The concept behind #dininginthespotlight came to me in a true lightbulb-above-my-head moment. Bing! We had a total of two weeks to pull it together and in the midst of NYFW. Challenge accepted.

The idea was to bring our favourite models together for a beautiful editorial, turned dinner party. An opportunity where they’d be able to connect and talk about how to use their positions as models to better the industry and work together towards the common goal of creating a better relationship with beauty.

The shoot was staged for prep at Cutler Salon in Soho, and the dinner hosted by Buddakan NY.

The motto? “You can sit with us”. These girls came together for a good cause, opening up, for all to come and see.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 4.46.27 PM

An INSIDER’S Outside View

By Dean Leibowitz

It’s been a little over a month since the launch of AMFAM and until this point, I’ve been completely in the shadows of the organization, quiet, and relatively hidden from the public eye. This is the place I like to take refuge – a safe place, free from public scrutiny and torment. Let it be known now; I don’t handle criticism well – It does not inspire me. – It does not motivate me –  It does not drive me to succeed, just so that I can shove my success in the faces of adversaries. Ridicule has the opposite effect on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, well, at least I think I do… but as soon as I work up the courage to sit at my computer and churn out an article that is an inspirational, mind blowing, social and political revelation, I just end up staring at a blank screen and smoking way too many cigarettes.

That being said, as AMFAM’s Managing Director, I never intended on writing anything for the site. I wanted to take on a traditional “suit” approach and handle the business like a hard nosed, cut throat, “I don’t take no shit from nobody” New Yorker.

So, when Sasha asked me to write about Dining in the Spotlight, I was a little hesitant and skeptical as to why my opinion mattered. Why would people actually care what I have to say? Sasha, being the editor/mastermind behind the AMFAM magic insisted that an outsider’s perspective would be a really interesting angle for this story.

My fear of rejection immediately surfaced. “No! I’m not doing it… There is no way!”. My New Year’s resolution (two years in a row now) has been to confront my fear of heights, by skydiving. I am yet to jump out of a plane, but I think this article is the perfect metaphor for me taking that leap. My favorite comedian, Dave Chappelle, was booed off stage at the Apollo Theatre when he was only 13 years old. 25 years later, he turned down a $50 million contract with Comedy Central. Dave Chappelle did not let his fears get the better of him and neither will I.

So, to anyone who may not like my writing…. I don’t care, I’m doing it anyway.

Here’s my perspective of All My Friends Are Models’ – Dining in the Spotlight.

People talk of heaven and I’m pretty sure I was given a quick little look at what might be awaiting me in the afterlife.

As I arrived at Cutler Salon on Monday afternoon, feeling pretty damn confident with how good I looked in my finest corduroy jacket and skinny black tie, I stupidly tried to push open the door, when it clearly said “PULL”… Shit! “Hopefully this will be my only blunder for the evening”… It wasn’t! Once I got the door open, I watched as 20 hair and make up artists’ excited smiles transformed into faces of disappointment. Clearly, I was not who they were waiting for. In an instant, I remembered who was about to walk through those doors.

Found in the heart of Soho, Cutler Salon was the perfect venue to start our evening. The room is filled with a long line of styling mirrors, laced with dim light bulbs. Excuse the pun but it really was the most fitting environment for models of this magnitude. I am so glad Sasha and I chose the right salon. Cutler Salon, thank you – you guys nailed it! In the back of the room was a clothing rail, complete with couture dresses, designer handbags, shiny jewelry and shoes that I was firmly warned, on a number of occasions, not to touch. Again, I was reminded of how much bigger this evening was than me.

The models were, predictably, fashionably late, each rolling in half an hour after their call time, assuming they were the last to arrive. Typical! There was electricity in the air, as a huge group of really fantastic hair and makeup stylists began working their magic. Enter Ben Watts and his merry men (his production crew of about 10). Initially, I had no idea what he looked like but I recognized him instantly from his tenacious entrance. For those of you who don’t know Ben, you should! He is a fucking amazing photographer, who shoots regularly for Victoria’s Secret. Enough said!

I walked around to take it in, all the while trying to stay hidden from the hundreds of flashing cameras. My first observation –“These models are really HOT!”. They brought on a shy, jaw dropping awkwardness in me that I would normally expect from a teenage girl in the presence of a topless Channing Tatum. Not to worry. A couple of drinks later, I found my feet… sort of…. Ok! I may have tried to propose to Cheyenne Tozzi, but I’ll get to that.

Working everyday with Sasha, I completely understand the intensity she can bring to the table. Sasha can multitask, while multitasking! She will be editing hours of video footage, while writing and responding to thousands of emails, on the phone to showrooms, all while cooking/micromanaging her husband and picking Brooklyn’s shit off the sidewalk (Brooklyn is her dog).

Watching her work at Cutler Salon, in that capacity, was a whole other story. Sasha seamlessly styled 10 models at once, adhering to all their own personal preferences, while maintaining her artistic vision and direction. She made sure she gave each girl an equal amount of time, all while talking production with Ben, personally advising each hair and makeup artist on direction, pushing video direction… On top of that, Sasha, somehow managed to pull herself into a couture dress, five minutes before leaving and still managed to instruct the interns by pointing, with her eyes closed, while the makeup artist attempted to hold her still for a minute, to get her ready to leave with the girls.

Ok, so the Models, at this stage, are ready to go. Ben gathered the girls at the front of the Salon for their last few photographs at this location. Perfect! The models opened the salon doors to a barrage of flashes from the paparazzi and not one Uber car waiting to pick them up and provide a much needed refuge. Thanks Uber, for the fuck up. After a few big, deep breaths into a brown paper bag, my panic subsided and we sorted the whole mess out. Delancey Car Services: 1 – Uber: 0.

It’s really hard to explain what it was like arriving at Buddakan, (our host restaurant). It’s probably the closest I will ever come to a red carpet entrance. Unfortunately, I had to experience it from Sasha’s Jeep, while dropping off the camera crew and interns at the service entry. Suddenly, my corduroy jacket and skinny tie made me feel more like a limo driver than the MD of an online magazine.

Inside Buddakan, we had generously been given the entire private library downstairs. Try to imagine what it’s like when 10 supermodels in couture gowns simultaneously walk into a busy restaurant, down the grand staircase Buddakan is so famous for. Silence, as everyone in the room turned their heads, gobsmacked!

The one thing that really took me by surprise was how much these girls shy away from the attention of the press and crowds. I always thought they’d jump to be in this type of limelight, but they all put their heads down and got to their spot in a very humble, hide-behind-your-mum’s-leg manner. It was quite refreshing. I was the only one who stupidly tried to photo-bomb the paparazzi shots.

The private room at Buddakan fit our aesthetic criteria perfectly. It was elegant, it was lush. Best of all, it had a private bar, equipped with a mixologist who knew just how dirty to make my martini. AMFAM’s favorite (only) male model/DJ Oliver Benz was spinning his extensive disco playlist, while the models wined and dined on the best Buddakan had to offer. Which is ultimately one of the best spreads in New York City.

The conversation around the dinner table was far more in depth than I had expected from a bunch of models. They discussed the industry’s big issues, such as eating disorders, image complexities, the effects of cyber bullying and I think they even brought up how amazing my corduroy jacket and skinny black tie looked. As the night progressed, the music got louder, the drinks tasted sweeter and our elegant dinner transformed into a party. Ben worked the room, playing with the angles and lighting as the girls danced, pouted and sang for the cameras.

After Ben and his crew packed up, Chey and I broke off to escort Ben to the car and we noticed that there were still a few keen little onlookers from the public, waiting around to get a glimpse of their favorite models. At this point, a homeless man walked up to Chey and I. He began beat boxing and rapping some old classics, obviously looking for a dollar or two. Without blinking an eye, Chey handed over a note of significant worth, and then, in her angelic voice, began to sing along with the homeless man. She beat boxed with him and even free-styled at one point. This back and forth went on for about 25 minutes and by the end of it, there was a crowd of people watching. Money was one thing, but what Chey gave him in the end, was far more beneficial. The homeless man repeatedly thanked her and then went on his way.

If you say Models are unapproachable, stuck up and status obsessed, well then, Cheyenne Tozzi, on behalf of all models everywhere, just proved you wrong.

I have walked away from this experience enlightened, possibly a little more confident, still frightened of sky diving, but so glad that only a week after our launch, this was the first big project we created. I am so damn excited about round #2, this month.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 5.06.46 PM