WRITER Ellen Thompson
PHOTOGRAPHER Ysa Pérez
Aside from a few hisses and whistles escaping from the espresso machine, it’s a rather quiet Sunday at Ninth Street Espresso. Then Gala Darling saunters in. A bolt of color against the New York coffee shop’s bare white walls, her peroxide blond hair pops and a teal leopard-print Betsey Johnson dress clings to her slender frame.
“Oh wow,” gasps a male barista from behind the counter. Adjusting his black-rimmed glasses, he approvingly looks Darling over one more time. “I really like that dress. So what are you having?”
Darling grabs a soy latte and sits down. She’s spent a good chunk of her week working on her first book, slated to come out mid-2011: The Playgirl’s Guide to Radical Self-Love. “I like to call [my outlook on life] radical self-love, because it sounds much cooler,” she says. “It sounds like something a warrior would do instead of some sappy self-help book, because I’m just not into that.”
She spent the rest of her week posting style advice, news, and encouraging anecdotes on her fashion blog, galadarling.com, which gets an average of 1 million hits a month. Darling started the candy-ridden, sequin-filled blog in late 2006.
“My timing was really fortunate,” Darling says. “There weren’t a lot of people doing fashion blogs. Well, a few, but they weren’t very interesting—to me at least.”
She had a mission. “I feel like if you just follow trends, then you don’t know who you are or what you’re into and you’re not really expressing yourself,” she says with a sigh. “It’s like you’re saying, ‘Well, this is cool, so I think I am going to wear it.’ And style is much more important. Clothing, as a tool of transformation, is a really powerful one.”
Ink is part of Darling’s style. On her right arm she has Siamese twins, once two separate girls, joined together by tattoo artist Adam Craft; they’re now surrounded with vibrant teapots, cupcakes, candy, and other sweet treats. On her left arm is a swan boat rambling down an electric blue river with a hot air balloon floating above, inked by Tim Kern. “There really wasn’t a story when I got them, but the story has developed as I’ve had them,” Darling says. “Like, the two girls, I see them as warrior princesses on my arm. I feel like they look out for me. And all the cupcakes and candy and stuff reminds me to be positive and focus on the good things.” Like radical self-love.