Behind every great influencer is a greater Plus One.
As fabulous parties and glamorous events crank back up in a post-Covid world, being selected to fulfil the Plus One slot on an invitation is now a coveted position that many are clamouring to secure.
But getting on Sydney’s VIP B-team is competitive.
“Don’t f**k around with your Plus One,” socialite and influencer Suzan Mutesi warned while finding shelter from the rain at the launch of Asian-fusion hotspot Bar Lulu in The Rocks on Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you meet Plus Ones who are trying to sabotage you. Sometimes you meet people who are just thinking about themselves.”
Her Plus One for the evening was Dylan Mahoney, an actor-model she met through author and wellness influencer Andi Lew. He has since become her regular right-hand man at events for the past year. But only because he passed the initiation period.
“I test them,” Suzan declared of all her Plus Ones, or, “patsies”.
“Before Dylan, I had bad experiences. People who have sabotaged friendships, embarrassed me or, if you go to a high-end event, they don’t know how to carry themselves. They’re over-asking for photos from real celebrities and being embarrassing. I’ve been around real hardcore Hollywood celebrities. I’ve been around Delta (Goodrem). Don’t be overwhelming and drown her with your obsession with her!”
Being a Plus One is a privilege that comes with duties and expectations. Suzan said it was a fine art of being able to juggle many tasks – like helping film the content she posts to her 1.2 million Instagram followers, picking outfits and making sure she’s generally comfortable.
“If I’m crying and not looking my best, if I’m looking like sh*t, will they be able to tell me I look like sh*t and need to change the outfit?” she said. “I want them to tell me the outfit doesn’t look good. We check all that. I send Dylan all my outfits. “
For the Bar Lulu launch, she was wearing 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, babe’.”
Then her phone started to vibrate. It was Dylan calling from inside the bar, checking to see if she was OK.
“When I need him, he’s not hard to find. When I need him, he’ll pick up my calls,” she said.
“A lot of influencers I know who are very serious about their jobs, they don’t muck around with their Plus Ones. It’s very critical who you bring as your Plus One.”
She’s right. Just ask James Devlin, the bartender from Channel 10 reality show First Dates Australia.
“They need to know how to hold a camera, they need to know how to film you getting your paparazzi shots,” the Brit, who burst onto the Sydney social scene a few months ago after his brief stint on television, said.
He was sitting in a rain-spattered igloo dome out the front of Bar Lulu, overlooking the Opera House. His Plus One for the evening, a former bartending colleague, danced nearby.
“G…L…A…M…O…R…O-U-S,” Fergie’s voice purred through the speakers as the DJ played a remix of her 2006 hit, Glamorous.
“They need to be a personality and know how to speak to people,” James said of potential Plus Ones. “And they need to be good looking. Look where you are — it’s full of gorgeous people! And that’s not me being shallow.”
James said he had his go-to Plus Ones on rotation.
“It’s another world they’re not used to,” he said.
“[At parties] They’ve got the Plus One corner and all the Plus Ones hang around together. Sometimes, the Plus Ones are more interesting to speak to because they have normal muggle jobs. They’re real people.”
And the muggles would apparently be easy to spot the following night at a party to celebrate Tia Maria’s cold brew and matcha liqueurs. “Two of a kind” was the event tagline.
“It’s a Plus One event,” James explained. “You’ve got to take your Plus One and they’ve gotta wear green and you’ve gotta wear black.”
It was hard not to imagine all the Plus Ones crowded into the Plus One corner, looking like really glam and grateful Kermits.
James’ understanding of the them-and-us dress code at the Tia Maria event wasn’t quite accurate, but he wasn’t alone in feeling the need to separate himself from the VIP B-teamers.
“I’m the main person, I’m not the Plus One,” @TomGayUSA rushed to clarify when asked about the subject of guests. We were standing inside Bar Lulu and he’d just finished explaining how he’d recently launched “the world’s largest inflatable theme park”.
With 10,600 followers on Instagram, he’s also an actor and lists the latest Thor instalment in his social media bio. (“There’s a scene where Natalie Portman is just getting ready to steal Thor’s hammer and I am the main focus in the very centre of the scene, probably for a good 20 seconds,” he said.)
For the Bar Lulu party, he brought fellow influencer Shirin Heidari as his Plus One.
“You can’t just pick a random friend,” he said. “You can’t just bring your best friend from high school because your best friend isn’t going to understand how to pose for cameras and not be too crazy.”
He said he’d be bringing social media personality Carla From Bankstown as his Plus One to the “Tina Marie” liqueur event.
“Sometimes you upgrade and live your best life,” he shrugged.
The following night, as many of the same faces flooded into Darlinghurst’s Noir nightclub for the Tia Maria party, Merisa Chandra arrived with the ultimate Plus One: her own personal photographer.
It had been a busy day for Merisa. She works three jobs (“retail, promo events, and my content”), lives in a share house with four roommates and, like many other guests, had just come from another event at Solera Bar for lingerie brand Nia & Rose. By her side at both parties was photographer Ella Calvina, who has made somewhat of a business out of being a professional Plus One.
Armed with a studio-quality camera and a portable LED light, Ella followed Merisa around the club, filming content and setting up shots like a one-woman reality TV crew. As Merisa sexy-danced to Client Liaison’s DJ set with fellow influencer Tati Baumjohann (whom she’d only met a week ago at a different event), Ella diligently pointed the camera and circled her targets like an army operative with an eye for style. Fellow guests drinking matcha-tinis scrambled to get out of their path.
“YOU PLUS ONE IS DOUBLE THE FUN,” screamed the slogan under the neon Tia Maria sign.
It was Ella’s third event that day and, as the clock struck 10pm, she was about to clock 20 hours on the job. With her rate coming in at $175 per hour, you do the math.
Still, not everyone sees the need to pay their Plus One.
“Where the f*ck is Dylan?” Suzan looked around the crowd at Bar Lulu, as her Plus One ran inside the restaurant to return her phone that he’d been tasked with carrying. “Don’t make me look for you like that!”
She was only joking … kinda. The pair’s relationship is one of trust and has blossomed into true friendship. There’s only one time Dylan has truly dropped the ball as Suzan’s Plus One.
It was at a party a few weeks ago. He got distracted talking to someone. Suzan said she was then confronted by former Married At First Sight contestant Nasser Sultan, who physically lifted her up in front of photographers.
“He told me, ‘I failed you’,” Suzan said of Dylan’s remorse. “And that’s raw.”
Since then, all has been forgiven.
As the rain poured down and the bar dried up, Ubers were ordered and the influencers made their Plus Ones gather their belongings. Suzan waited for Dylan to say goodbye to Marcel Bredenbals, a chiselled 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 ends.”
And when the party did eventually end, it soon ramped back up again.
“I gave it to you. I don’t have my phone. Can you check your pockets? I gave you my phone. I left it in your back pocket,” Suzan furiously whispered to Dylan in the back seat of the Uber.
“And I’m saying I gave it back to you,” he replied.
“You didn’t,” she snapped over the rhythmic thuds of the windscreen wipers. “F*ck me, f*ck me, f*ck me.”
A tense back-and-forth continued over who left the phone where. Seconds later, the Uber pulled over and Dylan was running through the rain to locate the phone in the restaurant.
After all, it’s the only thing more valuable to an influencer than the perfect Plus One.
Twitter, Facebook: @hellojamesweir