He tried to keep cool but grew excited as he talked. “Socialites today have everyday jobs. But—in the evening they go out, they wear fancy dresses,” he said. “They’re regular people living celebrity lives, and that’s what makes them so exciting.”
“It’s true,” Olga said. “Everyone works so hard … I work with Damon Dash, him and Rachel [Roy], and Rachel is becoming more and more prominent.”
“When you actually speak to her,” Valentine said of Roy, “she’s very intelligent, very educated.”
“And I can’t believe she’s a mom too!” Olga said.
“And a stepmom!” Valentine said.
“A mom, a designer, a personality,” Olga concluded. “That’s what I’m saying! They think all we do is put a dress on and go to a party. The reality is, we work all day—then we put a dress on.”
“We’ve been friends with celebrities before we were friends with socialites,” Valentine said, “but I think socialites are more fun, easier to hang out with.”
I asked them about Olivia. “She’s a nice girl with nothing to say,” Valentine said. “A quiet little pedestrian college girl. But she obviously wants to be in the spotlight.”
“She hasn’t paid her dues,” Olga said.
Because their opinion so closely mirrored that of Socialite Rank, I asked them directly: Did they run the Website? Valentine flinched, stiffened, and looked away. Olga blushed.
“It’s changed the mentality of New York over the last year or so,” Valentine said.
“Thank God they haven’t said anything negative about us!” Olga added.
“You’d have to be delusional to attach yourself to a Website,” Valentine averred, “but of course there have been rumors—”
“I think there’s a rumor on every single person who is on that Website,” Olga said.
“My theory,” Valentine concluded, “is they live in New York, but they’re a person who doesn’t have any prominence. I feel like it’s going to be somebody no one’s ever heard of.”
“They do get a lot of scoops, though,” Olga said.
“It’s going to be somebody people don’t expect,” Valentine said. “An unknown freelance journalist.”
One month later—two days after their Website went blank—they decided to tell their story. When presented with a paper trail that appeared to link Socialite Rank’s electronic address to their billing address, they decided to confess. Why not? More fun! It was impossible not to consider, in this house of mirrors, that I might be falling for the ultimate fake, but their confession poured out: detailed and—to all appearances—deeply felt. “We are the masterminds behind Socialite Rank.”
We shared tapas at a small wooden table in the back of an empty downtown restaurant. It was pouring again, with a full moon on the way. Olga admitted to feeling “vibrations.” She smiled bravely when considering the past twelve months, as did Valentine. “Two thousand and six was the year of the socialite,” he said proudly. “We’re just starting. You know we’re going to be like Rupert Murdoch.”
The next moment, he was worrying. “Everyone’s going to hate us!” he said. “We’re not going to be able to go to any parties. How will I cover events if I go to a party and I’m ten times more famous than Tinsley?”
Olga glanced sideways toward Valentine and batted her lashes. “Are we crazy?” She laughed, and then they started talking.
The idea arose last year, just before the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit Gala, as Olga and Valentine dined at The Four Seasons. They had fallen in love with the PYTs. They wanted to give the girls a platform, put them in lights—and have a little laugh at their expense.
“We’re not evil,” Olga assured me. “We just thought it would be fun.”
They agreed at the outset to run the site for a year and no more, no matter what. The idea took shape when they saw a New York Post article about hotness. The Post had invented a formula that calculated an individual’s total hot factor. “It was completely ridiculous,” Valentine recalled. “We thought it was obscene. But then we thought, What if we just rank the girls? And put the numbers next to them!”
Olga and Valentine sifted through the names of 170 women, from debutantes to ladies who lunch. “It was extremely fair. It was extremely mathematical,” Valentine said. “They go to the event, they look pretty, their event score goes up.” The response was overwhelming. It took the Website’s founders five days to read through their e-mail. Many letters came from socialites. “They started campaigning,” Olga said.
Publicists flooded the site with requests to post pictures and press releases. Swamped, the Russians obliged, often highlighting nonstop e-mailers like Lydia Hearst (who often tells the press she isn’t a socialite). “She wrote us more than anyone,” Olga said. “Once the girls got the fame,” Valentine continued, “their friends revealed their dark demons, their secrets—drug use, sexual pasts.” There were nice comments, too, some from readers in Dubai, many from 10021, and dozens of comments from Tinsley’s mother.