In NewsWhistle’s weekly question-and-answer series, Clara Morgan speaks with some of her favorite influencers in and around New York and finds out more about their lives and careers. This week, Clara speaks with stylish philanthropist and newlywed Ashley Taylor Arguello.
Ashley, who recently wed fellow philanthropist and Education Model Towns founder Ernesto Arguello, just returned from her 6-week worldwide honeymoon. That’s a one-month overseas trip with stops in Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, followed by a two-week California “buddymoon” to ski and enjoy Napa Valley with friends.
When the two philanthropists married this past October 2016, they made the decision to only accept cash donations for their wedding registry and donate it all to charity. Said Ashley: “We feel the best gift was finding each other! So, we decided to express our gratitude to God by asking our guests to not give us gifts but to make donations to build an educational training center for underprivileged children.” Ernesto’s Education Model Towns builds entire communities and education centers from the ground up in the most impoverished areas in Latin America, offering locals a home and a safe community.
The couple’s 400-people wedding party at the iconic Plaza Hotel was a celebration of their whirlwind romance, featuring aerialists, gogo dancers, mariachi, samba dancers, beat boxers, cocktail coquettes, and guests from all over the world. Beyoncé’s sought-after florist, Dieter van Beneden for Vert-de-Gris, had custom made the decorations, and the cake was provided by no other than celebrity cake-maker Sylvia Weinstock. Even the wedding invite was very unique: a briefcase with a video screen inside, which played the couple’s wedding invitation video when the briefcase was opened.
Image Courtesy of Oscar Castro
1. When and how did you first realize that you wanted to work in the industry and business you are in?
My whole life I have had a passion for helping and inspiring others. Starting as a little girl playing basketball I saw how much influence one could have on the younger generation and felt a responsibility to be a leader. I was also involved in many charities starting from a young age. As I matured, my passion to give back deepened, my involvement became greater, and I met my soul mate who happens to share the same passion as myself. Ernesto and his brother created Education Model Towns as a means to end global poverty. Education Model Towns provides affordable housing and a safe community environment for its residents with access to education, security, after school programs and sports, clean water, nutrition, and several other benefits. We live to help and inspire others.
2. Any celebrity clients or memorable stories related to your business that you want to share?
We have had great success with Snap2Live. We created Snap2Live as a campaign in partnership with the United Nations to spread awareness on the #1 killer of youth in the world: road collisions. Many celebrities have helped spread awareness, such as Ian Somerhalder, Amaury Nolasco, Connie Nielson, Tim Lopez, Adrian Bellani, Emanuelle Chriqui, etc.
3. What is a typical day like for you? And what do you like to do on a day off?
Actually this is a funny question for me because my typical days and my days off are very similar. I am super blessed to have a husband like Ernesto who gives me the platform to live a very comfortable life and do all of my work and outreach from home or all over the world. My phone is my everything so as long as I can use my phone and occasionally my laptop, I am all set. It’s amazing how we are all connected now by the internet no matter where we are in the world. Ernesto is the same, although he often has to fly all over the world for work trips. Most of the time I can join him, which I love to!
Also, working out is key for us. It keeps us both calm and energized. Ernesto and I try to work out every day no matter where we are in the world.
Photo Courtesy of Andre Gabb
4. What is the next big thing in your industry? What are people doing differently today, compared to 10-15 years ago?
Social media has become a catalyst for philanthropy because it helps to generate awareness. Narrowing the gap between donation and execution is the next big thing and having different metrics to show the impact and good use of the funds.
5. What are your three favorite restaurants in New York?
We love Tao Downtown, the Polo Bar, and Le Bilboquet. Also, we love sushi, and the tuna two way that is served downstairs at Todd English in the Plaza Hotel is a must.
6. What are your three favorite bars in New York?
Jimmy at the James Hotel rooftop
7. What are your three favorite locations to visit in New York?
The Plaza Hotel and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are both extremely special to us, as Ernesto and I just got married there. Ernie is a founding member of the Soho House in Miami and is a member of all the houses, so we feel particularly at home at the Soho House in New York.
Photo Courtesy of Fabián Álvarez
8. Which events on your annual calendar will you will absolutely not miss?
Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas Eve with Ernesto’s family take priority over our calendar. Family is our priority. Our schedule changes daily but these two holidays we have nailed down in the books no matter what. It’s a guarantee that we get to see all of our immediate family, which is a beautiful tradition that we have been following since we started dating.
9. What was your best New York moment? Your worst?
Getting married in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I have had several best New York moments but nothing trumps the moment I married my best friend inside this iconic New York cathedral.
My worst New York moment was visiting the DMV four times in a row after waiting practically the entire day in line only to be told I didn’t have the proper documentation. And then the receptionist laughing at me as I walked away. (I went to the DMV in Naples, Florida and got my license within 8 minutes…)
10. Tell us something that people do not know about you. (And you cannot say it is a secret!)
I love to study human rights and civil rights. These classes were always my favorite in school. I took several classes that specialized in these topics. I have such a strong opinion when it comes to this. Actually, it blows my mind that we still struggle with these issues today. One thing that people don’t know about Ernesto is that his nickname in our family is “Peter Pan.” He is truly a little boy stuck in man’s body. It’s the most beautiful gift because he views the world with such light and optimism.
11. How would you describe your personal style?
I would say my style is very versatile and unique. I don’t like to wear the same things as everyone else. I don’t generally follow the latest fashion trends. I prefer to dress pretty casual but love to get dolled up! I also love to buy artifacts and pieces from all over the world to wear. This assures the originality in my closet.
Photo Courtesy of Fabián Álvarez
12. Who is your style icon? Where do you find your style inspiration?
I don’t have one particular style icon. I pick and choose what I like from different places and cultures. Sometimes I am inspired by someone I just walk by on the street. I like to find my style inspiration all over the world. I collect pieces and ideas from different locations.
13. Who is your favorite fashion designer, artist or architect – and why?
Ralph Lauren is a timeless and elegant designer.
As for architect I would have to choose my husband Ernesto. I have seen his work implemented in many different ways and situations. He works in very low end real estate with Education Model Towns by designing and then building entire cities. He also does high end real estate for friends and family exclusively. Even with our wedding he was instrumental with the design. I look forward to designing our home together.
14. Name your favorite… and tell us why:
Jeans, t-shirt, sneaker heels, blazer.
I love to dress up but I prefer a casual chic look on the day to day. Comfort is cool and less is more. Also, I never know what Ernie has in store for me so it’s best to be dressed to travel and ready to go. Nothing like a call from your husband asking you if you can leave in 15 minutes to catch a flight to Panama. I think we can all assume from this that Ernesto dresses in a very similar manner, casual chic. He also doesn’t wear anything but sneakers, including on our wedding day (which was black tie). He is a firm believer in enjoying life to the fullest and that includes being comfortable.
Escada Magnetism. I like to be unique. This perfume has been discontinued for a while now so I have to make a serious effort to find it…so worth it!!!
Ernesto wears Chanel Bleu. It smells so amazing on him! You know how smells can take you back to specific moments? Every time he sprays it I feel like we’re just starting to date again! It brings me right back to the beginning. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
I love all of the themes that come together in the movie. It’s the important messages behind the film that I love the most (political, social, religion, love, race, etc.).
d. TV show.
When Ernie and I are home we watch shows together before bed. Ernie’s favorite is House Of Cards or Game of Thrones and mine are Scandal and Revenge. Luckily we usually are easily able to choose a show to watch together!
Life Is Good: The Book by Bert and John Jacobs.
Actually, the founder of Life is Good is one of our best friends. Just like Ernesto and his brother, Bert and his brother are partners and inspire and empower so many people. We love their work and what they stand for.
Photo Courtesy of Patrice Casanova
15. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What is it you love about it and what is your favorite dish?
Bo Innovation. Ernesto took me on a date there while we were in Hong Kong. This is by far one of the coolest gastronomic experiences we have ever had together.
16. Name your favorite vacation spot and hotel? What makes these places so special?
One of my favorite vacay spots is Cartagena, Colombia. My favorite hotel is Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. Actually, there is a funny story about Cartagena: Ernesto and I were originally planning our wedding there. We had to cancel due to the Zika Virus, although it’s still one of my favorite places in the world. It is a little Spanish colonial city in Colombia filled with so much culture and vibrancy. It is really special to Ernie and me because we got engaged there while his college roommate was the mayor, and Ernie gave me an engagement from a fairytale. He closed streets down for us to take the horse and carriages down, he arranged special permits to have fireworks and special permits to go on the rooftop of the cathedral. It was more than I could have ever dreamed of.
17. Which three items can you not live without?
No description needed…
18. What song, meditation or mantra can you listen to on repeat? And why?
“Where is the Love” the Black Eyed Peas.
Seriously, this song is just perfect. For some reason it sounds even better when I’m listening to it in a Soul Cycle class!
Photo Courtesy of Fabián Álvarez
19. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like to meet? And why?
Pope Francis because he is bringing together all of humanity. He is doing a great job in stretching the gap between cultures, religions, races, genders and is eliminating any and all discriminations and is leading the way in equal rights and civil rights.
20. Is there anything else you would like to share, discuss or promote?
This video about Education Model Towns shows the important work that the organization does: https://vimeo.com/61691328
Lead-In Image Courtesy of Oscar Castro