“Oh my God,” Denee Benton said, facing a metal grating shop. “Everything is really closed.”
It was a cold Tuesday morning in early January and Miss Benton, an actress nominated by Tony who starred in the HBO drama “Golden Age,” went to Tompkins Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn to shop. On the list: candles, crystals, herbs, maybe even vintage clothes.
Blame Omicron or the cold or the post-holiday hangover, but nearly all of the Tompkins up and down stores are closed.
“I don’t blame them,” said Mrs. Benton, as she peered into her dark window Ancient Blend Apothe’Care. “I love resting Negroes. But I want to buy some candles. “
When Ms. Benton, 30, first moved to New York City in 2015 as a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, she found an apartment in the vicinity. “I like it,” she said. But when Broadway signaled—first “Book of Mormon,” then “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” then “Hamilton”—she moved to Manhattan.
During the pandemic, she read about Black Bed-Stuy Building street market. She visited them and fell in love with the neighborhood again, so much that she and Her husband, actor Carl Lundstedtfound an apartment there and moved in.
Despite the closed doors, she seemed determined to enjoy the day. “People are like, ‘What’s your hobby?’ I’m like, ‘I love sitting in the sun and walking slowly and just having something cute to sip on.’ “She was dressed comfortably against the cold, in a camel coat, a white turtleneck, blazer jeans, white high-waisted-top sneakers and a hat. Black bucket with “Black Is Beautiful” inscription. A black amethyst and tourmaline pendant hangs from the neck, a gold ring on the ear, and the golden balls ring each bright eye.
In Best regards, Tommy, one of the few newly opened stores, she went looking for something cute to sip, stopping to admire a dress made of faux brown leather and a few extra bucket hats. At the front coffee shop, she asked about the beetroot coffee. Thanh had run out of beet pulp, so she asked about a shot of lily. She’s not in the mood for CBD. She enjoys a lion’s mane oat latte. The bartender told her the drink would improve cognitive health.
“Concentrate,” he said. “Improve awareness and alertness.” That looks good to Miss Benton.
Back on the street, she stopped and stared at the windows of a few closed shops – Peace & Riot, Create Manifest BK – drink her coffee and pour some alcohol on her sleeve. (Awareness didn’t kick in immediately.) Cleaning up the spill, she passed another closed store, Byas & Leon. “Great vintage store,” she said wryly.
As she walks unhurriedly toward Herbert Von King Park — “I’m a young girl,” she says — she seems completely at ease, in stark contrast to Peggy Scott, the character she is. She played in “The Gilded Age. As a black secretary in the white family of Agnes van Rhijn (played by Christine Baranski), Peggy is segregated by race. And at home with her wealthy parents, Dorothy and Arthur Scott (Audra McDonald and John Douglas Thompson), Peggy’s writing ambitions create further distance.
Miss Benton responds to the character immediately, as a Black artist often navigates white spaces. “I just felt immediately reflected in myself in the bracelet she walked on and all her intersecting identities,” she said. “The lanyard hasn’t changed that much.” She also finds something inspiring about Peggy. “She was trying to be her own libertarian,” Ms. Benton said.
In an early episode, Peggy tells her friend Marian, “For a New Yorker, anything is possible.” Miss Benton, who modeled her character on 19th-century Black writers such as Julia C. Collins and Ida B. Wells, believes it. The question she asked herself for the year: “What if I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone to be myself?”
After entering the park, Ms. Benton chose a bench and tilted her face towards the sun. In the early years of her career, she says she didn’t always know how to supplement herself with the physical and emotional demands of acting. But since then she has learned what works for her.
“Sitting on a park bench in the sun gives me enough energy to last the day in a way that a Pilates class never does,” she says.
In addition to vitamin D, she now also believes in spiritual bathing, physical bathing, meditation, Yoni sauna, Reiki. “I feel like actors have to do physical therapy for our souls,” she said. “The mental work has become so important to me that it feels like I still have something to pour out.”
Crystals also help. “I never thought I would be a lady with a crystal in a pocket or a crystal in a bra,” she said. “It’s not that I actually wear bras anymore.” (When she wears one, she will likely insert a rose quartz crystal.)
A few minutes of winter sunshine seems to do the trick. She thought of one more place to try shopping: Life Wellness Centera massage and acupuncture spa on Tompkins, which also has a nursery and botanical shop that sells crystals, candles, and bath bombs.
“It is my happy place,” she said. “They provide the best massages.”
As she approached, she saw signs of life. “I feel so grateful,” she said. The website says the center opened an hour ago. But despite a few polite knocks and shouts, the door was locked and the lights were off. Looks like no one was inside.
Miss Benton was already striding. “If I owned a store, I would sleep there too,” she said.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/style/denee-benton-of-the-gilded-age-shops-in-her-backyard.html ‘The Gilded Age’ Denée Benton The Shops In Her Backyard