Art Culture > Exhibition > Hands on an Hermes bag and calling for rescue… Date posted: May 27, 2010

Hands on an Hermes bag and calling for rescue…

The true story of a successful writer, editor and artist who lost everything in the Madoff disaster. It is sincere, touching, revolting… It is worth reading.

“Pinch me, I am dreaming!” Could have been the first words coming out of Alexandra Penney’s mouth when she heard about the Madoff debacle while preparing a soufflé for a very Upper East Side dinner with friends. If it is legitimate to feel no sympathy for a woman who seems to pay the bill for her vanity, one must never judge according to appearances.
From her traumatic experience came out a blog followed a year later by a book: The Bag Lady Papers. Even if a year has passed, this book is very much a live testimonial. She writes as her feelings arise, as she seems to have lived these minutes that followed the unbelievable truth: her life savings had blown into the wind… Nothing left, only her and her willpower. I cannot help it but I feel some compassion and why shouldn’t I? Since when is caring about ones future and trying to be clever enough to ensure some nice senior years is a crime?

This woman completely embodies the American Dream, she started from scratch working in a fish market after college and ended up as an editor for Self Magazine. Not to mention that she is the author of some eighties bestseller book, How to Make Love to a Man that is the first of a series.

Jack of many trades, she never lasted long in a job; her real vocation is to be an artist. How did she spend her Madoff easily earned money?… Trying to fulfil her dreams, who would blame her? She bought a studio in Soho Manhattan and started producing for art shows.
Penney is also to be known and remembered for the breast cancer pink ribbon initiative that she launched with her friend Evelyn Lauder.
Knowing all these facts, one should wonder why she had to pay such a bill?

Great in good times, she revealed herself to be good in bad times. No self-pity, she took on a job the day after the shock and became … a blogger!  She started to tell her story with no filter to the newborn website run by Tina Brown, former Conde Nast editor.

Alexandra is like many women of her generation, she made it all herself, she fell and she is now climbing again. Who knows what is to be found at the end of the road but from her tragic experience she has learned that it is worth the journey.

The Bag Lady Papers is a must read, and should be read and read again. It is rich in terms of topics and could answer some of your lifelong questions. If you have not closed your “to read summer list yet, make sure to add this one… On the top, please!


The Bag Lady Papers by Alexandra  (Hyperion books) and is to be found in most of the English bookstores including




Text by Delphine Hervieu.

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