I met the multi-hyphenate harriette cole just weeks before her 1993 wedding to photographer, George Chinsee. Upon meeting, the first thing I noticed about her was an easy grace. Gliding into the conference room of Essence magazine dressed in billowing layers likely from the British design duo, Flyte Ostell, she interviewed me for the fashion position I’d soon accept, with an elegant ink pen in her long, well-manicured hands. That ink pen would sign many handwritten notes and cards to colleagues in appreciation of work well done. Those nimble fingers would crank out copy at miraculous speeds (an early stint as a secretary bolstered her typing skills) and with their tapering elegance, grace the cover of one of the author’s first of many books, The Jumping the Broom Wedding Workbook.
The middle daughter and namesake of the late Honorable Harry A. Cole, the first black judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Baltimore born and bred harriette, continuing a familial legacy of excellence holds a Phi Beta Kappa key as a Howard University alum. A move to New York City soon after graduation precipitated what has become a long and illustrious career, which has through divergent means, (publishing, television, motivational speaking, event production, media training) always maintained the central tenet of helping people present their best selves. She continues this tradition now with the re-launch of her business, Harriette Cole Media, after having spent the past 3 1/2 years at Johnson Publishing Company. Charged with freshening the profile of Ebony magazine, she helped to bring the revered relic into the 21st century, garnering exclusives with high-profile subjects such as the 44th President of the United States, the late Michael Jackson in his last interview and the famously elusive Prince.
I visited with the e.e. cummings-influenced harriette (lower-case spelling) at the HCM office recently to catch up with my friend, dish on the old days and find out just what’s floating her boat these days. Her current faves include:
1. Sag Harbor Hills. ”Every summer for years my family and I have spent weekends in the Hamptons. We usually stay in The Springs but beach it in Sag Harbor Hills, the oldest African American beach community out there. It’s perfect when you have a child, because there are always kids to play with and we all just have fellowship and fun.” Harriette and her “Georgie,” their 6-year-old angel, Carrie, and the neon glow of the Sag Harbor Cinema.
2. Clarins Sunscreen. The fact that their SPF 15, oil-free spray doesn’t stain clothing is a big plus, but the real draw is that the non-greasy formulation “goes on so smoothly. It is luxurious and simple at once.”
3. Molecule 02. While shooting Jada Pinkett Smith for one of the many covers she has produced for Ebony,
6. Pampering. Well-versed in the art of the spa, harriette has a few faves for indulging her love of pamper sessions: “I adore Sang Lee, the massage therapist at Salon Today (West 55th Street) where I typically go for a mani-pedi… When I need to luxuriate a little longer, I go for a two-hour massage, at Sphatika, across the street from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. And Deva Spa, downtown, has a couples room that is perfect for an indulgent date!”
7. Cashmere. “My absolute favorite fabric is cashmere. I live in cashmere all year-long,” from Banana Republic’s tissue weight in summer to Loro Piana’s “four-ply, even yummier” when the mercury drops. “It’s the ultimate luxury.” In harriette’s favorite shade of sunny yellow, this lightweight cashmere scarf from Banana Republic is a perfect summer wrap.
8. Sake Bath from Fresh. “Susan (L.) Taylor introduced me to this product years ago. It makes the most amazing bath. Over the years, I have tried many different bath oils. But I go right back to this one. It’s expensive so I only buy it occasionally, but let me tell you, it makes a bath that invites you to linger.” This detoxifying bath additive from Fresh is composed of more than 50% pure sake and extractives of pine, ginger and peach absolute.
9. Spiritual Texts. Having practiced Siddha Yoga Meditation for 20 years, harriette finds tremendous support in the books of her spiritual practice. Three that resonate for her now are, Enthusiasm and The Yoga of Discipline by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and I Have Become Alive by Swami Muktananda. “My faith and my spiritual work serve as both anchor and wing for me. Throughout everything that happens in my life, I continue to develop tools for navigating through the challenges and triumphs with clarity as a result.” Siddha Yoga spiritual leader, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and her books.
10. Elizabeth Catlett Lithograph. “Shortly after I moved to NYC, where I was employed as the lifestyle editor of Essence magazine, I worked on an article about Elizabeth Catlett. She graciously invited me to her home in lower Manhattan and showed me many treasured pieces of her work. I completely fell in love with her and her art. She allowed me to make a payment plan to buy The Sharecropper, which she signed to me. That piece lives on my wall today.”