Gerry Visco, the Classics academic administrator for 18 years, is easily recognizable by her bright eyeshadow, platinum tousled hair, and eccentric style. She has earned three degrees from Columbia including a BA in fiction, MFA, and a Masters in Journalism. Gerry is a founder of the Gerry Party, a self-proclaimed nightlife diva, and a freelance writer. She has also cultivated a strong social media presence of over 3000 Instagram followers, and she has appeared on Humans of New York.
Never seen without: false eyelashes
Currently writing: Life and Times of Gerry Visco
Favorite piece of clothing: Dr. Martens
Hair color: every color, depending on the year
Historical club of choice: Mudd Club
First film role: Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories”
Anyone who sees you notices that you are a style icon. Who was your fashion icon growing up as a child?
I grew up when women were encouraged to be glamorous. My mother was always dressed to the nines. I never go out of the house unless I look fabulous—I won’t even go to the grocery store! In the 50’s, my icons were Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Reading Vogue in those days as a teenager was a lot different than reading it now—it wasn’t full of advertisements but full of incredibly avant-garde fashion. So as a 12 year old in the suburbs of Newton, Massachusetts, reading Vogue was my education. Of course you had Diana Vreeland who was fabulous, but Anna Wintour, I’m sorry but she’s very boring and interested in commerciality and Diana Vreeland wasn’t.
And who are your icons now, if any?
Myself. I mean, I don’t really follow fashion that much because I can’t afford it. I mostly shop at Good Will and Ricky’s, but I still get fabulous things. I actually went to FIT and got a degree in merchandising. I’m very much into the style scene—I’m a nightlife diva, so fashion is important.
How would you define your style?
It’s about being fabulous. There’s actually a party [tonight] that’s called Mirror Mirror Gerry Visco. People are supposed to come dressed as me. I do believe that most people in our culture, at Columbia, too, people try to be serious. But you can be serious and still be dressed in a fabulous way! There’s no saying that a woman or a man cannot be intelligent and still wear false eyelashes. It seems clear that most people in the world are sad, frumpy, depressed creatures, who would be so much happier with more makeup, more fabulous clothes, lots of color, platinum hair and fun wigs—it’s part of my platform for the Gerry Party.
Can you tell me more about the Gerry Party?
I think that most people need to have something. In order to feel good, it’s good to look good. Sometimes you get up in the morning and say “Oh my gosh, I have to write a paper,” and then you just sit there slumped in your pajamas and no makeup and you just look horrible, and you’re depressed. So sometimes when I have to do writing at home, I’ll wake up and say wait a minute, I better get dressed and wear a pair of shoes. I do feel like you mentally feel better when you look better. I think a lot of people in our culture are afraid of people disapproving of them. But I think that in reality, people like people that have a certain style.
What are the brains behind this concept of “Gerrification”?
My friend invented it around 5 years ago. I devised a style: I wanted to be fabulous and capitalize on a certain aesthetic and philosophy. I’m very involved in art and feel that each of us should have a certain brand or icon for ourselves which can be fluid. I would like to run for office someday [laughs]. I think that a lot of people would like to enjoy their lives more but they worry about things. Our world is really difficult. Whoever invented money should be shot, rent is a bummer, jobs are good in one way but many people have jobs that are not conducive to creativity or what they really want to do. But we’re in this culture now where everything is so rushed, like your relationships are so tenuous, life is so scary. I feel like life can be very tricky.
You’re very active on social media, with over 5 million visits on your Flickr page! What’s your personal favorite video performance?
I have something called the Gerry Party, which is a song that I made. But it’s hard to have a favorite. I direct Vines myself and I put them on Instagram often. I’m filming major productions with no budget whatsoever! I like being in other people’s stuff better since it’s easier when other people tell me what to do.
How does the faculty around here react to your involvement in the nightlife scene?
I start work at 10 AM and if I go to bed at 4 AM, I don’t really need a lot of sleep because I’m enjoying myself so much. 3-4 hours a night for me is fine. I tend to keep my personal life separate. My main job is working here and when you’re working on one job you don’t want to talk about your other interests—some of them probably don’t know I’m a freelance writer. I want to make sure that people believe I am serious here. I have a lot of different contingents in my life: literary, performing.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I think I put this on OKCupid: I was a girl scout for a while. They say I have ADD, it’s just because I have millions of things going on! I’m a fabulous cook. I’m good at laundry [laughs].
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was in high school I was bullied. My mother said just turn the other cheek, ignore it and they’ll stop. That was the worst thing that could happen. I just didn’t fit in during high school because I was very bookish. I wasn’t totally a nerd but even then I dressed in unconventional fashion. The students made me lick up spit—it was horrible. They called me “moose.” So I always just ignored them, but then I discovered that it sometimes would be better—you know how boys would fight back?—to make it clear to the other person that it’s not acceptable. Now there are a lot of organizations that will help against bullying. But when you’re in a school yard and you’re a child, you have to make it clear that you’re a contender so they don’t take advantage of you.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students?
I feel like it’s a fabulous degree. Make sure to socialize while you’re here! Being here is a microcosm of fabulousity and intelligence. It’s important to find the right kind of friends with similar interests to you. All students are really lucky to be here. Having that degree, even if you didn’t get the A+, will get you a better job somewhere.
Dara Marans is a senior in Columbia College studying philosophy. When she isn’t interviewing for Spectrum, you can find her exploring the many libraries on campus or talking to strangers. If you’d like to nominate a staff member for Faces of Columbia, please email email@example.com.