The Trove: harriette cole

One of my favorite photos of harriette.

I met the multi-hyphenate harriette cole just weeks before her 1993 wedding to photographer, George Chinsee. Upon meeting, the first thing I noticed about her was an easy grace.  Gliding into the conference room of Essence magazine dressed in billowing layers (likely Flyte Ostell),  she interviewed me for the fashion position I’d soon accept, with an elegant ink pen in her long, well-manicured hands.  That ink pen would sign many handwritten notes and cards to colleagues in appreciation of work well done.  Those nimble fingers would crank out copy at miraculous speeds (an early stint as a secretary bolstered her typing skills) and with their tapering elegance, grace the cover of one of the author’s first (of many) books,  The Jumping the Broom Wedding Workbook.

The middle daughter and namesake of the late Honorable Harry A. Cole, the first black judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Baltimore born and bred harriette, continuing a familial legacy of excellence holds a Phi Beta Kappa key as a Howard University alum.  A move to New York City soon after graduation precipitated what has become a long and illustrious career, which though divergent (publishing, television, motivational speaking, event production, media training) has always maintained the central tenet of helping people present their best selves. She continues this tradition now with the re-launch of her business, Harriette Cole Media, after having spent the past 3 1/2 years at Johnson Publishing Company.  Charged with freshening the profile of Ebony magazine, she helped to bring the revered relic into the 21st century, garnering exclusives with high-profile subjects such as the 44th President of the United States, the late Michael Jackson in his last interview and the famously elusive Prince.

I visited with the e.e. cummings-influenced harriette at the HCM office recently to catch up with my friend, dish on the old days and find out just what’s floating her boat these days.  Her current faves include:

1. Cashmere. “My absolute favorite fabric is cashmere. I live in cashmere all year-long,” from Banana Republic’s tissue weight in summer to Loro Piana’s “four-ply, even yummier” when the mercury drops.  “It’s the ultimate luxury.”

In harriette’s favorite shade of sunny yellow, this lightweight cashmere scarf from Banana Republic is a perfect summer wrap.

2. Molecule 02. While shooting Jada Pinkett Smith for one of the many covers she has produced for Ebony, harriette “smelled this entrancing fragrance and was dying to know what it was…I just couldn’t resist.” Jada bought the mysterious scent, Molecule 02, from London retailer Harvey Nichols, but after some internet sleuthing harriette discovered she could get it stateside at  From Berlin-based Escentric Molecules,“the fragrance is pretty androgynous. Slightly sweet but more woody. Sexy as all get out.”

Harriette’s signature scent.

3. Pampering. Well versed in the art of the spa, harriette has a few faves for indulging her love of pamper sessions: “I adore Sang Lee, the massage therapist at Salon Today (West 55th Street) where I typically go for a mani-pedi… When I need to luxuriate a little longer, I go for a two-hour massage, at Sphatika, across the street from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  And Deva Spa, downtown, has a couples room that is perfect for an indulgent date!”

The Deva Spa couples room.

4. Sag Harbor Hills. “Every summer for years my family and I have spent weekends in the Hamptons. We usually stay in The Springs but beach it in Sag Harbor Hills, the oldest African American beach community out there. It’s perfect when you have a child, because there are always kids to play with and we all just have fellowship and fun.”

Harriette and her “Georgie,” their 6-year-old angel, Carrie, and the neon glow of the Sag Harbor Cinema.

5. Clarins Sunscreen. The fact that their SPF 15, oil-free spray doesn’t stain clothing is a big plus, but the real draw is that the non-greasy formulation “goes on so smoothly.  It is luxurious and simple at once.”

Spray Solaire from Clarins ensures double UVA/UVB protection and is non-stinging to the eyes.

6. LeVain’s Fruit Tart. “My favorite dessert in the summer by far!  This fruit tart is so popular that you have to order it early in the morning to ensure that you will get one.  Tarts are made fresh each day, so it’s the perfect gift if you are visiting friends too. Yummy!”

Exclusive to LeVain Bakery’s Wainscott, LI location, the rustic fruit tart is a seasonal favorite.

7. FitFlops. “I just got a pair and I’m in heaven. I have just launched a new fitness regimen for myself so that I can fully reclaim me, and that includes a lot of exercise. I have discovered that I can do all kinds of yoga poses while wearing these shoes and I feel completely secure/anchored to the floor in them. Also, I am walking more. And walking in my various cute shoes is painful.  My bronze FitFlops get me to my destination in good stride and then I switch out.”

As Pisces is ruled by the feet, it’s no wonder Neptune child harriette would delight in the comfort of FitFlops.

8. Sake Bath from Fresh. “Susan Taylor introduced me to this product years ago. It makes the most amazing bath. Over the years I have tried many different bath oils. But I go right back to this one. It’s expensive so I only buy it occasionally, but let me tell you, it makes a bath that invites you to linger.”

This detoxifying bath additive from Fresh is composed of more than 50% pure sake and extractives of pine, ginger and peach absolute.

9. Elizabeth Catlett Lithograph. “Shortly after I moved to NYC, where I was employed as the lifestyle editor of Essence magazine, I worked on an article about Elizabeth Catlett.  She graciously invited me to her home in lower Manhattan and showed me many treasured pieces of her work. I completely fell in love with her and her art. She allowed me to make a payment plan to buy The Sharecropper, which she signed to me. That piece lives on my wall today.”

A special treasure is an edition of the iconic “The Sharecropper,” signed by revered artist Elizabeth Catlett Mora (now 95) to harriette.

10. Spiritual Texts. Having practiced Siddha Yoga Meditation for 20 years, harriette finds tremendous support in the books of her spiritual practice. Three that resonate for her now are, Enthusiasm and The Yoga of Discipline by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and I Have Become Alive by Swami Muktananda. “My faith and my spiritual work serve as both anchor and wing for me. Throughout everything that happens in my life, I continue to develop tools for navigating through the challenges and triumphs with clarity as a result.”

Siddha Yoga spiritual leader, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and her books.

12 Responses

  1. Two of my favorite women: Sharon and Harriette.

    This piece totally captures the essence of Harriette.
    Thank you for updating us with such flair, and grace.
    I am proud of both of you.

    Harriette-glad you are doing it (HCM).Work!

    Sharon- you are such a gifted writer. Work Miss Girl!



  2. Sweet treat Sharon,
    To have a peek into the little and large delights in Harriette’s world. Thanks for sharing. And Congrats to Harriette!


    You know I’m pondering that Molecule 02…

  3. Guess what there is nothing like the love and support of two great Women. My best to you and Harriette.


  4. It seems the most beautiful part is they apparently have Love! Congradulations to you Harriet and thank you Sharon for always keeping me in mind.


  5. Sharon as usual you delight, titillate and speak (or rather write) about the synthesis of life, friendship, art and simple pleasures in a way not many I know can. You write about your friends in a way that makes one feel present and alive – in a way that makes one evaluate friendship afresh! You are brilliant.

    Kudos as always and much love!

  6. What a nice way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon…seeing the many sides of a woman I’ve known more than 30 years since our days at Howard University. Harriette is as genuine now as she was then. I remember watching her gracefully glide the catwalks of HU’s fashion shows and always stroll around campus appropriately attired. Not only do we share the bond of sisterhood, but we also share the love of writing and entertaining! I recall the many nights in Locke Hall in our Creative Writing classes–I’m not sure if that was before or after I was her “big” sister. It my joy to watch her blossom from a pyramid in 1981 to an iconic force in today’s style and fashion world! Combining that with being life partner and super wife to George, and doting mom to Carrie–she’s no doubt “shaped to her purpose!” I’m proud to know her then and now. Harriette….you keep on rising to the top! –drake

  7. Harriette published my husband and I in her revised 2004 version of Jumping the Broom, and also published a lot of my jewelry in her book including the cover! Everytime my husband and I look at our picture in the book, it’s like re-living our wedding day. Interestingly, my dress, designed by Cassandra Bromfield was the color of sunshine…I didn’t know that was Harriette’s favorite color! She is a wonderfully graceful woman and I think of her when I am grumbling about the lack of manners and etiquette we’ve developed as a community. She is pure elegance.

  8. Dear Sharon;
    Thank you for putting a smile on my face. Harriette is my best friend and Carrie is the gift she has given me by making me her godmother. Joy, joy, joy is what this family brings into my life.
    Harriette is my source on ‘How to Be’, the title of one of her fabulous books, in all types of life situations and I cherish her advice, love and empathy. She is a beautiful person both inside and out and I see nothing but positivity and good that she contributes to the world. Ebony definitely improved under her stewardship but I am happy to have her back in NYC full-time.

  9. I remember meeting Harriette years ago at Essence. I loved that she was/is ‘easy-breezy’. It was a pleasure seeing her and you also Sharon on my many trips to the office. And I was so grateful to have to be included in the wedding book.

  10. Great concept and expertly written. Thanks!

  11. Beautifully written , thanks for a glimpse into a extremely talented woman.

  12. Loved this! And love Harriette! Well done. You captured her!

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