We had agreed to meet at the wine bar around West Hampstead, a modern bar filled with intriguing bric-a-bracs, so posh that people said you could see Simon Cowell having a glass of wine on Thursdays. I walked in to find Amanda with a glass of wine in hand, already waiting for me. She was dressed casually in sweats and a ponytail and had a welcoming smile.
Amanda, a 21-year-old International student at Middlesex University London is a sugar baby. It is a controversial topic, but I was here to understand a day in the life of a sugar baby. Her perfume wafted up reminding me of Giorgio Armani. “You're right it is actually one of the gifts I got from one of my sugar daddies’’. On that note, my ears and eyes popped and our conversation began.
Originally from Nigeria, Amanda knows the struggles of being an international student with expensive pressures on her family back home. Like hundreds of students all over the UK, Amanda signed up to a sugar baby website because she “loved the glitzy life and needed extra cash.... some of the men on the website are really creepy but you have to know how to look for the nice ones”. Amanda explained, in cold terms, that this was just business, a business in which she made strategic decisions to her benefit. “I am not a gold-digger!’’ her hand gestured like traffic warden's “It’s a matter of mutually benefit, some of the men genuinely love spending money on women’’.
Amanda was introduced to the dating website over a year ago by a girl friend who was over the moon and excited by the idea of being in the company of rich men. She told Amanda, “I thought, maybe I would get to go to some nice places and get some nice gifts, but baby I got a whole lot more”. Soon after uploading her profile picture, her inbox exploded. All filled with the possibilities of expensive gifts and new vacation spots.
Hard up for cash, Amanda didn't need much convincing and soon sent out her own profile. With a calm face, she explained to me, “normally the first exchanged are inbox messages, and if it sounds like we can get on then I give them my number... Then I opened a new email address, and set up a second number for the second Amanda’’. Almost like a second life? I asked. She smiled a broad knowing smile. “I must admit, I am excited being this ordinary Naija student by day and this elegant woman by night, a kind of grown up Hannah Montana”.
Her first date picked her up right on time ‘’it was one of these cool sport cars. Ha! It was love at first sight with the lifestyle”. Karl, the 42-year-old Marketing and Sales Director was gentlemanly and charming. The date was at a posh west end restaurant in London and ‘’oh my God, the wine!’’ She said, making a praying gesture. Karl opened her door, paid her the right attention, asked the right questions and even bought her a bracelet on the first date. ‘’He kept it simple in case it wasn’t my style’’.
The lovely night was followed by subsequent dates (spa included), trips, gifts “but of course he was married… so it was going to end sooner or later’’. “I hate the fact some of them were married, but I block it out” she tells me. “It's sad, because married men really know how to treat a girl’’.
With those words she seemed lost and finished her glass of wine with two gulps. She seemed to be having conflicting feelings and while I wanted to problem I thought to save this for the end of the interview. “Let’s talk about the goodies’’ I said, trying to lighten the mood. Amanda laughed and told me in just over one year she has had 4 vacations she would have never been able to afford. ‘’There was the ski resort in Finland’’. ‘’And the trip to Ibiza when he let me bring 2 friends’’. She explained how it differs with each man, ‘’some like to give you a fixed allowance while others just offer you gifts and then there are the ones who just ask you what do you want”. She didn’t seem to like the fixed allowance type, saying it made it feel like ‘‘she was in the escort business; am not that type of girl’’.
‘’So what type of girl are you”, I asked. I couldn't resist that question. “I am a business girl but It’s business plus. These guys are buying my companionship and not just sex; some are just looking for someone to talk to. I do get intimate with these guys, but it's not prostitution. That’s why I prefer it when a sugar daddy offers gifts. It feels more like a relationship with a little business deal’’.
Amanda has had 7 consistent sugar daddies but has also had dates, many dates. ‘’You can tell if you’ll get along from the first date and I only keep around the ones I know I’ll have a mutually beneficial relationship with’’. But how rich does a man have to be? Amanda gave me this humorous smile ‘’It’s more about being generous than rich but when they are both that’s a bonus!’’ She then went into detail about a schoolteacher she had met on the website, ‘’he wasn’t oozing money but he got me really nice dress once in a while”. But she quickly added “with men like that, it doesn’t last very long’’.
“But do you expect it to last long with any of them”? I asked as my wine glass reached the bottom. She paused for a moment and looked and me for a long second and looked into her empty glass. I continued studying her face and could see it changing, ‘’hmmmmmm’’ she said for a long drawn out moment. She quickly asked ‘‘my real name is not going to be in this report, right?’’ As I assured her that her name would not appear she called for a second glass of wine, white wine this time. “After my first date, all I felt was shame, I really try to block out some of the bad experiences I’ve had doing this. I don’t expect to find love on the website, I don’t even expect it to last long because deep down you know what type of arrangement it is. You try and cover it up, make it feel like a relationship. Oh well!’’ she sighed. “I really have had some great experiences through these men and some are lovely but you just have this gut feeling of being dodgy. I suppress mine. It’s a business, I have to make the best decisions to benefit me especially with how damaged it makes me feel sometimes, the least I deserve is a nice bag’’. It felt like I had known Amanda my whole life as we exchanged this look of understanding and warmth.
‘’Last question! Would you recommend to a friend that they should go into this business?’’ She gave a very quick ‘’Nope’’ and downed the rest of her wine. We sat down after the interview for some more wine and even more discussions. She was funny, witty and had a lot of opinions and I hoped leaving the interview Amanda found what she was looking for.
Written for NG by Aisha V. Hashim