Obsessed with hand-beading, embroidery, and tribal jewelry, and convinced that she was Queen Nefertiti in another life, Tova Kaye, the subject of our latest Closet, adheres to a sign that she was once saw in 80s LA -- DON'T BLEND IN. As Tova says, "If I feel that I'm blending in, I know that I'm giving into something and not being myself." Indeed, when it comes to conforming, the Palm Springs native does anything but. At home during the Oscars, you will find her in one of her staples -- a black lace dress and velvet cape -- an ensemble that she would wear on the red carpet with "some strange hat, gloves, and no fancy makeup." If the former wardrobe stylist for film could stick to one era for the rest of her life, it would be the 70s, which Tova embodies with long hair parted down the middle, lots of denim and fringe, and sunny, floral platform wedges. A Buddhist who learned to let go of her "overwhelming" vintage collection through selling and sharing, Tova is equally committed to letting go of society's aversion to aging naturally: "With Botox, it's so easy to look youthful. But I'd rather see some lines than remain frozen."
Whether it was showing up to school with turquoise rings on every finger, getting sent home for arriving to her first day of work on a movie set "dressed to the tens in really high shoes," or, later on, getting high with one of the directors, Tova's feisty spirit was present from the get-go. But the style rebel who wore her brothers' pants to school in '69 was no match for the toxic beauty norms that trap even the most independent of women. From feeling like her legs were too fat at the age of nine to compulsively going to the gym to get into Brooke Shields/Christy Turlington shape, Tova speaks with a wealth of wisdom about the "slow suicide" of trying to fit into the fashion industry's mold: "It's a myth. You're so busy trying to control your image even though it's done nothing for you. You haven't made more money or found the better guy. All you've done is entered a prison that only you can get out of."
Draped in African wedding necklaces and headdresses, and as many gems as will fit on her hands, Tova uses her guts and singularity to steer clear of the body image jail. Instead of compulsively not feeling good enough, she works hard to be as happy as the rainbow dress that she bought for her 40th birthday as an homage to her rainbow-loving grandma: "It sounds cliche, but you just have to wake up and tell yourself that you want to make today a good day and not obsess over how you look. You have to tell yourself that the distortions you see in the mirror are not the truth."
Elisa & Lily
Check out Tova's Esty shop, Owl Vintage
Follow her on Instagram: @tova_k
Tova's video was edited by Paul O'Brochta