Party Queen, Behind the Scenes
Alum Highlights Black Chefs, Artists at NYC-Based Event Agency
By Karen Shih ’09
Photo by Rashida Zagon
As a young grad working for NBC in New York City, Amber Mayfield ’14 could have been dazzled by the entertainment industry parties she attended. But as she saw the same caterers, performers and marketing firms being hired again and again, she realized something was missing, and it wasn’t crab cake bites or bubbly.
“Most of these folks didn’t look like me,” says Mayfield. She decided to build her own event business—one that prioritized chefs of color and women-owned businesses and artists overlooked by traditional agencies.
She bootstrapped her first few dinner parties—including hosting one in a kitchen-less basement in Harlem—before launching To Be Hosted, a supper club and event planning company, in 2017. Today, she curates documentary premieres and holiday parties for the likes of supermodel Iman and Netflix, and has become a national entertaining expert, offering tips on “Good Morning America” and in Vogue. She was also named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” media list in 2022.
“I feel like they really outed me,” Mayfield says. “The number of people who said, ‘I didn’t know you were so young!’”
Her early success is thanks in part to the experiences she gained as an undergrad. She interned at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, where she assisted with weddings and conferences; she also planned Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s 40th anniversary celebration on campus and co-hosted a major public relations conference in Washington, D.C.
Mayfield poured all of that—along with a love of parties inherited from her mom—into To Be Hosted. Through word of mouth and long hours, she steadily gained clients until the pandemic hit. She pivoted to launching an annual magazine, While Entertaining, to continue to highlight Black food and beverage makers. She’s now on her fourth edition, and juggles that with events that are back in full swing, including 15 last year.
Now she’s expanding to additional cities, including D.C., where she can continue working with friends. Potential collaborators include fellow Terps Wendell Alston ’14, certified sommelier, and painter Lexis Jordan ’13. Her goal is to stay community-driven and -focused, she says, even as her circle expands.
“For me, it’s about creating social experiences that are incredibly equitable and feel welcoming to everybody,” Mayfield says.
Fete With Flair
Whether you’re hosting a Fourth of July barbecue or celebrating your new grad, Mayfield offers tips to make a splash at your summer gathering:
LEAN ON NOSTALGIA: Remember the thrill of the last day of school? Capture that with fun ice pops or other retro details. “Keep it whimsical before everyone gets all serious and asks you about what you’re going to do now that you’ve graduated.”
CHILL OUT: Everyone loves burgers and hot dogs, but grills add heat to already scorching summer days. Mayfield recommends putting frozen fruit in a cooler or pulling a salad out of the fridge, along with plenty of cold drinks, to keep guests comfortable.
CREATE CONNECTIONS: “Most people make introductions in a way that only tells them how they know you, the host,” she says. Focus on shared backgrounds or interests instead, so they can start a conversation—and you can slip away to keep the party going.
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