Storytelling for Dayz: Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit 2019

“Stories are more than processing current moments. Stories are the packaging of what we can look back on.”

This is how Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief Radhika Jones began the 2019 Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. Radhika shared a story about beginning her career as a Russian journalist shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. News has always been crazy; we’re just now even more aware with it at our fingertips.

Life can fly by with our attention spans still trying to process a million other things at once. Stories are the stamps we place to document what the hell is going on in this world.

I was fortunate enough to be my best friend’s +1, and we were posted up by Vogue for a week at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. To document what the actual fuck was happening, I took a photo of my room service pancakes in bed while working on my laptop. However, I didn’t actually eat those pancakes with sticky maple syrup while in bed. I’m not a psychopath.

I also live-tweeted most of the conference. While most have been deleted at this point (#sorrynotsorry), that is my way to stay focused and attentive to every conversation. It’s like taking notes, but live, and with #VFSummit. Katie Couric and Vanity Fair both retweeted me, so that’s pretty cool.

Yeah, it was an incredibly glamorous week of being surrounded by really cool people in really cool places, and I definitely didn’t belong. Still, I know my passion and my talent intersect with my ability to see connections and patterns that form into great stories. At my core, I’m a storyteller, and it was an inspiring week of stories.

And now, I name drop.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bob Iger, Disney CEO, and Jon Favreau, some actor/ producer, spoke about storytelling in the digital age. For someone who works in marketing for a tech giant, it’s a little sad to think that the entertainment industry invents all the cool shit, but I’m also grateful they do. The next step in the evolution of filmmaking is using a video wall entirely in the set that doesn’t require any green screen editing. This way, you can immediately see and use the digital effects while shooting instead of editing in after (aka saving time and making people’s lives a million times easier). Also, I want to buy Disney+ but I also recently purchased a DVD player to watch all my old Disney movies, sooooo we’ll see.

Alan Patricof and Tristan Harris talked about regulating big tech and the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab (yeah, it’s a thing). This was my favorite conversation, and Harris dropped some serious nuggets.

“Technology is not a neutral mirror. It’s influencing our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. More people are on Facebook than are Christians. Tech people aren’t bad people, but their jobs are to harness humans’ attention.”

Step into our privacy utopia — you still get tech addiction, mental health issues, and radical extremism because the business model (well, monopoly), is on human attention. Attention capitalism persists even with privacy.

Hasan Minhaj and Kal Penn talked about being politically active comedians. Also, Kumar worked for the Obama administration? Did anyone else not know this??

“Jokes can change the world, but some have no impact. You should make art regardless.”

Anthony Scaramucci’s walkup song was “bad guy” by Billie Eilish, and he talked shit about Trump the whole time.

AS: “No matter which side you’re on, we all need to come together to knock Trump out of office.”
VF: “So if it’s Elizabeth Warren vs. Donald Trump, who do you vote for?”
AS: “Well, I can’t answer that rhetorical question.”

We got a sneak peek of Queen & Slim with the writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas with Lester Holt.

“That’s what we do as artists. We make enough noise that you HAVE to notice us.”

Martha Stewart was there to talk about the new Food Network app. I kept walking past her all day, and I later got a signed book (and one of her cookies!). I love her.

Katie Couric asked asking Sheryl Sandberg all the hard questions about Facebook… and not getting many answers. “She’s smooth, isn’t she?!” Sandberg emphasized the reliance on third-party content moderators. The technologies are still a major work in progress, and it likely will remain that for the duration of the 2020 election. Fake news spreads 6x faster than true news, soooo buckle up.

“60% of male managers are nervous about 1:1 interactions with women. Still, no one is promoted without a 1:1 meeting. As a result, men are the ones traveling, getting dinners and the promotions.”

Bob Bakish, the Viacom CEO, was literally the most boring person on the planet. If he’s hiring a ghostwriter and speechwriter, hit me up. Well. Idk.

Monica Lewinsky moderated a panel including Jared Cohen, Ronan Farrow, Marlon James, and Lydia Polgreen. Farrow, who took down Weinstein, says that he thinks the #MeToo movement has been the most definitive and transformative moment in recent history. Media and journalism have changed by actually listening to marginalized voices. Monica Lewinsky joked, “What do you think has been the most definitive moment for me in the last 25 years?” ‬

RuPaul announced his new show, and he made us all laugh while being absolutely fabulous as always.

Gwyneth Paltrow spoke with Jenna Lyons, and I loved every bit of it as I expected.

“You have to have conviction that if you believe what you’re doing can resonate with people and benefit them, you have to just keep going.”


To finish the day, John Legend spoke about activism and influence in the age of Trump. As an encore, he sang a few songs. What a guy.

Back at our hotel, they had a private screening for Motherless Brooklyn. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The next morning, Katie Couric spoke again with Ted Sarandos, the CCO of Netflix.

“I haven’t met everyone who has changed the world, but I bet that those who have changed the world have told someone and sounded crazy.”

“Those who are able to marry tech and content will win the day.”

John Foley, the CEO of Peloton, was hyping up the expensive ~fitness revolution~ as if people who don’t have enough disposable income for boutique fitness classes somehow have enough for a stationary bike AND a monthly membership. He also announced that he might run for office one day (Vanity Fair retweeted this which terrified me).

“HRI = home rider invasion. Peloton lovers migrate to NYC for a studio experience. They’ll meet the instructor, but also meet each other. They spend time together outside of the studio and connect like a homecoming. ‘For the first time, you’re not lonely in your basement. There’s a whole community supporting you.’” — this sounds an awful lot like CHAARG and aSweatLife!

Natalie Massenet spoke with Bethany McLean, and this is your reminder to stop supporting panels/conversations about White Women in Fashion/Wellness.

Nikita Dragun, LaurDIY, and Swoozie spoke about being YouTubers while dressed in stripper heels.

Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, talked about cryptocurrency so that non-tech people could check the box of “knowing a bit about blockchain.”

James Murdoch spoke with Radhika Jones, and with that, I walked out excited to tell more stories in new, innovative ways for the rest of my life (and with a goody bag).

And then I went to a #HipHopWednesday yoga flow at Y7 in Beverly Hills, went hiking the next morning, took some calls, then went to San Diego to visit Jess’s dad as well as a niece and nephew of mine. And as her birthday gift, we came back to LA on Saturday for one more night at the new Soho Warehouse (Soho WeHo is stunning, but Warehouse is def my new favorite house).

Imposter syndrome, please chill tf out, at least momentarily. This is real life.

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