Industry Insiders: Mory Traore, Model Magnet

“I Hate Models” promoter Mory Traore waxes on why his parties have the most runway talent, ditching the police force, turning shit into gold, and how to combat corruption in Africa.

Point of Origin: I’m from Guinea, West Africa. Came to New York as a student and got a criminology degree from John Jay College. Then I was working for New York Department of Investigation for about seven months until I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Basically it was a military organization with hierarchy, orders — not the kind of place I function well. I didn’t have freedom. I’m really creative and I couldn’t use it, so I took off and went to Eastern Europe and traveled. And I thought, “OK, when I go back to New York what am I gonna do?” I was in Romania on a train at night writing these things down and I said, “From here on any job I do: no stress. What makes me happy? I love to party. I love beautiful girls. I love to travel.”

I wrote all this down. And I said, “All these things here are things I have to get paid to do. That’s the only way to get a job that makes me happy.” So I started model scouting. I was calling agencies and traveling and telling them if they wanted to pay my travel costs, I will bring you people, then we’ll sit down and figure out the rate or the percentage. So that’s how I got started.

So right around that time, I started promoting a little bit at the club Life. That was the first night I did. I told Steve Lewis, who ran it, that I wanted to start promoting, and he said, “Are you sure?” He told me, “I think you can do it. You know so many people.” They were just paying me per person at first. I know myself. I always do this kind of thing. I want to prove myself to people. I make people depend on me. Once you do so well that their night depends on you, then if you leave, their night is nothing, and you can ask for anything. And I always get it. No promoter gets more than I do, because I know exactly the value of what I do. $1,500, $1,000 is not what I do. What I do is I sell you an image, and this is the image you pay me for. I turn shit into gold. I used to do places like Arena, Air (where Kiss and Fly is now). Tenjune. Places like that. You talk to people at Tenjune, they’re gonna say its because of Mory that they got to this spot. This is what I sell.

Occupations: Right now I do six parties Tuesday through Saturday. I work five nights and one of the nights is two parties. Tuesday’s at Tenjune, Wednesday at Kiss and Fly, Thursday at Tenjune again. Friday at Highbar first, then Bijoux later that night. And Saturdays in the Hamptons at Lily Pond.

Are you at all your parties? Always. My main principle for myself is I have to be there. Unless I’m traveling. That’s another concept with working in a group because most clubs are stealing people that work with me cause they want to break me. Like Ricardo that used to work with me. Or Justin Melnick, or Nicky P. All these guys were working for me, and they come and take them away thinking they’re gonna weaken me. But it’s like the Africans say: If you want to kill the snake, you have to cut the head, not the tail, cause if you cut the tail it’s just gonna regroup and go on. And now what I did is I have a big team of about six trusted people. My brother Fontaine cause nobody can take him away. [Some Italian promoters] work with me now to replace the Italian element in Ricardo. I met them in Ibiza, saw them working, so I know they know how to do things. I just had to train them in the New York style.

What is that style? I know you have a big model crowd. What sets your party apart? What we do is not just the models, it’s a fashion crowd. We do focus more on that. Most promoters have a little circle of models that they go around with, but we go for the quantity of the quality. We try to get the most model girls. A lot of them.

Would you say you are the king of the models in New York? People say this. People tell me I know more models than anybody else. But I don’t know because I don’t go to other parties to make a comparison because most of the time I go to my own party. Because if I’m having my own party one night, I won’t go to another person’s party that night. I think about it the reverse way. What am I gonna think if I’m at my party and I see [a rival promoter] at my party? I’ll think, “Their party probably sucks if they are at my party.”

So of all the parties you’ve done over the years, what’s your favorite? That little shitty place Suede. Friday was just insane over there. And also Air.

Was the Suede party with Danny A? No, he was doing another night. We never did the same night together.

Do you ever work with other promoters in conjunction on the same party? I usually tell the clubs — cause we charge them a lot of money — if you want to hire other people, that’s fine, but you don’t need it because not only do we bring the models, we bring the bottles, you know. And we have all the regular [people], the masses. Like the text messages I send. I have three thousand numbers in my phone.

Those texts (which are quirky, slightly absurd, and often include the word “model” in some way) are pretty memorable to say the least. Who writes them? I do! (laughing) I just think about regular things, certain things you read or something and turn it around. Someone says something funny, you twist it around. You’ll have a conversation, and I remember it and write it down. I have a little book where I write them down.

Do you have a backlog of texts? Yeah.

Do you recycle them? Rarely, because people remember them, so I try not to (laughing). I had a book full of them before, and I lost it in Cannes. I was so pissed. I had so many because I was on vacation, so I had time to write a lot of them.

What other places do you like to hang out? I know you said you don’t go to other peoples parties necessarily. I go, usually when I have to. Because sometimes the girls want to go to another place if they don’t want to go home. I party for basically work, and of course I have fun and I enjoy it, but when I don’t have to party, I try to go home and sleep to conserve my energy. Especially when you work six parties a week!

Projections: I have a party in Milan for Fashion Week with Muse magazine, and then my birthday in Paris for Fashion Week with Major Model Management. And then we have a party for “I Hate Models.” We made 900 T-shirts with the “I Hate Models” logo, and we’re gonna give them to all the models to wear.

Tell me about the model dinners. It’s usually mainly models that we invite. Again, we do the quantity of the quality. We try to invite anybody that wants to come, but they gotta be models. We can have like 40 or 50 girls. We get 50% off, and we pay for it. We prefer to pay … it’s better than the regular model dinner.

The girls already eat 50% less. What’s 50% of a salad? Exactly. It works for us. When you have these buffets, people don’t feel special. It’s like you’re a cow. I wouldn’t want to come to a dinner where someone invites me, and someone just puts some food on your plate in front of you. We tell them we want the menu. We know the models don’t eat that much, so we get the menu and get 50% off. We’ll pay for it. Sometimes it’s a lot, like two or three thousand dollars, but we think about the future. All the girls that go out with us know the things we do are really good — it’s not shitty things or low-quality stuff.

How is your relationship with the modeling agencies? Good relationships with most, but a lot of the agencies don’t want their girls to go out. So we have relationships with the girls directly. With the agencies, we’ll do special parties, special events. Some bookers will call me once in a while if they want to go out, and they bring some girls. But we don’t depend on the bookers.

Side projects? When I was in Africa last time, and I go very often, I started looking at the possibility of starting a charity. There have only been two regimes since 1958, both very corrupt governments. Corruption is institutionalized. So even if there’s a new regime that’s very conscious of [eradicating] corruption, and it took 50 years to create that culture of corruption, it’s going to take another 50 years to deprogram that culture. I think the path to development is Internet and technology. It has to come to everybody, like it did in China, or Eastern Europe, or India. That is how you get into the global market, so you don’t have to go through the government to get things done. It’s essential. So I’m looking to work with a company to start bringing computer technology to my country because I want everyone in the whole country to get on the Internet, for people to see what’s happening in the rest of the world, so people will be empowered. So that’s something I’m looking to get involved with.

What are you doing tonight? Kiss and Fly. So you want to kiss and fly tonight? You might fly away with a girl.