Inside W’s Most Fabulous Parties

Written by Andrea Whittle

The 2022 Best Performances celebration, held in a custom-built structure inspired by the disco palac...
The 2022 Best Performances celebration, held in a custom-built structure inspired by the disco palace Paradise Garage, was “a crazy party,” notes Lynn Hirschberg. “People were dancing like their lives depended on it.” DJ Ross One played everything from Madonna to Drake, inspiring Emilia Jones (above left) and Alana Haim to let loose. (Ross One was so good, in fact, that Sara Moonves hired him to spin at her wedding this past summer.) Courtesy of Marc Patrick/BFA

W parties are not pretentious. They don’t feel like something you are obliged to go to, or something you need to get overly dressed up for,” says Editor in Chief Sara Moonves, reflecting on the fetes the magazine has thrown over the past few years. “I always want them to feel like a big dinner with friends, where you’re comfortable but you know you also might meet someone exciting.” To set the right mood, Moonves works with the event producer David Rodgers, who nails the high-low mix with ease. For W’s annual Best Performances blowout, which celebrates our portfolio of the standout actors of the year, Rodgers has kitted out the terrace suite at the Chateau Marmont, and even built an entirely new venue in the parking lot of the Hollywood establishment Gigi’s. But, of course, even if the flowers are perfect and the bar is well stocked, it all comes down to who shows up. “I always say the same thing: You only need five really amazing people, and then the rest will fall into place,” says Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg, who gets tasked with wrangling the A-list. “Lynn says we only need five,” Moonves quips, “but she actually ends up bringing a hundred.”

Hagop Kalaidjian/BFA

In 2019, we toasted the first Originals issue with a casual dinner at Shun Lee West, the fabulously ’80s Chinese restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “It was a great New York night that felt like a real fashion reunion,” says Moonves (above right, with Ashley Olsen). “The W team ended the evening with a very rowdy few hours at Sing Sing Karaoke, followed by a very unproductive Thursday at the office.”

Madison McGaw/BFA

At 2021’s Originals dinner, the pain of having to do rapid Covid tests outside the restaurant was dulled by trays of martinis. Inside, takeout containers of lo mein and egg rolls were passed between long tables. Right: Lorde (left, with A$AP Ferg and photographer Renell Medrano) arrived in a Loewe dress straight from the runway.

Owen Kolasinski/BFA

For 2020’s Best Performances party, Rodgers was inspired by the film Stardust Memories, in which massive photographs dominate the set design. “I thought it would be cool to do these huge blowups of the pictures from the magazine so you were just engulfed in the portfolio,” he says. “I had them on the ceiling, too. If you lay on a bed, a photo would be looking down at you.” Above: Jodie Turner-Smith poses with herself.

Owen Kolasinski/BFA

“You want to set a tone, set a look, set a vibe, but all of the people are going to bring their own element to the party,” David Rodgers notes of his approach. “I never want to overproduce; I always want to leave room for things to happen.”

Courtesy of Tyrell Hampton
Courtesy of Tyrell Hampton

Tyrell Hampton, the photographer known for his sexy party snaps, captured the crowd at the Best Performances bash in 2022, including intimate moments between couples Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson (above), and Kaia Gerber and Austin Butler (top).

Donato Sardella/Getty Images

“The look of every Best Performances event starts with the portfolio,” says Rodgers. In 2018, his team plastered photographer Juergen Teller’s cutout portraits all over the walls of the Chateau Marmont. Tracee Ellis Ross kicks back in front of the display.

Owen Kolasinski/BFA

“We used to do Best Performances in the first week of January, when everyone in Hollywood is in an amazing mood to go to a party,” says Hirschberg. “They haven’t not been nominated for awards yet, everything’s pie in the sky, everything’s potential.” From left: Adam Driver, Ana de Armas, Pedro Almodóvar, and Margaret Qualley in 2020.


Instead of subjecting guests to a step-and-repeat, we went a different route with the photography at 2020’s Best Performances party, inviting the artist Maripol to shoot Polaroids inside. “There’s something about a Polaroid that makes people put their guard down,” says Moonves. Right, from left: Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, Laura Dern, and Moonves.

Courtesy of Tyrell Hampton

Courtesy of Tyrell Hampton

The 2022 Best Performances blowout happened to fall on Quentin Tarantino’s birthday. “We got a very large Ralphs birthday cake with white frosting and red writing, and we brought it out and everyone sang,” says Moonves. “It was a truly surreal moment.” Left: The director poses with Hirschberg.