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Not long ago, when it came to dressing magnificently, no name carried more weight than Gianni Versace. He changed the face of modern style with revolutionary attire renowned for its broad appeal. Versace’s designer wear was just as likely to be found at an elegant dinner party as in a trendy nightclub. That is, until a senseless shooting in 1997 put an abrupt end to his creative brilliance.
Journalist Deborah Ball makes her hardcover debut recounting the amazing story of this groundbreaking designer and the dynasty he founded in House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder and Survival from Crown Publishing. Ball has been a business journalist in Europe for more than 15 years, and she was stationed in Milan and Rome while covering the luxury goods markets for the Wall Street Journal from 1999 to 2002. So she is especially suited to tell the tale, having witnessed many aspects of it up close — along with its wider effects on the marketplace.
“There was clearly a ton of fascination around the whole Versace story,” she notes. “I had a unique opportunity when the house and the family finally felt comfortable talking about the good years and the bad years as well, so it really came together.”
Ball pulls no punches as she guides her readers through a tour of the life of this archduke of haute couture, starting with the moments that seared Versace’s name into the history books — his brutal murder by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Explaining why she chose this incident and the monumental funeral at Milan’s historic Duomo that followed as her opening, the writer explains, “I was always struck by the looks on the faces in the front row of the cathedral — you really realize how close these people all were to Gianni and the enormity of the shock of the loss of this man, and in such a violent way. I felt the funeral brought together the paths of their story, of Gianni’s legacy, and of his role in the fashion world, in a truly poignant way.”
Next, we’re transported back to Versace’s provincial beginnings in Reggio, a small town in southern Italy, where he learned his craft from his devoted mother. She ran a modest but successful dress-making shop. Accounts concerning his growing up gay in such a conservative time and place bear testimony to what a role model of pride and courage he was. Later, Ball paints equally thorough pictures of the many houses and estates the famed stylista owned, as well as the opulent acquisitions he made for them.
One example is a collection of rare Picasso paintings, which he intended to leave to his nephew Daniel. In the end, though, Italian courts determined that because Gianni Versace had borrowed most of the money from his company to purchase them all, the company was the rightful owner, ultimately leaving the boy with nothing.
Yet perhaps the most stunning revelation involved the rest of the will, particularly how he’d left controlling interest in the business to his niece Allegra — only 11 years old at the time.
An intimate portrait is also presented of Allegra’s mother, Gianni’s sister Donatella — 13 years his junior, who on that fatal day suddenly found all hopes of continued success squarely on her shoulders! It’s entirely fitting that the final third of the book is largely devoted to her struggles living up to her brother’s legend — sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
“I was surprised at how different Donatella is from her public persona,” Ball said. “What I got from the people I interviewed who know her well — from her college roommate, her peer-counseling friends, and her relatives — is the picture of this really warm, incredibly generous, witty, lovely woman who is so different from that tough, diva image.”
As for her talent as a designer, the author says, “She may never have the ‘chops,’ certainly, that Versace had, but she’s doing much better than when she first carried the house he created, no question. I think she’s a very good keeper of the flame.”
Ball also explores the origins of many standard conventions within the fancy apparel industry — those that shoppers on both sides of the Atlantic today take for granted. Among these is the development of the American vs. the European system of garment sizes.
In providing us this extra insight, she presents the saga of one design powerhouse and an overview of the worldwide garment trade itself as it progressed in the 20th century. In fact, one recurring theme is the clash that every enterprise faces between creativity and finance — and which is more important to their success.
“If the business part is not really solid and really smart, a house will literally go under,” Ball says, “because creativity is not nearly enough to keep things going. But in the long term, if you don’t have that vision, you don’t project anything. So it’s a very delicate but important balancing act.”
She points to the frequent disagreements between Gianni and his older brother Santo (who oversaw much of the company’s expenses) and how they managed to reach a good equilibrium most of the time. “They really were an example of balancing that out, and the balance they did find was critical to the success of the entire label.”
In the end, though, Ball acknowledges that the Versace saga is still very much in progress and she appropriately leaves it open for the reader to discern what is likely to happen — particularly now that Allegra is old enough to exercise her control.
“She’s decided for the moment to keep her distance from the house,” Ball says. “She has 50 percent interest and she doesn’t seem to want to sell it, but it’s one of the mysteries of the house to understand what she does want to do. Whether she’ll choose to sell it to a bigger group that would help invest in the company and make it grow is anyone’s guess. She’s 23 — anything could happen!”
With its crisp narrative, House of Versace will please anyone who loves an engrossing work of nonfiction, not just those interested in the latest Vogue trends. Don’t just think of this as simple night-table reading, though. Once you pick it up, you may find yourself turning page after page well into the wee hours of the morning, because one section flows so naturally — even compellingly — into another.
House of Versace is available at book sellers everywhere. For more information, go to www.crownpublishing.com.
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.