On Monday night, Mindy Meyer, the 22-year-old New York state senate candidate with a very pink website, hosted her first political fundraiser at Long Island's expansive Inwood Country Club. "It's a pink tie affair!" cried the conservative campaign's invitation to the $500-a-plate dinner a few weeks back. "Come rub elbowes [sic] with politicians and members of the press." By last Thursday, though, Mindy's Twitter account offered a kind of clearance special: $150 for dinner and a "mind blowing surprise!"
The evening held many surprises. For one, the plural promise of "politicians" was fulfilled by the singular Mindy. For two, the media consisted of two female reporters from the New York Post (one in pink heels), an NYU grad student working on an "election story" for class, and me. For three, there were approximately 20 other guests, most of whom were the candidate's high-school friends, neighbors, and immediate family (her three younger sisters, her very earnest parents, and her longtime police captain grandfather).
Everything was the color of Pepto-Bismol.
There was a live elephant wearing a pink scarf.
Since the launch of her website last July, Mindy, who was born and raised in Flatbush, has been called "one of the most unusual political candidates we've seen in a long time." Salon decided the Touro Law School student was "a troll we can believe in." The Post, who's been covering the devout Orthodox Jew as reliably as Tan Mom, nicknamed her the "Magenta Yenta."
Mindy didn't initially know who Governor Cuomo was and she couldn't identify a photo of Sheldon Silver on Good Day New York. But she dismissed her ignorance as part of the necessary learning curve, pledging, "to focus on learning who everybody is" if elected. Mindy flipped her complete lack of qualifications for the job into a tongue-in-cheek pitch ("I have no experience in corruption"). Her youth was a strength, she insisted, and she hoped to engage younger constituents with things like her site's bejeweled motto (the LMFAO pun, "I'm Senator and I Know It"), her choice of leopard-print font (which proclaimed her "Diva of the District"), and her sitcom quips ("The Senate doesn't have to be a senior citizens' home," she offered when asked about her age on morning television).
Her shtick obviously makes great soundbytes, which brings us back to Monday night's biggest ambush: the fundraiser, it turned out, was all an excuse to film an episode of reality television. Perplexingly, Mindy wasn't even the star—this was a shoot for the second season of Chef Roblé & Co., a Bravo reality show about a high-end catering company co-owned by the show's rising-star namesake and his older sister Jasmine. A "culinary drama" in which Roblé Ali sometimes wonders "if he's bitten off more than he can chew," the first season included challenges like a Chihuahua wedding, a medieval-themed party, and a BBQ for Vanessa Williams. Another installment featured a monkey.
"We like to call it Catering Mission: Impossible," Jasmine explained during dinner.
Mindy's all-pink mini-gala was the single closest real-world re-enactment of viral culture I've ever witnessed. Even the reporters were unwittingly cast in this scene: once you engage with the meme, you're complicit in it, no matter what role you feign. By virtue of attending, we were active participants in this meta clusterfuck and even if we refused to sign a release form, the only people to ask a) where the bathroom was; or b) what the hell was going on? were characters in the show, and cameramen followed them everywhere. Every interaction was a function of production; at one point, a minor altercation ensued when the Post reporter, who'd been promised five minutes with Mindy, demanded she not be documented for the reality show, but expected Jasmine to facilitate the interview.
"If you're gonna talk to me, they're going to keep filming!" Jasmine shouted. "She's rude!" she announced to the cameras, and then huffed off.
Mindy, meanwhile, wore an ankle-length, long-sleeved magenta evening gown and doled out her signature puns. Her prepared speech, which she delivered for the cameras twice—one standing with the elephant, once after dinner—began, "We are all tickled pink to be here tonight!" Three law-school classmates showed up for the cocktail reception, but left before dinner to study, so Mindy told the room during the dessert, "While they're working on their Torts, we'll eat our tarts!" Her friends made an effort to laugh.
But it was all just banter to splice between bites. The blindly ambitious politician was a pop subordinate to the celebrity chef, which, well, is the world that gave birth to Mindy Meyer.
Tonight's purpose was for Roblé, who cooked a Thai vegan Kosher menu for Matisyahu on the first season, to face the on-camera challenge of conceiving an exclusively Kosher meal for his devoutly Orthodox client, while incorporating pink in each dish. There was poached salmon, chosen because it's "already pink," braised radishes garnishing root vegetable squash soup, and a fountain spilling non-dairy pink chocolate.
Jasmine's primary duty was to splash everything else in pink. "Whenever you think you're going overboard with the pink, it's not going to be enough," Mindy had instructed the crew. Yet even she was impressed. There were hot-pink seat cushions, pink-balloon bunches, pink flowers, pink lights; fuchsia tablecloths, chairs, napkins.
Seated at Mindy's dinner table were two female casting-company plants, one of whom commandeered the room to interrogate the candidate for the cameras.
Q: Who's the better-looking candidate?
A: I just like that look. [Pause] Compared to Obama. That classic sophisticated polished-type lawyer—[pause]—Governor look.
Q: Who'd be your First Husband-any guy?
A: I'd have to have a bachelorette reality show to decide.
Q: Given the choice between George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and Robert Downey Jr., who would be your First Celebrity Husband?
A: George Clooney.
After addressing the cameras "to thank all my generous donors"—the first time Mindy said this, even she couldn't help but crack up at its ridiculousness—it was time for her to meet Chef Roblé.
"This is the best party I've ever had," gushed Mindy, after snapping iPhone candids with the Cable-channel celebrity. "If I get to Albany, I may have to hire you as my chef."
Roblé paused. "I have a few parking tickets you could clear up."
"No, no Roblé," Jasmine jumped in. "She is not about corruption."
"I'm not about corruption," confirmed Mindy. "But I can change your parking tickets to hot pink."
No, she can't.
After filming wrapped, Mindy curled up on the patio. Why would a candidate who's been accused of shtick give her first political event over to a reality show? "They came to me," she said. "I knew they threw great parties and we made sure this would meet the election requirements." (On camera, Mindy cited "anonymous donors" for the budget, but her campaign manager confirmed Bravo footed the whole bill.)
She was satisfied with the results. "It was a hot pink dream," she said. "The party of the century!"
That same night, the Post ran home to upload their video of the "Magenta Yenta's Circus Stunt." The Forward saw it, called PETA, and now PETA's mad. What they didn't know was that Mindy's only unanswered request on Monday concerned the elephant's toenails. "The elephant had a pink pedicure supposedly," she noted on the patio. "But I didn't see it."