|| DINING WITH T Y R A ||

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Dinner Lab, Minimal, Design, Los Angeles, Culture

A few weeks ago I attended a Dinner Lab event at the MaRS gallery in DTLA on behalf of Bunch Magazine. Arriving solo, I found I was in the company of a mature crowd. A situation that could have easily been intimidating I strangely found inspiring. I took the humid night in stride, determined to make the most of it all. I found comfort in the smell of fresh paint emitted from the artwork that hung on the walls. Maybe this accepting attitude amidst the uncertainty was the reason I later find myself face to face with a supermodel. I would soon re-define the impossible. Walk with me…

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With my tea-infused Bombay elixir in hand, I make my way around the venue. Bold aromas fill the space as chef Wes Whitehead preps our meal for the evening. The dinner’s theme is a creative celebration of tea and food. The tables are set in a uniformed fashion, which nicely balances against the free-form paintings and adds a touch of needed structure.

As more guests begin to pour in so do the beverages. With great company came greater heat, and I begin to feel beads of sweat emerge on my face. I find a way to remain positive in thought and regard it as a lovely dewiness. My ears perk up as a familiar face walks by, mentioning something about the bow meticulously tied in my hair. For a moment I think I’m hallucinating as the woman who just took note of my appearance looked a lot like Ms. Tyra Banks.

Feeling a little too warm for comfort, I walk in their direction towards the back patio to grab some fresh air…and maybe excite my curiosity. I wasn’t trippin’ that was in fact Tyra Banks. Just as shocked as one of the cooks out back, he says, “Hey, tell Tyra I say hello.” I laugh it off thinking to myself ” Ya, you and me both kid.” Little did either of us realize I would be engaging in more than a simple hello.

The host approaches, gently coaxing me to take my seat as the dinner is about to begin. As I walk around to find a spot, I notice an opening directly across from the supermodel herself. Is this for real right now? The one spot you would think would be filled in a heartbeat was free and calling my name. I hesitate for half a second only to kill it with action. I decide this is no time to be shy. I make my move. As I draw closer to the table, I realize my feet are moving me forward and there’s no turning back now.

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I approach the ladies at the table to ask if the seat’s taken. They instantly welcome me to the table. Tyra breaks the ice and relieves some pressure by saying “We were just admiring your bow.” I melt into my seat and begin to blush. Smiling from ear to ear I thank her, wanting to say more as I sit arms length from the woman who inspired me to model. I wonder how on earth I managed this one and then I begin to get nervous. I pour some water to re-collect myself and I start to reflect on the irony of the phrase, “Never let them see you sweat.” One thing was certain, with this heat, they most certainly did see me sweat. Humor comes to my aid and a lighthearted smile calms my nerves. I realize I’m sweating the small stuff.

           The conversations at the table come naturally. We discuss art, photography, Quixote Studios and random things like going to the movies alone. Tyra’s friend then asks if I came alone and I surprise him with a yes. They both applaud me for being courageous and mention that I appear young but disprove that notion when I speak. Tyra hints that I’m an old soul and that I fit in just fine. (Who knew sitting at the adult’s table would be so fun)

As the night comes to an end, Tyra begins to say her farewells and I feel an itch to show her my work. Not wanting to force the subject I hold back and almost forget tonight is about being bold. I ask. She openly accepts, welcoming me to sit beside her. She lands on my 4th of July shoot and mentions how photogenic I am to her friend. As she tries to recall the name of an a-typical agency I should look into, she hands the phone over to her friend. He takes a closer look and decides to go beyond the image by investigating my entire Instagram. He notes my catch phrase “transforming the mess into the message,” and begins following my account on the spot.

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@Tyrabanks Instagram

As they begin to clear the tables, we find we’re the last of the guests still around. Tyra reaches for her leather jacket and says she hopes to see me at the next DL event. Hoping for the same, I say goodbye as I float on thin air towards the bathroom to go pinch myself.

I close the bathroom door behind me and begin to second-guess this positive encounter. I try to figure out its purpose and begin to fearfully wonder if that was my only chance. Did I make a powerful enough impression? Could I have done anything to make a better connection? Then I stop to breathe, calming the unnecessary tension I created in my mind. Then I realize I made the impressions I was meant to make. Although the circumstances didn’t unfold the way I thought they might, I did make an impression. Tyra Banks noticed me. I received insights on the importance of providing context to your art. I was told I’m very wise and brave, and I earned a new follower.

If I learned anything tonight it’s that anything is possible. I imagined meeting Tyra ten years ago but never in such a casual context. What mattered most was that somehow without any effort, I was blessed with the opportunity to be in the presence of an incredibly influential woman. I got to share a moment with her, and in this light, it was far better than what I originally imagined.

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Clearly you don’t have to have it all figured out, and maybe it’s better if you don’t. Maybe this was a lesson in accepting uncertainty, the space that lies between structure and free flow. This is the place where life naturally unfolds. With patience and faith good things will come in unexpected ways, you just have to allow it. As for Tyra, I have a feeling our paths will cross again. So until then, I will effortlessly continue to re-define the impossible.