Spring 2012

Gayle Kirschenbaum: Mom thinks she “nose” best

Gayle Kirschenbaum: Mom thinks she “nose” best
Madeline Bey
Gayle Kirschenbaum '75 and her mother are on better terms now.

A nose job or not a nose job? That was the question facing Gayle Kirschenbaum ’75 in her short documentary, My Nose. Her new production, My Nose: The Bigger Version, expands on the short film, which played in festivals worldwide 2007–09.

Kirschenbaum had always been fine with her nose. Her mother, however, compared it to that of the Indian head on a buffalo nickel, saying it was keeping Kirschenbaum from meeting a man, getting married and having children. The film struck a chord with people haunted by the voice of a critical parent.

“I spent years fighting to keep my imperfect yet original nose,” Kirschenbaum says. “This is a story about a woman’s stance to love who she is, preserve her identity and share her story to help others. [This story is] about the transformation of a mother-daughter relationship from hate to love.”

The short version of My Nose adds to the list of credits Kirschenbaum has assembled in a nearly 30-year career. She developed and produced several shows on Discovery Health, and her film, A Dog’s Life: A Dogamentary, premiered on HBO in 2005. It chronicles the lives of Kirschenbaum and Shih Tzu Chelsea — basically, a single woman and her dog adding a softer touch to a cold, hard city.  After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Chelsea became a certified therapy dog, treating hospice patients in New York. Kirschenbaum never expected to have a dog, let alone make a film about one.

“My brother had lots of dogs and didn’t want Chelsea,” Kirschenbaum says. “I was on the road a lot. My plants were dying, and I thought ‘how am I going to keep a dog alive?’ I took her everywhere and hid her in my gym bag. Her head would pop out, and instantly people would change their expression. I watched her transform people. I thought I was rescuing her, and she rescued me.”

You’ll have to watch My Nose — long or short — to find out if Kirschenbaum went under the knife.

“Our relationship has transformed from Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom,” she says. “This has been a really long journey, but I feel really lucky that we got there.”