Wednesday, June 07, 2006
When bigger is not always better
In Monaco during the Grand Prix you learn one thing: there's being rich and then there's being RICH. Here, it's a whole other playing field where everything from cars, yachts and diamonds are bigger and -- some would argue -- better. This month, the Art of Life team flew to Monte Carlo to not necessarily cover the race itself, rather we were there to experience what goes on around the event. Everything from parties on yachts to black tie affairs.

Life in Monaco ceases to be normal when Formula One rolls into town. But normality to me is probably very different to what is considered normal to others. To those who
frequent Monaco for the Formula One race, what is considered normal are sights of Lamborghinis and Ferrari Enzos making their way through the tiny streets, and massive yachts docked right next to each other where your neighbor is Flavio Briatore or Philip Green, or even Roman Abramovich. Such is life on this seaside town.

Our first port of call was the Steinmetz yacht where we met with CEO Nir Livnat. Docked in a prime viewing spot for the race and the revelers (one would have to pay around $100,000 for the privilege to dock there), we talked about how the Grand Prix is a lucrative time for the diamond company, so much so that Steinmetz, in pa
rtnership with Sotheby's, showcased their glittering goods on the yacht for their valued clients. Surrounded by suited security guards, some of the world's most expensive diamonds are on display in a private cabin.

I not only held a rare pink diamond worth around $10 million, I also saw up close what a 108-carat diamond looks like. By the way, it is also worth around $10 million. Thing is, and if I'm honest about it all, the bigger the diamond doesn't necessarily mean the better. There is the ris
k (in my view) of it looking either fake or just plain gaudy. I understand that for some people it's a status symbol, but seriously, I know I wouldn't want to walk around with a 108-carat diamond around my neck. Not only would I be afraid of it being stolen (hence the need for a bodyguard to guard not me but the stone), but also I'm betting that only a trained eye would be able to see that it's actually the real thing. But again, that brings me back to what I was saying earlier about what I think is normal and what those that exist in the world of uber-riche think is normal. The pink diamond, now that's more my style. Anyone have $10 million lying around they can spot me?

All of that said, there were some pretty stunning pieces on board the yacht and while they wouldn't tell me how much it was all worth, for security reasons, the guards watching us like hawks gave us a good indication that this was not your average showroom. Steinmetz admits that not only is the Monaco Grand Prix good business for them and Sotheby's Diamonds, its collaboration with Formula One's McLaren Mercedes team gives all the players involved a different kind of edge for being associat
ed with each other. After all, it was only McLaren Mercedes drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya that had their steering wheels emblazoned with diamonds. How very Monaco!

Also very Monaco: the parties. Right next to us on the Steinmetz yacht was Team Renault boss and ex-boyfriend of a few supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum) Flavio Briatore's big boat Force Blue. There was a lot of activity on the yacht in preparation for a party he was throwing for Formula One head honcho Bernie Ecclestone's wife. It was her birthday party. Rumor has it anyone who was anyone in Monaco during the Grand Prix was at that soiree. (Well apparently not everyone as Art of Life wasn't invited.)

We were, however, invited to the Dolce Vita Ball (that's me and Art of Life Associate Producer Dayna beforehand) -- a black-tie fundraising event in which celebs like Boris Becker and Petra Nemcova attended (apparently Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth stopped by around 1:30 a.m. but by then we were already at the after-party hosted by London's The Cuckoo Club). The highlight though, was getting to see former Fugee Wyclef Jean perform. He was there to raise money for his organization Yele Haiti whose goal is to bring about change and growth to the impoverished children of his native country. He told us that the Monaco Grand Prix was an ideal time to raise awareness and money for any charity or issue simply because of the celebrity association and also the fact that some of the wealthiest people in the world are there. Well it seemed to have paid off as in the end about $1 million was raised for Yele Haiti. But perhaps the icing on the cake was the surprise visit by U2 front man Bono who dropped by to perform a duet with Wyclef. Not too shabby if you were paying the $10,000 package that included tickets to the ball!

I got back to the hotel at around 3:30 a.m. and found that the after-after party at the famous Jimmy's club right next door was still pumping. Not only was there bumper-to-bumper traffic of Ferraris and Porsches waiting to get closer, there were throngs of hopefuls waiting outside. It may sound snobby of me to say but I refuse to wait in line to get into some club just so that I may possibly catch a glimpse of some celebrity. Not my scene.

So, did I have fun in Monaco during the Grand Prix? Yes. Was it an eye opener on how the less-than-one-percent of the world's population live? Oh yes. Have I become a Formula One fan? Despite the noise, absolutely. Was I gob smacked at the sights of helicopters taking off from massive yachts? God yes. Could I see myself in that parallel universe hobnobbing with rich and famous till the wee hours of the morning? Hmmm...I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Posted By Leetlegirl: Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Visiting Monaco certianly puts things into a whole new perspective, a better perspective? Perhaps not. I never visited Monaco during the F1 and I can only imagine the excessive flash and how mindblowing it must be.
On a unrelated note, Art of Life is great and you look great doing it. I'll be sure to keep an eye on the blog too.
Posted By Anonymous Alexander, Stavanger Norway : 9:33 PM, June 10, 2006
Monita, you did very well portraying the good life of Monaco. However, you did not say anything about the monarchy! I guess they don't live like African kings, no offence intended.
Your green dress? Fantastic.
Posted By Anonymous S GARBA, LONDON, UK : 12:06 AM, June 25, 2006
A good read. I've been in Monaco on two occasions, however, not during the annual weekend race. Seems like you were dazzled by the glam and shine of Monaco at its brightest, and are even developing an interest in Forumla One. I think you'd fit right in with the rich and fortunate. The necklace looked beautiful on you. I will continue watching Art of Life, and wish you all the best, Monita.
Posted By Anonymous Erik, Oslo, Norway : 11:58 PM, June 27, 2006
Hi there Monita! This is Ling from Malaysia, i was just surfing for some programme to check out when i came upon ur blog, neat! well yeah, Monaco is the race to look forward to, its the glitz really...and I saw the extravagant Steinmetz launch of ice car with Kimi Raikkonen seated inside of it!~ anyway, i better move on to check out who's on Talk Asia this week,cheers.
Posted By Anonymous Ling, KL, Malaysia : 7:59 PM, June 29, 2006
Hi Ma'am ,
A gr8 show and an even better blog !!!
keep it going !!!
Posted By Anonymous Gurpreet Singh, Chandigarh, India : 8:23 PM, July 02, 2006
Hi Monita,

i think i had a good time myself byt your detailed portraiture of Monaco. Keep up the goodwork. Les of The Philippines
Posted By Anonymous Les || Cebu, Philippines : 7:37 AM, July 03, 2006
I just watched today's art of life. The issues were very interesting, also the pictures you showed in combination with the subjects discussed, they all made my mind travel.
Congratulations from Athens, Greece
Posted By Anonymous Yanna : 10:40 AM, July 03, 2006
Hello Monita, i watched your programme Art Of Life with keen interest and admire your style of presentation. This also goes for your news presentations. I am a strong fan of yours.
Posted By Anonymous Opiribo West : 10:41 AM, July 03, 2006
F1 is the best sport from every angle. Although a round of golf every now and then is great.
Thankyou for the distinctive journalism, really.
Posted By Anonymous Samuel Dandashli : 10:48 AM, July 03, 2006
Why can't I watch this show in the United States? I saw it overseas and loved it. What do I do?
Posted By Anonymous M.D. Monterey,CA : 12:28 AM, July 04, 2006

Really terrific programme. Interesting locations and interesting guests matched only by the equally interesting twist in respect of the programme's approach to the luxury lifestyle and all that goes with it.

Without wishing in any way to be either forward or impertinent, I have to ask - did Mr Livnat invite you for a cocktail because he clearly wanted to do so !!

Finally for the time being, how about bringing the programme to Scotland. Our golf, food, cities and hotels are all worthy of a visit. Gleneagles, Turnberry and Skibo Castle to name but a few.

Keep up the great work.

All the best

Posted By Anonymous Brian B MacBride, East Kilbride, Scotland : 7:29 PM, July 04, 2006
Wonderful, Monita. Felt like I was there with you.
Posted By Anonymous JydaGirl,lagos,nigeria : 12:40 PM, September 22, 2006
Monita, I am a great fan of yours and I always sit tight to wacth your program on CNN. You have a great combination of brains and beauty. Keep it up.
Posted By Anonymous AJAO OLUFEMI,LAGOS NIGERIA. : 6:07 PM, September 23, 2006
Hello, I just wanted to say that your program that looked at Technogym was great. I use Technogym equipment at the local gym but i didn't realise it brought an immense force of innovation to the leisure industry. The program gave me an impressive insight and inspired me to start leading a healthy lifestyle. Many thanks, Monita.
Posted By Anonymous Ray England : 11:09 PM, November 27, 2006
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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