On June 2 in Brooklyn, the Talking Heads frontman David Byrne attended Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit—one of his first IRL events in over a year, and part of a slow re-introduction to socializing on Byrne’s part. “Tonight, everybody’s either vaccinated or tested, so it’s kind of extraordinary,” he said, looking around the cultural center’s garden before a seated dinner took place. “Here we are, everybody’s unmasked. It is nuts.”
Byrne’s disbelief feels entirely relatable. After more than a year of holing up indoors, much of the public has begun scheduling plans and social events with friends, family, and coworkers—and with this shift comes a healthy dose of anxiety, whether about getting sick or simply chit-chatting and being seen face-to-face. Celebrities, who are essentially paid to be social, are feeling the strain as well. So we’ve been asking notable attendees of full-on events in New York City (like the New York Botanical Garden’s Spring Gala and 2021 Moth Ball) how they’re coping, and how in the end, it’s all been worth it. Right now, we welcome any advice we can get.
Coming out of Covid, what’s been your most treasured reunion?
“Having Karah and her girlfriend coming to meet [my son] Rhodes was huge. I was so excited for them to come and meet him, and they stayed with us for a month. It was heaven.” — —Actress and Belletrist co-founder Emma Roberts at the Belletrist and BookClub launch on July 27 in New York.
“Meeting [Emma’s] son was pretty big for me, because he’s my godson. That was a big deal for me. Had she had her baby before the pandemic, I would have been there before he was born.” —Producer and Belletrist co-founder Karah Preiss at the Belletrist and BookClub launch on July 27 in New York.
“My sister and I hadn’t seen our mom in like a year and a half, which was tough—normally it would be three or for months. So we went as soon as we could, two weeks after getting vaccinated.” —Actor and director Regina King at Bring on the Light: The 2021 Moth Ball honoring King and Kemp Powers on June 22, 2021 in New York City.
“One of my agents who I happen to be really close with, we hadn’t seen each other in almost two years. We were joking that we hugged like we were in a long-distance relationship—we hugged for a solid 90 seconds. And I also was able to see my dear friends who are in the band Tennis, they just played Red Rocks. They played me down the aisle at my wedding [in 2016]. My husband and I got to go see them play and it was their first concert back since their tour was canceled after Covid. We hadn’t seen them in two years. There seemed to be at that concert a general celebration and exhalation from the entire audience, of everybody being so genuinely relieved and overjoyed to be out, listening to something, experiencing something, surrounded by other human beings, able to touch each other. It was this epic explosion of pure joy.” —Actor Zosia Mamet at the Ugg x Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s event on June 16, 2021, on Governor’s Island, New York City.
“My brother just moved from Hong Kong to my home state, Michigan. So hugging him for the first time in two years was amazing. And meeting my niece for the first time, she’s two and a half, also living in Michigan. Those were the most beautiful reunions.” —Actor Chase Sui Wonders at the Ugg x Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s event on June 16, 2021, on Governor’s Island, New York City.
“The best reunion coming out of Covid was having our best and dearest friends over for my birthday last year, in June 2020. We had four friends come up and celebrate and we were all still in the midst of everything, but we knew we had all quarantined and we were all safe, and we were just happy to see each other.” —Collector and curator Racquel Chevremont at Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit on June 20, 2021 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“In quarantine, I really missed my girlfriends. I had my wonderful husband, I had my kids, I had my work. But I really missed my women; so seeing my girls for the first time was the most meaningful. We went out to dinner at Altro Paradiso, which is the restaurant I dreamt about the whole time Covid was happening. We had oysters and champagne and a proper dinner outdoors. Seeing them continues to be the most meaningful, as they all come out of the woodwork.” —Actor Maggie Gyllenhaal at Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit on June 20, 2021 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“The winter was hard. I was indoors a lot, alone. But with warmer weather coming, I got to go for a bike ride with a friend to the New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx. I thought, Oh, this is good. We’re out, we’re doing stuff again.” —Performer and musician David Byrne at Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit on June 20, 2021 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“Probably when my brother- and sister-in-law [Barron Hilton II and Tessa Gräfin von Walderdorff] visited with their baby, and just being able to hug them. My kids missed their cousins so much, so it was a very sweet, multi-generational reunion.” —Socialite and designer Nicky Hilton at the New York Botanical Garden’s Spring Gala on June 3 in the Bronx.
What’s your best advice for someone who is getting back into social activities and feeling some amount of anxiety?
“[Joining a book club] is a nice way to come together for the love of books and have discussions and not having to worry about what you want to talk about, because you have a touchpoint: a book. You don’t have to rack your brain thinking of what to say!” —Actress and Belletrist co-founder Emma Roberts at the Belletrist and BookClub launch on July 27 in New York.
“I’m trying to leave it in a positive place, just knowing that everyone has been in the same place I have. So they’re responsible—they’re vaccinated, they’re wearing masks. I’m hoping everyone is on the same page about wanting things to open back up and—it’s hard, I don’t want to say ‘get back to normal,’ because that’s not really what it’s ever gonna be. I had two more scenes I needed to shoot for the film I directed, One Night in Miami…, and I feel like we were literally the blueprint for how to actually shoot something during the pandemic. If we had any cases that broke out, we would have had to shut things down. There were a few commercials that had shot in L.A., but we were the first production.
“So having shot all throughout the pandemic, my advice would be to do everything within your power to reenter responsibly. If you are a person who doesn’t believe in getting vaccinated—and there are a lot of people out there like that—do your part. Wear your mask and keep your distance. And those of us who are getting back into it probably should still continue to keep our distance. What we don’t want to happen is a surge—to find ourselves back where we were in 2020. It’s like when we talk about drinking and driving: Be responsible.” —Actor and director Regina King at Bring on the Light: The 2021 Moth Ball honoring King and Kemp Powers on June 22, 2021 in New York City.
“You’ve got to trust your own instincts.” —Performer and musician David Byrne at Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit on June 20, 2021 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“It’s a reset. I’d say look in your studio, or wherever you were working, find that inkling or notion of creativity that you were exploring which allowed you to relax, and that’s where you should start. That’s the place where everything magical is going to happen for you.” —Artist Mickalene Thomas at Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit on June 20, 2021 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“My best piece of advice: bring sunglasses.” —Actor Maggie Gyllenhaal at Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit on June 20, 2021 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
“How I deal with anxiety is focusing on how it’s collective: You’re not going through this alone. If you’re fortunate to have a close group of friends, it’s very important for everyone to be honest about where they’ve gone and haven’t gone.
“Overall, though, get vaccinated and advocate for vaccines. That’s the only way we can be safe. It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s a responsibility. I come from Nepal, where there are people willing to take the vaccine who are dying right, left, and center. In America, if you’re not vaccinated, it is highly irresponsible—it’s a privilege to have a choice. [And as for anxiety about what to wear], that’s the least important thing. I always say that you need to find whatever version is the glory of you, and that’s how you show up. If that’s a ballgown, if that’s jeans and a t-shirt, let it be. Fuck the rules.” —Prabal Gurung designer Prabal Gurung at the New York Botanical Garden’s Spring Gala on June 3 in the Bronx.
“Myself, Tina [Leung], Laura [Garcia], and Nicky [Hilton], this is our first actual gala, the first we’ve actually put in the effort to dress up. It’s fun for everyone to be in a big group chat asking each other what to wear, getting excited. Now that everybody is getting vaccinated and still respecting social distancing laws, it’s important to stimulate—to be ready to have fun again.” —Oscar de la Renta and Monse co-creative director Fernando Garcia at the New York Botanical Garden’s Spring Gala on June 3 in the Bronx.
“It’s all about being careful, educating yourself, and still social distancing, even if you’re a social person like myself. Everything in moderation.” —Socialite and entrepreneur Olivia Palermo at the New York Botanical Garden’s Spring Gala on June 3 in the Bronx.
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