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Personality: Ayana Obika

Spotlight on co-host of Le Diner en Blanc-Richmond

8/9/2019, 6 a.m.
The city’s diversity and elegance will shine again with the third annual Le Diner en Blanc-Richmond, a chic, pop- up ...

“The concept of dressing in all white makes everyone the same,” she says. “However, it is always elegant. Ladies pull out all of the stops with big hats and fancy dresses. Everyone looks marvelous. Everyone looks like they belong together.”

Spectators also have the same reaction of amazement when they see the hundreds of people assembled.

“Last year when we hosted on Arthur Ashe Boulevard,” she recalls, “we were delighted to see a resident (who saw the group from the upstairs of her home across the street) “put on a white dress and come out on her balcony to dance and enjoy the festivities. That was an ‘everything’ moment!”

Richmond’s event “is unique from other cities because of the city itself, as we highlight our unique history and culture,” Ms. Obika says. “We put our spin on it as we also involve local vendors and artists.”

But as in the past, great food and conversation is expected.

“Come prepared to enjoy yourself,” Ms. Obika says. “Be patient. Meet and make a new friend. Celebrate life with us.”

Meet an organizer and “hostess with the mostest,” this week’s Personality, Ayana Obika:

No. 1 volunteer position: Co-host of Le Diner en Blanc-Richmond.

Date and place of birth: Feb. 3 in Richmond.

Current residence: Richmond’s Bellevue.

Education: Bachelor’s in political science, Hampton Institute, now Hampton University.

Family: Four wonderful and grown children, Ebun (Miguel), Omari, Amir and Nia, and six beautiful grand-dears, with one more on the way.

When and how I got involved with the Le Diner en Blanc-Richmond: I have been planning and producing events for more than 20 years. I love themed, costumed and pop-up events. One day while checking out an industry publication, I came across an article about a Le Diner en Blanc event taking place in New York City and I was smitten. That was about 10 years ago.

My duties: I am one of three co-hosts of the Richmond event. My role is handling administrative tasks and recruiting and training volunteers. However, all three co-hosts touch every part of the production of the event and we make decisions as a team.

Why it’s important for Richmond to be a part of this? Le Diner en Blanc is an event that was created to celebrate friendship and the city where it takes place. Having worked at a local costume shop for several years, I learned that Richmonders love to dress up and love a reason to celebrate. Even with the issues that we acknowledge happening within our city, we want an op- portunity to come together and celebrate our city and friendship. We, the co-hosts, also saw an opportunity to bring people of different races together for an awesome night of dining and finding commonalities. If you can get people of different backgrounds together to eat and party together, then maybe we can start to eliminate the fences that separate us.

When founded: The event was launched in Paris 31 years ago by François Pasquier with just a handful of friends. Last year, Le Diner en Blanc-Paris celebrated its 30th anniversary with 30,000 guests in attendance.