If you’re a style lover looking for a laugh-out-loud, Technicolor read, cartoonist and graphic novelist Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s newest illustrated book, Ann Tenna ($17; amazon.com), is the page-turner for you. The New Yorker cartoonist tells the story of a high-flying N.Y.C. gossip columnist who sports the latest runway looks (shown in glorious detail, right on down to her sleek Fendi baguette bag) and has a moral awakening. We follow Ann, as she floats across the astral plane on a velvet, Pucci-patterned magic pillow, to meet her higher self and become a better person. We caught up with the glamorous author-and-artist on the eve of her book release.
How did you come up with the character Ann Tenna?
Ann Tenna is an idea I’ve had for about 20 years, a character with “antenna“ hair who is “super-connected” to the universe. When I first starting drawing her, she was a tweenage gossip columnist (whose nickname, ironically enough, was “gossip girl“ before that was the name of a TV show) and now she has evolved to be what you see in this book: a 39-year-old who actually thinks she’s super-connected until she’s proven otherwise in a supremely tragic, comic fashion.
What do you love most about her character and story?
Even Ann Tenna, who is such a vicious gossip, might just be able to possibly turn her life around, clean up her karma, realize her potential, and channel her higher self, SuperAnn. That is, if she doesn’t have a gossip relapse. Or worse. Much, much worse.
An excerpt from Ann Tenna.
How did your career evolve to become a cartoonist?
My mother designed shoes for Delman. And she designed shoes for The First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, who called my then-pregnant mother to make footwear for her during her pregnancy with John-John. After I was born, my mother freelanced at home and the first thing I ever drew on was a plastic shoe last—a mold. Naturally, it was a shoe. My mother would also draw these trend reports that showed greatlooking women wearing her fabulous designs. So I would draw them too, until I was about eight and got bored with these beautiful women with nothing to say. Then one day we went on vacation to a resort in Bermuda called The Lantana. When we got there, my mother didn’t like our small room, so she convinced the owner to put us in this pink elephant of a house on the fringe of the property. On the walls of the house were framed drawings with captions on them. It was an “ah ha!” moment. My drawings could talk—and my mother, by the way, told me we were staying in [New Yorker cartoonist and celebrated author] James Thurber’s house.
You clearly adore fashion. Is it fun to illustrate your favorite looks?
When I do final art on a New Yorker cartoon, I actually “shop” for my characters. They’re wearing “real” clothes. What they wear communicates who they are. Besides, I love fashion, and it’s an excuse for me to get lost in it. Ann Tenna is another story—when Ann visits another realm called “ScienceFashionHeaven” she meets her higher self, SuperAnn. It was a total blast creating her out-of-this-world style. SuperAnn's feet never have to hit the ground. It was really fun designing shoes that are impossible to walk in.
Another excerpt from Ann Tenna, exhibiting the character's sky-high heels.
What are you wearing to your book party?
LaQuan Smith, an emerging designer in Long Island City. He’s done dresses for Beyoncé and Rihanna, and he’s making me a mock turtleneck, capped sleeve, below-the-knee, skin-tight navy blue sequin stunner. The shoes are silver Giuseppe Zanottis embellished with what look like angel wings. A girl’s gotta keep up with her galactic theme.
You spent a lot of time at the restaurant Da Silvano. Is that a prime perch to observe the latest N.Y.C. trends?
Yes, and my hubster, Silvano, is always trying out new recipes on his trying-to-diet wife. And, oh yeah, that’s where I observe trends—both fashion and anthropological!
Ann Tenna is available in stores today. Pick up your copy for $17 on amazon.com.