DO­MES­TIC GOD­DESS

What can’t she do? As if be­ing an ac­tress, home de­signer, so­cial me­dia star, and phi­lan­thropist wasn’t enough, Austin’s Brook­lyn Decker can now whip your wardrobe into shape, too.

Austin Way - - WOMEN OF POWER - by KATHY BLACK­WELL pho­tog­ra­phy by SHAYNA FONTANA

TO KNOW BROOK­LYN DECKER, you sim­ply have to scroll through her flaw­lessly un­fil­tered In­sta­gram and Twit­ter feeds, and it’s all there. She’s a woman who em­braces the goofy ex­pres­sion, the sans-makeup selfie, the sly po­lit­i­cal state­ment, and the oc­ca­sional homage to bath­room hu­mor.

“I joined Twit­ter in 2009 when I was ex­clu­sively mod­el­ing, and as a model at that time, you didn’t have a voice,” says the former

Sports Il­lus­trated cover star over an af­ter­noon cock­tail at the sun­dap­pled South Congress Ho­tel bar. “Peo­ple didn’t know who you were, so there were a lot of judg­ments made based [only] on im­age. I loved hav­ing a tool to say what I wanted to say. I see it as so lib­er­at­ing be­cause you can just put yourself out there.”

What started as a mode of self-ex­pres­sion is now a ve­hi­cle for her many pas­sions. The ac­tress, who stars in the Netflix se­ries

Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tom­lin, is her own in­te­rior de­signer for the West Austin home she shares with ten­nis cham­pion Andy Rod­dick and their tod­dler, Hank. In between the red car­pet pho­tos you’ll find a sketch of a sink, a snap­shot of newly in­stalled win­dows, and a whim­si­cal por­trait of Decker, wear­ing all black, wrapped around her brand-new bath fix­tures, a la John Len­non and Yoko Ono in Rolling Stone (“Hello, new bath taps. You are the Yoko to my John,” reads her play­ful cap­tion).

Decker’s fol­low­ers (which on both chan­nels com­bined sur­pass 1 mil­lion) also know that she has helped ex­pand the phil­an­thropic reach of the Andy Rod­dick Foun­da­tion, which pro­vides af­ter-school and sum­mer pro­grams for chil­dren from low-in­come fam­i­lies. And they re­cently fol­lowed along as she un­veiled the new tech startup Fin­ery, an app that vir­tu­ally or­ga­nizes your closet. Decker, the site’s chief de­sign of­fi­cer, and close friend Whit­ney Casey, founder and CEO, launched the “world’s first wardrobe op­er­at­ing sys­tem” in March dur­ing a me­dia tour that in­cluded a panel at South by South­west. “My day job—act­ing-—is won­der­ful, and I love it,” says Decker. “[But] when you’re tied to a show and you’re not work­ing, you can’t re­ally do any­thing else... so I have a lot of down­time in Austin. And while I love that, I get a lit­tle stir-crazy. I’m a bit of a worka­holic.”

In ad­di­tion to Fin­ery’s launch, spring also saw the third-sea­son debut of Grace and Frankie. In the mid­dle of this whirl­wind, Decker turned 30 on April 12, a birthday the North Carolina na­tive shares with her mother and ma­ter­nal grand­mother. Decker’s look­ing for­ward to her next decade: “I am hav­ing more fun as I’m get­ting older, so I’m ex­cited about it. I’m in a re­ally for­tu­nate place right now, so go­ing into 30, I have zero com­plaints.”

Her role as Fonda’s daugh­ter on the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Grace

and Frankie so­lid­i­fied Decker’s tran­si­tion from model to ac­tress. With her quirky sense of hu­mor, Decker is drawn to com­edy and ad­mires the work of women like Dolly Par­ton, Kris­ten Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy. “That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean I’m very good at it,” she adds with a smile, “but I’ve found it to be a com­fort­able medium for me. I au­di­tion for dra­matic parts, and I still find the com­edy in scenes where it might be in­ap­pro­pri­ate but for me feels very nat­u­ral.”

Not only has the ac­tress learned much on set from the sea­soned cast, which also in­cludes Sam Water­son and Martin Sheen, but be­ing around the show’s pow­er­ful women has made an im­pact on Decker po­lit­i­cally and pro­fes­sion­ally. “They’ve re­ally set a stan­dard for their work,” she says of Fonda and Tom­lin. “We’re in this re­ally charged po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, and they’re strong, iconic fem­i­nists, so it couldn’t be more fas­ci­nat­ing to be on set with them dur­ing this time. They’re just in­cred­i­ble women to be around.” She also en­joys a spe­cial chem­istry with June Diane Raphael, who plays her sis­ter, Bri­anna.

“[Raphael] is fiercely con­fi­dent with what she throws out there, and some­times it falls flat on its face, but she usu­ally gets some­thing great out of it,” says Decker. “A lot of com­edy is be­ing fear­less with what you throw out there, and it usu­ally works. If you’re con­fi­dent, peo­ple be­lieve you.”

“WOMEN WILL SPEND TWO HOURS A WEEK WOR­RY­ING ABOUT WHAT TO WEAR, AND WE WANT THEM TO USE THAT TIME WORK­ING OR GET­TING A DRINK WITH FRIENDS OR SPEND­ING TIME WITH THE KIDS.”

An­other role model in con­fi­dence is her hus­band, a former Grand Slam cham­pion. “We ap­proach things so dif­fer­ently. Where I can have a hard time with a scene or feel like I’m not mak­ing some­thing funny enough, he’s like (here, she low­ers her voice): ‘Well, just make it funny.’ He’s played ten­nis since the age of 3 or 4, so it’s sec­ond na­ture to go out and just do it. Where for me, act­ing’s a fairly new skill set.”

Decker also misses some of Rod­dick’s pop cul­tural ref­er­ences. Her par­ents didn’t al­low her to watch television un­til they gave into her grand­fa­ther’s wishes and got ba­sic ca­ble when she was 14. While that might seem an un­con­ven­tional back­ground for a TV star, it doesn’t faze Decker, who is ac­tu­ally more sur­prised at the evo­lu­tion of her home de­sign “hobby” into a full-fledged, prof­itable pas­sion. “It’s turned into this weird thing where Andy and I will get a house, and I’ll up­date it and then some­one will want to buy it, even though we didn’t mean to sell. It’s like flip­ping, but un­in­ten­tional flip­ping.”

They have no im­me­di­ate in­ten­tion of sell­ing their cur­rent home in Bee Cave, which they bought al­most four years ago. In fact, they’re mak­ing changes with the fu­ture in mind, turn­ing their master bed­room into a mother-in-law suite and adding a new master bed­room as well as ren­o­vat­ing the kitchen and build­ing a wine room (“drink­ing is a big hobby of ours in gen­eral,” she jokes). Af­ter learn­ing from in­te­rior de­sign­ers on pre­vi­ous projects, Decker has now ren­o­vated three homes on her own and is build­ing a va­ca­tion home in Cashiers, in her home state of North Carolina.

Decker fills her home with Austin trea­sures, in­clud­ing the work of ce­ram­ics artist Keith Kreeger (“We have so much of his work in our house, it’s ac­tu­ally em­bar­rass­ing,” she notes) and wall­pa­per by UT grad and flo­ral pho­tog­ra­pher Ash­ley Wood­son Bai­ley. She shops at Wild­flower Or­gan­ics for fur­ni­ture, Mer­cury De­sign Stu­dio for European paint­ings, and David Alan for rugs. For unique finds, she’ll hit Un­com­mon Ob­jects on South Congress and the over­whelm­ing maze of The Austin An­tique Mall. Like all lo­cal de­sign fa­nat­ics, she’s ob­sessed with the twicea-year Orig­i­nal Round Top Antiques Fair in the Hill Coun­try. “I moved to Austin from New York. When you’re used to New York an­tiquing, com­ing to Austin feels like a very rea­son­able shift—it’s a nice break from those New York prices.”

Decker’s eye for de­sign ex­tends be­yond home dé­cor. In her role at Fin­ery, she over­sees the user ex­pe­ri­ence and the de­sign of the web­site. Although she loves fash­ion, the idea be­hind the site— to save busy women time and make the most of their cloth­ing in­vest­ment—is her big mo­ti­va­tor. “I thought it was crazy that women will spend more money on their wardrobe than they’ll spend on their ed­u­ca­tion, not be­cause they love fash­ion, but be­cause be­ing naked isn’t an op­tion,” she re­veals.

“Even if you’re not a fash­ion lover you have to get dressed every day. Fin­ery works be­hind the scenes to make your life eas­ier. Women will spend two hours a week wor­ry­ing about what to wear, and we want them to use that time work­ing or get­ting a drink with friends or spend­ing time with the kids, so the idea is that this will give you your time back. I don’t know why this hasn’t been done be­fore.”

Fin­ery tracks the clothes you buy, helps you cre­ate a wish list, and even ar­ranges for re­funds when a re­cently pur­chased item goes on sale. It gives you out­fit ideas based on the weather or an event on your cal­en­dar. Decker has wanted to work on a project with Casey since meet­ing her in Austin years ago. Casey is of­ten in New York, which is where the Fin­ery team is based. “The fash­ion tech­nol­ogy hub is New York, so we want to be en­trenched in that,” Decker says.

Although Decker spends time in New York and Los An­ge­les, Austin is her home base. Over the past year or so, Decker, who is a long­time global am­bas­sador for the Spe­cial Olympics, has be­come a much more vis­i­ble pres­ence for the Andy Rod­dick Foun­da­tion. What her hus­band started 17 years ago has mor­phed from rais­ing money for other chil­dren’s char­i­ties to over­see­ing its own pro­gram­ming to help Austin kids when they’re not in school. It works with the Austin In­de­pen­dent School District, Austin Parks and Re­cre­ation, and other groups to cre­ate en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ences for chil­dren with lim­ited re­sources. Decker has tapped into her creative con­nec­tions like Kreeger, Wood­son Bai­ley, and leather ar­ti­san Cam­bria Harkey to not only reach out to younger donors through events like an an­nual lun­cheon, but to share their tal­ents with the kids as well. “Andy’s long-term vi­sion is that ARF will be the go-to out-of-school pro­gram for all schools in the state of Texas,” Decker con­fides.

For the next few months, she’ll com­mute to Los An­ge­les for the work­week with Hank, re­turn­ing to Austin for the week­ends. Although Mal­lory is a stay-at-home mom, Decker finds a lot to re­late to in her char­ac­ter: “Her chal­lenges are dif­fer­ent be­cause she’s a mother with no ca­reer and four chil­dren who is try­ing to find her­self in her mommy-ness.”

She adds: “Any new mom can com­pletely re­late to be­ing over­whelmed by that re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the re­spon­si­bil­ity they have to them­selves, their part­ner, and their For pro­fes­sion­more on or Decker’stheir life. fa­voriteIt was Austin re­ally stores, easy bou­tiques,to con­nectand restau­rants,to that.” see “Brook­lyn’s Austin” on austin­way.com

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