Laura Gómez plays Litchfield Penitentiary inmate Blanca Flores. (Credit: Getty Images / Ilya S. Savenok)
By Kelly Killoren Bensimon July 24, 2014
‘Orange Is the New Black” has drawn raves for its diversity and complex female characters, many of which have broken out thanks to their challenging roles.
One such actress is Laura Gómez. The current New Yorker, who was raised in the Dominican Republic, plays the seemingly crazy Litchfield Penitentiary inmate Blanca Flores. But that isn’t the only notable role on her resume.
The actress is a member of the Repertorio Español, where she has participated in critically acclaimed plays, including “Doña Flor Y Sus Dos Maridos” and “La Casa de los Espiritus.”
Gómez has also been the face for brands such as CoverGirl and Suave and has provided her voice for the Spanish audiobooks for “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” She’s also worked in film, writing, directing and producing the short films “Hallelujah” and “To Kill a Roach.”
We sat down with Gómez at Morandi in the West Village, where she clues us into what it’s like to play Flores and what she loves about New York.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I’m from the Dominican Republic.
Q: Why did you come to New York?
A: I came here in 2001 to train as an actor.
Q: Who did you study acting with?
A: I studied the Meisner Technique with Robert Patterson.
Q: What made you connect with that technique?
A: I connected with the moment to moment of not overacting and just responding. I look for that in my own life, just trying to be present.
Q: You play a crazy person on TV. How does that make you feel?
A: It’s been liberating to use my tools in acting. In makeup, they laugh because they have to make you un-pretty. I even get a unibrow. It’s always a challenge as an actor, and I love the character work.
Q: How has “Orange Is the New Black” changed your life?
A: The show has such had a huge impact. Now when I go to auditions and meet casting directors, they know who I am. Viewers are loving the show and its diversity.
Q: You were invited to the Jeff Koons and H&M collaboration launch. What did you think of it?
A: I loved it. I just went to the Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney. Before I went, I was sitting in a dentist chair getting a root canal, and decided I was definitely going.
Q: You aren’t just an actor.
A: I have also written and directed two short films — “To Kill a Roach” and “Hallelujah.” I took a course at NYU’s film school. Now my films are getting into festivals and have even won awards.
Q: What’s your personal style?
A: I’m eclectic. I can go in so many directions: funky, sexy and sometimes conservative.
Q: What from your Dominican roots gave you a solid foundation?
A: I am very family-oriented and respectful of my elders. This business can be a bubble. My upbringing grounds me in humility and pride.
Q: Where are your favorite restaurants?
A: I love Gramercy Tavern, Morandi and the Asian restaurant Decibel.
Q: What do you love about New York?
A: I honestly love Central Park. It’s quiet and I love to write there.
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Photo credit: Ralph Lauren’s Mark Reynolds transformed his home’s unused basement Space.
The small space is the new cool space.
I turned my closet into an office, and Ralph Lauren’s Mark Reynolds repurposed his Hamptons basement into a hangout space — which he affectionately calls the “naughty room” – filled with all the items he won’t part with. Another New Yorker concealed a baby’s room in an open-floored dining area by using outward-facing book shelves.
Look around and create what you need in your existing space. We all need a place to let loose and we all need a place to store our prized possessions.
“Increase the square footage of your house now without virtually any construction or additional cost,” said Reynolds, senior director Creative Services at Ralph Lauren.
So, how did he do it?
“I simply took what we already had in storage below — unused furnishings, lighting, artwork, additional household supplies, including liquor, of course, and all that family junk too precious to part with — and organized it into a living space, added a little music room, dimmed the lights and, before we knew it, a room filled with our personal blast from the past has now become the ultimate party room,” he said.
Give your space a New Year’s revolution and rebel against interior convention.
Here are some pieces to get your started:
Modern beds from Overstock
Get organized with baskets from the Container Store.
Rattan and metallic woven rugs from Calypso St. Barth
Jo Malone candles to add some allure to your space
Books books books: The Strand has everything from fashion books to Hemingway.
Anthropolgie’s bedding and velvet chairs
Event designer Jung Lee has cool tabletop items that are perfect for any dinner party.
Murano glass ashtrays
An Hermes tea set
Philippe Starck plastic dining chairs
Shearling anything from Overstock
Glass bedside lamps from Lamps Plus
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Photo Credit: K-WAY fur jacket
Holiday shopping season is about to begin. Here are some of my favorite things:
1: Isabel Marant for H&M: I’m crazy-obsessed with this collaboration, which launched earlier this month at H&M stores. The designer’s oversized Chesterfield coats ($299) are my favorite, but I’m also a fan — and owner — of the cropped white leather jeans ($299) and sweatshirts ($59.95).
I never thought a French woman could make the cowboy aesthetic urban and sexy, but she’s got the coolest women in New York like Molly Sims and Karlie Kloss embracing it.
Some pieces are sold out, but there’s still availability at select stores and at HM.com.
2: K-WAY fur jackets: This is the ultimate jacket ($425, at k-way.ca), since it’s water-resistant and very cool. From the slopes to a rainy New York day, you can feel cozy and look chic.
3: Hunter + rag & bone boots: I’m obsessed with rag & bone boots, especially the designer’s collaboration with wellie mainstay Hunter ($265-$295, at rag-bone.com). I can go anywhere and do anything in my wellies and still feel dressed.
4: Fendi Baguettes: I love my Fendi Baguettes. I have the first round of Baguettes that Fendi made and they are the ultimate bejeweled accessories. They range from $1,000-4,000, so get ready to save for the holidays if this is on someone’s list. My favorite is my neutral sequin.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Holmes
Kelly Killoren Bensimon chats with nightclub guru Noah Tepperberg about his industry experiences.
The nightclub industry isn’t what it used to be, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to New York-raised Noah Tepperberg, who is taking “vibe dining” by storm (and has his efforts recognized by the Harvard Business School). What started with a nightclub in the Hamptons has evolved into the Tao Group and Strategic Marketing Group, which opened New York City hot spots like Tao, Lavo, and Marquee. SMG works with companies and ventures such as LVMH, Donna Karan and NASCAR to create unique brand experiences for consumers.
Tepperberg clues us in to how he created the biggest nightclubs in the industry and to all his favorite haunts in his hometown.
Where did you go to high school?
I’m a hometown boy who went to Stuyvesant.
What did you learn at Stuyvesant?
Stuyvesant is a very competitive high school in New York with the best test takers. I learned to value education. Students really cared about doing well, and are very academic.
Harvard Business School did a case study about you. Can you explain?
A professor and two business school students did a case study on Marquee, one of my nightclubs. They compared it to the movie business and sports. I gave a talk about the reinvention of the club, and participated in a Q&A.
What was the first nightclub you worked in?
AI started Conscious Point in the Hamptons from 1997 to 2001, and started a promotion company.
What makes your business model unique?
We work almost 24 hours a day. Somewhere, one of our businesses are open, and we are very connected to it.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of what we built. When [Jason Strauss and I] started in 1997, people in nightlife were stereotyped. Most people didn’t look at the business as a legit business. Now, case studies are being taught at Harvard.
What’s been your biggest mistake?
I wish that we had the vision earlier to purchase the real estate we are continuing to lease.
Which club is your favorite?
Like children, I like them all equally.
Can you name all of your venues?
A Conscious Point, Jet, Suite 16, Luahn, Dune, Avenue, Marquee — New York, Vegas, Sydney — Tao — Vegas, New York — the Dream, Arlington Club, Artichoke pizza, Beauty and Essex. I share everything with Jason Strauss, Mark Packer, Rich Wolf.
What do you think about branding water?
We are the founding members of Richard Branson’s Whole World Water Foundation. We buy recyclable glass and bottle it with our filtration system, which reduces the carbon footprint. Rich Wolf was really passionate about this, and that’s why we got involved. One dollar from each bottle goes to the Whole World Water organization, which promotes preserving and accessibility of clean water to areas of need.
How does the Tao group work with charities?
Tao Cares is a company where all of the charitable donations go through. We are very active in our communities and neighborhoods. We create toy drives, we support breast cancer, and we are very active in donating our spaces to various charities for free so they can raise more money.
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Photo Credit: PatrickMcMullan. Dress (Chic layering piece) Kelly dons Rachel Roy at RH Contemporary Art's Opening
Kelly Killoren Bensimon — model, fashionista and author of “The Supermodel Diet: I Can Make You Hot!” — dishes out style advice to amNewYork’s readers.
I like to wear dresses, but have foot problems that require me to wear sneaker-like lace-ups. Any advice on how people with foot issues can finesse dresses?
I love vintage floral dresses with pretty and lacy half socks and low pumps or lace-up flats.Hogan makes great lace-up patent leather loafers. For lace-up boots, Sam Edelmanmakes cute ones, or wear a comfortable pair of Dr. Martens, which are playful and embrace a cool grunge vibe. And remember: Confidence is cooler than your shoe option.
How should we change our skin care routines now that the cold, dry winds of winter have arrived?
The weather is changing and so is our skin. Drink six to eight glasses of water, or even jasmine tea, and load on the moisturizer. I like MAC’s Studio Moisture Cream ($30, at MAC) and La Mer’s ultralight Moisturizing Soft Cream ($155-$285, at department stores). Take care of that face; you only have one.
What are some cool coat and jacket styles for men this season?
Bulky is not better. Uniqlo and Patagonia make great jackets for men that are lightweight but provide warmth. Simple is better for men.
I’m always trudging around the city in the cold weather but don’t want to wear big, bulky, shapeless pieces. What can I wear that’ll keep me warm but looking cool?
I love menswear-style Chesterfeld coats on women: They are so Old Guard-chic and warm. During this transitional season, I suggest a dress under that coat, as nothing makes a woman feel more like a woman than a dress. Lately, I’ve been wearing dresses by Son Jung Wan and Rachel Roy. Swap your pumps for a pair of sexy booties: A bootie is the new pump.
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Photo Credit: Bre Pettis
Bre Pettis makes things.
Since 2009, the CEO of 3-D printing company MakerBot has been making things — a lot of things. But it wasn’t always easy. From his apartment in Brooklyn, he sold his musical instruments and opened a bootleg cafe to make ends meet.
The former public school teacher wanted to create something unique that embraced the idea that if you can dream it, you can print it. His dream of making things and making them happen is now a reality.
With a new merger with Stratasys, MakerBot has hit a milestone. This American pioneer is making things with his Replicator 2 desktop 3-D printers.
Pettis clued us in to how he made money from being a tinkerer.
You were a public school teacher.
I taught general [education], but loved middle school art: painting, drawing and pottery. I wanted the kids to be able to do anything, even sew a button. I love when young people get hold of the machines.
How did MakerBot start?
I’ve always been a tinkerer. I wanted to give people the tools they need to do whatever they want to make their dream come to life. … I moved to New York seven years ago. In New York, you can’t have a workshop in your home, so I started a clubhouse filled with fantastic tools and a 3-D printer.
What is NYC Resistor?
It’s the clubhouse I started with a friend to make anything.
What’s been a favorite thing to make?
I love drawing with my 2-year-old daughter. And I love working and fixing cars.
You have a car fascination?
I had to work on them because they were broken and they needed to be fixed so I could drive them. My goal is to have a MakerBot racing team.
Why do people fear the age of robots?
Because they don’t have … robot friends.
What was the first thing you made with your 3-D printer?
A shot glass to celebrate.
How long did it take?
What’s your favorite bar?
Pacific Standard [in Park Slope].
Your favorite restaurant?
A Rucola [in Boerum Hill].
Any advice for those with an entrepreneurial spirit?
If you have ideas, [you] just have to try them. … Keep making.
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Photo Credit: Hayati Banastey
Kelly Killoren Bensimon gets the 411 on what makes a shirt cool from Hayati Banastey of JACHS.
Just Another Cheap Shirt (JACHS) is the new vintage American style. Mastermind Hayati Banastey deconstructed the typical button-down shirt and made it cool.
How? He rewashed it and sized it to fit the modern American: chic, cool and lean.
Banastey isn’t afraid of the garment industry and its conventions. In 2008, he made the shirt he wanted, the way he wanted, and the rest is history.
With a store in the West Village and his studio in SoHo, JACHS is taking the retail industry by storm.
Q: What’s different about JACHS?
A: The idea of shirts is what’s different about JACHS. We wash the shirt like a denim company and develop certain washes to go with our shirts. It’s something that doesn’t exist in the market. Each shirt is very unique.
Q: Were you in the shirt business before?
A: My family was in the shirt business. I went to FIT. My family came here 30 years ago and I started in the garment business after graduation. My first job was making shirts. I worked for myself. I’ve never worked for anyone.
Q: What was the shirt company called?
Q: Where are you from?
A: Istanbul, Turkey. In 1979, I left from Turkey to study in Paris. I studied marketing in Paris, so I couldn’t really do what I wanted. So I took time off and I went clubbing and shopping. It was the time when Les Bain Douche had just opened up.
Q: What made you want to come to New York?
A: I saw the movie “Fame,” and I wanted that great life where everyone was dancing on cabs and having a great life. Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve been working in the fashion industry. It’s been 30 years.
Q: What did you study at FIT?
A: I was one of the first graduates from the menswear department. My critic at school was Perry Ellis.
Q: What was the first store you opened?
A: I started a store called Work in Progress and was selling premium denim and related apparel. I was looking at shirts and went to a trade show. I took … 50 JACHS shirts [to the show] and booked $500,000. I thought to myself, “God, I’m in business.” I subleased my store to lululemon and went into wholesale.
Q: Is it better to have your own store or to sell to stores?
A: I sell to Nordstrom, Saks and better stores. In retail, it’s best to have your own store to create a brand and your own image.
Q: What about online?
A: Online retail is amazing. It means that you need to have very well-organized social media in order to get the word out there.
Q: Any advice?
A: Never give up on your dreams. … Never follow money. Do something well and the money will chase you. Same with girls!
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Kelly Killoren Bensimon goes backstage to chat about Kanye and music with Austin Mahone:
Holiday season fever is already here, and with that comes many a teenager’s favorite event: the Z100 Jingle Ball on Dec. 13.
And this year’s lineup is filled with stars, including Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Fall Out Boy, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Selena Gomez. This season’s breakout star, Austin Mahone, will also be performing.
The official charity partner for Z100’s Jingle Ball 2013 is the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, which is dedicated to inspiring today’s youth through entertainment and education-focused initiatives. The nonprofit will receive $1 from each ticket sold.
In 2011, Mahone became a YouTube sensation and even opened for Taylor Swift’s “RED” tour.
Mahone — who was feeling ill and hospitalized Thursday according to his rep — spoke to me at the lineup announcement last week at Aeropostale in Times Square, Mahone dished with me while my youngest daughter and her best friend sat by in awe of the 17-year-old star.
Q: What’s your favorite song on your album?
A: “What About Love.”
Q: What’s the necklace you are wearing?
A: Lil Wayne Trukfit diamond necklace.
Q: Who’s your favorite designer?
A: I have a Louis Vuitton backpack and a Gucci belt, but I think Kanye [West] should be a designer.
Q: What are you going to be for Halloween?
A: I’m going to dress up in all black and jump out of a tree and scare kids.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about New York?
A: I love the pizza and Times Square.
Q: What do you wear to perform?
A: I wear jeans, T-shirt and Kanye Easy Ones [beige].
Q: Who’s the coolest person you have met?
A: President Obama.
Q Who would you rather be?
A Mila Kunis and follow myself on Twitter.
Q: Who’s your favorite Z100 DJ?
A: JJ and Elvis [Duran].
Q: What instruments do you play?
A: Drums, guitar, ukulele and piano.
Q: Any advice?
A: Have fun and live with no regrets.