Women Now

The craziest things she’s seen, from the woman who throws the biggest F1 party

Rubbing shoulders with Cristiano Ronaldo, champagne showers with Formula 1 racers – can we please have Sonia Irvine’s job? We chat with the founder of Amber Lounge, that most iconic and indulgent of after-parties at the F1 circuit

All images: Amber Lounge

The downside of Sonia Irvine’s job: She gets very little sleep.

The upsides: She’s paid to party and drink with Formula One hotties Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton.

You know what? We can probably live with that.

Long story short: The Irish party planner started Amber Lounge at the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix. She conceived it as the ultimate F1 after-party spot: An exclusive VIP bash with a glittering guest list of the famous and the beautiful – celebs, royalty, F1 sponsors, and of course, the racers themselves. (Fun fact: Sonia’s brother is former F1 driver Eddie Irvine.)

Today, Amber Lounge has travelled around the world, making pit stops in Shanghai, Valencia, New Delhi, Barcelona, and of course, Singapore.  

What goes on when the lights go off and the corks start popping? We chat with Sonia on the highs and lows of the job.

The furthest I've gone to throw a great bash...

Not sleeping for hours, sometimes even days. Before each event, I go into every detail to make sure everything is perfect. I want every Amber Lounge to be unforgettable for our guests and sponsors. By the end of the weekend I’m “destroyed” as I’ve given my all!

The secret to throwing a really memorable event is... 

Adding unforgettable moments. The adrenaline, excitement and glamour of Amber Lounge is unique in the party world and the F1 industry. For instance, at this year’s Amber Lounge in Singapore, we’ll see F1 drivers walk the runway alongside models. We’ll also be launching a new concept in Asia called Extravaganza, which encompasses 20 performances throughout the night with live musical entertainment courtesy of international DJs and dancers.

One person who really knows how to party is... 

It’s hard to name just one! From the likes of Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Taio Cruz, Jason Derulo, Cristiano Ronaldo and John Newman, we have had the who’s who partying until the break of dawn at Amber Lounge. F1 drivers are also known to stay up all night long and dance until the early morning. My brother Eddie is one for sure.

The craziest things I've seen in this job

F1 drivers dancing all together on stage, jumping around the DJ, taking the mic and singing with our headline singer, obviously many champagne showers…I could tell you a million stories but I can’t reveal any names for privacy reasons!

The strangest request I've ever received from a famous guest is ....

Someone who wanted jelly babies on his table.

When the party ends, that's when I... 

Debrief the team so we can evaluate any issues and how to solve them in order to create another amazing party the following evening.

To be a professional party planner, you must have…

Organisational and multi-tasking skills. You need to keep a cool head and make decisions at stressful times. You have to be discreet, diplomatic and understanding – you’re throwing a party for others and not yourself. And finally, you must be able to work long hours without losing focus and drive. [During the Amber Lounge weekend], everyone is flat out with little sleep. For example, the public relations team wakes up early, is busy with meetings, comes on-site early to welcome photography and videography teams, hosts during the night, and when the party is over, they send out photos and press releases.

Being a woman in the nightlife industry is... 

Not as hard as you would think! [We] bring something new, and a different point of view. My team is mostly women because I know they are focused, can multitask and will do anything to achieve their goals.

One of the hazards of the job... 

Dealing with the unexpected. You may finish work at 9am, thinking you can get at least two hours of shut-eye when, all of a sudden, a meeting comes up. You then have to start a “new day” without any sleep, all the while looking fresh and sharp.

My perfect birthday party…

I’d keep it simple with a nice dinner at my place with family and friends. Family is the most important thing in my life and I cherish every little moment with them.

Amber Lounge will host Formula One after-parties on Sept 17 and 18, 2016. Visit http://amber-lounge.com/index.php/tickets/ for more details.