The Southerner and the City Goes to NY Fashion Week

GoldNew York Fashion week as come and gone.  However, some of the world’s leading fashion designers are still unveiling their collections in Milan, Italy this week. I hope to be in Milan in September, but for now I’m still marinating in the excitement and insanity of the Carolina Herrera show I attended during fashion week here in New York City.

Last February I participated in the festivities and fun of fashion week.  With Exclusive Resorts’ Andy Irving and Sage Fennig, I had access to the tents and some amazing shows.  Andy and his team planned four jam packed days of fashion shows, shopping, eating, drinking and of course people watching!  This year ER took their show on the road and is in Milan, as I type this post, taking in Prada, Gucci and well, you know, all of those other amazing Italian brands that make you think about taking out a second mortgage on your home! Hopefully Andy and Sage will share their photos and stories with me when they return.

This year I had access to some of the most sought after shows.  However, the ticket prices … yes you can buy a ticket to a fashion show … were astronomical.  For example, a ticket to the Carolina Herrera show which I really wanted to see was almost $2,000.  And no, that did not include any clothes!  I decided I’d pass on the ticket and check out the collection online for a lot less.

djnyfw1But my dream of seeing the show actually came true!  My friend Mayte ended up with tickets to the show.  Much to my shock and amazement, we had seats on the front row in the middle of the runway.  We could not have been any closer to the action.  And, we were seated next to New York Times fashion photographer and legend, Bill Cunningham.

Like last year, the best part of fashion week and the show is the people watching.  Carolina Herrera is a huge fashion brand with an A-list following of celebrities, fashion editors and stylists.  The show did not disappoint in the people watching department.  Molly Sims, Ivanka Trump, Brad Goreski and Tinsley Mortimer sat behind us.  While Anna Wintour, decked out in her perfect scowl and sunnies, along with the raven haired Grace Coddington sat further down the runway.

“It Girl” Karlie Kloss wore the first look of the show.  The dresses where what you would  expect from Herrera.  The were seriously feminine, flattering to a woman’s body with amazing tailoring and made of the most luxurious fabric.  My favorites included a long red dress and a black two piece ensemble with a sequined hooded top.  Simple and stunning.  The collection’s long emerald green dress trimmed in fur would make any Hollywood It Girl swoon.  The waist cinching belts and perfectly placed brooches were also a great touch from Herrera.  You can see the entire collection

Big RubeIf you are a fan of Bill Cunningham’s fashion coverage in the New York Times, then you should also check out Reuben Harley or Big Rube as he likes to be called, from the Philadelphia Daily News  He sat down next to me after the show while I was checking e-mails and returning phone calls.  We started chatting, he asked me about my Wolford stockings, by their EXACT name, and I knew he wasn’t just any photographer! Big Rube and I hit it off immediately.  And we even found a common Southern connection.  He has  an ease and grace about him that doesn’t lend itself to the frantic pace of the fashion world.  But he clearly has an eye for capturing the essence of a woman and all things fashion related. You can find more of his work

In an attempt to capture a photo of me and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week logo, I ended up looking like a sales person for Mercedes-Benz don’t you think!  Oh, well!  I’ve included it in the mix of photos from the day.

You can keep up with all of DJ’s adventures in the Big Apple by following her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook at DJ Cunningham Duckworth. DJ is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine. She lives in Manhattan with her three boys; Mark, Corbin and Leo – woof, woof

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Southerner and the City: D.J. Works Out with Celeb Trainer David Kirsch

DJ on the Beachyellow plumsStaying physically fit has always been a top priority for me. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you that I’m either heading to a yoga or work out class of some flavor. Spending more than 10 years on television – first as a reporter and later as a spokesperson – added extra pressure to stay trim, too. And of course, you can’t rule out vanity! I want to look good.

However, there have been times when I wasn’t in the best shape. The freshman 15 showed up during the second semester of college. It’s hard to drink beer, eat pizza, study and stay trim. After I got married, a few more pounds made their way onto my frame. We were hop scotching all over the place, eating, drinking and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. When things finally slowed down, I found out I was pregnant. Hello, 40 pounds.

Fast forward seven years, I am looking pretty good physically if I do say so myself. It didn’t happen without a tremendous amount of discipline, hard work and some words of encouragement though. Actually, they were not words of encouragement. They were the words that every married woman NEVER wants to hear her husband say. It went something like this, “Honey, that’s not fat. That’s just a midlife pooch.” Lucky for him and more importantly my son, he is still alive and breathing.

It was all I needed to hear – coupled with the fact that my parents had both recently committed to starting a medically supervised weight loss program. My Father is a two-time heart attack survivor with diabetes. My Mom is in overall good health but needed to drop some weight. They made up there minds they were going to stick to the plan and started with fierce determination. I’ve included a photo of them from Christmas. I am so proud of them for their accomplishments.

My parents’ weight loss, along with my husbands poor choice of words, were all the encouragement I needed to start a serious workout plan. My three times a week yoga sessions were keeping me flexible and calm, but I needed to tone and tighten up my 1970s model body. I was on a mission. I stumbled across a video clip of Heidi Klum’s trainer, David Kirsch. I clicked on it, liked it and started doing some research. During this process ironically, I met David backstage at a fashion show at Lincoln Center in September. He and his adorable twin girls were taking part in the show that I was helping with. After introducing myself, I told him I wanted to start working out and liked his approach to training women, specifically. Shortly afterwards, I called and made an appointment with him at the Madison Square Club.

David is known for whipping Heidi Klum back into runway shape for a Victoria’s Secret show after giving birth. He has also worked with Anne Hathaway, Ellen Barkin, Linda Evangelista and Liv Tyler. While I will never be a supermodel or look like one, I decided it would be great to train like one. David’s approach is all about wellness, focusing on your diet and your workout. He helped me clean up my diet and his team of trainers kicked my butt into shape! I am lean, tone, slimmer and happier about my overall physical health thanks to David and his crew.

So you may be thinking, “That’s great D.J., but how can I work out like that”?

It’s really easy, actually, thanks to technology. David has an online workout/wellness plan called The Ultimate New York Body Plan. It is an online training plan you use at home. Once you sign up, you have to enter information based on your health, physical fitness level, eating habits and most importantly your goals. The work outs are designed for your body type and your fitness level.

Several of my girlfriends have agreed to start The Ultimate New York Body Plan compliments of David. Over the next several weeks, the girls will be doing the workouts, following David’s eating plans and incorporating his supplements into their daily routines. I’m looking forward to seeing their results, gathering feedback and keeping YOU informed on their transformations. This is not all about losing weight. It is about being fit, healthy and well in 2013.

Stay tuned for more on the results from my girlfriends as they get “Kirsched.” Thank you, David Kirsch. You are an inspiration to us all!

Keep up with D.J’s adventures in the Big Apple by following her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook. DJ is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine. She lives in Manhattan with her three boys, Mark, Corbin and Leo – woof, woof!


Happy Birthday to “The Southerner and the City”

butterflysquare1I celebrated my birthday on Tuesday in the Caribbean aboard The World.  It was a perfectly fabulous day as far as birthdays go. I woke up without the aid of an alarm, worked out, enjoyed a massage at the spa, had some fabulous lunch and read a book poolside as I sipped on a margarita.  The day was stellar on just about every level.

On the eve of my birthday it came to my attention that I’m a rule follower for the most part.  I always have been for whatever reason.  Probably because my older brother Wally was always NOT following the rules and creating all kinds of problems for everyone when we were growing up in Carlisle.  Even today, I’m usually the one following the rules, listening and doing as I’m told.

Birthday with RayIn what I can only describe as one of the best gifts I have ever received, I gave myself this.  Permission to not be such a stickler for rules any more.  Of course, I’m not talking about the big ones but rather some of the smaller things.  Basically I’ve decided to cut myself some slack and make my own rules and stop living by someone else’s rules.  You following me?

On Monday, I dove right into my new gift of ‘breaking some rules’ as I swam with the sting rays in the North Sound of Grand Cayman.  There isn’t any official rule stating you cannot swim with sting rays that I am aware of.  It is, however, advisable not to do such a stupid thing!  After all, they are wild animals.  I’ve been to Cayman twice before and wouldn’t even entertain the thought of jumping in the water.  This time around, I decided, “What the heck?”  But, only after Mark got in the shallow water and fed the sting rays himself.  I may have decided to break a few rules, but I didn’t say I’d also given up being smart about the timing of breaking them!

I tapped into my yoga breathing, tried to relax and just hang with the rays.  It was a fabulous experience.  Our guide, Paul, rounded up a ray for me and explained how to keep her in my arms. It worked!  I have included the photo to prove it.

These floating creatures are nothing more than graceful moving pieces of cartilage that feel a bit like a Portabello mushroom.  We even found some small babies in the mix as we indulged them with squid.  Which begged the question from the ever curious journalist in my brain, “If these are babies, how can we be sure they are tame enough to play this game with us?”  The answer – we weren’t sure and luckily we enjoyed the experience without ending up in the headlines.  Can’t you see it? New York City Tourist Killed By Ray – What A Dumb A** She Was!

Mission accomplished.  I broke a rule or maybe just decided to freaking live a little and stop being so concerned about all of the details.  I decided to be open minded and not attached to my preconceived ideas about the situation I was in at the moment.  There is a saying … have a mind that is open and attached to nothing.  Sounds easy enough, right?  It is not! Keep this in mind when you argue with your spouse, when you are trying to calm down a child and even attempting to listen to someone with different political views than yours.  My mind is already in a retreat mode just contemplating a discussion with a Sarah Palin!

As I start another year on this planet, I’m going to work on keeping an open mind and a couple of other things:

1.   Cut my self some slack.  Break some rules, discard the ones that no longer serve me, make my own and at times break those, too.

2.   Let go of ideas, things, people and situations that no longer serve me.

3.    Spend more time with my friends both old and new, especially those who allow me to be who I am and love me regardless of what I might say or do.  They know I am only sharing with them what I’d like to receive in return – a simplistic human connection.  Pure and simple.

4.    Be present.  Love more.  It really is the best way to live, isn’t it?

You can keep up with DJ’s adventures in the Big Apple by following her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook.  Find more DJ is a contributing writer for New York Family.  She lives in New York City with her three boys – Mark, Corbin and Leo – woof, woof!


Southerner and the City: 12 Days in New York City

It has been a rather non-eventful week or so around the metro area … said no one in their right mind! Looking back on the last 12 days makes my head spin. Actually, my head has not stopped spinning since Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday, Oct. 29, at around 8 p.m. EST. That is about the time our building started swaying in the howling wind, the chandelier began gently swinging over the dining table and the windows started rattling.

Storm in NYCBelow is a list of things I’ve learned and will most likely never do again. Some of it is pure brain babble mixed in with lessons learned from the last 12 days of my life.

1. I will most likely never hunker down in the path of another hurricane again. At least not this close to where it makes land fall. Any county in Arkansas does not count as even being remotely close to where a hurricane actually makes landfall.

2. My husband has an uncanny ability to keep himself in a bubble of denial about an approaching natural disaster. Denial is a powerful force, but not nearly as fierce as mother nature.

3. High tides, full moons and hurricanes should be avoided at all possible costs.

4. On Oct. 25 in my neighborhood, a nanny reportedly stabbed to death two children in her once- trusted care. I felt the need to pull Corbin closer and never let him out of my sight. Then Sandy hit and we were forced to be closer and couldn’t leave each others sight. I find it interesting how the storm with such force and destruction came right on the heels of such a horrific and unthinkable crime against two innocent children.

5. On the same day as the nanny murders, up in the Bronx, another mother and her 1-month-old child were killed. Allegedly by the baby’s father and left under a mattress which was set on fire. We MUST look out for the children. There are signs in the subway that say, “if you see something, say something.” This is primarily talking about suspicious behavior involving terrorism, I think. But today it reminds me to say something about anything suspicious in any aspect of life.

6. As if New Jersey needed anything else to worry about, the Garden State had a small earthquake in the days following Sandy.

7. As if the New York and New Jersey needed anything else to worry about, we had to figure out how/where to vote in one of the most important presidential elections ever. New Jersey voters could e-mail or fax their votes, while displaced New Yorkers could sign an affidavit and vote anywhere but only in the presidential race and senate races.

8. As if the tri-state area needed anything else to worry about, we were hit with a Nor’Easter late yesterday afternoon.

9. There are still a lot of people without power and homes who woke up this morning with snow on the ground, adding insult to injury.

10. Regardless of how much FEMA and the Red Cross help out after disasters, their response is never quick enough and never meets the expectations of those who are hardest him. It is the generosity of “others” who quickly come together to get the people supplies, food and makeshift shelters set up for those who are displaced.

11. You should not hold a major sporting event in the days following a significant weather event, where people are dead, in the dark, without basic utilities, a home or food. I don’t care how far people travel or train. Priorities, people! Imagine if you can, hosting the Super Bowl in New Orleans days after Hurricane Katrina. Yes, I know Katrina hit in August and the Super Bowl is in late January. But, still a bad idea.

12. People respond to looming weather events in NYC just like they do in Arkansas. They hit the grocery stores in droves, raiding the shelves of just about everything. And, as I’ve learned, they also hoard gasoline.

13. According to a friend’s Facebook post, you can have pizza and sushi delivered during a hurricane.

14. Six kids on Halloween night + candy + being out of school since Friday+ displaced parents from downtown who have no power = adult beverages

15. I am lucky to have neighbors that I enjoy with kids that are fun to be around even for days on end.

16. When you can, you should always help out formerly married mothers working from homes without power. This is especially important when they are doing this when the kids are home because school is cancelled!

17. When I get overly anxious, I clean, cook and eat. At times I do this simultaneously. Bye bye, dust bunnies!

18. A lot of people who aren’t in my contact list have my cell phone number. Whoever you are, thank you for checking on me during the storm.

19. Cut yourself and those around you some slack during tough times when you are in close quarters. You begin to mirror the others behavior. Make sure you give what you want to receive.

20. I imagine Lance Armstrong is happy to be out of the headlines for a while.

One Week Later

10-28-12 We decided to ride out the hurricane.  Can’t second guess myself.  We are stocked up and prepared as we can be at this point.

Cool picture…Unless the storm is heading your way!

That’s as far as I got last Sunday when Hurricane Sandy was heading toward NYC.  I stopped and realized it was not time to blog about a pending natural disaster.  It was time to prepare.  So, what did I do?  I cooked.  A lot. I paced the floor.  A lot.  I looked out the window. A lot.  I prayed, too.  Then Sandy rolled across the city.

We never – not once – lost power, water, cable, Internet, etc. in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side.  Our building did move with the winds and my chandelier swayed gently over a dining room table littered with Legos.  But we weathered the storm just fine, sort of.  My nerves were shot as the former me – D.J. Cunningham, television reporter – was glued to the TV, internet and every available media source for the latest information.

up to the minute weather report
24 Hour Weather Reporting

By the time I finally crashed in the early morning hours of Tuesday, I knew when I woke up  that life as I knew it before was not going to be the same.  It wasn’t.  We have all seen the horrible images of flooding, downed power lines, destruction, hospitals being evacuated, dangling cranes and people crying for help during what I would imagine are some of the worst times of their lives.

My friend and her children crashed with us for two days after she lost power at her apartment down on the Lower East Side.  They walked for two hours before she was able to recharge her phone and send me a text.  They hopped a cab and headed uptown where they stayed until late Friday when power was restored.

Before we moved to New York City, we were hit hard with an ice storm in Jonesboro.  I remember vividly waking Corbin up from a nap, putting him in his car seat and driving down my drive way as limbs snapped down behind us. There was no way I was going to be trapped in my house, with no power, Corbin and my dog Leo while Mark was away on business.  That was a smart call.  Power was not restored to our home for 8 days.  Corbin and I camped out with my parents who were two hours way and then later with my in-laws before the power was restored at our house.

I’ve taken cover during my fair share of tornados.  Growing up in Arkansas, you knew when a severe thunder storm was heading your way, that a tornado was always a possibility.  It used to be that the highest threat for tornados was spring and summer. But over the last 20 years, with wild swings in the weather patterns, tornados have torn through the state in all four seasons.  I’ve also spent some time in the dark and cold after a Christmas ice/snow storm knocked out the electricity in Carlisle, Arkansas where I grew up.  I have memories of myself eating hand made candies that were supposed to be given as Christmas gifts!

Being without power is one thing.  A big pain in the butt, yes.  But losing your home and everything you own is all together a different issue.  Seeing the scope of destruction, not far from where I sit writing this post, is really impossible to grasp.  From the raging fire that scorched over 100 homes in Queens, to the missing boardwalk in New Jersey, to the waterlogged parts of Staten Island, the images are painful to look at on television. The stories of those who died are heartbreaking.

The New York City Marathon was cancelled…finally.  As if it was really a good idea to run the race while so much of the area is still struggling to get back on its feet.  I know thousands of runners had trained, planned and possibly already traveled to NYC.  But the growing sense that the race would go on while there was so much destruction and death in some of the boroughs along the course was just too much to bear.  With hindsight being 20/20, the race should have been called off on Tuesday.

The news of Sandy even silenced the painfully loud noise of the political season.  It was interesting to watch President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie embrace each other and to set politics aside for a moment.  Even though I suspect the two men can’t stand each other, they both had business to do and people to take care of.  No time for political bickering. There will be time later on for the two to throw each other under the bus!

Photograph by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty.

Progress is being made…slowly.  Power is being restored, gas is making its way back into the area, food and basic necessities are being provided although not always as swiftly as everyone would like.  Parts of the the subway and tunnels in lower Manhattan are still flooded and will be closed until further notice.  Government officials are already talking about what to do to protect New York City and the surrounding areas in the event another storm barrels through.  This is the second hurricane/tropical storm in two years. Hurricane Sandy was not a fluke.  Neither was Hurricane Irene last year.

Tuesday’s Rainbow over the Hudson River

How we managed to escape the wrath of a 900-mile-wide storm, I will never understand. I am beyond grateful that we did.  God bless those who were not as fortunate.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they work to rebuild their lives one day at a time.

If you want to help out, you can contribute to the Red Cross at





The Southerner and the City Meets the Electrifying David Blaine

David Blaine and ElectricityAs a child, I was taught that you do not mess around with electricity. One year around Christmas time, I had my own personal experience with the power of electricity as I checked the lights for the tree. In case you are unaware of this fact, you should not let your finger touch the prongs on the plug! It was enough of a shock to get my attention; I’ve never made that same mistake again.

So, when I read recently about David Blaine’s latest stunt involving one million volts of electricity I was instantly taken back to the moment in the garage when I lit myself up like a tree. Blaine is famous for his many death-defying stunts. He has suspended himself over the River Thames in London for 44 days with only water. He has been buried alive for seven days. He has even frozen himself in a block of ice. As of Monday night, Blaine has also stood in the middle of an electrical storm as one million volts of electricity were being shot his way.To say Blaine is a thrill seeker would be an understatement.

Corbin and I met Blaine the weekend before his stunt, Electrified: One Million Volts Always On. My friend, Denise Albert, invited us to come along as she and her boys went downtown to Blaine’s office. Denise worked with Blaine for many years, producing several of his biggest events. As you can imagine, the boys were beyond excited.

Blaine showed the boys some photos of what he was working on. Corbin asked, “why are you electrocuting yourself”? Blaine explained that he was “electrifying” himself and not “electrocuting” himself. There is in fact a HUGE difference between the two. In one you die, with the other, you don’t die! I did my best to explain this to Corbin.

Corbin tried on the glove of the Faraday suit that Blaine wore during the stunt. The suit was an adaptation of a Faraday cage which basically protected Blaine from the electrical field around him. The chain-like suit looked like something a really cool and hip knight would wear during battle. Before we left, the boys checked out Blaine’s pet alligator in the office. Yes, a pet alligator! Seems Blaine makes living on the edge a professional and personal matter. He also did a few card tricks with the boys that even left me wondering, “How’d he do that?”

On Sunday, Corbin saw Blaine being electrified at Pier 54 along the Hudson River. It was a cold and rainy day. Not an ideal day to be electrified if you ask me. It was also really, really loud. So loud, that everyone was given ear plugs before walking onto the pier. Corbin was speechless, like most of the crowd. It was a very surreal experience to see the giant Tesla coils shooting out bolts of electricity at Blaine. He was standing on his 20 foot perch raising his hands like a conductor of the perfect lightening storm. Blaine maintained his position for three days with no food. He received fluids through a tube and relieved himself with the aid of a catheter.

Corbin wasn’t sure what to think or say. He looked at me with this bewildered look in his eyes. I just kept reminding him that playing with electricity is extremely dangerous and even deadly. At the same time, I was trying to explain how Blaine was able to perform the stunt and not zap himself into the next life! It was beyond weird to see a man standing in the crosshairs of the Tesla coils and catching electrical bolts as if they were simply being tossed at him.