On a hot Thursday afternoon, Alessandra Ambrosio is cohosting a party called Follow the Sun with Lorenzo Martone—a.k.a. Marc Jacobs' boyfriend—in celebration of Martone's new talent agency, ARC NY. (Ambrosio is one of his clients.) We are mingling on the third-floor terrace of the Thompson LES hotel in downtown New York: a handful of Victoria's Secret models, Gossip Girl's Amanda Setton, a million dudes in Ray-Bans, and Martone in plaid shorts and a lightweight Louis Vuitton scarf, posing for the cameras. I'm typing secret notes on my iPhone, trolling around. One benefit of being an unknown quantity at a party like this is that you can actually perceive people trying to gauge your status. This is what I'm not: a twentysomething PR flack in skyscraping Louboutins; a street-fashion photographer in a tastefully whimsical tie; a cologned club owner with precision scruff and waxed eyebrows. The goofy-looking DJs (they pull Bill and Ted faces for the photographers) are playing La Roux, Madonna, and a blippy remix of Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City." I catch Martone's gaze when the Starship comes on and he rolls his eyes. The wind blows one of the DJs' records into the pool, where it sinks like a doubloon. The sky threatens rain.
The pool occupies the center of the terrace, with a rippling image of Andy Warhol's face peering up from the bottom. Since passage from one side of the party to the other is impeded by the pool, guests have clumped uncomfortably on the side with all the models. An agent in mirrored sunglasses is updating me on all the bookings he's arranged for a particular semi-talented model "who doesn't even speak English," while casting glances straight over my head at Ambrosio, who stands beside us swirling her caipirinha and posing for photos with three male models in white Speedos. "I'm getting drunk already," she's saying flirtatiously. The models, one of them with an endearing smudge of acne, look gay and uninterested. I'm hovering nearby, trying to decode the blurry tattoo on Ambrosio's lower back. What is it? Hard to tell. Maybe a snail.
"What was it like posing with the world's prettiest woman?" the photographer asks one of the male models after Ambrosio moves on. "It was amazing," he responds dutifully. Next to him, Latvian model Ginta Lapina is talking about her passion for art. "I think Lorenzo will like my paintings," she says. Near Lapina stands a ponytailed Doutzen Kroes in white denim shorts and no makeup, looking like the captain of a high-school volleyball team. "How the fuck do you pronounce her name?" one of the dudes in Ray-Bans leans in to ask me. I have no clue. Moving on, I overhear several confident opinions about the Brazilian fullback Maicon (positive) and an argument about whether it's normal for a man to wear sequined leggings with cargo shorts (undetermined).
Near the bar I find Anouck Lepère speaking with Arlenis Sosa and Adriana Lima, the trio providing a perfect illustration of the basic differences between runway models and beautiful women. Runway models like Lepère, with their visible tendons and wackily proportioned mugs, are an acquired taste. Beautiful women are instantly appreciated. Overlap between the two categories is rare, but one can reliably find examples in the Victoria's Secret catalog. Sosa, Lima, and Ambrosio are quintessential crossover specimens. They barely notice when a gust of wind sends a glass pedestal crashing into the pool several feet away. Maybe it's the strawberry-basil caipirinhas that everyone is drinking courtesy of the party's alcohol sponsor, Leblon, whose name I keep misreading as LeBron. "One test of a party thrower's clout," a guest leans in to inform me, "is how well they manage to suppress the alcohol sponsorship." He casts a skeptical eye around the heavily branded space. We sip our LeBrons.
When pro polo player Nacho Figueras makes a quiet entrance with his blonde former-model wife, Delfina, every guest shifts 15 degrees to check them out. Figueras is as tall as his wife and sports a comically glossy mane and a beige shirt unbuttoned to reveal four inches of chest hair. At the sight of him, all three male models exchange a look and jump into the pool, emerging a moment later in transparent swimsuits. The words FOLLOW and THE and SUN are written across their Speedo'd bottoms, which Ambrosio playfully poses next to. "How about some girls in bikinis?" an interloper in aviators complains. "No!" Ambrosio replies. "It's my party." The model in the THE Speedo has a painful-looking zit on his lower back. Lorenzo Martone smiles in my direction again, probably mistaking me for someone else. His calves are tightly strapped into gladiator sandals. I eavesdrop on a couple of party guests evaluating a tall blonde in pink satin who arrives on the arm of a David Schwimmer look-alike: "Pretty sure she's an escort," one says. "Escort for sure," confirms the other. (She is actually the model Maria Helena Vianna.)
Two hours later the party is still thickly clustered on the model side of the pool. Rihanna is singing, "Give it to me baby like boom boom boom," as I finish my third drink and slip past security down the narrow hallway that leads to the exit. A monitor inside the elevator plays Fellini's La Dolce Vita on a loop. "I've seen this damn thing 300 times," sighs the elevator operator as we descend to the lobby.
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