By Ashley Dupré
New York was always my end goal, eyes on the prize. I was living in New Jersey with my grandfather and commuting into the city to work doubles: eleven to five waiting tables at the Hotel Gansevoort during the day, then bottle-hosting at a club called Pangaea from ten until five in the morning. I got to be friends with a doorman there who would let me crash at his place on 46th Street—right there in Times Square, near Little Brazil Street. But it was rough. I was sleeping whenever I could, barely. I hit a low point when I wrecked my Jetta going over the bridge back to Jersey. I was sober, but I had passed out at the wheel, exhausted. That was when I knew something needed to change.
One day I was at that guy’s place on 46th, and the landlord told me there’s an opening in 3a. My eyes just lit up, like in cartoons. I remember going to see the $2,100 one-bedroom, with its white walls and big windows, and my brain started working immediately on how to get this. A few days later, I shared a cab with an aspiring model—a total stranger—and within fifteen minutes we had decided to live together in this apartment. It was one of those things that happen that make you feel like the city is working for you.
It always feels like that when you’re young. I was 18, and it was the party scene: Marquee, Suede, Butter, and we’d always end up at Bungalow 8—that was our spot to regroup. Everything felt amazing. I remember thinking, Seriously, I’m getting paid for bottle hosting? I was this naïve little girl, really. Because, honestly? You can all hang out and be buddy-buddy and whatever, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to make it work for yourself. When that model left the apartment, reality sank in, and I was always worrying about paying rent. My girlfriends and I could go out on a date any night of the week and get a free meal—there was always that option. But most of the time I was sitting at home eating peanut butter and apples. What else was I going to do, eat the roaches? Grab a mouse and fry it up?
I’d go to the stores on that stretch of Fifth—Chanel, YSL, Cartier, Gucci, Louis Vuitton—and I’d look and touch, but I wouldn’t try anything on. Can you imagine how depressing? To try them on in the mirror and then have to put them back? I never did that unless I could afford it. I protected myself like that.
It’s not like I was bedazzled by New York, but I do remember one time when I was eating at DB, I looked up to see Steven Spielberg, his wife, and Michelle Pfeiffer. I had grown up on Grease 2. Michelle Pfeiffer’s life was something I had admired and always wanted for myself. She was so gorgeous. I just stared.