Astoria Characters: The Pilates Pro

The first time Gina Vaccaro drove to the gym, she didn’t get out of her car. “I felt intimidated,” she says. She had just had her first baby, and what with breastfeeding and trying to take care of him instead of herself, she was still carrying around 50 extra pounds on her small frame. “I knew I had to get moving,” she says. “And I knew I really wanted to take spinning and Pilates.” Sometime later, she did manage to find the courage to work out her insecurities. Her…

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Astoria Characters: The Upbeat Drummer

Throughout her life, Stacy Kovacs has marched to the steady beat of a drum. Listening to its staccato sound soothes her. “It’s a physical and emotional release,” says Stacy, who started banging out beats on the instrument when she was 8. “Playing in a marching band is about music and movement, choreography and camaraderie.” As she’s pondering the power of the percussive, she’s petting her 6-year-old cats, Louie and Libby, rescues who may or may not be brother and sister.…

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Astoria Characters: The Woman Keeping Her Son’s Memory Alive

AJ can’t be with us today, so his mother, Christine Perrelli, is going to speak for him. She promised him she would. He was her first-born. He was imaginative and intelligent. He was a dancer and an actor. He lit up a stage even when the lights were down. He had a big heart. You would have loved him. Everyone did. Which is why his death six years ago, at age 26, was so tragic. AJ had so much going for him. He had toured the world performing in “Disney Live! Three…

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Astoria Characters: The Design Devotee

Four. That’s the number of things that Nur Asik likes to be doing at one time to keep her creativity flowing. Right now, that means she’s working as a restaurant server/events planner, a magazine creative director, a jewelry designer and a commercial interior designer. “I love multitasking,” she says, sitting at the dining table of the spacious two-bedroom apartment/atelier she shares with her older sister. The chair next to her is occupied by a Brother sewing machine. That,…

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Astoria Characters: The Catwalk Artist

In her artistically arranged apartment/atelier, Vendula Kalinova has seven sewing machines, 14 birds, seven dressmaker forms and a fluffy-puffy Persian cat named Emma who spends her days prancing on patterns and batting at tape measures. It’s early morning, and the canaries, caged in the kitchen, are singing their hearts out. As the finches look on, Vendula lets Burda the parrot perch on her hand. All of these creatures in this immersive oasis, and, in fact, everything in the world,…

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