended drama school in London and lived for a few years in Paris. Of course, these days she lives downtown. “You get a different mix of people down here,” she says. “It’s a little more grunge. I don’t like places that make you feel like you’re in Ibiza.”
In the year since she moved to New York from Los Angeles, 20-year-old Harley Viera-Newton has become a DJ, a professional model, and a near ubiquitous nightlife presence—not to mention a straight-A student at NYU, where she studies Egyptology. “I just show my parents my transcripts and laugh,” says Viera-Newton. “There are so many opportunities that you want to take advantage of in New York, and I have a lot of passions and interests.” Among them: the study of ancient hieroglyphics.
Mandy Coon might have grown up in Texas as a sun-bleached blonde, but it was the radical edge of her now dark, geometric haircut, as displayed in the music video for the LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great” that made waves when it conspicuously appeared on the models in the Yves Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2008/2009 runway presentation. (The show, incidentally, was set to the same song, which also happens to be the work of Coon’s husband, LCD front man James Murphy.) The 32-year-old Coon started off as a model herself, and also dabbled briefly in music as a member of the early ’00s electroclash girl group W.I.T., before settling down in Brooklyn (although she still deejays). “Now, I stay home and cook and stare at my dog,” she says.
It’s been a while since Mohawked, raccoon-eyed, teenage boys could only be found on the Bowery, but 19-year-old Billy Hickman still tends to cause a stir when he takes to the streets of his hometown of Townsend in suburban Delaware. “I’m my mom’s little boy and she loves me and all, but even she wasn’t too adaptive of my look at first,” he says. Nor was she too thrilled with the “4:20” tattoo that the aspiring fashion designer (and current KFC employee) got on his forearm at age 15—which, by the way, doesn’t mean what you think it might. “I did indeed have my stoner phase,” he admits. “But 4:20 was also the time when I lost my virginity.”
Most teenage boys would be loath to admit that their mothers give them style advice. But unlike 19-year-old Dylan Brant, most of them don’t have supermodel (and Interview contributing fashion editor) Stephanie Seymour Brant for a mother. “I have the best fashion consultant in the world,” says Brant. “Money can’t buy that sort of advice.” But while modeling might be in his blood, Brant has rock ’n’ roll on the brain. “I’m totally obsessed with music. I play the guitar and the piano, and I sing and am teaching myself the drums. I want to make music professionally at some point,” he says. “Plus, I’m actually incredibly camera shy.”
When you’re one of nine siblings and your mother is one of the most prolific writers working today, it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle. But 23-year-old Vanessa Traina, the daughter of romance novelist Danielle Steel (she’s child number seven), has never had a problem standing out on her own. The San Francisco native, who relocated from Los Angeles to New York City’s West Village last year, has become a fixture on the Manhattan social circuit, often with her older sister, Victoria (number six), in tow. “New York has such a nice vibe,” says Traina. “Walking past the brownstones, looking at the river—there’s inspiration everywhere.” Not unlike her mother, who has written 74 novels, Traina also knows the value of hard work: She’s employed full-time as a stylist’s assistant and recently signed with Elite Model Management.
At the age of 15, Lower East Side–raised Jackson Stalkerwilde has already acquired that essential attribute thatsets downtown New Yorkers apart from the rest of the world: a cynical outlook on life. “Everyone here thinks they’re a fucking rebel,” says Stalkerwilde, who claims to have grown wary of the city’s “kicking the dead horse” brand of liberalism, and who bides his time attending high school at Bard High School Early College, listening to Lou Reed, and playing Dungeons & Dragons (old school–style). “I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to actually stray from the path is to go back to the originals,” he says. So what does the future hold for young Jackson? “I want to be a policeman, oddly enough,” he says.
After two years at boarding school in Vermont with “a bunch of crazy kids,” 17-year-old Ellie McCardell-Samuelsson was finally able to convince her mom that art school back home in Pennsylvania would be a better fit. Now she’s studying the realist movement in painting at Philadelphia’s Studio Incamminati, and keeping busy with some run-of-the-mill extracurriculars: In addition to posing as a portrait model, McCardell-Samuelsson performs with Allentown’s Biz R Babes (“We’re kind of like interactive hostesses,”she says), and indulges her general “death-rock industrial weirdness.” “My whole family thinks I’m off my rocker,” she says. “Except for two crazy aunts and my grandma.” McCardell-Samuelsson has actually only been to New York once: for this photo shoot.
Valentine Rei Uhovski & Olga Rei
In 2006, scandal swept the Upper East Side when an anonymously run website—the now-defunct Socialiterank.com—categorically ranked, rated, and occasionally skewered New York City’s most prominent uptown girls. The masterminds behind the site eventually revealed themselves to be Russian-born Olga Rei and Valentine Rei Uhovski,24-year-old step-siblings (they were born three days apart) and creative partners in crime. “We both have artists’ hearts and entrepreneurial guts,” says Rei. According to Uhovski, these traits lend themselves well to their highly classified upcoming endeavor: “We can’t yet say what it is,” he offers coyly. “But it’s our biggest project yet. We know it will be huge.”
Arden Wohl might be a bona fide uptown girl—she was raised on 77th and Park, attended the Spence and Dalton Schools, and describes her signature uniform of headbands and flowing dresses as “Upper East Side lazy”—but the 25-year-old filmmaker considers the territory above 59th Street a rather “suburban environment.” “It’s Scarsdale land,” says Wohl, whose latest project,the experimental short Two Other Dreams, showed in February at the Art Production Fund’s “Lab” space. “The people all look the same uptown. And I’ve always looked for things that are a little bit different.” Wohl also has a strong distaste for wearing pants. “They hurt, so I just wear one piece. It’s much simpler that way, don’t you think?”
New Jersey native Renee Dorski got into modeling eight years ago when she was spotted by photographer Francesco Scavullo on the streets of New York City. But when Dorski’s tattoos got in the wayof her fashion career, she took up massage therapy—in Thailand. “I’m a jack of all trades,” says the 28-year-old certified practitioner, who works both at a spa and in a holistic wellness office. Dorski is also working on an accessories line, Tar + Feathers, with Atarah Valentine (see this story),whom she met while taking a cigarette break at Sunday school—when she was 11. “I guess a lot of people in New Yorkare like that,” she says. “You have your passions, and then you have your jobs.”