For a weekend, it seemed like my girlfriend was the most famous person in the world.
She jumped on a flight for a girl’s trip to Miami, and her Instagram feed slowly filled to the brim with palm trees, mini-dresses, floral bikinis and yacht decks — like a tarot deck of debauched femininity. The comments, as usual, provided an endless stream of life-affirming emojis from friends who swear they’d die for one another, and I think I speak for most straight men when I say that I’m envious that I’m not of a culture where people from high school consistently remind me that I’m both hot and cool.
In between those, though, were notes left by auspicious names like “MIAMINIGHTCLUBPROMOTER305” and “LIFESTYLEMIAMI.” Click on them, and bear witness to a catalog of young, bronze bodies, having some extremely aspirational fun in either dank neon megaclubs or rosé-soaked jacuzzis. Naturally, the authors of these accounts were random club promoters around the city, and they all pitched the same basic offers: “HEY! Let’s party tonight. Dinner Party. Club. POOL PARTY — YACHT PARTY GUEST LIST & ALCOHOL ALL NIGHT!”
The calculus was clear: My girlfriend and her friends geotagged their Instagram uploads from South Beach, and that made them prime dignitaries for every club dude in the city. Promoters apparently stake out a variety of relevant Miami hashtags, (#MiamiBound, #MiamiNights, #Pitbull, whatever) in search of bridal parties and bacchanals. They pepper the group’s pages with VIP invitations, and sure enough, minutes after they touch down from New York, plans are already being negotiated in the DMs. Case in point: The following day, my girlfriend was at a hotel pool party, guzzling infinite free vodka cranberries, working on the first of many hangovers. I know this, because I was alone in my bedroom watching her Stories. (It’s moments like that when you remember that Instagram is a vastly different experience for men than it is for women.)
“It made me feel like I was in my early 20s again, in a way that I never feel now,” she tells me. “I’m a professional woman. I have a job. And it made me feel like all I am is what I look like. And in a weird, weird way, it was a fun vacation from my normal self. Like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what it was like in college.’”
If you’ve ever hit the streets of Miami, Las Vegas, or let’s face it, the outskirts of any frat party in the country, you’ve seen some version of this. A group of girls will always have priority over a group of guys in the nightlife business. If you roll up to any club 12 dudes deep, you can expect a long, expensive night. It’s a simple fact of life, and one of the very, very few social advantages non-men wield. (Some men have even filed lawsuits to adjudicate that privilege in court, which is one of the more embarrassing things we’ve done as a gender.) It’s fitting, then, that this particular bit of gamesmanship has migrated to the vainest of our social media vices: Instagram. When you already spend so much time min-maxing your filters, the world owes you a few favors.
To be clear, the people on the supply side of this hustle seem like they’re genuinely invested on giving people like my girlfriend the absolute best night possible. Well, at least the ones who responded to me did. Despite the sheer ubiquity of 305NIGHTS-type accounts, it was surprisingly difficult to convince most Instagram club promoters to go on the record. Maybe that’s standard media wariness, or maybe it’s because the indulgence industry is already a little grubby and weird, but it’s telling that the one thing 36-year-old Orlando Guzman thinks separates him from other Instagram hawkers is a refusal to oversell his offer. (Naturally, his bio reads “[the] number one nicest VIP Las Vegas promoter.”)
“The most important thing is to come off as sincere as possible. You can sell this fantastic thing, and when you get down to it, you’ve oversold it and [the clients] don’t get what they want,” he says. “I undersell it, and everything I can do on top of the compensation is icing on the cake, like, ‘Oh my god, you got us in! You got us drinks!’ You’ve gotta have that happy middle at the end.”
As with many people on the club circuit, Guzman wears a few different hats. He works as a DJ, a host and a promoter for a number of high-end nightclubs owned by the Tao Group, and he says his vetting process is fairly simple. First, he plugs in the sort of giddy hashtags that young women on vacation often use, which allows him to identify the out-of-towners who are in Vegas because they want to have the sort of Vegas evening he can provide. “That’s pretty much it. I look at their previous photos to see what they’ve participated in,” he laughs. “It’s like two-and-two: ‘Oh, they went to a day club, I’m pretty sure they’d want to go to a nightclub, too.’”
Guzman maintains that there’s no bias to his scouting, meaning, he talks to both women and men — and not just the ones he thinks are hot. He tells me he follows a basic script for his Instagram comments and DMs, but that he then tries to transition as quickly as possible to a candid, non-thirsty, one-on-one conversation. “I want to establish a personal relationship or a rapport if possible,” he explains. However, there are plenty of clients who cut out the small talk and simply want to get to a nightclub as cheaply and efficiently as possible, so there are certain circumstances where he’ll never officially come face-to-face with the person (or persons) he’s DMing.
But for the most part, Guzman says affability wins. It’s a reasonable position, considering how if you make a search for #WhatHappensInVegas, you will find thousands and thousands of sweaty party accounts that seem deliriously ersatz. For example, here’s guestlist_official_vegas: It’s pure dada, like a Russian Bot that’s pivoted to Diplo sets. “FREE ENTRY/DRINKS,” it screams, over a sleazy press shot of The Chainsmokers. “COMPED TABLE? Ask for 6+ girls.”
And so, half the battle is convincing an entourage that there’s a real person behind the hustle. This is emphasized by 29-year-old Priscilla Schonacher, who is a model, personal trainer and host, depending on the day. She runs Hype Entertainment in both Houston and Vegas, and uses its Instagram like a personal feed — which gives you an up-close view of a woman who seems to be absolutely enjoying the hell out of life. According to Schonacher, that’s a crucial tactic: It’s real easy to promote your services from poolside.
“Our advantage is that there’s a ton of repetitive faces on there. The same people are coming back. When you see people hanging out more than once, obviously that shows, ‘Wow, they hung out with them four times, they must’ve had a lot of fun,’” Schonacher explains. “That makes people more comfortable. Most promotion companies on Instagram only post flyers. They never post photos of themselves. You never know what they look like, you never know who you’re supposed to meet. It’s not personal.”
The other advantage that Schonacher has is more obvious: She’s a woman, operating in an industry that’s almost entirely run by men. It’s one of the weird ironies of the nightlife paradigm — for an industry that prioritizes and obsesses over femininity so much, more often than not, you’re still meeting a dude at the door. It’s especially regressive in 2019, given how so many of the transactions are handled online.
“Whenever we talk to these ladies, we give them the opportunity to reach out to any of the girls, in any of our pictures, to ask them how their experience [with us] was,” Schonacher says. “Right there it’s a done deal. Every girl that’s hung out with us will have nothing but good things to say. It’s like how it is in the modeling industry. Whenever you work with a photographer, women will ask other models about their experience [with them].”
In a sense, Schonacher is in the wish-fulfillment business. People come to Vegas to get in touch with a side of themselves they can’t find back home, where reputations are at stake. So it’s no surprise that Instagram, with all its lens-flares and fake-candidness, is the perfect way to communicate a Friday night of freedom. “Social media is basically reality these days,” she explains. “The look that you see on Instagram is almost more important than the party itself. Because that’s what hooks people. The idea that they could have this much fun.”
Frankly, I was delighted to watch my girlfriend take a break from all the the boring liabilities of professional life for 72 hours. It was a blessing to see her broadcasting live from the sort of sticky clubs that she would never choose if there wasn’t an Instagram comment desperate for her attention. “I don’t feel the way I used to feel, when I was underage and the only agency I had to get into a bar was the way I looked. Obviously, I don’t need that anymore. I go where I want, I do what I want, because I’m a fucking adult,” she says. “But it’s kind of fun to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m a young lady. I’m still hot.’”