There are two things to know about me: I have a deep wealth of pop culture knowledge (ask any trivia team—they’ll tell you this is both a blessing and a curse), and I appeared very briefly on an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters that featured my friend. It was a personal high, melding two of my favorite things: reality TV and popular culture.
This was topped only recently during DIFFA’s (the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) 17th annual Dining by Design New York Gala dinner, which ran concurrently with the Architectural Digest Home Design Show.
Because of my deep-rooted high- and low-culture interests, I immediately recognized TV personality, style expert, and designer Robert Verdi, who designed nail salon experts Essie’s table, standing next to Oprah protégé and interior designer Nate Berkus. (My Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game can’t be stopped right now.)
Although I spent a lot of time acting like a fan girl, hovering around these famous men while sending text messages about my celebrity sightings (which consisted of exclamation points and happy face emojis), I was able to tear myself away to enjoy the beautiful tablescapes. Seeing creativity flourish is one of the highlights of being part of this industry, even as I remain on the periphery.
The annual event brings together the most celebrated individuals in fashion, interior design, art, and architecture to create out of this world dining environments; dining installations were created by Jamie Drake, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Blackwell, Maya Romanoff, Ralph Lauren, and many more.
How did I get here?
It’s a bit of a Cinderella story. My boss, who was sick, was unable to attend, and last minute she asked if I could go in her place. With the season finale of The Bachelor airing weeks ago, I had no pressing plans.
I was invited to sit at the Geoff Howell Studio–designed Ottawa Tourism table, where I was immersed in Canadian culture. Inspired by Canada’s Capital, the perimeter of the table was festooned with Ottawa post cards. A TV, sitting above our table, was playing an Ottawa Tourism video on loop, and tulips adorned the table, bringing a much-appreciated spring-like vibe to a cold March night. As the end of the night approached, I was halfway to declaring myself a Canadian citizen.
But the highlight of the event is the work of DIFFA. The organization raises and grants funds to organizations to fight HIV/AIDS, including providing treatment and direct care services for people living with or impacted by the disease, offering preventive education programs, and supporting pubic-policy initiatives. Forget the celebrities, this altruistic organization was the real star.