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Cartoonist and self-described shoe addict Marisa Acocella Marchetto is renowned for humorously chronicling the mores of a certain sector of New York society—her Gucci Gucci Goo cartoon of a woman cooing over a baby pram is a classic. That same incisive wit was brought to bear on her triumph over breast cancer, a battle she chronicles in the best-selling graphic novel Cancer Vixen. Marchetto recently collaborated with C. O. Bigelow proprietor Ian Ginsberg on a limited edition collection of Cancer Vixen body products, launching in October, adorned with her illustrations. Bigelow will donate $250,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Fund. Here, Marchetto on her transformation from victim to victory.
This story first appeared in the August 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND CANCER VIXEN?
M.M.: When I first started dating my husband, Silvano [Marchetto, the restaurateur behind Da Silvano], I would be having dinner with him and women would throw themselves at him. I started writing a love story about what happens when you date someone like him. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Glamour magazine asked me to write about it, so it seemed natural to fold everything in, because Cancer Vixen really is a love story and a story of survival.
WAS WRITING A CATHARTIC PROCESS?
M.M.: Yes. There’s a term for it—objective journaling. Instead of internalizing it, you’re externalizing it and putting it down on paper. That process really helped.
HOW DID THE NAME COME ABOUT?
M.M.: I was walking down Hudson River Park with my friend, the writer Bob Morris, who asked me what I was going to call the Glamour piece. “Breast Case Scenario” was my working title and he said, “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” At the time, I was wearing sweats and ratty sneakers and had dirty hair and was kind of depressed. He said, “You look like a victim; where’s my vixen? So put on your 5-inch heels, and call it Cancer Vixen!” He was right. My mother is a shoe designer, and for me, shoes are all about empowerment. I wore my 5-inch heels to chemotherapy, a different pair every time.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE BEAUTY?
M.M.: Beauty is defined by feeling great about yourself. It’s about feeling powerful and strong and healthy. I used to say I was a fashion victim, now I call myself a fashion victor. A positive attitude is more likely to keep your immune system strong, and the stronger your immune system is, the healthier you’ll be. For me, shoes are a better medicine than anything.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE CREATIVITY?
M.M.: It’s tapping into that energy that is out there. I like to say you let it come to you, but there’s nothing like having a gun to your head to finish something. So I think it’s a little bit of both, letting the ideas come to you and then having the added pressure of the pistol to the temple.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE NEW YORK LOOK?
M.M.: More than anything, it’s confidence. Confidence and a keen appreciation or obsession with anything and everything of the moment that’s hot. New York women are uberstylish.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?
M.M.: Shoe-focused. I dress from the feet up. It’s kinda like, “I want to wear those shoes, what goes with them?”
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
M.M.: We get in trouble when we compare what people have against each other. That’s where jealousy and envy and resentment come from. Also, a cure for cancer wouldn’t be so damn bad, would it?
DO YOU HAVE A MOTTO?
M.M.: My motto is “I always make the right decision because I am a woman of vision.” Usually I’m like, “Oh my God, what am I gonna do now?” Sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees kind of thing, so this motto is reassuring to me.
WHAT DID SURVIVING CANCER TEACH YOU?
M.M.: I became really conscious of time and how we’re only here for a short moment, basically a blip, and we should make the most of it and not stress out over the superficial stupid stuff, the “S.S.S.” as I call it. Also, to try and live every moment being conscious of what it is you’re doing and that what you say to somebody could have repercussions—to try and live consciously, not fashion-consciously.
HIGH MAINTENANCE OR LOW?
M.M.: Because I take better care of myself, probably high maintenance. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not respecting yourself. High maintenance is a sign of self-esteem. But, you don’t have to be a bitch about it, either.