This week on #BEYOUROWN we have a special guest in town to join us, Tamie Adaya CEO, President and Creative Director of Hotel Shangri-La at The Ocean, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. We caught up over calamari and Irish coffee’s at Shorditch House to discuss Tamie’s journey so far and her intensions for 2017. We peel back the layers on feminism, her divorce and how it drove her to achieve success, this for sure is a conversation that illuminates and highlights exactly what its like to be a hot ass working woman right now.
Talk us through your journey to where you are now?
The moment I arrived at Berkeley University I started curating dinner parties and inviting all the best story tellers and raconteurs. Being a host and entertainer came naturally to me because I love bon mots, stories and great conversation.
I also designed jewellery when I was younger and had it custom made. This came not from grander aspirations to be a designer, but just a desire to visualise something as I thought it should be and bring it to fruition. That was gratification enough within itself.
I also naturally gravitated toward furniture and design, my first project being my teenage bedroom. I was the only 18-year-old I knew with a neo-romantic gothic boudoir.
Even as a child, I always saw design as a portal that transports you into a different universe with its own rules and aesthetics. The transformative power of design can be easing, elevating or electrifying, or all three!
My father bought the Shangri-La in 1983 while I was at University in California hosting my nascent dinner parties which later would become my model for my role as host and curator at the Shangrila.
My father was irresistibly drawn to the architecture and grandeur of the hotel which reminded him of the art-deco and early mid-century modern design of his youth. The Shangrila romanced my father and seduced him every time he strolled past the hotel on his early evening walk until one day he decided he had to buy it.
In the early 2000’s the hotel was a jewel, but had not been renovated since it was built in 1939, and clearly was at a crossroads in terms of needing attention. I saw an opportunity to reimagine the Shangrila, restore its glory and modernize it. I wanted to infuse the Shangrila with a timelessness that ensured its future.
Around the same time, I started a record label that was pioneer in the now vastly popular world of EDM (Electronic Dance Music). 2006 heralded a completely different direction for music and popular culture in general. The megastar DJ’s we now see headlining huge shows in Vegas and touring the festivals around the world emerged from this scene and I’ve always been proud that I was able to play a small part in helping make that happen.
I also curated EDM stages for Electric Daisy Carnival, itself a phenomenon, the biggest music and arts festival in North America which hosts over 300,000 people each time it is held.
I gave many of the biggest names in EDM their first US festival appearance. Skream, Benga, Rusko, Caspa and many others debuted on my stage and everyone would come back to the hotel afterwards. It’s always exhilarating to be at the vanguard of a musical movement at its inception. EDM, at its inception, was surprisingly similar to scenes in other emerging genres in terms of energy and excitement.
I was a first-generation in the LA punk scene, followed by the goth scene that emerged shortly afterwards, followed by the 80s Hollywood rock and roll scene that gave birth to Guns n Roses and Motley Crue.
I was part of all these scenes, however by the time 90s rolled around, music wasn’t getting through to me as I was a full-time hands-on mom.
I loved the Britpop scene in the mid-90s that included Blur, Oasis and Pulp, but could only participate from afar.
In 2004 I got exposed to Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Kasabian which again captured the dynamism of emerging new talent. This wave of new British artists inspired me to get involved in music again, but this time, start my own record label.
Is this something that you will look at going back into at some point?
My role has evolved into that of a very active arts patron, a role with which I am very comfortable with. I love identifying and supporting new exciting talent. I’ve sponsored numerous artists over recent years including Matthew Stone, Mich Dulce, Kesh, Soki Mak, Piers Atkinson, Harriet Verney, Felicity Hayward and many others. I’ve also commissioned custom works by emerging artists as a way of supporting them.
So back to the hotel…
One of the reasons I enjoyed renovating the hotel is because of the challenges that come with a historical building. The Shangrila is a major historical landmark in the city of Santa Monica and naturally a plethora of licenses and permits are required. Finding creative ways to adhere to the historical requirements for the building while implementing world-class amenities for a 21st century hotel actually produced a better outcome.
Did you find it difficult being a mother and running business at the same time?
I could only ever feel lucky to both be a parent and to also own a cultural institution like the hotel, but of course it has had it challenges at times. I’ve learnt how to better balance the two over time, even though you can’t help feeling sometimes that as a parent maybe you’re not doing enough. My boys are very generous when they tell me how they benefit from me being an empowered woman accomplishing things out in the world, but it goes without saying they have always been my priority.
You divide a lot of your time between the US and London
I have always considered London as my spiritual home having spent a lot of time in London as a child, and considered myself as culturally British given that I grew up in a British culture. Britain’s cultural dynamism and sense of aesthetic is, for me, unparalleled.
In a small way, Hotel Shangrila is the UK’s most westerly colony, a cultural outpost. The Shangrila embodies a certain aspect of British culture that values tradition, style and rebellion in equal measure. The many radio and print interviews I do usually convey these values too.
When I’m in the US, I work as a liaison between the Brits in Hollywood and upcoming UK talent by teaming up with Nigel Lythgoe OBE and former British Consulate Bob Peirce, co-founders of Brit Week in the US.
The annual event, now in its eleventh year, is a celebration of the creative fusion between the UK and the US, focusing on film, music, arts and fashion.
Earlier this year I hosted a series of BritWeek events showcasing the crème de la crème of Britain’s talent including acclaimed fashion designer, Julien MacDonald OBE, Vogue model and entrepreneur Felicity Hayward, designer Kim West.
I also hosted the US premiere of acclaimed film director, Phil Strongman’s documentary on Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren and presented a Q&A after the screening.
Forbes Magazine ran an interview on you titled Can A Woman Have It All?
I believe women can have it all, but it usually has to be in different stages, not all at the same time. A man can sometimes have it all at the same time, especially if he has a woman to help him do it.
And your recent awards?
The Santa Monica Conservancy bestowed upon me its preservation award for an exemplary restoration of a historical property which preserved the architectural integrity of the 1939 Shangrila intact whilst enhancing its natural beauty and grandeur and introducing state-of-the-art amenities.
I was also recognised for my leadership, creativity and business achievements at The Los Angeles Business Journal 2015 Women Making a Difference Symposium and Awards which was a great honour.
You have had some of the worlds most respected clients stay with you at Hotel Shangri-La, can you give us a low down?
Hotel Shangri-La has overlooked the Pacific Ocean since 1939, and is a striking beacon of Art Deco Elegance, a chronicle of the golden era of Hollywood, and a quintessential nexus of culture. With a rich history dating back three-quarters of a century, the beachfront hotel has been the ultimate clandestine retreat for celebrities, Presidents, Royalty and the fashion glitterati. In the 1940’s and 50’s the Shangrila attracted starlets such as Marilyn Monroe, Mae West and Jane Wyman, the future wife of President Ronald Reagan, to its beauty and tranquillity.
It was also where a close confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s helped conceive today’s modern Navy Seal program just prior to US involvement in World War II. Offering privacy, discretion, alongside glamour and sophistication in a timeless retreat, the hotel has continued its celebrity appeal throughout the ages entertaining A-listers such as Madonna, Tom Cruise, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman, Bill Murray, Arnie Schwarzenegger to JFK Jnr, Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama to Randy Newman.
So, what are your plans for 2017?
My Tamie Adaya luxury product line has several items in developments including silk scarves and luxury ornamental glassware. I’m also continuing my focus on interior design having just completed a renovation of ONYX, my mid-20th century influenced rooftop bar at the Shangrila.
I’m also launching a new menu at the Hotel early 2017 which is an international affair including British, Thai, Indian, Japanese and Italian cuisine. I’m also launching my own custom Knickerbocker Glory which includes fruit, ice cream and exploding candy. I believe the Shangrila is currently the only restaurant, not just in Los Angeles California, but in North America serving the Knickerbocker Glory.
I also have more speaking engagements in the pipeline in a variety of fields including female empowerment, one of which includes a concept that I was approached with by female artist Millie Brown that focuses on equality.
What would be the focus subject?
I enjoy talking about female sexuality, women’s emotional needs, as well as female empowerment in general. These are all subjects that are very relevant, not just to me, but in my experience, to women in general. I like to provoke, inspire and amuse people, but also to reassure them that there is a way through the maze of modern life that women have to navigate. It is amazing the reaction I get from women who feel I am verbalizing and authenticating their experience in a way they have never heard before.
So, you are pretty much an advocate for gender equality and female empowerment.
Women historically women have tended to be defined as “so and so’s wife or daughter or mother” and we still live with the legacy of that. Even today women customarily surrender their last names to their husbands, even though that is now slowly starting to change.
When I married in 1987, I was somewhat of an exception in that I did not change my last name. I simply didn’t see it as a necessity. Instinctually, I didn’t want to be defined by my relationship to man, as much as I may love and adore some of them.
An integral part of equality is that everybody should be able to love life not their own terms and should be able to accept and define themselves. This is part of being whoever it is that we have to be and writing the script of our own lives.
My view is that our society should evaluate the institution of marriage as it has its roots in a very different time when both societal and individual needs were very different. I feel most people who have been married, including those who have had successful marriages, would agree that marriage is not the universal panacea for everything in your life. For many people, being married doesn’t remove the need to find one’s own place in the world.
You know there needs to be more sisterhood around, whereby women support each other more.
I believe in equality and solidarity and obviously, these are values that women benefit greatly from. Sometimes women can adopt a competitiveness with each other which is unnecessary and doesn’t serve them. Sisterhood and mutual support is so much more constructive. Women thrive when they open doors for each other and build their friendships.