Hosting tomorrow's gala is Mary West who is, among other roles, the host and producer of the WLAE program Real New Orleans, and the event is the debut for her local matchmaking business. She calls herself a "headhunter for the heart" and says she's filling a void in a city where many say it's hard to date.
"There are a lot of lonely people out there who are totally burned out with online dating ... I offer a personal alternative," she says. "It's a big complaint from single people (that it's hard to date in New Orleans). Everyone has that Mardi Gras, le se les bon temps roule mentality. But New Orleans, according to Travel + Leisure, is the number one city for singles. I'm here to show that Cupid lives in New Orleans."
She's had many jobs over the years, and has claimed titles including Miss Louisiana and Miss New Orleans. She also is the Guinness world-record holder for Largest Valentine because of the 23,383 square-foot poster she helped create in a gym in Tyler, Texas. But ever since she was a student at LSU, where she would set up Golden Girls with football players when she played in the marching band, she has always enjoyed matchmaking and has honed that skill in various roles over the years.
"I have a keen sense of knowing who goes with who," she says.
For her matchmaking service, men pay to be clients and women are free members. Women fill out a questionnaire and meet or talk with West over the phone, and then she works her magic. West says she won't accept everyone and isn't afraid to do a background check if a prospective dater seems suspicious.
"It’s a personal thing, a personal touch. It's not like picking a picture on Match.com," she says. "Some people aren’t even photogenic. You can’t go by a picture."
Among her many roles is that of life coach and image consultant (she holds a psychology degree from LSU), and she uses those services to make clients more marketable.
"A big reason men can’t find their ideal life partner is because of things about themselves they need to change that they don’t know about themselves because people won’t tell them," she says.
Tomorrow's gala is invitation-only, but West plans to host singles mixers in the future. In the meantime she'll be playing Cupid for her clients.
"There’s no perfect match, no Mr. Perfect — so get that fantasy out of your head," she says. "But there is someone perfect for you."