Crystal Renn: A Plus-Sized Model’s Pocket-Sized Guide to New York

Crystal Renn used to be starving. When she came to New York City for the first time, she didn’t head to Serendipity or grab a slice from Grimaldi’s like most bright eyed newbies do; she had lettuce, plain, from a nameless salad bar in the theater district. She lived in the greatest city in the world, too weak and obsessed with being thin to enjoy it. In her new book, Hungry, Renn describes her world before and after she decided to let go of oppressive dieting to become one of the most successful plus-sized models in the world. She pours over her struggles with body image, her industry, and the stigma of labels within the modeling world, but she still won’t talk about that first slice of New York City pizza. Today, Renn walks the same city streets, but she lives in a totally different universe: one where she can have a beer in Williamsburg and buy Size-12 leggings without feeling as though her waist or food is “sacrificing chicness or quality.” Here are the places around town Crystal Renn enjoys, now that she’s truly living life.

Shopping

● Best shop to snag an after work outfit: Barneys, where you can stock up on most of your wardrobe basics. Rick Owens for men’s tank tops, Goodwill for flannel shirts, American Apparel for tights, Helmut Lang for everything!

● Favorite high fashion designers: Lanvin, Ann Demeulemeester, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander Wang, Prada, Comme de Garcons.

● Favorite shop that women across America have access to: Lane Bryant for their skinny jeans, and their undergarments are so comfortable and offer incredible support. I love to mix and match random pieces from Lane Bryant with other designers. I also like Topshop and Evans. If the woman is the average American size- which is a 14, Evans is a dream. It is actually a UK brand that carries 14 and above, and has up-to-trend clothes. You can buy their clothes online. Restaurants

● Favorite place to grab a quick bite: I love Oak Cafe in Williamsburg. I also like Taralucci e Vino for the paninis.

● Date spot: Crispo in Chelsea is the most romantic place.

● Overall favorite food haven: Cheesecake Factory, for obvious reasons, and Slice, which is a great organic pizza spot.

● Best place to eat on the cheap: Kate’s Joint in the East Village.

● Where do you eat the most? Whole Foods. Nightlife

● The best nightlife spot in New York right now: I would have to say it’s The Standard Beer Garden and The Standard Grill.

● Favorite spot for a ladies night: AOC Bistro in Park Slope is a great place to go out with the girls.

● Best low key bar: Harefield Road in Williamsburg. The place is really great, but unassuming.

● Best bar for creative cocktails: I’m definitely a beer and wine girl, so I wouldn’t really know!

General

● Favorite touristy’ spot in Manhattan: Serendipity. It’s great for tourists and non-tourists.

● Least favorite spot in Manhattan: Chinatown. All of Chinatown. It’s just generally way too busy.

New York: All the Week’s Parties

Just heard a very realistic rumor that East Village hipster standby The Annex has been sold and will become, of all things, a sports bar. In honor of the decline of yet another club kid landmark, the infamous electro-nu-rave Ruff Club party will be throwing a final hurrah for the sweat den it made popular on September 11, bringing out some underground all-stars: the Misshapes, Spencer Product, and the Ruff Kids. Another fond farewell to a Friday night hotspot that many called home.

It’s been interesting keeping tabs on this moody teenager we know as NYC nightlife. As staple bars close, the beloved Beatrice for one, patrons react as like displaced persons, leading a moveable feast in search of their next home. Keeping a regular weeknight schedule has been futile, as flash-in-the-pan venues like Chloe 81, which used to rule Wednesdays, cool down after losing a place in the rotation. These changes, however, open up the field for some new players. Thursday is becoming a great New York night, with two parties on opposite sides of Manhattan drawing their respective crowds. Likewise, people are turning to venues with solidarity, places that have stood the test of time (if not just a few months) to become sleeper hits. While many spend more of their evening arguing about where to go than actually going anywhere, here are some suggestions for parties on the verge — and old favorites rising to the occasion — for every night of the week.

MondayLit (East Village) – With Le Royale creeping out of the picture, Lit now has a refreshed patronage and a fresh outlook. ● Le Souk (East Village) – It will take a little while to regain the status their Monday party once enjoyed, but this mischievous restaurant is poised for a steady comeback thanks to a loyal following. ● Stanton Social (East Village) – In the spirit of restaurants shape shifting into nightlife, this table-hopping joint has been a mainstay on Mondays, though it may seem a left-field choice. The mounting interest in doubling your fun at dinner attracts a diverse crowd.

TuesdayAvenue (Chelsea) – Beatrice reggies rejoice! Todd and Angelo bring their special brand of refusal to the plush doors of this slick lounge — with Wass! It’s an all-star door, meaning you’ll find a mix of Beatrice groupies dressed up in nostalgia, seated next to high rollers and genuinely pretty people. It’s like a temporary shelter built for nightlife refugees, though this could prove to be long term. ● Rose Bar (Gramercy) – Indeed, the beautiful people have been planted here for a while now. So what? It isn’t any less of a party just because it has been around the block. It’s comforting to know that whenever you might desire being near to big art, Lily Donaldson, a mixed crowd, and a rope you might not get past on a Tuesday night, this is your go-to. ● Above Allen (Lower East Side) – Promoters? Bottle models? Hipsters? Ballers? Promoting hipster bottle models with money? All here on this diverse, overstimulating Tuesday night. Go, dance, get drunk — especially if you and your group are at a loss on Tuesday night.

WednesdayMinetta Tavern (Greenwich Village) – For once, go to this ubiquitous restaurant for the bar. Indeed, the bar lives in the shadow of the food, but the cocktails and bartenders really round out the celebrated establishment. Wednesdays are particularly wonderful here because those on a trendy feeding frenzy are less inclined to stick it out through the night. This means a better crowd, and a better chance to actually get seated — even if it isn’t your main concern. ● 1Oak (Chelsea) – The Koch twins once did a bang-up job on Thursday nights, but the shared sentiment about this golden child is that Wednesdays are now bringing the crowd. “It’s organic, a phenomenal mix of people, and there are usually surprise performances,” one faithful patron says. Indeed, the midweek party hits its stride, and even celebs like Rhianna — who showed face here just last Wednesday — have been known to drop in. “The best part is,” the patron continues, “the B&T crowd isn’t in full force and you actually get to enjoy the surroundings.”

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ThursdayJane Hotel and Ballroom (West Village) – Steve Lewis calls the Jane the Obi Wan Kenobi of nightlife. “It is proving to be the savior,” he says, and really, the Jane is something to get excited about. Though some nights showcase bland party princesses better served for the Meatpacking District, we both agree there are enough pockets of poise on their Thursday night to negate the posturing — a feat Lewis says makes this fete a new staple in a nightlifer’s diet. “Any day of the week could be a good night to go to the Jane.” ● BEast (Chinatown) – Ryan McGinley’s Thursday party proved to be a hit with the gays, then came the girls, and now Thursday night is just a mecca of mess (in a good way).

FridayWhite Slab Palace (Lower East Side) – While some things should be kept a secret, this must be said: the decrepit oyster bar throws a pretty great party on Fridays. Known as the Swede Party the music is satisfying, the crowd is fashionable and extremely drunk, and the bartenders seem to be having just as much fun as everyone else. The front seems like a quiet pub, and just like all fronts, appearances are not as they seem. Though the place has caused rumors to fly about questionable activity, it all seems like good, clean fun, aside from the sweaty, dirty dance floor that is. ● The Standard Beer Garden and The Standard Grill (Meatpacking District) – The property is an all inclusive playland. Start off in the garden, if you can stand the crowded atmosphere. Great for a leisurely cocktail to begin the night, especially since you won’t be able to spend your entire night here. After you’re unceremoniously booted around 12am (though the fun sometimes ends around 11pm because of “neighborhood concerns”) gather ’round the friendly front tables and make friends with the rest of the drunks. Sometimes it boasts an unsavory crowd, but the property must be savored in the summer as a premier adult playground.

SaturdayVon (NoHo) – We’ve done everything a person could do on a Saturday night, and we’ve found that staying in or hiding from the masses are usually our best bet. Hiding counts for something at Von, because it isn’t the upstairs bar we’re after, but what’s hidden below it. Try to find it while it’s still mythical.

SundayGreenhouse (Soho) – For those that need their dance fix on Sunday night, Kenny Kenny and Susanne Bartsch bring them great happiness. Though Sundays aren’t at a loss for dance parties, the Vandam party is particularly worthy to check out. ● Goldbar (Nolita) – You can carry the party from brunch to Broome Street, where you’ll probably run into fellow brunchers still carrying on. Very much the Cheers of nightlife, thanks in part to the work of doorman Jon Lennon. ● Sway (Soho) – Sway is still around, and it is still a place to house the freaks and friends of Sunday night. Last time I casually dropped in for a drink, the bartenders were randomly handing out shots, and a colleague of mine was caught crawling around on the dance floor.

Photos by Frank Horvat

Industry Insiders: Rachelle Hruska, Guest Star

After only a few years spent navigating the social waters if Manhattan, Rachelle Hruska left her cushy job at a mutual fund company to work on her hobby: social media. Her website, Guest of a Guest, not only deciphers New York’s social hierarchies, but, as Hruska puts it, provides “a guide for what is going on among the young and influential tastemakers shaping the collective culture.” Hruska’s pluck and insight keep her focused. “After identifying an open niche in social media that I thought I could fill, it was necessary for me to venture into the unknown”– a leap that propelled Hruska into hosting her own events, sussing out the newest hotspots and basically showing face on a nightly basis. “I see us taking Guest of a Guest to other cities around the world,” she says. “I have met a lifetime’s worth of interesting people in the past two years.”

You went through quite a transitional period when you moved to New York, you weren’t involved in the media industry- what were you doing, and how did you come to decide to run GuestofaGuest.com full time? I was working at a mutual fund, happy and content with my job. I was able to study and learn how companies worked and became interested in starting my own. Naturally, living in the city, it’s nearly impossible not to be exposed to New York media, and as I began to read and follow different blogs and media outlets, I marveled at the seemingly low barrier of entry to that world. For fun and as an experiment, I began to chronicle young Manhattan on a daily basis at nights, after work. After seeing consistent growth, I started to became more and more convinced that there was a market for this kind of website. In May of 2008, I left the security of a wonderful job to take on the risks and challenges of trying to make this a successful company.

How was Guest of a Guest conceived? Was it a passion, a hobby? At the beginning it was totally just a hobby that got my mind off finance. And we got to a place where we saw a niche; these young, twentysomething group of tastemakers, who liked going out and wanted to know everything about it, and we went with it. But it took us a while to get there. When we started, we had writers cover lots of things, from food to fashion, and everything else. It was like a Gothamist more than a Guest of a Guest. After becoming more and more interested in the online media world, and kind of seeing all these print publications crashing — we had to figure out how we were going to survive and expand. We had to figure out how to manage SEO, and basically everything that made a blog work. I started meeting with people like Lockhart Steele. We started talking to people like Nick Denton, and kind of just getting an idea of how they started.

And they just offered up their help? Well, Lockhart found me. At the time I kept my identity a secret. The New York Times picked up a story because we had talked about 1Oak opening and now one even knew 1Oak was in existence. I had just heard through the grapevine and put up a small little post. So, the Sunday Times did a piece referencing us, and once you have a mention in the Times like that, I think that was probably when we made it on the radar. Lockhart started talking to me through email, as I was very nervous about giving away who I was. Since I was working in finance, I didn’t know how my peers would feel about it. So I put some trust in a couple people that I felt could be helpful. Lockhart was one of them from the very beginning. I started this two summers ago. I didn’t quit my job until last April.

You’ve just passed your four year mark as a New Yorker; do you find you’ve lost some of that wide-eyed wonder that you initially had? I’ve tried to not let that happen. I think that being naive, in some aspects, is a blessing. You don’t know what’s not possible, you’re kind of just starry-eyed. I think I’m much smarter and much more aware of agendas, but I also think that it’s important to work at it. Just yesterday I went running with my friend Danielle, who is the Danni behind Dannijo Jewellery, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and we’re both like little kids on this bridge, taking pictures of ourselves with the Manhattan skyline in the background. It was silly how exciting it still is, and maybe those are the kind of things that don’t happen every day, but you gotta work for it. You have to try to not become jaded. New York does that to you, right? And it’s going to do that to you, especially when you’re going to all these events. Obviously, an event is not the same as the first time I went. But you have to learn to appreciate the little things in life. And especially when you’re removed from the city, it’s such a blessing to come back and experience those things all over again.

You cover a lot of charity events, and you’ve launched a charity initiative. Do you have a specific cause you are passionate about, or do you try to give them all a fair chance? VABC: Voices Against Brian Cancer. I lost my grandmother to brain cancer and my friend’s brother is running in the marathon for brain cancer support. Anything close to cancer is close to home. I also do a lot with The American Heart Association because I’ve had a lot of family that have had heart issues. I don’t have much free time or tons of money to give away but I do hope to bring exposure to great causes through GofG

When people get snarky on the internets, call you out on things, or try to pick fight, how do you deal with that? Do you think it’s important to fight back? Yeah, I do. Those dialogues, even though they are tedious and worthless right now, I think they’re fun. It’s always good to have people challenge you, always. It makes you work harder, try to do better, and be more fair. I welcome all of it. I have had people that have put me in a bad light, but if you know you are doing everything you can and are in the right then the open dialogue can only help the situation for other people. I don’t pick fights with people. I never do. It’s not interesting to me, and it’s not something I enjoy doing. But if there is something that I think, then I am going to spend some time trying to retaliate — I’ll do it on my personal Tumblr. It’s important to have respect for your peers. I don’t want to just be a fighter that people look at but don’t take seriously. Page Six and Gawker already do it … it’s fun to read … people like reading it. But there is also room for a nicer and more positive spin. That’s what we are going for.

Do you have a hit list? Maybe not in a personal way, but with the knowledge that your readers have a lot of interest certain names? Well, you have to be aware of everyone. Obviously there are people that you see over and over again at parties, and people might share rumors, and suddenly you have an understanding of who people are talking about. I think that you can also create people that I personally think are interesting — you can do that on your own. I don’t know about the hit list, but there are definitely characters that people are always on the lookout for. And you know, if we’re writing a post on an event and, let’s say, someone’s there and something happened with them the week before, we might add that name to the event.

Have you felt like you’ve been able to be supportive to people who are now big hitters in the industry? That’s the goal. And I think that was for me too, that was really the goal, to give interesting people who were trying to do something good or trying to build and create something in a time when, I mean, let’s face it, we are in a major recession, and people don’t need to be worked down, they need to be built up. I think you can do it without sounding too Pollyanna. I said this to the Times reporter because, one of the things he said was, “you shill for Surf Lodge.” Well, I actually really like going there! It’s not like we’re going to write about things that we just think are cool because we want them to be happy with us or on our good side. We generally only write about things that we like and that we want our readers to be aware of. There are designers and people in nightlife who are trying to bring something in an industry that is bringing our city so much revenue. Of course, I want to try and support that. I really feel it’s helping our city by doing that because it’s making people aware and raising interest for these businesses. Charities, especially in a time like this, are huge. These events are always giving back and built around philanthropic causes. They get young kids excited about giving back. Even if they can’t afford a ticket, maybe they can help out by being on the committee. Our interns, for example — whenever they go to an event, they really take it as their own. When I am invited to a charity, I try to see who from our team is best suited to cover it and really get personally involved and help give it space online that really has eyeballs coming to it. We can try to sell tickets, give free tickets to newsletter readers, and just generally raise awareness to it.

Where do you like to go out in New York? Do you have a favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant is Blue Ribbon. I got introduced to it a year ago, and I have been going back a lot. I tend to stay by my neighborhood. I love Raul’s. I am starting to get into the Diablo Royale. Barrio Chino — I love Mexican food.

Any favorite bar? I like Rose Bar. I am not into clubs, but Rose Bar is my go-to. I like the Cooper Square Hotel. I like the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, the Jane Hotel, and recently I’ve been going to The Standard Grill.

Favorite shops? I hate shopping. I hate it. I haven’t been shopping since last October. I don’t even know what to say about shops; I don’t know anything about them. If I need something I’ll go to Topshop or Bloomingdale’s in Soho. Being a blogger now, I don’t need to dress up during the day. I am running out of clothes. I should start online shopping.

Who do you admire in your industry? Do you have any mentors or anyone you’ve tried to emulate? It depends if you’re looking at media people, writers, or tech people. The thing about my industry is that there are not many females in the tech world so it’s really interesting to get to meet them. It’s cool. I met Caterina Fake, who did Flickr and is now doing Hunch.com. She really impresses me. And other women, like Arianna Huffington, who really changed the way we get our news. But Caterina’s story really impressed me. And I admire a lot of my peers who are working really hard to try to do their own companies. I look up to them. I always admire people who go to the beat of their own drum.

Do you love your job? I love it. I absolutely love it. There are definitely days where I have a lot of trials, and some days you’re pulled in so many directions. But it’s just like anyone who has a company. You’re wearing so many hats that they all come crashing down at the same time. You have to put things in perspective and realize it’s not the end of the world. I’ve never worked harder for anything, but sometimes it doesn’t even feel like I’m working all the time. Even though I am working day and night, I am passionate about it. It doesn’t feel like work. I get to meet such great people in the industry, really interesting people. And that wasn’t available to me in finance. I really enjoy it.

NYC Openings: The Mott, The Standard Grill, Gus & Gabriel Gastropub, Superdive

The Mott (Nolita) – The Mott. As if there were any other. ● The Standard Grill (Meatpacking District) – Buzzy hotel restaurant certain to raise your standards. ● Gus & Gabriel Gastropub (Upper West Side) – Gastropub sterling enough to make the WVill feel a twinge of envy. ● Superdive (East Village) – Kegs at tables. Inspired innovation or recipe for disaster? Time will tell.