Tanya Scagnol, 30, creative director, Fifth Element Group, Toronto
Aaron Kaufman, CSEP, company president, describes Scagnol in two words: “emerging superstar.” “Her commitment to excellence in taking over an already experienced and award-winning Fifth Element Group team and elevating it even further creatively is only exceeded by her fierce passion for the industry and the people in it,” he says. “When I look around at what the industry needs as a role model for the upcoming and emerging professionals, Tanya checks off each box, and will undoubtedly be a force in the industry for a very long time.”
“Each day, you can find me working hard to continuously conceive of fresh new ways to activate on our live events,” Scagnol says. “I learned early on in this role that there are no boundaries outside of imagination, and that complacency creates a mundane work environment in live events. I fight hard for my clients to ensure that we take a vision that they have, give it our own unique twist, and together with my team continue to raise the bar to become one of the industry’s top designers.”
BIG GAMES HUNTING
Anthony Smith, 31, director of catering and events, Bruce’s Catering, Los Angeles
It was TV’s “Food Network” that inspired Smith to enter the world of food and beverage, and his creative streak that led to a career in catering. As director of events at Bruce’s Catering, he oversees all special events for the company, which average about 250 to 300 per year. “This ranges from small intimate dinners to major industry premieres, awards shows, and corporate galas,” he explains. “As the largest caterer to the TV and film industry, I also plan events in and around our daily contracts with local studios and productions.”
And Smith is thinking ahead—and thinking big. “I love large-scale events, especially ones that require many moving pieces and logistics. I also love creating unique dining experiences and formulating a cohesive experience from start to finish,” he says. “If I could play a part in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles and deliver those experiences to guests on a vast scale, I think that would definitely one of many career highlights for me.”
Hillary Smith, CSEP, CMP, 39, executive creative director, PRA, Chicago
PRA is a grand old name in destination management, but Smith has a brand-new role for the firm: executive creative director. “As the first-ever executive creative director for PRA, I can make a deeper and wider impact on the special events industry by aligning all 29 offices in one creative vision,” she explains. “Our mission is to elevate and evolve the attendee experience through cutting-edge creative design and by infusing B-to-C-style experiential into the business events sector. That is where my passion lies.”
In her role, Smith is responsible for creating “the most memorable, engaging and forward-thinking event designs and experiences for a list of Fortune 100 megabrands,” she explains “In short, I get to embody their brand while making creative event dreams a reality, and I love it.” In the end, “The goal, ultimately is to change the way the industry looks at corporate events as a whole, with PRA leading the way.”
She stresses the importance of her team. “I have learned to be a good listener and while I am a leader, I wouldn’t be anywhere without the team,” she says. “I think people would describe me as a hard worker and being from the Midwest, I take pride in that.”
COUNSELOR AT LOVE
Leah Weinberg, 37, owner and creative director, Color Pop Events, Long Island City, N.Y.
From attorney to wedding planner? It worked for Weinberg.
“A lot of the skills that make me phenomenal at my job come from the 10 years that I spent as a commercial real estate attorney,” she explains. “I learned how to manage dozens of deals at any given time, which makes me easily able to stay organized and on top of the multiple weddings I am working on. I also have a lot of experience dealing with challenging people and navigating high-stress and high-stakes situations. I know how to stay incredibly calm under pressure and to be a calming force for everyone in the room. I know how to think quickly on my feet and problem-solve if anything goes wrong. So, yeah, I know how to plan a super-fun party, but my value really comes from all of the things that couples don’t see.”
As for the future, Weinberg wants to continue planning weddings, while branching out to include speaking engagements. An e-book on event planning is in her future. And how about her own line of Color Pop party supplies? “Keep an eye out for that in 2020—fingers crossed!”
Audriana White, 29, senior manager of experiential and growth lead, Essence magazine, New York
White established her bona fides with more than three years at Forbes Media, championing the well-known Forbes conferences and custom events. Today, she has an exciting new challenge, taking on the role of senior manager of experiential and growth lead for Essence magazine. The brand is renownded for its tentpole events including the Essence Festival and Black Women in Hollywood.
“I help to plan and execute current event inventory, along with creating new events--all while keeping the brand, our sponsors and audience front of mind,” White explains. “My day-to-day can include anything from site visits and contributing to marketing decks to ideating on event concepts and building budgets. I work closely with the marketing, creative and other stakeholders to bring our audience and valued sponsors unforgettable, impactful experiences.” She adds, “I’m comfortable with taking risks and being the guinea pig when I want to try something new.”
As if this weren’t enough, White has also launched her own event planning company, Noble Gold Events, “where I keep myself busy planning weddings and other social events,” she explains. “It’s the best of both worlds—truly!”
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