Desta Is The Saint of New York City Nightlife

Desta Is The Saint of New York City Nightlife
Image courtesy of KarlaOtto

A reminder that Ethiopian honey wine will always attract more than vinegar.

He goes by Desta – just Desta — and the simplicity of his name does little to distract from the aura that engulfs what he touches. The Ethiopian talent is the current Director of Cultural Engagement at New York City’s Neuehouse and internationally recognized Fotografiska Museum. His previous role — as the Director of Special Projects at NYC’s nightclub Boom Boom Room — granted him the skills and knowledge needed to run Chapel Bar, a new venture with CultureWorks.

Desta's frequent flyer trait began at a young age, "I moved to the U.S because my uncle became the ambassador to the U.S from Ethiopia. His wife is the only sister of my mom and growing up we were super close. So, when she moved, it just made sense for me to pack up and go to her, so we moved to Washington DC." His foundational, high school years being stalked by his needing to adjust to a very different environment and culture made for an interesting experience.

Deciding to forgo Graduate school, Desta got a gig with the Ritz Carlton’s communication department, where he stuffed envelopes, just happy to be in the room. Not long after, the company trusted him to start traveling as a sales and marketing representative. That experience led him to Tiffany’s, Cartier, and then as a fashion liaison for Canadian pop icon Celine Dion.

“[Celine is] one of the kindest people I’ve worked for – a true diva, but she's just one of us," Desta said. "She was never like a boss or a dictator. She was so cool, and that’s how I met a lot of people in the fashion industry. I met John Galliano, Roberto Cavalli, and all these big designers and I got a chance to travel the world.”

Photo courtesy of KarlaOtto

A short while later, he created The Dots Inc., his homegrown PR firm, and dove head first into the world of fashion. A few well-executed partnerships and an entry into the world of hospitality later, Desta was faced with his most comfortable role yet. And then, a longtime friend asked Desta to join the creative team at the Boom Boom Room as they were getting ready to launch.

"The African in me thought, 'Me? Work in a nightclub?'", Desta recalls. “I was saying ‘No’ to a lot of things, and my dear friend Liya Kebede reminded me that when you start saying yes, the Universe opens up to you. And I followed that. I took the job at Boom Boom, and the world opened its arms out to me – everything started to happen.”

Desta joining the team behind one of New York City’s most popular nightclubs proved to be mutually beneficial; the talent looked to his glamorous Rolodex to pull in large clients from the Met Gala to hosting the CDFA awards, the British Fashion Council, and a host of other parties.

“I made a difference and I didn't even know until it ended," he says.

Image courtesy of KarlaOtto

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many industries and the night owls were forced inside. The Boom Boom Room closed. And then his father, the last living general of King Haile Selassie, died, prompting a trip home to Ethiopia, where he witnessed the national burial held in his honor. Prioritizing his family and well-being, Desta stayed in Ethiopia with his mom for seven months, only returning to his adult world in NYC to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and pay taxes.

His return to the Big Apple brought even bigger opportunities than he left behind, his latest gig at New York City member’s only club Chapel Bar presented itself. “This job found me, and I decided to stay," Desta says. "Chapel Bar was about to launch and they needed my expertise to conceptualize how the room was going to function. I was in charge of everything; from the interior, sound, and floor arrangements, to the PR, marketing, and membership strategy. We launched in September 2021, and here we are.”

The space is about to spearhead an "Open Mic" venture that will see a host of Black and African talents share their passion with their peers and community.

Image by KarlaOtto

Desta’s years of experience and relationship maintenance landed him exactly where he was supposed to be. With confirmed plans to expand to Miami and Berlin, Monaco, and Shanghai in his sights – there seem to be no signs of slowing down.

“And God,” he sighs humorously, “They’re asking me to spearhead these projects. But, it’s early in the game.”