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The Number-One Girl

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Downstairs, in the crowd, men in kilts were getting wasted. The socialites did their turns and lined up backstage for the final walk. One by one, they passed down the runway. Olivia turned, walked backstage, and headed up the stairs. Just as she trotted up the right side, Tinsley came down the left, preparing to do her final turn. Staring straight ahead, she stiffened her left shoulder and appeared to knock into Olivia, who stumbled into the railing. “Oh, my God,” a girl behind Olivia said. “I can’t believe it!”

The next day, the tabloid press reported the alleged event, as well as Tinsley’s denial: “I never came within an arm’s length of her.”

Socialite Rank covered the incident by not mentioning it at all. Instead, the Website quoted an e-mail that it claimed originated with one of the show’s coordinators. “Olivia looked stunning” was the judgment, “but no one really knew who she was. She barely received any applause. Tinsley really worked it and it showed.”

By the middle of April, many of the women had fled the circuit. They stayed home and had dinner parties away from the cameras. At charity events, paranoia set in. “You never know who you’re talking to,” one socialite said. “You could be talking to somebody who could write something terrible. They probably already have.” Socialites speculated about who could be behind the Website. They threw names about at random. Some, once fingered, had to make multiple denials. One girl called it “a witch hunt.”

Suspicion centered around three groups of suspects. Most thought the writer Derek Blasberg, who had left Vogue for a career as a freelancer, had founded the site along with a few collaborators, perhaps including his friend Lyle Maltz. Tinsley Mortimer’s brother-in-law Peter Davis ran a close second. “Don’t you know?” he joked to friends. “I’m the one who runs Socialite Rank.” But that pesky matter of the Website’s oddly ungrammatical voice kept arising. An inner circle of socialites began to suspect Fashion Week Daily reporter Valentine Rei and his stepsister, Olga Rei. The teetotaling Russians arrived on the scene three years ago, party crashers cadging invitations, handing out business cards, and sidling up to the most famous people in the room.

They look like twins and opposites: Valentine is tall, blond, and reedy, with a skinny chest and dangling arms; Olga is blonde, too, but busty, standing barely five foot four inches. They don’t drink, don’t smoke, but they’re addicted to fame, having sought it out at a young age. They were child stars in Russia, where they met and grew up together, after Valentine’s father married Olga’s mother. Valentine was a host for the Miss Moscow pageant at the age of 7, then he appeared on game shows; Olga was a V.J. on Russian TV. “It’s almost like destiny,” Valentine says, “for us to be intertwined.”

Moving to New York in 1995, Olga and Valentine attended artsy La Guardia High. They are from a wealthy family—each summer they sun in Hella, Iceland, where Olga keeps her two favorite horses, Beyoncé and Rod Stewart—but they quickly fit in with the sketchpad dreamers and theater geeks of La Guardia. Inspired by the school’s annual Halloween parade, the duo began hosting a party of their own. Last October 31, they draped Bungalow 8 in black and gold. Fabiola arrived in body tattoos, Tinsley as Strawberry Shortcake.

Suspicions that Olga and Valentine secretly ran Socialite Rank grew gradually. “They were wannabes for a long time,” one fixture in the scene says, “and sometime or other they started acting like they were somebodies.” On Socialite Rank’s final post, “The Year of the Rank,” Olga’s face appeared in a gallery that included all the top girls except Olivia. “One of these things is not like the others,” said Peter Davis.

I first met Olga and Valentine in early April, at Ono in the Gansevoort hotel. It was pouring rain and we hunched together over cast-iron teapots, sipping from hot mugs of cardamom tea. Valentine wore a sling; he had recently broken his elbow when he fell off the runway at a Y-3 Fashion Show—for a Fashion Week Daily reporter, the equivalent of a Purple Heart. Olga, an account manager for Lippmann Advertising, shares Valentine’s drive. At 23, they’ve already helped launch a glossy fashion magazine, Quadrafoil.

We ordered some dumplings and began to talk. The cosmically connected kids—born just three days apart—talked about their unconscious harmony, often completing each other’s sentences. I asked how they saw themselves in this world. “Powerful people control famous people,” Valentine said. “That’s what we want to be.”

I brought up socialites. Valentine told me there are socialites in Russia, too, only there they are called svietskiyi lvitzi—social lionesses. “Think Tinsley,” Valentine said. “But the hair’s going to be bigger, longer, more luxurious.”


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