Kiana sat down with Emily Powers at Westville, where Powers is proud to call herself a regular, to talk about modern sex education, New York City, and fashion design.
Emily Powers’ love for New York goes far, far back into her past, “I love going to the Plaza because I used to go there all the time as a little kid. Because I lived in Connecticut and we used to drive in and go all the time. I really identified heavily with Eloise because we were the same age and there was a period of time where we were living in a hotel before we bought a house in Connecticut. So we would go into the city and I went to the Plaza for the first time and I bought this book about Eloise and how she lived in a hotel and I’m like ‘oh I’m also 6 years old and I also live in a hotel.’ She was like the first character in any form of media that I really identified with, which is hilarious because the hotel we were staying in wasn’t like the Plaza at all. But the Plaza will always have a special place in my heart. And I told myself if I ever got a tattoo, it would be the Plaza hotel logo on my butt. I still feel a very deep connection towards Eloise.”
Some of her other favourite spots are slightly less iconic, “I love the Tompkins Square Park area. I like the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. I know that sounds crazy but I’ll always hype it up because it’s just absolutely huge. If you’re up there or at Central Park it’s just like my go-to because I can just get whatever I want there. I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s just by far the best Whole Foods I’ve ever been to in my life. Another favorite spot of mine is the Sant Ambroeus in West Village. I love the pasta there and my cousin is a regular and they know her when she goes in. So I love going with her and we always get paninis and it’s become our ritual. We already talked about Westville. I hate Soho. I just avoid Soho at all costs. Another one of my favorite spots is The Bowery Hotel. It’s one of my favorite places in New York. I just love the lobby, it’s so dimly lit. It’s just very sexy and weird. It’s the most interesting, to say the least, people watching I’ve ever experienced in New York. And I’m always at the hotel’s restaurant, I’ve probably been 3 or 4 times in the past week. They have incredible Italian food at the hotel restaurant, Gemma, so I’m there a lot. They also have the best brunch in New York.”
In New York, Powers studies fashion at Parsons, “When I first initially applied, I thought I wanted to do fashion in tandem with journalism. I left home and moved to the city when I was 17 and got a job in fashion editorial. Then after working in fashion editorial I was like ‘no, I don't want to do this. I just want to do fashion design.’ So I started studying fashion design, and that’s what I committed my major to. I always had a good artistic eye and I’ve always known what I like and what I want, but then with the environment at Parsons in the fashion design world, it just feels like a lot of people are trying to pull you in different directions and then you lose sight of who you are as an artist. That was really hard because I was thinking in terms of pleasing my professors instead of doing what I want. I just felt like I was trying to please everyone. Finally this year, my junior year, after freshman and sophomore year, I decided fuck what everyone says, I don’t care what directions people and my profession try to push me in, I have a vision this year and I’m not letting anyone compromise it.
Adjusting to college was hard, and everyone's like ‘adjusting to the city might have been hard too’ and I was like ‘No! I’ve been living here since I was 17, I know it’s not the city, I know it’s school that is the problem.’
Going forward, I love designing and I think it’s so fun but I think that the corporate world of fashion and the fashion system is very stressful and not fun. It has the potential to be such a lovely and fun and creative, free-flowing place. But it’s not, and it’s really stressful and intense and I feel like it doesn’t need to be that way. I see myself in the future maybe as an editorial art director or a creative director of some kind. I love editorial and I love fashion. It’s funny, now I’ve kind of ended up where I thought I wanted to be when I was 17. So it’s funny how that works, how I knew what I wanted to do all along. But I needed to experiment and explore in order to kind of go back to that and in order to truly be happy.”
School has also been an important place to both make connections and find new experiences. “I think going to Parsons helps a lot when you’re applying to art jobs because people immediately take you more seriously when you say you go there...Collaboration has also been great, just meeting people and collaborating off on ideas together. While it is competitive, I think the school should try to implement collaboration more so than competition. But New York in general, the diversity, I love how all the neighborhoods are so different. I love all the different people from all over, I love that. I love the people of New York more so than the people of school. I love the convenience. I love that there’s anything you could ever want within a ten block radius of you, it’s so amazing. And you just don’t get that anywhere else.”
The energy of New York has remained inescapably attractive to Powers. “I think I’ll end up here, I’ve always had that mindset that I’ll always stick it out in New York. That’s just where I see the most opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if I move back to California when I’m like 30? That just seems to be the common trend, everyone is just up in arms by the time they’re 28 and they’re just like ‘I’m moving to LA!’ But I don’t really see myself ever living in LA, I’d maybe move back to Santa Barbara if I ever wanted to start a family, but at the same time, I’m not opposed to being in New York City until I die. If I have a spacious enough apartment in a quiet enough neighborhood. I’m just down to see where life takes me.”
Beyond school, Powers has also begun her own podcast. “Just FYI came about this past summer because I had a conversation with a friend of mine, a man, whom I respect, and we were talking about dating and stuff. And he was telling me about how he wanted to hook up with someone, and how he wanted to try hooking up with them when they’re drunk since he had a better chance when the person was inebriated compared to when the person was sober. And I was like ‘no, that’s predatory behavior, that’s not good you shouldn’t do that.’ And he didn’t see the fault in it because no one has ever told him in his entire life that that was wrong. I was just kind of shocked and I was like ‘wow people really need better sex education, this is kind of astounding.’ Because he’s not a bad person, he was just literally never taught about the most basic forms of consent. He thought this was normal male behavior. So I ran into a group of friends later that night in Washington Square Park, I told them what happened, and they were like ‘wow, that is fucked up.’”
That was where Powers recognized the opportunity to embark on a project that was deeply meaningful to her. “If I were to be anything outside of a designer then I would want to be a sex-ed teacher and someone was like ‘well why can’t you, just do both.’ And I said ‘you’re completely right, I can do it all!’ So then I decided to have the podcast and I spent the rest of the summer plotting and planning what episodes I wanted to do, a friend helped me with the name. A lot of it came together and finally at the beginning of the school year when I was talking to my producer, Sophia. She sat me down and said ‘Emily I feel like this is so important, like you need to do it and I’m gonna help you. Like we’re sitting down this weekend, rent the equipment, let’s do this.’ And so I rented the equipment and she’s very good at tech stuff and the backend production side of things, that’s why she edits and produces and she’s always there as my co-host. It’s like a Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter situation, like she puts in her two cents in every episode which I love because she always asks thoughtful questions and helps so much. So she’s just really great. And that’s how it came to be.”
“The first episode was called, ‘My friend, the sugar baby,’ where we talked to a sugar baby in NYC about why she does it and what that entails. Episode 2 was with a dominatrix and that one was really good. Episode 3 was with a young woman who did camgirling and we talked to her about camgirling and what that is and how she got into that. So it’s been poppin’ since October, and we’re getting kind of a small but steady following. And even on the Instagram account I’ve been seeing people who are following us that I don’t know. So many people are starting to follow us who I don’t know, and it’s really exciting and even Babeland recently posted us and they follow us now so that’s exciting. My goal for the end of the year is to get some kind of sponsorship.”
But there is time for breaks along that path. Her favorite way to take a break, she tells Kiana, is simple, “It’s here, getting food at Westville, where I am a regular and they know me, and it’s always been my dream to be a regular somewhere in New York. So the fact that they know me here is great. And they always say hi to me and they’re always really nice to me so that’s also great. And then before or after Westville, it depends on the day, I usually go to Tompkins Square Park and I do my loop that I always do. I stop by the dog park and observe and just watch them play. If I’m with someone then I like to go in and hope that no one gets mad at me. And that’s my favorite way to take a break. Nothing beats it.”