The Brooklyn Bruja

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I was happy that big fat raindrops were falling on the day I visited Melissa McGill’s home studio for this shoot. We had wanted to take our photographs outdoors—her brilliant red hair would have looked stunning punched up against a colorful Bedstuy backdrop—but my creative spirit always feels most open during a storm, and what better time to collaborate with such an electric, soulful beauty as Melissa?  Besides, it gave me the opportunity to explore her wondrous space and share it with you here.

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Walking into Melissa’s home is like walking into a still life curated by time: rife with natural curiosities, happy plants in all shades of green, keepsakes and totems of a lifetime of adventure and experience and, of course, the tools and treasures of her labor, all perfectly placed and humming with good energy.  Founder and creator of Morphologically NYC—a line of hand crafted aromatherapy wares for the body and home—Melissa has made it her mission to help heal and hearten all who use her exquisite products.  Nothing is more apparent when walking over the threshold of Melissa’s home, a proverbial pot is always bubbling on the stove, her home (as well as the host), is always warm and welcoming and a testament to a life lived in wellness.

Melissa had a houseguest during my visit—a miniature Yorkie named Bubba, a sweet little girl who stole the show and somehow made it into almost every frame we shot that day.  There is also a house mouse happily living in a fancy new cage—saved from an untimely death and immortalized in a framed portrait that is displayed on Melissa’s mantel. The true protectress of the house, Melissa’s 19 year old cat Mephistopheles, wisely spent the day sleeping, hidden in the fabulous mess we created of vintage, thrift and coveted designer pieces that Melissa has collected. A couple of these outfits that laid strewn about, in the organized chaos that only those truly clothes-minded can understand, she had picked up from a local Brooklyn street vendor the day before this shoot. Having left a decade long career in the industry to make some magic of her own, her day-to-day is still a flurry of fun sartorial choices.  A stunner with a background in performance art who rolls with a veritable coven of stylish, driven goddesses like herself, Melissa feels just as much at home in some wild costume she has created—red lips and skull ring ablazin’—as she does in an understated pair of denim jeans and chuck taylors with a bit of studded embellishment left over from her metal kid days.

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“I’m holistic, but I have an edge too; it’s important that people understand that about me.” A woman who meditates daily and eminates a feeling of calm, Melissa also has an infectious, feral personality.  She’s exactly the person you’d want to call when you’re feeling ill to ask for one of her custom aromatherapy blends and perhaps curl up on her couch while her spritely energy soothes you, but she’s the same person you’d call to catch a midnight concert and dance into the morning light. She would probably wear a hit-the-floor black dress to the latter, perhaps with some feathers braided into her hair.

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A vision of humility and grace, Melissa is the first to tell you how blessed she feels in this new entrepreneurial chapter of her life. “I don’t like to use the word too much because it feels insincere, but I really do feel so blessed.”  She certainly puts as much good into the world as she receives back and fosters a univeral connection with all people.  Her willingness to talk to everyone and to listen to advice as she “dives all-in” in pursuit of her passions will undoubtedly be her key to continued success, both in life and career.  Just remember when dream chasing to “carry a tube of bright lipstick with you for when you have a surprise first encounter and can’t do anything else to prepare but show up.”

Proof that you can take the girl out of fashion, but you can’t take the fashion out of the girl.

 

 

For more on Melissa and her exquisite brand and to shop her products, visit www.morphologically.com

Window Portrait photo credit: Dawn Marie West

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