As Sharnaee Newson worked on her career, traveling the world to teach and style hair (including several years on tour with pop star Ciara), she had no idea she was on the path to becoming the modern equivalent of a matchmaker: a speed-dating host.
But several years ago, Newsom got together with some close friends who shared her birth month, July, and they threw themselves a party. It turned out to be a wild success, and soon they were planning parties for other people.
Before they knew it, Newsom and her friends, Chara Walker, Charisse Parker and Candice Taylor (who asked that we not use her real name), had started a full-fledged event planning company called the Sassy Socialites. They soon added a fifth woman, Janine Gray, and have been working together for the past three years. Each woman is juggling the Detroit-based business as a side project to her personal career.
One of the popular events the Sassy Socialites plan and host is a speed dating night. Men and women get together at a bar to meet people in a series of "dates" that last less than five minutes. Everyone writes down the name of someone they liked, and at the end of the night participants are told if they have any matches. It's the Socialites' jobs to loosen everyone up with prizes, icebreakers and the occasional tequila shot.
After throwing so many speed dating events, Newsom has a unique view of romance in Detroit.
HuffPost spoke with her to find out what's so great about having 30 dates in on night and whether the Detroit singles scene is really as bad as they say.
Why do people speed date? Why should they, if they're skeptical?
A lot of people think because it's speed dating it's really uptight. But once they get there, and they're doing things, they're like, "Oh, I really enjoyed myself."
People always say the dating scene, the bar scene, is boring. Normally when you go to a party in Detroit guys are just standing there and girls are prancing around, they're not talking to each other. We decided we wanted to do something a little different.
What's most challenging is trying to get enough men -- and getting men to realize we aren't trying to marry them off. We try to keep it kind of light -- if it happens, great, but if not, no big deal.
How does it work, and what's different about Sassy Socialite speed dating?
We give them three minutes [to talk]. We realize when you meet someone, usually it's physical. If you meet someone at the mall ... you usually get about three minutes anyways.
Normally men rotate [between dates], but we allow the men to sit still and women to rotate. We realized women like to strut, show their curves, show their outfits.
We throw questions in, ice breakers, we have sponsors that give gifts, we make them dance, we give them topics and make them give each other compliments. So each round we throw in something a little bit different, and by the end of the day they're laughing and having fun.
We don't put any real restrictions on conversation, the only thing we ask people to do is be very respectful. We don't want anybody being downright gross or ignorant.
Have you had any success stories?
One of my [haircutting] clients, she's great. She met a guy at one of the speed dating games we had in 2010. They've been dating ever since and they're pretty serious.
What do you think of the Detroit dating scene?
It's hard. That's the best way I can describe it, just seeing what I see. I don't think the club is someplace to find [love] but there's not that many [places] out there. Not so many people are going to business meetings or the grocery store and meeting people like they did back in the day. So you have to force people to get out there.
Is dating worse for men or women in Detroit?
Definitely women. Being a hairstylist, I deal with women all day, and doing promoting I deal with men. I hear things clients tell me and then I'm able to witness some of the things when I'm out.
Typically the men are looking for someone for that night. The guys here, they're nice, but I think the women have put themselves out there so much that some of the men don't know how to date and be respectful.
I think a lot of times, the behavior, we bring upon ourselves. Usually with a man you know exactly where he stands. Sometimes he'll lie just to get what he's looking for, but the majority of the time men know what they want and they'll tell you. But women think, "Oh I'll change him."
What advice would you give to men and women trying to date in Detroit?
My number one dating advice would be -- on either end, men or women -- understand your own worth. If you don't make a person realize what your worth is, they won't respect you.
Where do you personally tend to meet people?
I'm always meeting people outside, like a gas station or a store, when I'm just walking somewhere. I'm actually pretty good at being single. I'm happily single at this point. I mean, I'm dating -- don't get me wrong.
If you were looking for a date, would you go to speed-dating event?
I think I would try it, just to see what the fuss is about. I don't think I would do it by myself, I would make my girls play with me. It would be fun if I went to one hosted by someone like our group.
What would be your perfect Detroit date?
What about a good bar for meeting someone?
Cigar Bar. Even going to some of the bars in the hotels, the restaurants. You can just sit and meet someone there of substance.
Is it strange to do speed dating right before Valentine's Day?
It's just fun, no pressure. Who knows? They might find a date and go out on Tuesday.
The Sassy Socialites' Valentine's Day special speed dating night "I Need Back Up!" is at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10 at Ambiance Ultra Lounge, 211 W. Congress, Detroit. For more information about registering, see the Facebook event page.
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