Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Kaila Powell Frasco

When Kaila Powell Frasco tells me to meet her at Goldie’s in Greenpoint to play pool I imagine, for whatever reason, totally incorrectly, that it’s a dive bar. Rather, it’s a salute to delicious 1970s tack, with almost cartoonish painted portraits of icons like Dolly Parton, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Steve McQueen on the walls. Beaded fringe hangs from a canopy over the bar, a leopard sits primly in a spotlight for no reason, and the booths are red leather. “This place is so cool,” I text her when I arrive. She’s two blocks away. “I know,” she says.

Shortly she arrives, a white t-shirt with “here’s my cup of care...oh, look, it’s fucking empty” screened on its side. The shirt was too big, she says, so she ripped it, doubtlessly making it infinitely more interesting. She wears sparkly silver pants and black boots, her blonde hair and dark roots twisted into a towering mane, long black wings drawn around her eyes with silver stars underneath.

Kaila is a costume designer currently working on a number of Broadway shows, but her work as an independent artist and designer has also been worn by Lady Gaga. Originally she studied fashion, where she found her creative spirit constantly reined in. It wasn’t until she found costume design that she was able to fully express herself and she never looked back. Early on, she couldn’t afford to buy fabric, so would often make dresses of found materials, like old rolls of film, wine corks, and twigs. She also repurposes vintage band t-shirts and jackets into ripped and/or sparkly rockstar gear, forms headpieces from aluminum nails, lacquered money, and toy horses. Much of her work is inspired by her own dreams, she tells me as she sips a beer and waits for the pool table to open up.

Kaila got into pool after she injured her knee and was unable to work, coming to Goldie’s with friends for something to do. Her knee is much better now, and so is her pool game. Joining her tonight is Kristina, her friend since high school, who has never played. Kaila instructs, guiding Kristina’s gaze with a pool cue. They start by playing doubles and hold their breath when the other team aims their cues, hoping to keep the table. But they’re defeated, and retreat outside, soon to return.

Kaila shows me some of her tattoos, two of which are inspired by Fleetwood Mac (‘go your own way’ on her arm; ‘Mac,’ also the name of a beloved dog) and Prince (“all the critics love you in New York”), and one on her wrist that says “no fimage,” which for her means “no fear of image.” In her work, all of which is run through with a rock and roll spirit, she hopes to inspire people to be whoever they truly are. Just meeting her tonight, with her spirited laugh, warm hugs, and vibrant, expressive gestures, I can’t imagine she is ever anyone but herself.

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