Price: $70,000 in 1996 [$550 maintenance]
Square feet: 630 [one-bedroom co-op apartment in tenement building]
Occupant: Abiola Abrams [filmmaker and artist]
What are you doing? I’m placing this tiara on your head so that you are able to realize the goddess in you. When you leave, I’ll take the tiara away, but—no matter where you go through the rest of your days, you’ll remember your royal presence. Behold, welcome to the Goddess Factory. “A Gift of Love” is playing. It’s Deepak Chopra reading a poem by Rumi. I always say I’m the daughter of Madonna and Oprah Winfrey.
How long have you been a goddess? Since birth. The whole Goddess Factory movement is not about becoming a goddess but remembering you are the goddess that you didn’t know existed. I was lucky to grow up in a family of strong women from Guyana in South America. There’s a picture of me at fifth-grade graduation with a tiara. My family always teaches all the women in the family—you are the best life has to offer. My parents met here. My father came to go to the Columbia School of Journalism. I grew up in Queens Village, on the Long Island border. It’s a New York suburb so there are no cows. I have a small film studio here. It’s a home environment. I recently had two interns, one from Egypt, one from Israel. The women had preconceived notions of each other.
But then they were sitting together at your purple satin worktable. Environment is everything.
Did you develop your goddess leanings at Brearley or at Sarah Lawrence? Both. Here is a little bag of Goddess Candy. My parents bought this apartment in 1996. I’ve lived here since ’99. I moved in 2003 to East Harlem because it was a bigger space. But I missed the energy here in West Harlem. I moved back in July.
Did your parents want you to go somewhere like Brearley? Yes. My mother and babysitter would tell people, She was reading The New York Times when she was six. My parents took me to NYU to take some sort of a test to be declared a genius. They said, Mr. and Mrs. Abrams, while she is very smart, she’s not a genius.
Who’s in the photo? My sweetie. He’s in real estate—the American dream. My mother, when she came from Guyana, she said she thought New York was so dirty, she sat down on the curb and started crying. My family has stressed for me to have property. My dream is to have a big loft, but not one owned by a family member. I was . . . I won’t tell you. I will, I’m blushing, I was Miss Guyana Collegiate. I won some pageants, Miss Caribbean USA. Then I won the talent competition in the Miss America pageant.
Look at the tulle in the library. This is “Goddess orchid.” People say, Go to Jackson Heights for fabric. Except for going from New York to my parents’ house, I cannot go anywhere in Queens. My commute to Brearley was so traumatic, two hours, each way. They had a picture in the Brearley yearbook called “Bridge and Tunnel.” It was a picture of four of us, like the geeks commuting.
Are many from Guyana living in Queens Village? We were very strange in our neighborhood. Guyanese is considered Caribbean. We were the only Caribbean family. People laughed and said, Why is your food green? It was curry. They were African Americans from the South. [ The conversation changes.] It is so gentrified here now. Hip-hop kids have nicknames for us—New Harlem.
I was sitting in beautiful Morningside Park before. Birds were noisily hopping around in the autumn leaves, an orange and yellow day. Then I went in the Rite Aid at 117th. In a store like that, you could be anywhere in the world. You get transported to a higher plane of cold medicines, hair bands, wrapping paper. I have to go now. We should take off the tiara. I want you to remember your royal strength is in there when you walk down the street.