PoP: Chanel No. 19

Katie Puckrik ON Jul 16, 2010 AT 11:25 am

Katie Puckrik

Katie Puckrik: Photographer Martin Shaw

By Katie Puckrik

One million years B.C., I was a young pop singer in London determined to give Madonna a run for her rah-rah skirt. I performed in dive bars and gay clubs all over town, singing to backing tracks in my glow-in-the-dark Trick-or-Treat dress while furiously lassoing eight inflatable Dalmatians over my raspberry Krazy-Kolored head.

A couple of times, I played in the cafeteria at St Martins College of Art — at lunchtime — which sounds a bit Spinal Tap-billed-beneath-the-puppet-show, until you learn that the Sex Pistols made their debut in this very same venue some years earlier. Okay, at least the Sex Pistols got to play at night, but the advantage for me (aside from all the tater-tots I could eat — try getting that on your rider, Johnny Rotten!) was that I met some talented student photographers who asked me to be their model.

It was a good deal: they worked their chops, and I snagged some shots. I remember one of the women in particular, because she was the first person I ever met who wore Chanel No. 19.

Caroline was about 20, an English maiden-type whose silky blonde hair created a dramatic contrast against her art-school black turtleneck. I was impressed by her manner: she had an easy way with me, a near-stranger, and was confident with both directing me and managing her complicated-looking equipment.

Katie Puckrik shot by Caroline Hughes

Katie Puckrik shot by Caroline Hughes

At one point, Caroline decided she wanted to do some portraits of me wearing black against a black background, so that my face and hands would be highlighted in the gloom. Since the only clothes I had with me were a pink metallic Vivienne Westwood goddess bustier and mini-crini that made me look like Aphrodite crossed with a go-go dancer, she lent me her black turtleneck.

As I slipped the wool sweater over my head, I was enveloped in a powdery cloud of Chanel No. 19. She had to tell me what it was, and mentioned it was the only perfume she ever wore. I had no reference point for the smell, which was completely new to me. It was pretty, but not at all sweet. It was youthful but not childish. No. 19 seemed to share Caroline’s easy, unfussy beauty, as well as her cool restraint.

I was thrilled with the finished portraits, which revealed an arch self-possession I didn’t know I had. And maybe I didn’t have it. Studying the photos now, it occurs to me that the poise Caroline captured had nothing to do with me at all, and everything to do with Chanel No. 19.

Watch Katie’s Youtube review below:

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