Evening Leather? Too leathery. Bahama Mama? Too beachy. Peaches and Cream? Out of season. Sweet Kitty? No.
On the Sunday before Christmas, in a windowless basement under a braiding salon in Downtown Brooklyn, the actress and novelist Dagmara Dominczyk searched for the perfect aroma. A candle devotee since her undergraduate days at Carnegie Mellon University (“I burn them morning to night,” she said), she had arrived for a “Sip & Smell Experience”: a free two-hour workshop hosted by Kately’s Candles that she had found on Eventbrite.
Upon arriving, Kevin Pierre-Louis, the organizer, seated her on a greige vinyl sofa and presented her with a caddy of about 50 small bottles with hand-printed labels. His assistant handed her a glass of sparkling rosé, which she sipped with care.
“I’m a spiller,” she said. “I spill. I stain.”
“You’re too pretty,” Mr. Pierre-Louis said. “I don’t see you spilling.”
“I’m pretty because I did my makeup,” Ms. Dominczyk, 45, replied.
He brought her more bottles and she sniffed them, rejecting most. “Not Mistletoe,” she said. “I used to like candles that smelled like a Christmas tree, now it’s too much.” She reached for another bottle and read the label out loud. “Creamy Nutmeg — that’s what they used to call me in high school,” she said jokingly.
Earthy and elegant, Ms. Dominczyk, the eldest of three daughters, immigrated to the United States from Poland when she was 6. (Her father, active in the trade unions movement, had become a persona non grata.) Encouraged by a friend, she auditioned for the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she blossomed as an actress. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, she booked the female lead in a lush 2002 film adaptation of “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Her career seemed assured.
Instead, she spent the next few years staying out, sleeping in, eating Polish food and working only sporadically — a movie here, a television episode there. She dated the actor Patrick Wilson (they briefly overlapped at college), married him the next year, had their first son the year after, and a second son three years later. They live in Montclair, N.J.
Work remained occasional. Her body had new curves. When her husband appeared in a 2013 episode of “Girls” as Lena Dunham’s sex interest, some online trolls suggested that a conventionally attractive man like Mr. Wilson would never have a tryst with someone like Ms. Dunham. Ms. Dominczyk snapped back on Twitter, saying: “Funny, his wife is a size 10, muffin top & all, & he does her just fine.”
Casting directors — some of whom asked her if she could lose 20 pounds — didn’t know quite what to do with her silky surface, steelier interior and obvious intelligence.
That changed in 2018, when she was cast as Karolina Novotney, the unflappable public relations executive on the HBO drama “Succession.” She was quickly upgraded from a recurring role to a series regular.
She has asked the producers if Karolina could act out in ways that the Roy siblings do, but they have so far declined. “I want to play,” Ms. Dominczyk said. “I want to have sex with one of the brothers. Or Shiv? I don’t know. But the role is such that Karolina stays in her lane. She’s there to do the job.”
Ms. Dominczyk can also be seen as a waspish mother-to-be in the much-lauded Netflix film “The Lost Daughter,” directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. And she has recently wrapped the lead role in the HBO limited series “We Own This City,” in which she plays an F.B.I. agent investigating police corruption. “The more settled I became and the less apologetic for it, the less thinking I had to look a certain way or act a certain way, that was exciting for people,” she said.
If she prefers complicated characters, her taste in fragrance skews simpler. “I’m much more of a sweet, cozy, pumpkin pie, fall candle person,” she said.
A bottle labeled Dulce de Leche made the cut. And Pumpkin Patch and Pumpkin Rum Cake. Also Smoked Chestnut. (“Chestnut is a very Polish thing,” she said.) And Holiday Basket, though she joked that Mr. Pierre-Louis should have named it Holiday Basket Case. She sniffed the mixture with approval.
“I want to down this like a shot,” she said.
She brought her choices to the back of the room, where Mr. Pierre-Louis was melting coconut wax and castor oil in a cauldron set over a camping stove. He turned a spigot and the wax pooled into a pineapple shaped mold. Ms. Dominczyk measured out a spoonful of each chosen scent, then added burnt orange coloring and a smattering of dried flower petals.
“I don’t cook,” she said. “This is the closest I’ve gotten to cooking all holiday season.”
Mr. Pierre-Louis told her to name her scent and after a moment she settled on Smoked Dag. “That’s also the name of a sausage in Poland,” she said. “Just kidding.”
While the wax set, she went back up the creaky wooden stairs and out onto a commercial stretch of Livingston Street to stretch her legs and vape a mint-flavored Juul. Was she ready for the holidays?
She reached for her phone and pulled up a picture of her decorations — an orgy of lights, trees and tinsel. “It’s like Christmas vomited all over,” she said happily. That night she would meet friends and family for dinner, then she would help with a Feast of the Seven Fishes and a Christmas dinner that mixed Polish and American traditions.
“Last year, we were like, Patrick has been in the family for 15 years — if he wants a Christmas ham, let’s give it to him,” she said, using an expletive.
Back in the basement, the wax mostly set, Mr. Pierre-Louis presented her with a pair of scissors so that she could snip the wick. “Like an umbilical cord,” she said.
Ms. Dominczyk sniffed, delighted. “Oh my God, it smells so good,” she said. “Bottle it. I don’t even need any commission.”
On ‘S.N.L.,’ Biden Urges Covid-Weary Nation to Stop Seeing ‘Spider-Man’
Spider-Man just finished saving the very fabric of reality, but to hear President Biden tell it — at least on “Saturday Night Live” — the wall-crawler is the one to blame for the continuing pandemic.
To kick off the first new “S.N.L.” of 2022, James Austin Johnson returned in his recurring role as Biden for a news conference in which he told the nation that “there’s one simple thing you can do to make this whole virus go away: Stop seeing ‘Spider-Man.’”
Addressing the White House press corps in the show’s opening sketch, Johnson said: “This virus has disrupted our lives. It’s canceled holidays, weddings, quinceañeras, gender-reveal parties, wildfires that started as gender-reveal parties.”
He went on to say: “Now, think about it. When did ‘Spider-Man’ come out? Dec. 17. When did every single person get Omicron? The week after Dec. 17.”
The last time “S.N.L.” attempted a live episode, on Dec. 18, it was significantly disrupted by the pandemic. Hours before airtime, NBC announced that because of Covid concerns, the show would not use a live audience; the broadcast was missing most of the cast members, had no musical guest and consisted mostly of pretaped segments and sketches from past episodes.
“S.N.L.” was not spared the intrusion of the coronavirus this week. On Wednesday, the rapper Roddy Ricch, who was originally announced as the musical guest, said on his Instagram account that he would be unable to perform because of “recent COVID exposure on my team and to keep everyone safe.” Instead, the pop band Bleachers took his place.
In the Biden sketch, Johnson explained that he was not asking people to avoid the movies altogether. “I said, stop seeing ‘Spider-Man,’” he declared in reference to “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which has shattered Covid-era box-office records.
“See anything else,” he continued. “I saw the first half-hour of ‘House of Gucci.’ That’s more than enough movie for anyone.”
Questioned about the lack of available Covid testing, Johnson’s Biden answered, “You want to know if you have Covid? Look at your hand. Is it holding a ticket that says you recently went to see ‘Spider-Man’? If so, you have Covid.”
As Johnson started to expound on the existence of the multiverse, he was visited by a shirtless, white-haired Pete Davidson, who explained that he was Joe Biden “from the real universe,” and that this incarnation of reality had been created “as a joke, starting in 2016 when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.”
When Johnson asked him if he was the president in this real world, Davidson answered: “Of course not. Did you really think you would lose four times and then finally win when you were 78?”
Musical tribute to musicals of the week
When you’ve got an “S.N.L.” episode hosted by Ariana DeBose, a star of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake and a newly-minted Golden Globe winner, you know you’re going to have a couple of sketches that pay affectionate tribute to musical theater.
The first of the night was DeBose’s opening monologue, during which she was joined by Kate McKinnon, who professed that “West Side Story” was her favorite musical.
“Did you like the movie?” DeBose asked her. “I didn’t see it,” McKinnon replied. “I don’t leave the house because of Covid and also because I don’t leave the house.” They gamely sang a medley of several “West Side Story” numbers together, including “Tonight” and “I Feel Pretty,” though McKinnon sat out the mambo dance break: “They know I dance,” she said.
Later in the night, the two re-teamed for a “Sound of Music” parody in which McKinnon delivered a deft Julie Andrews impression. DeBose played another wayward woman from Maria’s convent who tries to teach a group of children to sing, with an updated version of “Do-Re-Mi” that’s unexpectedly heavy on references to Queen Latifah. Eat your heart out, Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Biting the hand that feeds you of the week
Earlier this week, when NBC’s Peacock streaming service dropped the trailer for “Bel-Air,” a gritty, dramatic retelling of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” some viewers wondered if it was an “S.N.L.” sketch.
It wasn’t, but that didn’t stop “S.N.L.” from going forward with this satirical preview for an unnecessarily harsh reboot of another 90s-era sitcom, “Family Matters.” In this incarnation, Carl Winslow (Kenan Thompson) is a sadistic Chicago cop and the lovably nerdy Steve Urkel (Chris Redd) now has an abusive, drunken mom and a violent temper. You’ll never hear the catchphrase “Did I do that?” in quite the same way again.
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on President Biden’s stalled agenda.
Just like everybody else, President Biden’s New Year’s resolutions fell apart in the third week of January. The Supreme Court struck down his vaccine mandate. The voting rights bill got blocked. And his approval rating is so low, it’s gone into power-save mode. But I will point out, there was another president who had a disastrous start to his first term, yet he became an inspiration to generations of Republicans, even to this day. [The screen shows a picture of Ronald Reagan.] I’m talking of course about Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. [The picture changes to one of Davis.]
“And there are still statues of him in 10 different states,” Jost continued:
Which, come to think of it, probably explains why the voting rights stuff isn’t working out. The bottom line is, I think Biden just needs more time. He might be more of an acquired taste. Unfortunately, most Americans recently lost their sense of taste.
Che picked up on the Biden thread:
President Biden gave a speech in Atlanta where he called on the Senate to pass two voting rights bills, saying, “I am tired of being quiet.” And to prove it, he took a 20-minute standing nap.
What Will Marianne Williamson Do Next?
To her, Washington is still essentially business as usual. “D.C. has a lot of good political car mechanics,” she said. “That’s not the problem. The problem is that the car is on the wrong road. The car is heading towards a cliff.”
The week before, the Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel had tweeted a photo of Ms. Williamson and Andrew Yang, onstage at an event for Mr. Yang’s new book. Mr. Weigel quoted Ms. Williamson saying, “We don’t want to be Jill Steins, but in any other country, any other advanced democracy, they have multiple political parties.” The tweet predictably triggered speculation about what, exactly, Ms. Williamson intends to do next.
She may not want to be Jill Stein — the Green Party candidate whose presidential run is often cited as a reason Mr. Trump won — but she also doesn’t want to dismiss Jill Stein. After all, Ms. Williamson said, “we need a viable other. I support any third-party effort that makes a thoughtful, articulate critique of the fundamental flaws in contemporary capitalism and its effects on people and the planet” When she ran for Congress in California, in 2014, it was as an independent.
Ms. Williamson sees the two-party system of today as blighted and controlled by corporate interests. “Republican policies represent a nosedive for our democracy,” she said. “And Democratic policies represent a managed decline.” And yet she also believes that this is the year it will change. “The status quo is unsustainable,” she said. “There is too much human despair out there.”
She is not willing to say whether she’ll run again, and dodged the question over the course of our many conversations. About two weeks ago, when Politico published an article suggesting that President Biden would face a primary challenge from a progressive candidate, “such as former Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner, 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson or millionaire and $18-an-hour minimum wage advocate Joe Sanberg,” Ms. Williamson declined to comment.
James Carville, the longtime Democratic strategist, is skeptical. “She ran before and she didn’t get a lot of votes,” he said. “She’s kind of an interesting person to say the least, but I don’t think politics is her calling. She always struck me as a new age Bernie Bro.”
Is Interning for an Influencer Worth It?
Jon Rettinger, 41, who runs several technology-focused YouTube channels, said he hoped to provide his interns with useful guidance. It’s “a real job that’s not all Lamborghinis and boxing matches,” he said, noting that many creators are subjected to online bullying. “I would have wanted someone to tell me, because I was really unprepared,” he said.
Former interns said that they valued such mentorship. Sara Naqui, who started out taking photos on a volunteer basis for Ms. Chandler at Effie’s Paper, now has a contract with the company and her own YouTube channel. “She supported me in a way that I’d never had an adult support my creative endeavors,” Ms. Naqui, 24, said of Ms. Chandler.
Vela Scarves, a fashion-forward hijab brand, and its co-founder and creative director, Marwa Atik, have made a point of inviting followers to volunteer at photo shoots and apply for internships. “You’re reaching out to a funneled pool of people who support you, believe in you, see themselves in the product,” Ms. Atik, 31, said. “It’s a much stronger connection when we bring on our girls.”
Khadija Sillah, 23, a former Vela Scarves intern, said that “Marwa extended herself as a mentor to me and helped me connect with brands and brainstorm content ideas, even when I lacked motivation.” She was recently hired as a full-time social media associate with the brand.
Ms. Chandler said her interns built the social presence for Effie’s Paper — on Pinterest, Instagram and eventually TikTok — from the ground up. “A decade ago, I was a lawyer transitioning to entrepreneurship,” she said. “I didn’t have time to think about social media.”
Later, Ms. Chandler solicited the help of a former intern, Chloe Helander, who’d started her own social media consultancy. Ms. Helander suggested that Ms. Chandler should be the star of the Effie’s Paper social accounts; after all, many companies today treat their executives as the faces of their brands.
Ms. Chandler was skeptical at first. “I think I’m too brown and too old,” she said.
Now, Ms. Chandler said, “she is the reason my face is all over everything.”