Meet Elaina Spilove

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Single
Education: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and NYU

At first look, Elaina Spilove is the ultimate pragmatist. A Wharton graduate and Smith Barney SVP, she was named one of the 100 Top Financial Consultants in the country by Barron’s last year. When her beloved niece in California needed help planning her wedding earlier this year, she called Elaina. (“It was a mess,” Elaina remembers. “They were planning to do it in their backyard, which required landfill and mulch.”) Within 24-hours of arriving in Sonoma, Elaina had booked a new venue, new food and new décor. “It was done—from soup to nuts,” she says.

But this is no typical bean counter. Beneath her all-business exterior, swells the heart of a true romantic. Whether she’s reading Neruda, shopping Paris antiques or spending her evenings dancing Argentinean Tango, Elaina is a woman with smarts and soul.

How do you define your style?

Business edgy—conservative. It’s become much more minimal than it used to be—I usually wear black pants, a t-shirt and a scarf.

Do you have favorite designers?

Chanel, Valentino, Donna Karan and Balenciaga. I like Ann Demelmeister, but I have a structured look and Ann is a little more deconstructed. And Yoji Yamomoto. I can’t wear him because I’m not tall enough, but I buy his accessories.

Who influenced your style?

My mother. She managed a nightclub in Center City in the 1950s. I would sit in the bathroom and watch her get dressed every night in a shirtwaist, crinoline dress with bouffant hair and high heels. Now I wear heels with everything—Louboutin, Prada and Chie Mihara, a brand I buy at Joan Shepp.

Why do you shop at Joan Shepp?

She’s got great, edgy taste. You can find things at all price points. You can mix her edgy pieces and still come out with a classic look. I love Joan, and I think she’s a fashion visionary. She brings New York, Paris and Milan to Philadelphia.

Do you have a signature item?

A ring that I found in Sicily. I rented a villa in Taormina with five of my best friends and my brother for my 50th birthday. While I was there, I fell in love with a man (G.C.) who I’m certain I was destined to meet. It’s a long story, but it was amazing, like being Diane Lane falling in love in Under the Tuscan Sun—only the Sicilian version.

During that vacation I went to a jewelry store and the owner was wearing this incredible ring. I said, “I have to have that ring.”

“It’s not for sale,” she said. It was her ring. Her family had been designing jewelry for the royalty of Sicily for centuries. I went home to Philadelphia and I emailed her for months, saying I couldn’t stop thinking about the ring. Finally, she comes to the US, and invites me to look at her other pieces. When I get there, she takes out the ring and says, “If you still want it, it’s yours.” I wear it every day. The designer is Leila Correnti.

Did you stay with G.C.?

No. We carried on for a couple of years, but the cultures are different… I’ve never been married.

Did you choose to not be married?

I don’t think it was by choice; but I think it was by design. I always figured, if it was meant to happen, it would happen. It just wasn’t my destiny. But I’ve had a couple of great loves in my life, and I feel very fortunate to have had those. The fact that they didn’t culminate in marriage doesn’t make me sad.

Who inspires you?

Sophia Loren. She’s smart, she’s lived la dolce vita, she’s involved in the world. She’s taken the good, bad and indifferent in her life and really grown from them.

What’s your beauty routine?

I use a toner from Biologique called Lotion P50. It’s my magic elixir. If I could drink it, I would. It brightens your skin, reduces fine lines, and reduces pores. I tell my friends: if you can’t afford anything else, make sure you have enough money to buy P50 and use it every day.

I use Touché Éclat, which is a highlighting brightener from YSL that comes in a little pen. I just use it on my T-zone. And my other little secret is Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder. It’s a loose powder with just a little shimmer to it. I apply it with a big dusting brush, and everyone says to me, “You’re just glowing.”

Do you have a passion project?

My niece. I have two beautiful nieces and a nephew, but one of my nieces in particular is really my hero. She went through a very dark period, but came out on the other side. She was an addict, and everyone gave up on her. I would not. She finally went to rehab, and now she’s four years clean and sober and she’s in school and about to get married to a wonderful guy.

Do you know what you’re wearing to the wedding?

Oh, that is the gown. It’s a flowing, Grecian-style dress in slate blue by Max Azria. I saw Angelina Jolie in it and I had to have it. She wore it backwards, I wear it frontward—but it is meant to be worn either way.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Never burn bridges. Even if you can’t stand someone, don’t be nasty. Be gracious and just avoid them. And everything you do, do it with integrity.

Do you have a favorite wine?

Malbecs from Argentina.

Favorite book?

Poetry by Pablo Neruda. He writes very sensual but sad stories about losing love through life. He wrote seven poems to the women he loved but never told. Additionally, there is a film, Il Postino which tells a fictionl story in which the real life Chilean poet Pablo Nerudo forms a relationship with a simple postman who learns to love poetry.

Do you have a secret favorite spot in Philadelphia?

When I was a kid, my favorite spot was Belmont Plateau, a point in Fairmont Park that looks out over the whole city. It’s just beautiful. Now my favorite places are the East and West River Drives. I walk them or ride my bike, or drive them—even if it’s not on the way to where I’m going.

Do you exercise?

I ballroom dance and do Argentine Tango at The Academy of Social Dance. Five days a week, 90 minutes a day. Four years ago, a woman I work with was bugging me to go and take lessons. I said, “Are you crazy? I don’t do sequins and feathers and blue eye shadow.” She said, come to one of the parties. I went and I never left.

It gives me such a rush. It’s like being shot out of a cannon. The Argentine tango is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire. It’s not just sexy; it is sex. Now I compete two or three times a year. I just won a competition in South Carolina.

Favorite restaurant in Philadelphia?

Vetri. It’s a very small Italian restaurant, and it’s very, very special Italian food. The chef, Marc Vetri, is a genius and the nicest person in the world. I always order the spinach Gnochi—it’s heavenly. Only ten tables in the whole place.

How do you rejuvenate?

I go to Rescue Rittenhouse Spa and get a massage and a facial. Or I go home. I live in an apartment on Rittenhouse Square, and I have chosen everything in it. The look is very Paris Flea Market. I have modern pieces from B&B Italian, pieces from auctions and pieces I’ve picked up at Lost City Arts in New York City. It is my refuge.

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