You can call her Debra Debris or Residue Rapoport, but you can never call her boring.
Debra Rapoport is what I call a master creative. Encouraged by her mother at the age of three to play dress-up, she has literally never stopped. Now, in her seventies, she continues to push the envelope on full expression of self, while showcasing the joy of true authenticity.
Debra got her MA at UC Berkley and taught Personal Costume Design and Personal Adornment for many years at UC Davis. The structure of academia, however, didn’t agree with her.
“Hand to mouth is better than 9 to 5,” she explained, with conviction. “You create a life, not a living.”
She fell in love with found items and surplus materials in grad school, and the relationship continues to blossom.
“I walk down the street, and I see things. I can’t walk by without picking them up. We have a dialogue, become friends. We create something together.”
You think that sounds frivolous? Absurd? Don’t mistake what she does for either. Debora’s work can be found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and The Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia, just to name a few. She makes, sells, and wears unique and beautiful pieces made from everything from toilet paper rolls to paper towels (she prefers Viva). She also teaches workshops, and I’m hell-bent on attending one (it’s now at the top of my bucket list).
In 2014, her unique brand of expression led to a starring role in Ari Seth Cohen’s documentary Advanced Style that’s a must see on Amazon Prime. She also graces the pages of Ari’s book of the same name and shares the stage with him in an Advanced Style TEDx.
When I look at pictures of Debra Rapoport, I see a woman who is beyond self-aware. What I see is self-actualized, and it obviously appeals to those who continue their own quest. She has tens of thousands of followers on Instagram alone.
“You become a magnet, because you are yourself. Your truth comes through, and things just come your way. You just meet people, you get phone calls, you get emails.”
It’s not just about her style, although that’s a big part of who she is. It’s also about her personality and willingness to connect. She’s an open book who loves to be read, and she has the power to unwittingly turn you into a page-turner, purely by example.
I did make the mistake of asking about her fashion sense, and she quickly set me straight.
“I don’t call it fashion, because I’m not a shopper, and I’m not a trend follower. I call it personal style. I can’t remember the last time I bought anything new. I don’t want to support the fashion industry. It’s the second largest polluter, and I don’t believe in it.”
Expression, creativity, and sustainability? Debra for President!!
Honestly, I admire this woman so much. I teasingly mentioned that I want to be her when I grow up, but that’s not far from the truth. During our brief conversation, I felt myself expanding concepts and possibilities. I now want to make things purely in the pursuit of joy.
Debra says it best: “Joy is from spirit; pleasure isn’t lasting”
You can hear my interview with Debra on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or by clicking HERE.
And don’t forget to follow her on Instagram! The inspiration is endless.