Bowdoin Magazine

Benjamin-Émile Le Hay ’08: Joie de Vivre

Benjamin-Émile Le Hay ’08

Photo: Jack Montgomery

After working in high-end public relations and covering style for The New York Observer, Benjamin-Émile Le Hay ’08 recently relocated from New York City to Maine as he launches his own PR consultancy firm.

My favorite job of all time is a no brainer: I was thrilled to serve the country of France as PR manager and press attaché of tourism and culture for the US market under former minister Laurent Fabius. At Bowdoin, I had always dreamed of becoming an ambassador so, to be on the French foreign ministry’s communications and marketing teams, working with elected officials and diplomats as well as everyday artisans, historians, and citizens was a great honor on behalf of my family, which is part Parisian. I traveled all over the US and France, and elsewhere overseas, to promote and highlight France as the greatest gastronomic, hospitality, entertainment, leisure, and cultural destination on earth. The most wonderful aspect was leading press trips to and around France’s world-class restaurants, museums, historical landmarks, venues, and hotels.

I’ve been fortunate to have many “Wow” moments—to the point one might call me jaded. My junior year at Bowdoin, I studied abroad with Brown in Bologna, and my first fashion experiences were interviewing Donatella Versace backstage at her men’s show and covering Jessica Biel at Chanel’s prêt-à-port show. Since then, my beat has usually been to cover fashion, luxury travel, society and celebrity, which means I’ve seen quite a lot of lavish, star-studded parties. The Tony Awards, big glitzy movie premieres, and Oscar luncheons are my favorites. Other “Wow” moments are when I’ve enjoyed intimate interactions with people I admire: Sheepishly dancing with Madonna and Brahim Zaibat at the after party for her documentary premiere; having lunch with Lupita Nyong’o, Nile Rodgers, Gloria Steinem, and Emma Thompson on separate occasions; or great interviews with Rita Moreno, Salma Hayek Pinault, Clint Eastwood, Carol Channing, Joan Rivers and Liza Minnelli.

You’ll laugh but, when I interviewed Angela Lansbury, who was receiving an award from the American Theatre Wing at its gala, I was beside myself! I told her I was from Maine, a huge Sweeney Todd and Murder She Wrote fan, then and she embraced me with a look of confusion and genuine appreciation. In terms of PR work, I had an eventful night being the handler for Boy George, who [my firm] hired to perform at the opening of the SLS Brickell in Miami. Lastly, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 premiere was the most insane, large scale, celebrity movie premiere I have ever seen. Diana Ross and I were next to each other waiting for cars. You don’t talk to Ms. Ross, you just stay very still and act like nothing is happening!

I  must say, Anne Riley ’08 letting me contribute to the Orient was great. Same for Dana Borowitz Spector ’08 at BCN. The most impactful experiences that still influence me today stem from my decision to major in Romance Languages, in particular to study Italian with Professor Arielle Saiber. Also, Professor Tom Conlan, a formidable professor with high standards on papers. In fact, writing lengthy papers, and a thesis in French and Italian, really improved my English writing and vocabulary. Bowdoin can put you in your place academically, which media will do about every ten seconds.

I use French and Italian personally and professionally nearly every day. I even find myself using the Japanese that I learned. I do wish that I had picked up Mandarin.

My dream job is to be a parent. It looks life-changing, costly, exhausting, yet rewarding—just like every other job I’ve had!

Bowdoin students interested in media, communications, and marketing must reach out to their networks aggressively. I didn’t feel very supported in my career path, except by my wonderful moms. In my experience, editorial and public relations are atypical for Bowdoin, yet some of my biggest support still comes from Bowdoin friends who work in the same worlds. I certainly learn plenty from my classmate friends who work in pharmaceuticals, government, financial consulting, and tech. We try to share ideas and support each other. I always look to hire Bowdoin interns first and they’ve all been marvelous. I would also advise not to simply follow the current. Learn new skills, go new places, dress up more often, and most pertinent today, engage with your local and international communities, religiously!

After nearly ten thrilling and chaotic years in New York City, I wanted a change in lifestyle and greater flexibility so, I have relocated my primary residence back to Maine to launch my own consultancy, Andreasen Le Hay LLC. I am expanding outside traditional content creation and public relations by also offering my clients and partners premium events marketing and experiential sales expertise. For example, a relatively new venture I’m working on with a friend’s brand, Baked at Home, focuses on promoting and selling her line of health-conscious and wellness-focused, hemp consumer products. Cannabis has the power to revolutionize wellness in America and Maine has the opportunity to be a big player and winner in that sector. The industry is of the most diverse and inclusive that I have been fortunate to explore and it is, of course, being led by dynamic, fabulous women. I’m all about that.

 

An abbreviated version of this profile first appeared in Bowdoin Magazine, spring/summer 2018.

thumb:Benjamin-Émile Le Hay ’08