Photos by Gunner Hughes
lululemon x Whalebone: The 21st Guest Dinner Series
We’re shining a light on six individuals on whalebonemag.com about their involvement and partnership with lululemon, as ambassadors, and learning more about who has helped them along the way. We want to learn how they take those learnings and make a difference towards someone or something else, big or small. We’re encouraging others to pay it forward by interacting with and listening to the conversations. As the 21st guest, you, our audience, get to hear a few cool stories and do someone else a solid.
This is our third and final dinner installment, hosted by our friend Lauren Danziger. Lauren is also a lululemon ambassador and is the Chief Marketing Officer of Industry City, a six-million-square-foot creative campus redevelopment on the Brooklyn waterfront. In her role, Lauren leads the overall marketing strategy for the property, and works to build of brand awareness and drive leasing activity. Get some insight into Lauren and the other fine folks at the final night of our dinner series below.
Lauren Danziger acted as our gracious host for the final installment of the 21st Guest dinner series. In attendance this time around were a plethora of good people—from local business owners to artists to journalists and more. The evening was all about good food, good conversation and good drink. While the setting might’ve been a tad unorthodox, nestled in our basement dive bar pop-up, The Boneyard, the dinner was nonetheless another successful night for the series.
Dinner guests began trickling in and most made their way to the bar first to grab some libations. Naturally, the bar became the hotspot for mingling as everyone got to know each other a bit upon entering.
“Organic, authentic and not too flashy” were terms used to describe the setting of the dinner from guests. Was this due to the romantic salsa music belting out from the speakers connected to the Mexican restaurant upstairs? Perhaps it had some subliminal effect. As the crowd filled in and introductions were finished, Lauren gathered everyone together at the table to begin the first course—and discourse. Shortly after, the first dish was doled out and Lauren posed the question:
“How do you choose to be an active participant in your hyper-local community? This can mean your family, your neighborhood, your friend circle, work etc.”
Carly Gorga from Penguin Random House emphasized that not being passive and actively organizing groups and getting people together was hugely important to her. The table agreed, and people mentioned how easy it is to simply go through the motions of day-to-day life and not be a participant in what’s going on in the world around you.
Next up, the servers arrived with an interesting presentation of Chinese takeout boxes filled with buffalo chicken wings, and Lauren then asked her second question:
“Information feels almost controversial at the moment. How do you get your information, how do you evaluate it and how do you share it? Do you think about the impact of the information you share?”
Rajul Punjabi from VICE Media was personally asked to speak on this question due to her role in journalism. Her response was “question everything.” She and others spoke to the importance of knowing where your info was truly coming from, not simply reading headlines and accepting them without doing your own research. “Follow the money” was a term many brought up—meaning to think about who may be funding ideas behind the scenes.
In-between each question, side conversations were so involved and full of emotion that we’re pretty sure the surrounding block could hear it, which speaks highly of the guests and their interest in the various topics at hand. Once the more formal turn-taking of answering questions died down, the guests would further discuss each concept among their neighbors as they engaged in genuine debates over the finer points the questions posed. It became immediately aware that walls were brought down and guards were lowered. Perhaps the casual, friendly atmosphere of the dive bar was working out in everyone’s favor as the next question was brought up:
“NYC is quite liberal—to the point that it often seems like New Yorkers have an intolerance for a more conservative viewpoint. How do you remain open to other perspectives and engage in that uncomfortable dialogue?”
Jaclyn Spector, who works for the non-profit Global Citizen, jumped right in to this question by addressing the NYC echo chamber. This relatively new term was a hot topic following the 2016 presidential election, and many at the table spoke of the need to break out of the bubble by seeking outside opinions and viewpoints.
One of the major themes or terms that everyone agreed was a focal point of the night was empathy—putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to understand their unique perspective on something, rather than writing them off or ignoring their position. Lauren then posed the fourth and final question of the night, one that warranted the most responses from eager guests as they sought to share their ideas on the matter.
“Humans by nature are both givers and takers, and we often associate what we receive with positive feelings of support or validation. What moments of your generosity, where you gave something of yourself to someone, have been those that felt as rewarding or validating, and why?”
Overall, the answers to the final topic surrounded the need of acknowledging your fellow humans in anything from small moments in our everyday lives to major contributions on a grander scale. The group wholeheartedly agreed that by simply showing thanks or thinking of how one small act of kindness can inspire others is one major way we can all help to pay it forward, and thinking about how others may feel when you share something on social media.
Dessert was brought out soon after, marking the end of the dinner as guests continued to talk among themselves and connect. The night came to a conclusion, but not before Whalebone’s own Eddie Berrang gathered all 20 guests and stuffed them into the small photo booth for group shots as a rancorous laughter broke out.
The candles began to burn out, and patrons coming in from the street shuffled in to blend with the dinner crowd as the dive bar reopened to the public … another successful dinner series in the books.
When asked why these conversations are important and what her biggest takeaway from the night was, Lauren said, “We talked about paying it forward, and what I learned was that you can change someone’s life just by listening. Keeping an open mind allows for the possibility of an honest dialogue. You don’t have to agree with someone, but when we ask a question, genuinely paying attention to what the other person says inevitably softens the edges of difficult conversations. All people really want is to be heard. Being conscious of the energy you bring to a situation and of our your bias can help move us all forward.”
Each guest at the dinner was also able to take home an amazing piece of artwork from Manchester, England-based artist and printmaker Elizabeth Waggett, who custom-designed a print for the event. “This piece to me is two-fold in terms of the bee being a really selfless creature,” she said. “All it does is help create life for all types of lifeforms. The circle around it captures that cyclical nature of paying it forward.” Coincidentally, the bee is also the symbol for Manchester and gives credit to her hometown.