This story is part of a series, Past/Present, highlighting images and articles from Vogue that have personal significance to our editors.
I identify as a New Yorker. In fact, I’m one of those rare birds who was actually born and bred here. I grew up on the Lower East Side and now live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, just a few blocks from where my grandmother grew up. It’s been a tough year for New York City, and I can’t yet wrap my mind around what it will be like when this is all over; with so many people lost, the landscape will be altered forever.
Recently, my coworkers and I were discussing our hopes for the future, but the conversation kept coming back around to what is happening now. “Why live in New York when the things that make New York, New York are shuttered?” one colleague asked. That night I went to bed crying about the deep void I felt. My grief for my city can feel overwhelming.
As possible park and beach shutdowns have been announced, my partner and I have discussed leaving. We live in a one-bedroom apartment with no fire escape, backyard, or central A/C. A summer stuck inside would be hard. He is from California, so the subject of moving out west has come up more than once. I try to hold firm in those conversations. “There is no city like New York,” I remind him.
There’s proof of that in a Vogue story from 1996, called “New York Is.” The portfolio features models—wearing clothing by New York designers—and locals, famous or otherwise. There’s an image of Shalom Harlow jumping with Broadway actors, and another of Trish Goff striking a pose with the Guardian Angels, a volunteer neighborhood-watch organization. Kristen McMenamy, Kiara Kabukuru, and Stella Tennant also get in on the fun with such Big Apple icons as Spike Lee, David Salle, and members of the New York City Fire Department. The vibe is minimally chic in a very New York way, but the photos by Arthur Elgort are also full of energy. The images remind me of the city’s resilience, and of the importance of creativity. It’s talented people like these that keep the city vibrant and its spirit alive. There will certainly be voids when this is all over, but that spirit isn’t going anywhere—it’s a New York thing.
“New York Is,” photographed by Arthur Elgort, was published in the February 1996 issue of the magazine. Fashion editor: Grace Coddington. Hair: Didier Malige for Frederic Fekkai Beaute; Makeup: Mary Greenwell.