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18 Questions with Nicole Zisman
She has never tried gefilte fish.
Nicole Zisman is a Venezuelan-Jewish multi-disciplinary artist and fashion designer who focuses on her multicultural identities in her work. Zisman has been featured in Dazed, LOVE Magazine, SHOWstudio, The Face, Vogue Italia, and Teen Vogue.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Emotional, impulsive, and passionate.
How would your siblings describe you, though?
Definitely on another planet. I’m going to use words that both of them have used… freaky genius, and the other day, one of them said something along the lines of “off my rocker.”
If you could only use one color in your work what would it be?
Red. I think it's really intense, and I'm just really attracted to it. Often when if I'm looking at an image or something and it's not balanced, I’ve found that adding red can pull it together.
Who is your favorite fashion designer?
Hussein Chalayan. He really was one of the pioneers of multidisciplinary fashion and fashion beyond wearable clothes. He also did some really, really incredible shows that combined references from other disciplines, but also were very rooted in emotion and emotional responses.
Victor and Rolf.
Jewish biblical figure?
Chana my namesake. Well, really, I'm named after my great, great, great grandmother, Chana. And she left Romania for Venezuela. After pogroms, and she left in the middle of the night with the lights on in our house, so no one would know she'd be gone.
But also I love the historical figure Chana because she prayed silently and she cried a lot. I think there's something really cathartic in that for me because I cry for no reason all the time. And because I'm just such an intensely emotional person, so that’s something in now that I just really identify with.
What about Jewish historical figure?
Anny Cudisevich. She is a family member of mine who led The Sephardic Museum of Caracas.
What’s your go-to shabbat meal?
Baba ghanoush bowl. It's so easy. You don't have to cook anything to make it. It's so fast.
Matzo balls. Dense or fluffy?
Correct answer! Gefilte fish with chrein, or hold the chrein?
You know what, I'm not gonna lie, I've never tried gefilte fish. I'm currently vegan, so there's no chance now. But when I was a kid, it would only ever show up on Passover, and I was too afraid to try it.
What is a Jewish teaching you think about a lot?
I think about tzimtzum, which is a kabbalistic term. It’s this idea of contraction, or the act of removing yourself in order to create space for something else.
Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
Wow. I love both. But I actually fell in love with the Tel Aviv cultural and art scene this summer. I think Tel Aviv is such a kind of bizarre place because it's a place of so many contradictions. So many extremes of things that shouldn't work together, but they do and I find that really, really interesting. I think it's kind of also very grungy and kitsch as well.
Moving on to another city, what is your favorite spot in London?
I love King’s Cross. That's where I studied. That's where I met my boyfriend. And that's where I have found myself in places during a lot of growth.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
London Jewish mom. So probably Golders Green. It's so expensive but I really aspire to be that North London Jewish mom.
What do you think your obituary will say?
Nicole spent her whole life living on another planet and making weird objects processing strange emotional encounters.
What has been your strangest encounter?
My strangest encounter in London? I think when somebody when somebody told me I was too pale to be from California. Then when I said “No, I am from California.” And then he says “Where are you really from?” And I was like, okay, and then he asked me for money.
What’s a celebrity sighting you’re waiting for?
Tilda Swinton. I want her to wear my clothes.
Who do you look up to?
I'm sure every Jewish woman says this, but I really look up to my mother and grandmother. They've taught me how to love family just endlessly, and have shown me all the things I really love about being in a Jewish family.
I also really look up to my father. My father is a musician and a doctor. He wakes up every day at four in the morning to play guitar until 7:30. And then goes to see critically ill patients. He's somebody who works really, really hard for his passions.