Popularity is relative, and especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online, but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our new series, Coolest Person in the Room, New York-based photographer Megan Walschlager pinpoints all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Martin Jerez (@martin_gregory), the NYC-based model manager, celebrity liaison, and fashion fanatic.
Tell us about your day job.
I'm a manager/PR for celebrity talent.
How did that come about?
I've been doing this for about 7 or 8 years. I started working at one modeling agency as the Assistant to the Vice President because I went in randomly after meeting this photography agent at a party who was kind of hitting on me. He was like, "Sooo, what do you want to do?" and I was like, "Well, I know I don't want to be a photo agent because they have to travel all the time and I want to be in New York." And I guess I just got lucky because his friend was this director at a modeling agency and they sent my resume over — and keep in mind my whole resume is business school. I was the Creative Director of the Fashion and Retail Club when I went to college at Boston University. Other than that I only had styling work I had done in the summers because that was the only way I knew how to enter this world but still be in business school. So, I guess they saw my resume and were like, "We hired this new VP. He needs an assistant, so that's where you're going."
What sort of work were you doing?
So I started and it was very business — like all excel sheets. But I was also becoming friends with everyone else in the office, and I started noticing these girls [models] were not going to all these events that I was being invited to. And if the girls were going somewhere, no one was helping style them. So I thought, "Ok, let me take these girls out, let me dress them up." And from there I just kind of carved this spot out for myself at this agency because it was more focused in public relations. It worked out well because I could introduce the girls to a designer at a party and then they would end up walking in the show, or if the girl was a DJ, she would be playing the after party.
That started gaining momentum so after a few years, they moved me to the women's board and I was basically kind of the PR guy there — mostly booking jobs through people I knew. Then I moved to a different agency to do celebrity talent. All of the girls I was managing were celebrities or like celebrity offspring. And then from there I moved to another modeling agency. Honestly my first year at an agency I saw so much turnover I realized this industry is like musical chairs. If you're fed up or the agency is fed up, you can just get up and leave as long as your not held by your contract. But most agencies don't want to pay that out, so they just let you go. Then in a week you're somewhere else and you just post on Instagram like a new agency's logo. And it's like, What happened in between? What are those moments?
Especially with my Instagram, I want people to know what's up. I hate when people try to pretend and hide, but then they share everything else. If I'm going to share myself literally shitting, vomiting or crying, then I'm also gonna share the real tea.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
You're also really active in nightlife — I mean, you just said it's a big part of your job — but how did you get involved in that?
I remember starting to pay attention to nightlife when I was probably like 16.
You're from New Jersey, right?
Yes. My sister, at the time, had an apartment in Queens and so did my grandparents so I would go to New York all the time. My parents worked in the city too, so I would literally meet boys from MySpace after "going to work with my mom" and being like, "Just gonna walk around the city!" And my gay ass would end up in Chelsea, smiling at every man who would smile back at me. And there was this coffee spot called The Big Cup and I would just sit there and talk to random people.
But with MySpace, came the discovery of The Misshapes. And my best friend Sasha and I would go to that website and look at all the photos and the people on the wall and be like, "Ok, this is MAJOR and we need to get into that party." Sasha was a year older than me and she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my whole life ever. She ended up going to school at LIM and immediately submerged herself in this like Ruff Club, Alex English DJing at Cheeky Bastard at Hiro Ballroom scene and literally just brought me along. And I remember going to Ruff Club and Ian Bradley was the doorguy and he would just stare at me and my shitty ID and let me in. And it was like Tommy Saleh at Tribeca Grand. One of the first people I met through Sasha was Serichai, the photographer, and he would take us out all the time too. That's how it kind of began.
"If I'm going to share myself literally shitting, vomiting or crying, then I'm also gonna share the real tea."
But you didn't go to school in New York, right?
After that, I went to school in Boston and I already had the New York City bug. But I just knew that if I went to school in New York, I would end up like all those other 16 year olds I had seen in the clubs. Like you see them, they go to rehab and then they're just gone. And I just didn't want to be that girl.
I tried to give Boston a chance for like the first month, but I was just like, "Fuck this." Then I discovered the Chinatown bus. I took it every weekend down to NYC. And at that point I had randomly accrued a group of gay, fashion, Asian friends and this guy Justin Violini — he was a photographer — and we would go to all the little fashion parties. And that point is when Greg K came out with B East, which was the highlight of every gay boy's life. Like all the early 2000s people were there, like Christian Siriano and all those designers. It was a really cool scene to be in when I was like 18, 19, 20. I had the shittiest ID, it was this white man from Connecticut and he looked like a ghost but I just tried to rock the most out of it.
I had a fake ID that said I was 30. It was a real ID, it just wasn't me. And I would wear glasses to the door because I thought it made me look older, so I get it. But go on.
Totally. I guess I started hosting after college. Once I graduated I moved to Bushwick, broke up with my boyfriend and lived in the last room down the hall in this row style house with this fake wall separating my roommate and me. I found him on craigslist — he was this gay Latin man with like a normal job and a very normal life. Then from there I was hanging out with Joey Quinones and Jor-el and Clay Murphy, so it was very Brooklyn, dirty parties. I can't remember what the first one was but it was definitely very Brooklyn-y, you know what I mean?
Photo by Megan Walschlager
Then after that I fell into that whole Jonathan Voss events. Like they used to throw parties at Marquis and my friends and I would always go.
I feel like fashion has always been a part of your life, what do you like about being in that world?
My mother actually went to school at Parsons. And growing up she owned a bunch of manufacturing companies in the Garment District in Manhattan. And she would work with designers who worked in New York to produce like handbags and accessories and that sort of thing. And my mom is basically a Glamazon — she used to dress me up all the time. Like when I was younger and I was hanging out with my Latin cousins in the Bronx projects, I would be wearing like Tommy Hilfiger head to toe with like a chain and a yo-yo and my hair was gelled.
Then once high school came and I discovered the internet properly, I turned into a full goth kid. I remember vividly becoming friends with like the most stylish girl in my class and her mom literally was like, "If you're hanging out with my daughter, you can't dress like this." And she took me shopping at the mall to like J. Crew and Club Monaco and bought me a whole new wardrobe. I kind of tried, but after awhile I was like I'm just a weird goth kid. And that's when emo music like came about too, so my freshman/sophomore year of high school was comprised of driving to church halls and venues to see like Hellogoodbye. Like that was my life.
But I also discovered vintage shopping at that point.
Right, your other passion.
I went to private school my whole life, so in my hometown I didn't know any kids. And all the emo, ska kids from town found me on MySpace and that's how I became friends with them. And they're the ones who opened me up to vintage shopping. There was this warehouse that was like 25 mins away in Hawthorne called Udelco, and it's actually where a lot of New York thrift stores go and find their shit and then they price it up. You know how people donate clothes in those huge bins?
Photo by Megan Walschlager
Well I don't know what happens after that but they get compressed. And I don't know how this warehouse gets it, but there are towers on the side of this warehouse of pressed clothing. And then on the other side there are these huge cardboard boxes and they're all labeled like Military Jumpsuits, '70s Flower Dresses, Penguin Tail Suits. I still have items that I found there when I was 16 that I still wear. Any time I can drag someone to North Jersey that's the first place I bring them.
That's so crazy, thrifting in New York is trash.
It is and it's so expensive. This place, there's just an old man chain smoking at a table, you give him your barrel of clothes and he looks at it is like, "Hmmm... $5."
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Yes. I remember in high school I was out already. Like my freshman/sophomore year I would date the hottest girls and do nothing with them and then after that I would just have boys pick me up from school. So any time there was a "Tag Day" and we didn't have to wear our uniforms to school, I would go all out. I was obsessed with these hand dyed Diesel jeans and pairing them with like a band tee and a vintage sweater with like a million necklaces and bracelets. Then my senior year, of course I got voted Most Fashionable.
Do you have any getting ready routines?
Yes, for me getting ready is a ritual. I usually turn on some '80s New Wave music because that's what I'm obsessed with and it helps me dress crazier. I don't know why it just gives me the inspiration I need. Then I usually shave my head, do a face mask and shower. Recently the only beauty products I've been using are Tom Ford Beauty. They have this Revitalizing Skin Concentrate Serum that, literally, if you put it on your face — and that's the only thing you put on — your skin is perfect all night and is glowing and luscious and oily and you can go to bed with it on and you won't break out. Then I just put on the face lotion to lock it all in. I usually do an acne treatment during the day and then one I put on at night. Tom Ford also has this amazing under eye thing I put on too.
I've realized when I only have like 5 minutes left, that's when pull the best outfits — and then when I have more time I'm late. Like at my birthday dinner.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
That was the first time I've ever seen you late. You usually are like 30 minutes early.
That's only because I get so anxious. The whole day I'll be at work like thinking about a party. Or like when I host Battle Hymn on Sundays, I'm usually in Jersey so I'm always thinking like, "I need to get on the train now!" Because then I need to clean my apartment, have all the ice and soda and Redbull out, and be prepared to have people over. But that usually doesn't happen — I'm usually half naked letting people in while I try to figure out the rest of my look.
What's your go-to drink?
A Vodka tonic in a sea of tequila.
What are some of the coolest places in NYC?
I'm obsessed with Sevilla, it's a Spanish seafood restaurant in the West Village. You can eat like a king there and the sangria is amazing. There's another amazing Spanish tapas restaurant right down the street from me called Tia Pol. They have amazing sangria too. If I'm not going out after dinner, all I want is like a pitcher of sangria and to go to Billy's Bakery to get a cupcake.I still love Battle Hymn. That sound system is perfect. And I still lament the Thursday night Linda parties.
Follow Martin Jerez on Instagram (@martin_gregory).