Behind every big influencer is a bigger plus one.
As the world is born with glamorous parties and glamorous events after the COVID-19 pandemic, being selected to perform the Plus One slot by invitation is now a coveted position that many are clamoring for.
But getting on Sydney’s VIP team is a competition.
“Don’t fuck your Plus One,” warned socialite and influencer Suzanne Mutesi as she ducked out of the rain at the opening of Asian fusion hotspot Bar Lulu at The Rocks on Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you meet Plus Ones who try to sabotage you. Sometimes you meet people who only think about themselves.”
Her plus one for the night was Dylan Mahoney, an actor-model she met through author and wellness author Andy Lew. He has since become her constant right-hand man at events over the past year. But only because the initiative period has passed.
“I check them,” Susan declared of all her “Pluses,” or “sweats.”
“I had a bad experience before Dylan. People who have sabotaged friendships have embarrassed me, or if you’re going to a high-profile event, they don’t know how to behave. They excessively ask for photos from real celebrities and are embarrassed. I was around real hardcore Hollywood celebrities. I’ve been around Delta (Goodrem). Don’t be overwhelming and drown her in your obsession!”
Being a plus one is a privilege that comes with responsibilities and expectations. Susan said that being able to multitask – like helping shoot the content she posts to her 1.2 million Instagram followers, picking out outfits and making sure she’s comfortable – is a fine art.
“If I’m crying and I don’t look my best, if I look like shit, are they going to tell me I look like shit and I need to change my clothes?” she said. “I want them to tell me the clothes don’t look good. We check it all. I send all my outfits to Dylan. “
For the Bar Lulu launch, she wore a Honey Birdette bra as a top and a Ksubi blazer. Dylan thought the ensemble was too racy, but Suze wore it anyway. “I told him, ‘It’s not about you, baby.’
Then her phone started vibrating. It was Dylan calling from the bar, checking to see if she was okay.
“When I need him, he’s not hard to find. If I need him, he answers my calls,” she said.
“Many of the influential people I know take their work very seriously, they don’t mess around with their pros. It’s very important who you bring as a plus one.”
She is right. Just ask James Devlin, the bartender on the Channel 10 reality show First dates in Australia.
“They’ve got to know how to hold the camera, they’ve got to know how to film you when you’re filming the paparazzi,” said the Briton, who burst onto Sydney’s social scene a few months ago after a brief stint in television.
He sat in a rain-soaked igloo dome across from Bar Lulu overlooking the Opera House. His plus one for the evening, a former fellow bartender, danced next to him.
“G…L…A…M…O…R…OUS,” Fergie’s voice purred through the speakers as the DJ played a remix of her 2006 hit, Glamorous.
“They have to be personable and know how to talk to people,” James said of potential Plus Ones. “And they have to be beautiful. Look where you are – it’s full of gorgeous people! And it’s not me being petty.”
James said he’s going to be a plus one in the rotation.
“It’s a different world that they’re not used to,” he said.
“[At parties] They have a Plus One corner and all the Plus Ones hang out together. Sometimes the Plus Ones are more interesting to talk to because they have a regular muggle job. They are real people.”
And the muggles would apparently be easy to spot the next night at a party to celebrate Tia Maria’s cold brew and matcha liqueur. “Two of a kind” was the slogan of the event.
“It’s a plus one event,” James explained. “You have to take your Plus One and they have to wear green and you have to wear black.”
It was hard not to imagine all the Plus Ones huddled in the Plus One corner looking really glamorous and grateful Kermits.
James’ understanding of the “them and us” dress code at the Tia Maria event wasn’t exactly spot on, but he wasn’t the only one who felt the need to separate himself from the VIP B-team.
“I’m the main character, I’m not Plus One,” @TomGayUSA was quick to clarify when asked about the guests’ theme. We were standing at Lulu’s bar and he had just finished explaining how he had recently opened “the world’s largest inflatable theme park”.
With 10,600 followers on Instagram, he is also an actor and lists the latest Thor installment in his biography on social networks. (“There’s a scene where Natalie Portman is just about to steal Thor’s hammer, and I’m in the middle of it for probably a good 20 seconds,” he said.)
He brought fellow influencer Shireen Heydari as his plus-one to the party at Bar Lulu.
“You can’t just pick a random friend,” he said. “You can’t just bring your best friend from school because your best friend won’t understand how to pose for the cameras and not be too crazy.”
He said he would bring social media personality Carla, from Bankstown, as his sidekick to the Tina Marie liquor event.
“Sometimes you upgrade and live a better life,” he shrugged.
The next night, as many of the same faces flooded Darlinghurst’s Noir nightclub for the Tia Maria party, Marysa Chandra arrived with a major Plus One: her personal photographer.
It had been a busy day for Marissa. She works three jobs (“retail, promotions, and my content”), lives in a shared house with four roommates, and, like many of the other guests, has just come from another event at Solera Bar for lingerie brand Nia & Rose. By her side at both parties was Plus One-turned-business-pro photographer Ella Calvino.
Armed with a studio-quality camera and a portable LED light, Ella followed Marissa around the club, shooting content and setting up shots like a one-woman reality show crew. As Merissa danced sexily to the Client Liaison DJ set with fellow influencer Tati Baumjohann (whom she’d only met a week earlier at another event), Ella carefully aimed the camera and circled her targets like an army operative with an eye for style. Other guests drinking matcha tins tried to move out of their way.
“YOU PLUS ONE IS TWICE THE FUN,” screamed the tagline under Tia Maria’s neon sign.
It was Ella’s third event of the day, and when the clock struck 10:00 p.m., she was due to work 20 hours. If her rate is $175 an hour, you do the math.
However, not everyone sees the need to pay for their Plus One.
“Where the hell is Dylan?” Susan scanned the crowd at Lulu’s bar as her Plus One ran into the restaurant to retrieve his phone, which he was assigned to carry. “Don’t make me look for you like that!”
She was just joking…sort of. The couple’s relationship is trusting and has grown into a true friendship. There’s only one time Dylan really dropped the ball like plus one Susan.
It was at a party a few weeks ago. He distracted himself by talking to someone. Suzanne said she then ran into her ex Married at first sight contestant Nasser Sultan, who physically picked her up in front of photographers.
“He told me, ‘I let you down,'” Susan said of Dylan’s remorse. “And it’s raw.”
Since then, all is forgiven.
When it rained and the bar dried up, Uber got the order and the influencers got their pros to pack up. Susan waited for Dylan to say goodbye to Marcel Bredenbals, a dapper model-actor-influencer with bleached hair and brown eyebrows.
“Dylan doesn’t know how to say goodbye,” she said. “He needs to know when the party is over.”
And when the party eventually ended, it soon picked up again.
“I gave it to you. I don’t have a phone. Can you check your pockets? I gave you my phone. I left it in your back pocket,” Susan whispered fiercely to Dylan in the back seat of the Uber.
“And I say I gave it back to you,” he replied.
“You didn’t,” she snapped, over the rhythmic tap of the windshield wipers. “Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.”
A tense argument continued over who left the phone where. Seconds later, the Uber pulled up and Dylan ran through the rain to find the phone at the restaurant.
After all, that’s the only thing more valuable to an influencer than the perfect Plus One.
Twitter, Facebook: @hellojamesweir
Originally published as ‘Sabotage’: Sydney’s hidden VIPs in the high-stakes world