The Next Choice for the “Happier” Podcast Book Club: “IM” by Isaac Mizrahi

Gretchen holding the book I.M.: A Memoir by Isaac Mizrahi

We’ve picked our next book for the Happier Podcast Book Club! Another memoir: I.M by Isaac Mizrahi. 

A New York Times bestseller, this memoir is thought-provoking, hilarious, beautifully written, and fascinating. It’s a great portrait of a time and a place.

You get a picture of glamor and celebrities, and also of the tremendously hard work of attaining mastery.

Gretchen with Isaac Mizrahi

You can listen to this 3-minute episode of “A Little Happier,” where I talk about a few passages that particularly struck me: “Reading Isaac Mizrahi Taught Me About Myself.” For instance, here’s what Mizrahi writes about seeing the movie Funny Girl in his childhood:

“It’s such a cliché: a kid sitting in a dark theatre, the world opening up—a kind of shifting. And yet that’s truly the way it happened…That moment marked another first for me. This flood of inspiration was accompanied by a feeling of dread and a hint of resigned exhaustion. This particular mix of emotions has become a regular event in my life. Whenever I feel most inspired, I’m simultaneously struck by a feeling of sadness and exhaustion at seeing the distance left to go, the labor ahead to achieve anything near to capturing perfection on that level.”

I read the memoir first, and I told Elizabeth and our mother both to read it. We all loved it—so much so that Elizabeth and I decided that we had to make it our next choice. (One small part we all loved: the ritual of shopping at Loehmann’s—and our mother’s excitement at finding a designer bargain there—is a happy memory of our childhood, as well as Mizrahi’s.)

I have to admit, I was astonished to realize that Isaac Mizrahi is just a handful of years older than I am. What have I been doing with myself? He’s lived fifty lifetimes already!

Elizabeth loves Andy Cohen, and here’s what he had to say about the memoir: I.M. has everything. It’s colorful, hysterical, touching, bold, and heartbreaking. It’s about coming of age, creativity, being yourself, Jewish mothers, fashion, art, loss, and glamour. I loved it.”

Here’s the official book description:

Isaac Mizrahi is sui generis: designer, cabaret performer, talk-show host, a TV celebrity. Yet ever since he shot to fame in the late 1980s, the private Isaac Mizrahi has remained under wraps. Until now.

In I.M., Isaac Mizrahi offers a poignant, candid, and touching look back on his life so far. Growing up gay in a sheltered Syrian Jewish Orthodox family, Isaac had unique talents that ultimately drew him into fashion and later into celebrity circles that read like a who’s who of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Richard Avedon, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Wintour, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Meryl Streep, and Oprah Winfrey, to name only a few.

In his elegant memoir, Isaac delves into his lifelong battles with weight, insomnia, and depression. He tells what it was like to be an out gay man in a homophobic age and to witness the ravaging effects of the AIDS epidemic. Brimming with intimate details and inimitable wit, Isaac’s narrative reveals not just the glamour of his years, but the grit beneath the glitz. Rich with memorable stories from in and out of the spotlight, I.M. illuminates deep emotional truths.

In the memoir, Isaac Mizrahi writes about the making of the 1995 documentary Unzipped which follows him as he plans and shows his fall 1994 collection.

There are appearances by celebrities such as Richard Gere, Anna Wintour, Stephen Sondheim, Maira Kalman, Sandra Bernhard, Andre Leon Talley, Liza Minnelli, Richard Avedon, and Faye Dunaway, as well as supermodels Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Kate Moss. There’s an amazing scene with Eartha Kitt.

So it’s fun to watch the documentary—to see for yourself how people looked and talked, as you read the memoir. (Hint: if you don’t have time to read the book before we post the interview, you could get a great sense of Isaac Mizrahi and his work by watching the movie.)

You can read Thessaly La Force’s New York Times review: “Isaac Mizrahi Found Freedom Through Fashion.”

You’ll also know Isaac Mizrahi if you’re a fan of Project Runway All Stars, a TV fashion competition show where he was a permanent judge.

Isaac Mizrahi will be joining me in the studio in New York City to talk to us about the book, and we’ll air that episode on November 27. So get reading!

Side note: I love the fact that Isaac Mizrahi’s name is perfect for a memoir: I.M. “I’m!” Plus it has a brilliant jacket design—the simple, bold “I.”

What are your questions or insights about the book? Add them in the comments, or share them on social media using #happierpodcastbookclub, and we’ll incorporate them into the interview.



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