I've just gotten home from Tyra Banks' meet and greet. I meeted and I greeted. Held at Northcote's The Wharf (otherwise known as Suzanne Paul's short-lived Maori Cabaret), it was uncertain quite what we were attending... was it a charity event, a call to arms, a pyramid scheme? Whoever had the information wasn't sharing. Nobody else seemed to mind, most were still buzzing from the excitement of seeing America's Next Top Model's final runway challenge last night. The crowd was a mix of media and celebs, an Outrageous Fortune star here, a Campbell Live producer there. I walked in expecting to relinquish my phone, my camera and all rights to life (possibly even a cavity search), but check in merely consisted of pointing my name out on a list and collecting a purple wrist band.
No photos were allowed.
We milled around sipping Coke, wine and champagne served by young American men in white shirts and black waistcoats. Tyra Banks, I was told, was giving interviews in a back room, but would be out momentarily. I spied her bodyguard and waved like a long lost friend, he only nodded. I guess my presence wasn't quite as exciting to him as his was to me.
After a long wait, we were told to sit. About 16 tables were set up across three levels, each with name tags. I was on the top floor, about as far away from Tyra's bottom floor table as was possible. Seafood entrees were served as 62 Models boss and New Zealand's Next Top Model host Sara Tetro took to the stage. We were here to celebrate Tyra Banks' new initiative B.I.O. - Beauty Inside and Out. As far as I could gather, B.I.O. was a conversation to be shared about how we could give more attention to inner beauty. But more importantly, Tyra Banks herself was going to sit at each table and personally greet everybody.
And she did. Arriving in the same purple jumpsuit from the supplied press shots, with sky high black Christian Louboutin pumps and slicked back hair, she was incredibly beautiful in real life. Even more so than on TV. And she worked the room. Going to each table, she sat down for a couple of minutes, wowed her captive audience then went to the next.
She sat down directly opposite me at my table. As soon as she saw me she pointed and laughed. "The blogger! Finally we meet. That's what you're known as, 'The Blogger'. Whenever security sees you they say, 'Quick! We have to leave, The Blogger's here!'"
I'm not going to lie, I was chuffed.
She talked about her time in New Zealand - she'd loved Waiheke and the food (including Clooney), though she wished she'd had more time to see the rest of the country. She was spending Christmas in Los Angeles with her mother and brother. She acknowledged each person and didn't just speak, she connected. Here was a very impressive woman.
When she left, she stood up and walked around the table to me. Shaking my hand, she said it was nice to meet me. I was well and truly won over.
Then she spoke to the floor. She spoke about her history as a model, the idea behind America's Next Top Model (to showcase all manners of beauty) and what we could all do to participate in B.I.O. (TV producers could cast the unconventional lady in the lead role, magazine editors could put the quirky girl on the cover). She recounted an anecdote. When she was working full time as a model, her agency put a list together of all the designers who refused to work with her because her hip and bust sizes were too large. They gave the list to her mother. Her mother showed her the list, then told her what they were going to do: "Eat some pizza." Her calling, she said, was to do what her mother did for her, for all the other young girls of the world.
She cried, she laughed, she danced, she sang. She was a true performer. She had us all on the edges of our seats.
Then she left. Off to give more interviews. I waved to my mate the bodyguard while walking out, but he didn't respond. Maybe he didn't see me, maybe he just wasn't as sad to say goodbye to me as I was to him.
I LIKE YOU!