Volume 81, Number 23 | November 10 - 16, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Gayle Kirschenbaum, right, and her mother star in the documentary “My Nose.”

Filmmaker makes biopic on what she knows: Her nose

By Khiara Ortiz

For Gayle Kirschenbaum, what would lead to years of conflict, then friendship, with her mother was always right in front of her face.

As a young girl, Gayle had to confront her mother’s crusade for her to get a nose job, since it was a commonplace thing for girls to do in her neighborhood growing up.

“I didn’t want to get a nose job,” said Kirschenbaum, a resident of the Westbeth artists complex.

As she described it, she spent her middle and high school years as her mother’s Barbie doll, having her hair chemically straightened, stuffing her bathing suit bras with padding, and enduring undeserved criticism. Her mother compared Gayle’s nose to the Native American’s prominent proboscis on the Buffalo nickel.

“She wanted to mold me into her perfect little Jewish daughter,” said Kirschenbaum. “My father was not there for me and my brothers turned on me and worked for her like a bouncer. I was in fear of her when I was young and it manifested itself physically.”

Studying art at a university that reflected her inner hippie let Gayle find herself and a personality much bigger than the bump on her nose. In the first few years after graduating, she broke into the multimedia industry. By her early 30s, she was done with advertising and not particularly driven by money.

A “frustrated storyteller,” she turned to filmmaking and produced her first film, “A Dog’s Life: A Dogamentary,” about her closest companion — a little Shih Tzu named Chelsea.

“My canine soulmate” is how she described Chelsea, who passed away more than a year ago.

The film played all over the world at several festivals and eventually won Gayle an Emmy.

“My Nose,” a short film about the battles with her mother, followed shortly after, along with “Transforming Difficult Relationships,” a seminar about healing relationships and The Seven Healing Tools she developed to do so.

“A lot of people couldn’t believe my mother wanted me to have a nose job,” Kirschenbaum said. “I never expected this film to take on a life of its own.”

After all her motivational seminars, Gayle heard the same three things — that people loved her nose, that they hated her mother, and that they wanted to share their own stories with her.

“I didn’t realize I had this gift or this knowledge,” she said. “I knew how to get people to open up and I was able to change my relationship with my mother.”

As if being a media guru weren’t enough, Gayle’s experiences made her into a relationship expert, proved by the newfound companionship she has with her mother.

“The person is conflicted for the rest of their life if they don’t resolve their issues,” Kirschenbaum said. “Abusive people prey on sensitive people but you have to change how you treat the oppressor and realize where the person is coming from. Don’t take it seriously.”

And a chuckle or two never hurt anyone.

“I like to turn everything into humor,” she added.

Kirschenbaum is currently developing a more in-depth version of her second film, titled “My Nose: The Bigger Version.” Through Kickstarter, an online fundraising medium, she was able to collect $50,000 for her new venture.

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