Constantly flexing her creative muscle, Neakai Lewis' bread and butter is turning blank canvases into curated events based on her clients' vision. The former Director of Special Projects at Munaluchi Bride, Neakai has executed bridal shows, industry conferences, editorial shoots and beyond. Taking the leap into entrepreneurship last year, Neakai brings her expertise and a unique sense of style to every event that crosses her desk.
Define what womanhood means to you:
NL: When I think of a woman, I think
O = openhearted
We are multi-dimensional and resilient,yet we are soft and delicate. We can rule countries and provide babies with sustenance with one breast. We are everything, and I wish more women would know their power.
The events you've planned run the gamut from surprise birthday and anniversary parties, to intimate bridal showers and surprise engagements. What was one of your favorite events you've planned so far and why?
NL: I loved planning a surprise birthday party for my friend's husband. We turned a dance studio in Harlem into a courtyard in Havana, Cuba. That was one of my first total room transformations and to see the faces of all of the guests when they walked in showed me that I am in the right business! Guests asked what club they were in and why they hadn't heard of it before, not knowing that it was a bare dance studio.
What about your craft has given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment?
NL: I love being creative and I've always had a knack for turning something from nothing. In addition to that, I love making people smile, so bringing that joy to folks via my creativity is amazing!
Talk about your upcoming event, Beats 'n' Baskets and what guest can expect?
NL: Beats 'n' Baskets is a summer wine festival presented by events by Neakai and Think Big Think You! taking place August 13, 2016 in the North Fork of Long Island. Guests can expect a fun afternoon of wine tastings, tours, local artisans and gourmet food vendors selling amazing items, live music, entertainment and just camaraderie with other Tri-State area urban professionals. We realized that not only was the North Fork wine country relatively unknown to many folks, there also isn't a lot, if any, wine festivals geared toward the urban professional in NY, NJ and CT and we wanted to change that. I know that my friends love to visit vineyards, sample new wines, dance and picnic, so it was a no brainier to bring that experience to a larger audience.
What do you do for self-care?
NL: Unfortunately not enough, but I'm working on it! I've started drinking more water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated. I am also obsessed with organic Matcha green tea. I read a lot about the health benefits and was sold. Since moving to the West Coast part time, I've started hiking and riding my bike along the coast.
"You should never compromise yourself for anyone or anything. Always take the risk no matter what a naysayer says."
What are some of your go-to pieces that you always incorporate when planning an event and why?
NL: My go-to pieces when planning an event are votive/ tea light candles and custom made decals. You can never have enough candlelight in a room. I call it my "sexy starter kit" (laughs) because the light automatically makes a dark room look chic without needing much more. I use decals a lot at my events to add a personalized touch. Guests love walking into a room and seeing a wine glass, plate, etc. with their name on it, or a personalized message.
What is a message you'd like to share with women?
NL: As I've gotten older I've realized how precious life is and do not take any moment for granted. You should never compromise yourself for anyone or anything. Always take the risk no matter what a naysayer says. It sounds cliche, but always follow your heart in order to discover the path that was destined for you. You will have people along the way who will try to distract you from your goals to assist with their work or personal goals, so always put yourself and your needs first to make sure that your goals align with theirs.
Your career allows you to execute events across the U.S. What (and where) have some of your favorite eating experiences been?
NL: This is my favorite question! I'm a huge foodie, so I'm always scouting places to eat wherever I go and bookmarking them on Yelp. I would have to say that two of my favorite eating experiences have been in Italy and New Orleans. In Italy I found this amazing little mom-and-pop restaurant in an alleyway in Sorrento. The food was so amazing that we took a picture with the owner and his wife (the chef) and went back three additional times with other travelers. We even wrote a note, that they posted on their door, about how amazing the food was!
The food in New Orleans makes me smile. The chefs there are top-tier and I've had some amazing meals during my trips to The Big Easy. Not eating pork and visiting the South is tricky because most places will sneak it in and not tell you that it's an ingredient. However, there are some pork-free dishes, like the charbroiled oysters with bayou butter from Acme that I crave! I also have a big sweet tooth, so you can always send me in the direction of dessert and I go running. I love beignets and Cafe Du Monde does it best!