June 9, 2013
A Conversation with Chanel Omari, Princess of Long Island
Chanel Omari is a 28 year old Modern Orthodox woman from Long Island. I spent some time talking with her last week and I can tell you she is a truly remarkable woman. When I think about my son meeting a nice Jewish girl, I’d like it to be someone like Chanel. She possesses all the qualities a mother would want for her son, except for one little thing. She is currently starring on what may possibly be the most offensive reality TV show ever.
Chanel is one of the women featured on Bravo’s Princesses Long Island. It is a horrific depiction of what it means to be a Jewish woman. If you take all the stereotypes of Jewish women, and then multiply by 10, you will be close to how these women are depicted. By depicted of course I mean how they really are. They are obnoxious, ignorant, stupid, and selfish. Because they are all these things, Chanel sticks out like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark hour of TV.
Chanel should have her own show, as her life is interesting without the baggage of her ridiculous friends. Important to note that the show has only aired one episode so it is possible I will change my opinion. Possible in the same way pigs may become kosher and I will marry George Clooney. This blog is not about the Princesses Long Island train wreck, but rather about Chanel. I am proud of her, have an honest affection for her, and I hope she survives this show without getting pulled over to the dark side.
Chanel was raised in Long Island, went to day school, and attended Northeastern University where she studied broadcast journalism. She has a wonderful family and is particularly close to her dad. They are best friends and he has encouraged her to be herself, live a full life, and find joy in embracing her faith. To hear Chanel speak of what it means to be Jewish, is touching. Her Jewish values are embedded in her core and I was inspired her generosity of spirit.
Chanel would like to meet a wonderful man and get married. At 28 she feels the pressure of her family and community to get married, but she wants to makes sure she knows who she is first. She is not prepared to become half of a whole, without first knowing who her half is. She is finding herself, seeing the world, and ensuring her worldview has a far reaching arc that includes views and opinions beyond Long Island, and also beyond her faith. She is lovely and wise.
She has managed to navigate through a secular world while leading a religious life. She has spent a lot of time explaining her faith to those outside her circle, without fear of judgment. I found her to be brave, and in the world of stale reality TV, something fresh.The Jews cast on reality TV are always just a little off. Strange, rude, pretentious, or simply creepy, much like the entire cast of Princesses Long Island, except for Chanel. Finally a normal Jew. For now.
Chanel says that as a Jew it is her responsibility to live in a way that makes God happy. She says there are many silver linings to being Jewish, which I thought was a wonderful thing. She has been taught to pick herself up when she falls, and knows she can take comfort in knowing that God supports her and does not judge. Mistakes will be made, and she knows that with mistakes comes learning. I think she would make a great and inspiring Rabbi.
During the first episode of Princesses, one of Chanel’s friends, who knows she keeps kosher, invited her over for a BBQ. The friends father, also Jewish, made a mockery of kosher food, saying a fake prayer and serving it to Chanel, knowing she is kosher. It made me cry. I thought it was hurtful and I was amazed that in a world where so many disrespect faith, to have one of my own do it made me very sad. It was one of the reasons I wrote such a scathing review.
Chanel was shocked when she saw the episode. It was a perfect example of the struggles of living a religiously observant life in a secular world. She said God forgave her and so how could she not forgive? She is responsible for being kosher and said the blame was hers for not checking to see if the meat was in fact kosher. She was gracious, where I was offended and heartbroken. She is the kind of Jew I strive to be, and often fall short of.
Chanel believes in forgiveness and wants to be the best person she can be, which makes her the best Jew she can be. She has been raised to leave the world in better shape than when she arrived, and credits her parents for loving her with an open mind. She lives at home at 28, but she works, supports herself, and considers being home a blessing. She is also quick to defend the show and the unappealing friends that share the spotlight.
Chanel told me the girls are funny and we need to keep watching to really see who they are. I will continue to watch and blog because I just can’t let this one go, but also because I think there are lessons to be learned from this girl, and I hope Bravo allows them to shine through. If Bravo manages to turn this girl into a caricature of a spoiled Jewish princess I will be sad. By sad of course I mean totally pissed off. Bravo needs to cut Jews a break.
I asked Chanel to give me three words to describe herself and she chose funny, soulful, and down to earth. I would use authentic, beautiful, and gracious. She is open to teaching and learning. She is modest, kind, funny, smart, and honest. To her parents, I would say you have raised a wonderful young woman. I am so proud to have her represent our faith, and my fingers are crossed this show does not show her in a different light. Bravo to you both.
I will be back tonight to blog Princesses Long Island and I can tell you it is not going to be pretty. Chanel thinks if we can stick it out we will learn a lot and perhaps be surprised that in the end we like them all. I find that to be highly unlikely, but bless Chanel for being so sweet. I cannot recommend you watch this show, but I can tell you Chanel is worth your time. In a sea of unappealing Jewish freaks, Chanel Omari is brilliant at keeping it real.
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