My Daughter, Debbie Harry, and Me

Debbie Harry
Photo: Debbie Harry in Marc Jacobs. Photographed by Billy Ballard.

We are lovely kick-ass women of the world: we struggle, love, lose, laugh, heal, nurture and create. Instinctively we know the irony of life weaving itself, as it creates a glorious web; one with intention and integrity. As I write this I am reminded how my mother, my daughter, and I are intricately entwined.

My mother made a commitment to live courageously and played a vital role in my family's emigration from Russia. Coming to this country at the age of nine, enthusiastic and excited about the new culture and each discovery I made, nothing prepared me for the awe-inspiring skyscrapers and wonder of flashy neon lights. Supermarkets amazed me in their infinite variety of foods freely displayed, not behind a glass case. The smell of pizza and watermelon flavored everything!.

I remember learning things about myself with each choice I made and each character found. Turning on the television for the first time and seeing Blondie rocking out in reruns on MTV, I was completely mesmerized by Debbie Harry’s bleached hair, red lips, and rebel punk spirit. It did not take long for me to adopt a newfound "punk self” with teased blond streaks, animal print bodysuit and most important, aviator glasses. Embracing a freedom of expression, I vamped her style at my new school, and later in college at F.I.T.

Luckily, my little “Babushka” was born in New York City. She instinctively owns her gifts and honors her uniqueness, much like her grandmother, with her inherent dare-devil spirit and intuition. As she plays photographer with my iPhone, tweaking blurry, candid pictures and posting from my photo-stream, I’m reminded of how I could only take mental notes of my youth, while she tasks me with carrying her tablet everywhere, 24/7 to record her life digitally. ‘Roblox is her whole life’, while mine was all about happily playing on street corners with my friends. My mini-comrade insists there are two Gods running the world, as it’s too much burden for just one—she’s quite able to expound on her theory in detail, while I’m attempting mediocre mediation. A few months ago I introduced her to my Blondie obsession, and all that it still means to me. Elated and surprised, she is just as taken by Debbie Harry.

I think of three generations. From my life shocked of locale and language, shaken and stirred; to a future not defined by the past. In comparing my modern tween-ager to my childhood classic self, it is clear we share similarities. While Lennox Hill is not Leningrad, Manhattan not Moscow, I'm comforted in knowing my daughter takes her special experiences, picks and chooses her punk in just as rebellious and brash a fashion as my mother and I ever did.

Back in February, I found myself the Carlyle Hotel, there as Style Correspondent for an InStyle. I can’t help in moments like these but stop and think: What would my 9-year-old self have made of all this? I eyeballed the room, full of celebrities, to instantly lock eyes with a regal Debbie Harry.

With light speed I was transported to my first experience of this child’s changed life, my body flung across the room to get a closer look at this mirage. She did not disappoint. My vision of Blondie was everything and more. Without wasting precious time I blurted my story to her, instantly metamorphosing into a nine-year-old girl, until her eyes met mine, as I nervously shared my memories and excitement. No one was more shocked at the emotions, of my full New York self on display, than I was. As this chic idol and sleek icon leaned over, planted a kiss on my cheek, and showed her heart of class.

Anzhelika Steenolsen is a Style Correspondent for InStyle magazine and the founder of Eliann, a luxury handbag brand, beloved by Hollywood and fashion insiders all over the world.

Related Articles