For most of us, “Millionaire Matchmaker” is a guilty indulgence. But for professional matchmaker Amy Laurent, it’s a real-life, full-time job. Since setting up her own matchmaking agency six years ago, called Amy Laurent International, the bubbly 33-year-old has established five offices across the country where male clients dish the big bucks ($10,000 to be exact) to be matched with one of Laurent’s hand-picked ladies. We sat down with Laurent in her Madison Avenue office to find out what it’s like playing cupid for a living.
How did you get involved in matchmaking?
It stemmed from my own experience using matchmaking services. In my mid-20s, I relocated to Los Angeles for a job and it was very hard to meet people. I discovered these matchmaking companies, and I thought they were going to be really efficient and cut through all the work so I don’t have to go to bars and clubs. But they were so disappointing. They seemed very outdated, inefficient, and they didn’t seem to understand what women wanted. It kind of stuck with me for a few years, and at that point I wasn’t really following my passion at my job. I thought—you know what? I would be so good at running a matchmaking agency, and I just went for it. I started up by matching people for free.
How did you want your own agency to be different?
We know the stigma that comes with this old-school idea of matchmaking—that these are wealthy old men who can’t get a date. As a women-run agency, we really set out to be female-friendly, and in tune with what the busy professional wants. We started our fees at a very reasonable rate to bring in eligible, good-looking men who never in a million years would have thought they would hire a matchmaker. We say listen—you are so busy, you work 12 hours a day, and we can do the job for you. We can understand what you want, we can network with the best girls, and put in front of you the type of women you would really be interested in having a serious relationship with.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the matchmaking industry?
The biggest misconception is that the women using matchmaking services are just looking for a rich guy. I can tell you right now that if all they needed was a rich guy, 80 percent of my female clients would already be married. They’re really picky—and they have a right to be picky, because they’re bringing so much to the table. They’re well-rounded and successful. These women are not desperate.
And yet they have to submit photos of themselves to apply to the agency, while the men don’t.
Well, you know, essentially men are paying to see photos. But it’s not all about looks. The men are looking for the total package. I can show clients a beautiful girl and they read her background information and interview answers, and they say, ‘Nice girl, but there’s not enough depth.’ There’s got to be something in their personality—a certain spark, a certain energy.
Are there any no-nos that will get a woman instantly rejected from your club?
We weed out the women who are flaky or not focused on dating. Even though I use my best intuition, every now and then the women can be very difficult. On the other hand, the men sign five-page contracts, so they pretty much are here for a purpose. They’re not here to screw around.
Is it hard turning women down?
We receive a lot of applications online, and I probably throw away at least half of them because they just don’t fit. I mean, if I’m going to work for free [Laurent doesn’t charge her female clients], why would I take a girl that I can’t match? I don’t want to waste their time, and I certainly don’t want to waste my own time. That being said, I’m also not here to hurt anybody’s feelings. I tend to use the approach of, “It’s not you, it’s us.”
What do you look for in the guys?
When we sit down with the man in person, we’re thinking, as a woman, is this guy charming? Is he likable? Something’s got to be there. You’ve got to bring something to the table. We do have a percentage of clients who we call “the lookers,” who look like Ben Affleck. But for some guys, it’s just their confidence. Or if somebody has a good heart and good intentions, I can work with that too. Once that’s settled, we have to figure out what he wants us to do for him—because every now and then the guy’s gonna be 50 years old but says he won’t date anybody over 32. And you know, we’re not that agency. This isn’t Sugardaddy.com
What’s your average day like?
I wake up around 5:30 a.m., and start clicking through emails, responding to what people need, and figuring what searches do we have to do. I get matches together, run profiles by the men, then tell the women about the men in order to get date approval. Also, every girl, whether she’s submitted an online application or not, I meet in person. So we have back-to-back interviews with people we feel could be a potential fit with the agency. On top of that, I’m always there for advice when my clients need it. Every now and then there is a little bit of drama, like if somebody’s being really flaking and inconsiderate.
Because you’re so involved in your clients’ lives, is it hard to turn that off after work?
I’d say no, but my friends and family would probably disagree with me. I’m available 24/7 to my clients, who can always reach me on my BlackBerry or call me. But I think with any entrepreneur, especially when you are passionate about your business and care about it so much, it’s very typical for it to consume you and have it be your whole life.
How does it affect your own dating life?
So what makes someone a good matchmaker?
You have to know how to listen, but to also use your intuition. Sometimes people are saying one thing, but they’re really telling you something different. It’s a lot of understanding how to deal with people, especially if a woman gets very emotional. Also, compassion, understanding, and having the passion to make the connection happen. Of course, at the end of the day, this is a business, but if that is your only focus in running a matchmaking agency, then to me there’s no point in doing it.
Are you ever attracted to your male clients?
I’m a human being, so yes. There are men who come in here for interviews and my face starts turning red and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I hope they don’t notice I’m sweating right now.” But a beat after that, I’m back to business. That being said, yes, I do get hives sometimes.
You’ve had 27 weddings in the past three-and-a-half years. How does that feel?
When somebody gets engaged, or when I get notes saying, “Amy, I just want to let you know, I never thought I was going to fall in love,” it’s like good karma, and it makes me feel fuzzy all over. It’s the biggest high you could ever get.
What are some of the big things you think single women do wrong on the quest for love?
Try not to talk too much about yourself and put all your cards on the table at once, even if you feel comfortable. Sometimes a date can put you so at ease that you don’t realize until afterward, “Oh my God, I just told this guy my whole life story.” Even if someone starts asking you questions about your exes, there’s always a way to politely maneuver around the question so you’re always responsible for a date going a certain way. Don’t harp on things like, “I see my therapist every Saturday.” Get to know each other and enjoy the process. Don’t skip steps. Keep your dates short, sweet, and simple, and them wanting more.
When do you think it’s OK for new couples to have sex?
In the beginning, both people could be casually seeing others. But I think around the fourth or fifth date, you do start to get to that point where you can tell who you’re clicking with. But if you really like someone, don’t have sex with them. For a healthy foundation of a relationship, you can’t skip the stages, no matter how excited you are. Whether it’s revealing too much about yourself or sleeping with someone, it’s the same thing.