San Antonian Alicia Bryan’s Cultural Largess

March 15, 2024
8 mins read
Aicia Bryan
Alicia Bryan. Photography by Susan Riley

Texas-sized giving is a way of life in this state. Now, multi-generation Texan Alicia Bryan, is taking that largess to an international level as the president of the American Friends of Versailles organization. The annual gala, which supports the preservation and renovation of the world’s most interesting landmark, happens this summer from May 31 to June 3 at Versailles, along with a host of extraordinary activities surrounding it in nearby Paris. It’s sure to be the high point of the social season. Here, her longtime pal Lance Avery Morgan caught up with the busy mom and business owner and learned more about her French-inspired life and why she loves supporting such a venerable cause.

Three qualities that got me where I am today are…Determination, tenacity, and an optimistic perspective, all underscored by my steadfast loyalty and perseverance. With determination, I overcome obstacles to pursue my goals vigorously. My energy infuses daily tasks with enthusiasm, turning them into exciting adventures. Maintaining a positive mindset allows me to view setbacks as opportunities for growth. Throughout my journey, loyalty remains a guiding force, anchoring me to my core values. This blend of qualities has brought me to where I am today—focused, vibrant, and optimistic, with a steadfast commitment to progress.

The easiest career decision I ever made is…Collaborating with my family on design projects in restoration, preservation, and interiors has been a deeply fulfilling and meaningful career path, especially contributing to the restoration of the iconic Gage Hotel. The combination of my familial partnership and the preservation of historical landmarks adds depth and reward to my work.

I love supporting the American Friends of the Versailles because…Contributing to the American Friends of Versailles enables me to play a role in safeguarding one of the world’s most important historical treasures. Through my support of this organization, I am helping to ensure that future generations, of many nationalities, can cherish and learn from the beauty, history, and cultural significance embodied by Versailles. I am working to fund crucial conservation projects and educational initiatives. Being associated with such a prestigious and impactful charitable organization allows me to connect with individuals who share my passion for preserving history and fostering cultural exchange.

The American Friends of the Versailles is important because…The American Friends of Versailles (AFV) is a 501(c)3 charitable corporation dedicated to enhancing and fostering positive American-French relations. Its primary mission is to garner support for the Palace of Versailles and its magnificent gardens. AFV raises funds for educational programs and targeted restoration projects within the Palace and its expansive grounds.

Versailles embodies the transformative essence of beauty that nurtures and uplifts the human spirit. It serves as a testament to unparalleled artistic achievement. Beyond its grandeur lies a rich narrative of friendship and historical significance, binding America, and France together. With ties tracing back to our nation’s esteemed founding figures such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, Versailles holds a special place in American history. It served as a pivotal setting for negotiations crucial to the American Revolution and has since played host to other significant global events, including the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which marked the end of World War I.

As the world’s largest museum, Versailles draws over eight million visitors annually, with a significant portion hailing from America. Recognized by UNESCO as a global treasure, its legacy transcends generations, symbolizing cultural, political, and historical significance—a masterpiece of unparalleled distinction.

First music I bought…Elton John was the first album I owned.

How I made my first dollar…My employment at Le Panier, the renowned cooking school and catering establishment, marked the beginning of an unforgettable chapter in my culinary journey. Surrounded by some of the world’s most talented chefs from day one, I immersed myself in their expertise and absorbed their culinary insights. Transitioning into the role of sous chef propelled me to new levels, allowing me to refine my skills and explore the depths of my culinary creativity. Each day presented fresh challenges and opportunities for personal growth, fostering an environment that was both dynamic and inspiring. Beyond merely earning my first paycheck, this experience bestowed upon me invaluable knowledge instilled confidence, and ignited a profound passion for the culinary arts. It served as the cornerstone of my culinary career, sparking a lifelong devotion to cooking.

The last thing I binge/marathon watched…Recently, I indulged in three captivating series during binge-marathon sessions: Versailles, Outlander, and Suits. Each of these shows offers compelling storylines and unforgettable characters.

Outlander seamlessly weaves together elements of historical drama, romance, and fantasy, while Suits delivers a gripping legal narrative characterized by sharp dialogue and unexpected plot twists. As for the Netflix series Versailles, its enchanting depiction of 17th-century France, complete with lavish sets and costumes, alongside its enthralling drama, kept me eagerly glued to each episode. It’s a mesmerizing exploration of the intrigue and opulence of the French court—a journey I found impossible to resist.

In essence, the Versailles series stands as a storytelling masterpiece, skillfully blending sumptuous visuals, intricate historical detail, and captivating performances to craft an unforgettable viewing experience. It comes as no surprise that I found myself utterly enthralled by every aspect of the series. I have a diverse taste in television!

Books that left a lasting impression on me…The lasting significance of both the Bible and the Texas Almanac holds great personal resonance for me, as they illuminate diverse aspects of life and culture. While the Bible serves as a beacon of spiritual guidance and moral teachings, the Texas Almanac offers a rich tapestry of historical, geographical, and cultural insights specific to the Lone Star State. Their profound impact has undeniably contributed to shaping my perspective and deepening my knowledge across various domains.

If I could live in a foreign city it would be…Paris is undeniably a city of unparalleled allure, captivating with its timeless elegance, profound history, and unrivaled beauty. Its architectural marvels and irresistible charm never fail to inspire and invigorate me. Stepping into its midst, I am enveloped in a sense of wonderment, as the city beckons me to delve into its enchanting ambiance. Each corner I turn reveals a new marvel, each building whispers tales of bygone eras. Paris occupies a cherished place in my heart, firmly establishing itself as one of my most beloved cities in the world.

If I could compete in an Olympic sport it would be…Competing in shooting at the Olympics would be a dream come true. I am deeply drawn to the sport for its blend of concentration, technique, and mental fortitude. The prospect of representing my country on such a distinguished stage would mark a pinnacle in my life.

If I weren’t doing what I do I would…Eagerly work in the realm of scientific exploration, specifically delving into biological therapeutics and plant-based remedies. I am captivated by the notion of not only addressing physical ailments but also nurturing the mind and spirit through nature. The incorporation of spirituality into the holistic healing process transcends mere symptom management and epitomizes a quest for overall wellness and harmonious balance.

The beauty essential you’d have to pry out of my cold, dead hands is…Le Mer cream is my ride-or-die must-have.

A celebrity I would prank phone call and what I would ask them is…If I could call God, I’d probably joke and say, “Why is it that just when we’ve finally got our heads screwed on straight, our bodies age? Talk about bad timing!” But hey, maybe it’s nature’s way of keeping us humble or propelling the latest in anti-aging technologies.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighborhood in one city…I would have to say my favorite street to shop is Avenue Montaigne in Paris: As you know, this upscale avenue is home to flagship stores of renowned fashion houses of Dior, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, as well as other luxury brands including Valentino and Givenchy. It’s my jam to spend my day walking in and out of all its beautiful boutiques.

Avenue Montaigne, Paris. Courtesy of Wikimedia
Goldie Hawn, 1970s. Courtesy of Wikimedia

The classic movie actress’ style I most identify with is…My fashion inspiration stems from famous actresses Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett, and Goldie Hawn. Renowned for their timeless elegance, sex appeal, and effortless glamour, these women have left an indelible mark on style. From Bardot’s sultry French chic to Welch’s bombshell allure, Fawcett’s iconic hair, and Hawn’s bubbly charm, each embodies beauty and sophistication in their unique way. Drawing from their legendary looks, my style infuses retro glamour with a contemporary twist, reflecting my admiration for these Hollywood icons while expressing my individuality.

My personal style signifier is…A signature element of my style is wearing heels and embracing a “Tres chic” aesthetic, whether I’m dressed for a workout or an evening out. I gravitate towards edgy rock ‘n’ roll accents and bold fashion statements, blending elegance with a hint of rebelliousness to create a look that exudes depth and personality. Fondly referred to as “boots” by my friends, I embody a fusion of classic elegance and modern edge.

Dior cocktail dresses, 1950s. Courtesy of Flickr.

Classic designer I wish was still designing today (and why) is…In the realm of top designers, I hold a special affinity for the incomparable Christian Dior and Karl Lagerfeld. Their creations are nothing short of divine. Additionally, the ever-suave Tom Ford infuses just the right amount of sass and rock ‘n’ roll into my wardrobe, perfectly complementing my style preferences.

An artist whose work I would collect (or like to collect) is…Charles Le Brun, the celebrated French painter of the Louis XIV era, held the prestigious title of principal painter to the king, leaving an indelible imprint on the artistic milieu of the French Baroque era. His sumptuous and majestic creations, often depicting historical and mythological narratives, are characterized by their striking interplay of light and color, meticulous attention to detail, and profound emotional depth.

Nozze d Mosè e Sefora, 1687 by Charles LeBrun. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Le Brun’s gift for capturing compelling narratives and eliciting profound emotions through his art resonates deeply within me. His monumental works convey themes of heroism, beauty, and grandeur, resulting in my admiration for his talent. Le Brun’s art evokes a sense of wonder and sparks my imagination, fostering a profound appreciation for his artistry. In my dreams, my personal art collection would be adorned with his masterpieces, each piece transporting me to a realm of artistic brilliance beyond compare.

What everyone/woman should try in her lifetime is…I thoroughly enjoy serving as a mentor for the younger generation, assisting them in navigating life’s obstacles. The knowledge I’ve acquired is something I enjoy passing on. Providing guidance, sharing wisdom, and witnessing their growth and achievements bring me immense happiness. It’s an honor to contribute positively to the lives of the youth and play a role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

In my fridge you will always find…My fridge is always stocked assortment of French cheeses, champagne, French wine, and hors d’oeuvres. I am always prepared to host an impromptu gathering at my home. I love to entertain.

My perfect day would end…My ideal day would be brimming with treasured moments. It would begin with a delightful picnic in the Petit Trianon at Versailles alongside my closest friends, basking in the beauty and serenity of our surroundings. The allure of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon lies in its harmonious blend of architectural grace, natural splendor, and historical significance. I am captivated by its architectural design, which epitomizes the elegance and refinement of the French neoclassical style—a personal favorite—characterized by graceful lines, balanced proportions, and intricate detailing. The surrounding gardens, including the picturesque English-style gardens and the quaint hamlet, further enhance the estate’s charm, offering a peaceful and idyllic sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of Versailles Palace. Moreover, the historical resonance of the Petit Trianon lends an added layer of allure, serving as Marie Antoinette’s private haven where she could escape the rigors of court life and pursue her interests—a sentiment I also experience when I visit. Concluding the day at Bar 228 in Le Meurice in Paris, indulging in delicious libations, and engaging in sparkling conversation, feels like a scene lifted straight from a dream.

I would be remiss not to mention the serene simplicity of lounging on the porch of my ranch house at Chalk Draw, soaking in the vast West Texas panorama while enjoying margaritas crafted by my Dad. Chalk Draw Ranch exudes a sense of warmth, comfort, and familial connection, fostering cherished moments with loved ones amidst the expansive landscape. Both experiences, in Versailles and Texas, offer a harmonious blend of luxury, relaxation, and meaningful connections—all enriching my bond with loved ones and the world around me.

On my tombstone it will say…I would like it to state Simply Divine.

For more information on supporting the American Friends of Versailles organization, click HERE.

The Gentleman Racer by Michael Satterfield

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