GANG OF New York

If they make it here, they'll make it any­where. Meet the young South Aus­tralians tak­ing on the Big Ap­ple

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - words katie spain so­ho­, friend­so­faus­tralian­

BEC GILL, 33 Lives: Wash­ing­ton Heights Job: Writer and pro­ducer

IT’S not un­heard of for Bec Gill to burst into tears as she pounds the pave­ment in her adopted city. “It’s easy to look at it in this idyl­lic way and I can’t stop do­ing that. Even if I’m walk­ing along the street cry­ing (which I do of­ten – I’m so emo­tional), I think ‘Wow, this is like a movie’.”

Walk­ing home bathed in city lights is par­tic­u­larly emo­tive. “I get so ro­man­tic about liv­ing in New York even though most of the time it’s re­ally, re­ally hard and some­times takes a lot of per­sonal sac­ri­fice.”

Gill grew up in Hen­ley Beach and moved to the Big Ap­ple a year ago. Her ca­reer saw her live in Mel­bourne, In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and Lon­don where she and pal Jayde Lovell (writ­ing and busi­ness part­ner) worked for an in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing agency. They even­tu­ally left sta­ble jobs to start their own “sci­ence, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, film­mak­ing thing” and af­ter a few months plan­ning in Spain and Paris, headed for New York. “It’s so ex­pen­sive and com­pet­i­tive here so we were broke pretty quickly.” She laughs. “It was our first win­ter here and we didn’t have win­ter clothes. We were liv­ing off 2-minute noo­dles think­ing ‘Oh my God, will we have to go back with our tails be­tween our legs?’ ”

The pair got their big break when they met the head of cor­po­rate af­fairs for LAbased on­line news net­work PYT. “They liked what we did and were look­ing to ex­pand into New York so now we work from the

YouTube space which has af­forded us a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

They also work for the New York Hall of Sci­ence and make sci­ence videos for the likes of Na­tional En­gi­neer­ing Academy, Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can and NASA – as well as a TV pi­lot, the re­sult of Hol­ly­wood screen­writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion The Next MacGyver. As part of the prize they are men­tored by screen­writer

Roberto Orci whose screen­plays in­clude Star

Trek Into Dark­ness.

Home, for now, is an apart­ment shared with three gay Broad­way per­form­ers (“they belt out show tunes when they clean”). “My sub-let runs out soon so right now I’m on Craigslist. Find­ing an apart­ment in New York is worse than dat­ing in New York. It’s ac­tu­ally a liv­ing night­mare. I wrote a col­umn about it for The Huff­in­g­ton Post.”

Gill loves to write and is a men­tor with Girls Write Now which teaches young, dis­ad­van­taged city women about the art of writ­ing. Busy is an un­der­state­ment. “Ev­ery­one comes to New York to make some­thing of them­selves. You don’t come to here to chill out. Ev­ery­one has a bazil­lion things go­ing on. I thought it would be like

Friends where ev­ery­one sits on the couch and drinks cof­fee but you’re pushed up against peo­ple all the time. You have to push to get on the train, push for some­one to call you back, push for op­por­tu­ni­ties, push for some­one to date you. I feel like my whole life is be­com­ing pushier.” bec­su­

OLIVER & GE­ORGINA DUCK­WORTH, 36 & 37 Live: West Chelsea Jobs: Man­ager – Soho House & De­vel­op­ment Ex­ec­u­tive – Friends of Aus­tralian Wildlife Con­ser­vancy

NOT many tod­dlers can lay claim to mem­ber­ship at one of the world’s most ex­clu­sive clubs. That’s what hap­pens when your Dad runs Soho House New York – the hip mem­bers-only ho­tel that fea­tures in Sex

and The City. Not that Harrison “Harry” Duck­worth cares; he’s not yet two years old.

De­spite mix­ing with the me­dia big­wigs and celebri­ties who fre­quent the club in Man­hat­tan’s Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict, the Duck­worths are sur­pris­ingly down to earth. Prob­a­bly due to their whole­some South Aus­tralian up­bring­ings.

“We met in Ade­laide over lawn bowls,” says Ge­orgina dur­ing a trip home to SA to visit fam­ily. “I put to­gether an event at the Ade­laide Bowl­ing Club called Su­perbowl Sun­day. Oli came out to play bowls and I thought ‘This guy is quite lovely’.

“We were wear­ing the same sneak­ers so we were des­tined to be to­gether!” They had their first date in 2008 and a year later, moved to Lon­don “to see what the world is like on the other side.” They had no idea what they’d do when they landed in Blighty.

“I thought we’d go have some fun for a year or so but we haven’t looked back,” says Oliver. “We left as boyfriend and girl­friend, were there for two-and-a-half years, got en­gaged and just be­fore com­ing back for our wed­ding in 2012, re­lo­cated to New York.”

Oliver pre­vi­ously worked for Soho House in Lon­don and the com­pany of­fered him an op­por­tu­nity in the States. He bit at the chance and they ar­rived in New York at mid­night, ad­ven­ture in their hearts.

“We woke up to New York, which was cool,” says Ge­orgie. “We went for break­fast in the Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict. We were just try­ing to take it all in. It was sur­real.”

It’s been a whirl­wind ever since – lit­er­ally, in­clud­ing rid­ing out Hur­ri­cane Sandy’s fury. “I re­mem­ber see­ing empty garbage bins float­ing down the street,” Ge­orgie re­calls.

In her cur­rent role she man­ages the Aus­tralian Wildlife Con­ser­vancy’s of­fice. “I build aware­ness, fundrais­ing, putting to­gether fab­u­lous events.” She also or­gan­ises an an­nual shindig to cel­e­brate Aus­tralia Day at Soho House.

“I turn the rooftop into an Aus­tralian pub and if you jump in the pool in your dick­ies, there’s a jug of beer wait­ing for you on your way out. We sing John Farn­ham songs, eat sausage rolls, pies, and pavlova.”

Oliver has big plans on the hori­zon, too. “I am es­tab­lish­ing an art and hos­pi­tal­ity con­cept (in NY) with two other re­mark­able South Aus­tralians. Watch this space!”

As for Harry, he’s got big brother du­ties to look for­ward to. The cou­ple’s sec­ond child is due in Novem­ber and if the de­liv­ery is any­thing like his they’ll make the trip to hospi­tal in a yel­low cab.

“... You think about not hav­ing fam­ily nearby and how to cope but it’s New York ... you just do it and find a way,” says Oliver.

MAX PAPENDIECK, 28 Lives: Lower East­side Job: Fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher

THERE’S liv­ing the dream and then there’s smash­ing it for stylish six. That’s what 28-yearold Max Papendieck is do­ing in the city he’s called home since 2010. “I ac­tu­ally came to Amer­ica 10 years ago on a bas­ket­ball schol­ar­ship to at­tend univer­sity,” he says. “Once I grad­u­ated in Mi­ami, I fell into the fash­ion world (mod­el­ling) and had to quickly move up to NYC.”

He shoots for high end mags and has rubbed shoul­ders with the cream of the A-list crop. “I re­cently got to work with Bey­once and her team to shoot some of her artists,” he says. “To have her go over my images and be im­pressed was pretty re­mark­able. It was also pretty mem­o­rable to shoot fel­low Ade­laidean Kayla Itsines (per­sonal trainer, In­sta­gram hit and the woman be­hind the Bikini

Body Guide) around the streets of Soho ear­lier this sum­mer. Oh, and I got a selfie with Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robin Thicke, A-Rod from the Yan­kees, and Noel Gal­lagher from Oa­sis ... all in the same pic!”

Papendieck says Ade­laide will al­ways be home. Al­though he’ll be back for Christ­mas and his sis­ter’s wed­ding in Jan­uary, there’s no plan to re­turn for good. “This city is pretty ad­dic­tive. If you’ve never been to NYC you should def­i­nitely come. Just a cou­ple weeks here can change your out­look on life.”

Watch this space. “I have some re­ally ex­cit­ing jobs com­ing up with some big names in fash­ion and the mu­sic industry... I re­ally have to pinch my­self some­times.” max­pa­, @max­mo­ments

DREW VIL­LANI, 31 Lives: West Har­lem Job: Fash­ion de­signer & style con­sul­tant

THE clock was tick­ing from the mo­ment Drew Vil­lani landed in New York four years ago. “Hav­ing a set visa time is a bur­den and a bless­ing be­cause you don’t have days to be lazy,” he says. “It’s like a per­sonal trainer in some sense … there’s no time to mess around.”

Vil­lani stud­ied a Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness, Prop­erty and Mar­ket­ing at UniSA but fol­lowed his call­ing – fash­ion. It was a pal who urged Vil­lani to make the move: “You’re 26, you’re still liv­ing at home with your par­ents, you talk a big game but you don’t back it up”. “It was true,” says Drew. “I was work­ing in Ralph Lau­ren in David Jones and got a con­tact in NY and said, ‘I’m mov­ing there in a month and I’d love to work there.’ They didn’t have any­thing but I said, ‘Well I’m com­ing any­way’.”

Vil­lani ar­rived armed with a suit­case, a one-year visa and a vow to work his stylish pos­te­rior off. “It’s weird. I was go­ing there with the in­ten­tion to work for Ralph Lau­ren and the in-flight mag­a­zine cover was Ralph Lau­ren. I still have that mag­a­zine.”

The serendip­ity didn’t end there. “I dropped my bags off and walked to the store to find the guy I’d spo­ken to on the phone. “He said, ‘you got in two hours ago? Wow, you’re keen!’ ”

The next day he had an in­ter­view at Ralph Lau­ren’s flag­ship store. Three days later he was em­ployed. He hasn’t stopped since. “I’m there to work. I still haven’t seen the statue (of Lib­erty) and I’ve been here four years!”

Tenac­ity saw Vil­lani hit fash­ion heights. On days off he worked for free. In­tern­ships came – with ma­jor fash­ion player and style icon Nick Wooster and June Am­brose, top New York stylist who works with the likes of Jay-Z – af­ter months of per­sis­tence. “Most peo­ple ask, get a ‘no’ and give up.” In what lit­tle spare time he had, he worked on sketch­ing and de­sign­ing knitwear for his la­bel DREU. “I wanted to do suit­ing and found a re­ally good fac­tory in Queens, they do a lot with Thom Browne. From suit­ing, coats, pants, they do it all and one of the head tailors at Ralph Lau­ren made my shirts on the side.

In Septem­ber 2014 Vil­lani’s dreams came true. “It was very sur­real to do a show at New York Fash­ion Week. I was on the cal­en­dar and every­thing. It was my first col­lec­tion – it’s in­sane. I didn’t sleep for days. I was pick­ing up gar­ments on the day of the show. Nick Wooster came to the show and loved it. He said he was ner­vous to go to my show be­cause he’s been to so many that are a com­plete dis­as­ter.”

Vil­lani now works as a style con­sul­tant for ac­tors and is speak­ing with in­vestors. The sky is the limit. “To­mor­row doesn’t ex­ist, I do what I can to­day. That helps me stay on top of things.” dre­

LIZ NOW­ELL, 30 Lives: Green­point, Brook­lyn Job: Cu­ra­tor, writer and arts ad­min­is­tra­tor


Lives: Al­pha­bet City, East Vil­lage Job: Cre­ative Project Man­ager at

BBDO NY TI­MOTHY MY­ERS, 42 Lives: Brook­lyn, Prospect Heights

Job: Artist

LEAV­ING Aus­tralia in 1991 at age 19 wasn’t easy but Ti­mothy My­ers didn’t think he’d end up there for good. “I went to univer­sity in Texas then found my way to NYC in 1996,” he says. “Shortly af­ter that, due to a lit­tle visa over­sight, I got de­ported, spent time in Ade­laide, and when things were sorted made my way to NYC in 1999.”

The re­lent­less pace is chal­leng­ing but he says the en­ergy makes it near im­pos­si­ble to leave. The artist makes beau­ti­ful mul­ti­me­dia works us­ing found ma­te­ri­als. The eclec­tic flea mar­ket and side­walk finds are given new life in pieces that hang across the city – and the globe. My­ers didn’t just find in­spi­ra­tion in his new digs, he also found love.

“I met my ‘Best Girl’ Sarah here,” he says. “She moved into the apart­ment next to me. One night I got a knock on the door ... she had mice in her apart­ment, asked if I could help out. She moved in a few months later and we’ve been to­gether ev­ery day since.”

He is also in­spired by his son. “He ap­proaches life on earth in a vastly dif­fer­ent way than I did at his age ... he’s a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion.”

He’s busy, es­pe­cially af­ter the re­cent open­ing of BIGHEAVY STU­DIOS. “It’s a de­sign com­pany. We part­ner with fash­ion com­pa­nies with a fo­cus on brand en­hance­ment through art and de­sign. I split my time be­tween that and mak­ing art.”


Camilla Scales vis­ited New York for the sec­ond time on hol­i­day she had trou­ble leav­ing. “It felt like a sec­ond home from the mo­ment I vis­ited in 2007. I got home and within a month made the de­ci­sion to take the leap and move.”

She ar­rived in May 2014. “I re­ally wanted to chal­lenge my­self and put my­self out of my com­fort zone to see what I could achieve. I ar­rived in the city with two suit­cases, no work­ing visa, no friends and a mix­ture of dread and ex­cite­ment for what the fu­ture may hold. Luck­ily I found work in one of the great­est global agen­cies ... a real sense of achieve­ment do­ing some­thing I love in such an in­tensely com­pet­i­tive city.”

Scales lives in an apart­ment sur­rounded by dive bars, res­tau­rants, com­mu­nity gar­dens, cul­tures and char­ac­ters. “I love Sun­day af­ter­noons walk­ing down the street see­ing the old Puerto Ri­can grand­mas on deck chairs on the street, smelling the grilling of meats, the mu­sic blar­ing from the boom box of the old guy in the park and all the bars and beer gar­dens full of peo­ple try­ing to em­brace the short sum­mers.”

It’s not all fun. “My days are very long and fran­tic and sleep is rare. I hit a 12-plus hour work day that is more fast paced than you can imag­ine and then I meet friends at a bar or din­ner. There is too much hap­pen­ing to be sit­ting at home. I fill my week­ends with gal­leries, mu­se­ums, loft par­ties, con­certs, theatre ... I feel like I be­long here. New York is full of sur­prises, un­cer­tainty and in­san­ity. If you learn how to em­brace this chaos it is one of the great­est places in the world.”


is no such thing as a typ­i­cal day in New York – at least not for me!” Liz Now­ell laughs down the phone. “It al­ways be­gins with a des­per­ate search for de­cent cof­fee, and usu­ally ends with an equally des­per­ate search for a nice glass of wine.”

Now­ell, who pre­vi­ously lived in Syd­ney for five years is in New York for a short time but a good time. “For the past three years one of my many jobs was man­ag­ing the stu­dio of Aus­tralian artist Tony Al­bert. New York has al­ways been one of my favourite places to travel, so I de­cided to join him. I re­ally wanted to im­merse my­self in the New York arts world. My dear friend, and cu­ra­to­rial pow­er­house, Dr Maura Reilly in­tro­duced me to the team at the El­iz­a­beth A. Sackler Cen­ter for Fem­i­nist Art in the Brook­lyn Mu­seum and I have been work­ing on a large re­search project with them.”

Her part­ner, artist Ja­son Wing was ac­cepted in the In­ter­na­tional Stu­dio and Cu­ra­to­rial Pro­gram in Brook­lyn. “com­plet­ing new work for TARNANTHI Fes­ti­val in Ade­laide dur­ing Oc­to­ber”.

Liz re­turnes to Ade­laide this month to take on the role of Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­tre of SA but will miss the New York State of mind. “I have been priv­i­leged enough to meet some of the most im­por­tant thinkers, cu­ra­tors and writ­ers in my field. But of­ten the mem­o­rable mo­ments catch you off guard; the busker who stops you in your tracks, an un­ex­pected act of gen­eros­ity from a stranger, talk­ing with a lo­cal while you’re both schlep­ping it out to the Bronx.”

Will he re­turn to Ade­laide? Yes, for a hol­i­day with his fam­ily in De­cem­ber. Per­ma­nently? “I think about it all the time, I love Ade­laide but I have some pretty deep roots here with the busi­ness, my art ca­reer, and my son who just started third grade.”

My­ers is part­ner­ing with Club Monaco on sculp­tural work in New York, Lon­don and Canada and in Jan­uary par­tic­i­pates in a group show at the CMA (Chil­dren’s Mu­seum of the Arts) in NYC and “(has) a small amount of work at Aptos Cruz in the Ade­laide Hills (Stir­ling).” [email protected]­o­th­y­paul my­ and In­sta­gram @Bigheavys­tu­dios

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.