They’re packing up their feather boas at Mama Gena’s School of Wo-manly Arts. Auntie Beth Schoenfeldt, Mama Gena’s longtime protégée, has started a rival empowerment shop, FLOinc -- For Love Only Incubator -- and she’s taking some of Gena’s grads with her. Mama Gena, of course, has been training high-powered New York women to don boas, harness their “pussy power,” and liberate their “inner bitches” for the past decade. After graduates -- or “Sister Goddesses,” as they’re encouraged to call themselves -- complete basic training (six sessions, $650), they can select from a menu of advanced courses like vaginal self-portraiture or the art of extended, massive orgasms (complete with live demo).
Alas, Mama Gena’s philosophy has come back to haunt her. “Mama Gena’s definitely a bitch!” says one Sister Goddess who’s switched to Beth. Several other grads say that Mama Gena has become more interested in promoting her own career -- book deal! TV pilot! -- than in helping her students pursue their feminine education. And her three-hour, one-on-one Perception of Excellence course now costs $2,000!
And so exit Auntie Beth (who’s since dropped the “Auntie”). “I’m not a guru,” Schoenfeldt says. “It’s more like I’m a really cool friend.” Schoenfeldt met her new business partner, a Venezuelan shaman named Arie Levy, at a party. “He’s studied a lot of spirituality,” she says, “and I was just like, wow, this guy is all about love. Love!” According to Levy’s bio, he’s schooled in the ways of “Spiritual Wisdom, Science and Natural Law . . . Anthroposophy, Theosophy, Brahmanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Imagery, Kabala, Chaos, Quantum and Particle Physics.”
With its emphasis on “wish lists” and the importance of writing love letters to oneself, FLOinc has clearly borrowed a few pages from Mama Gena’s canon. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Mama Gena says. “But, you know, it’s good there’s an Equinox and a Crunch.” Its classes are held in clients’ apartments, like the East Side co-op of Wendy Newman, a former Harper’s Bazaar editor who forsook fashion and is now wrestling with a book on “global beauty.” The FLOinc flagship course is the Incubator, in which the class tries to help students achieve their dreams (starting a yoga studio, finding a boyfriend). “Men are accelerators,” declares Levy, “but women are creators.” There are also courses called Loving Men, Advanced Loving Men, and Loving Money.
“I learned a lot from Mama Gena,” says Amy Swift, “but Beth is all about love. It’s a really sophisticated way of thinking. It’s not sophomoric.” And Swift’s done talking about sex for now: “My sex life is my sex life. I like to share it with one or two people only, and hopefully that’s my boyfriend. I’m on to the next level.