Lydia Fenet Christie's Managing Director & Global Head of Strategic Partnerships; Christie's Ambassador

Ep 115: Don’t Be Scared of the Word “NO” | Lydia Fenet (former Christie’s Managing Director & Global Head of Strategic Partnerships and Most Powerful Woman in the Room

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Welcome to Episode 115!

STIMY Episode 115 features Lydia Fenet.

Lydia Fenet is a global thought leader who has led auctions for more than six hundred organizations raising over $1B for nonprofits globally. Lydia takes auctions all over the world as a Christie’s ambassador and also took the Collectible Car world by storm as the Principal Auctioneer for Broad Arrow Auctions. 

Her bestselling book, ‘The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You,’ published by Simon & Schuster in 2019, was optioned by Netflix in February 2022. The show is currently in development with Chernin Entertainment with Kiernan Shipka attached to star. Lydia continues to grow her media brand as an executive producer on the series.

Lydia’s second book, ‘Claim Your Confidence,’ will be published in March 2023. She is currently working on her eponymous podcast, Claim Your Confidence, which launched this January in collaboration with Newsstand Studios in Rockefeller Plaza. The podcast features guests including Glenn Close, Candace Nelson, Stephanie Horton, and Courtney Dauwalter.

Lydia is represented by CAA and travels internationally as a keynote speaker helping people unlock their sales potential and empowering women in the workplace. She was named one of New York’s most influential women by Gotham magazine and has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Crain’s, and has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Town & Country.


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    So This Is My Why podcast

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    Who is Lydia Fenet?

    Lydia Fenet is a whirlwind of activity. Ever curious, she was taught by her father to “network or die” and once thought she would become a lawyer like her father.

    Until she came across a Vanity Fair article while at Oxford and discovered the exclusive & mysterious world of Christie’s.

    • 2:47 Why Lydia is a “life in motion”
    • 3:32 Network or die
    • 5:30 Learning about Christie’s
    • 7:13 Not Sotheby’s?
    • 8:01 Convincing the Matriarch of Christie’s, Mary Libby, to let her join the internship program
    I was told to not talk about money. You're lucky to work here.
    Lydia Fenet Christie's Managing Director & Global Head of Strategic Partnerships; Christie's Ambassador
    Lydia Fenet
    Christie's Ambassador

    You’re Just a Number on the P&L

    We’re not all going to be world class benefit auctioneers.

    But Lydia shares plenty of insights into how to climb the corporate ladder (always ask for what you’re worth!!), building a personal brand, how to be the most powerful woman in the room and how being a published author has changed her life.

    • 12:51 How Lauren Short influenced her
    • 14:33 How Lydia became Christie’s benefit auctioneer
    • 16:27 Why Lydia did 500 mediocre auctions but never wanted to quit
    • 18:20 The breakthrough
    • 22:31 Leading the auction at Elton John’s 2023 AIDS Foundation Oscar Party
    • 25:58 Where Lydia gets her energy from
    • 30:01 When Lehman Brothers collapsed but Lydia managed to save her colleague
    • 34:49 Ask for what you’re worth, because you’re just a number on a P&L
    • 41:44 How being a published author has opened doors

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Nicole Levinson: Building a Non-Linear Career Path at Christies’s, Playboy & LVMH
    • Eric Sim: From being the son of a prawn noodle hawker stall owner to the former Managing Director of UBS with 2.9 million LinkedIn followers
    • Adrian Tan: President of Singapore’s Law Society & the King of Singapore
    • Nick Bernstein: Senior VP of Late Night Programme, ViacomCBS & James Corden’s Big Boss

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    If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here

    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    • Lydia Fenet: Instagram, Website
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    • Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
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    STIMY Ep 15: Lydia Fenet (Christie's Top Auctioneer & the Most Powerful Woman in the Room)


    Lydia Fenet: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the So This Is My Why podcast, I'm Lydia Fenet, and I'm so excited to be able to sell this incredible spot to someone who is listening today.

    Now, I can't see any of your faces, which is fine, but I'm going to pretend that you're here and I will start the bidding for such an elite spot at a thousand dollars. Is there anyone in our virtual, oh, we have a thousand dollars that's just come in on my right and a thousand, 2000 is bid. 3000 is bid on my right. At $4,000 in the back of our virtual room and $5,000 to the man who is sitting at his desk and $6,000 to the gentleman who is holding a dog and $7,000 to the woman at her desk with the podcast who is sitting it directly in front of me.

    And we are at $7,000 for this amazing spot. Is there any advance? Over $7,000. A dramatic bidder perhaps who would like to jump in.

    Oh, there is our dramatic bid coming in at $8,000. You thought that this was over, but you were wrong. We are at $8,000. Any advance over $8,000?

    Selling it here for $8,000. Sold to you.

    Ling Yah: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 115 of the So This My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer Ling Yah and I just want to note that STIMY is now open to sponsorships.

    So if you'd like to share how you and your brand can help STIMY listeners to live better, more productive, and fulfilling lives, just get in touch. Email me at so.

    Now onto today's guests, Lydia Fenet. She is the most powerful woman in the room, and also the former managing director and global Head of strategic partnerships at Christie's, who has sold over 1 billion for charities alongside Matt Damon, a k a, Jason Bourne, Uma Thurma, Elton John, even Bruce Springsteen.

    Now here is a woman who knows what she wants and is unafraid to claim it with confidence. And also strongly believes in something that her father taught her network or die. But she didn't always start out that way and working at Christie's?

    She couldn't even get into his internship program.

    But as you quickly learn, if there is middle name that Lydia definitely has, it's tenacity. Lydia called and called and called and called.

    And finally she asked the one question that got her into that internship program. And thus began her journey to becoming one of the top auctioneers from Christie's and how she's transformed her life into everything she has ever wanted to be.

    So are you ready to learn how to become the most powerful woman or men in the room? Let's go.

    Your friend described you as a "life in motion" and your husband would say you're exhaustive, you're running around everywhere.

    And I wonder, has that always been you? Were you like that as a child as well?

    Lydia Fenet: I think I'm just a naturally curious person who loves adventure and I'm absolutely and completely captivated by storytelling. And if I read something or I hear something, it often lodges somewhere deep inside me and I can't really shake it.

    And I think that that's really motivated me throughout my life to try things and to constantly go after things. And so, yeah, I think that that's a hundred percent true. I am, I've been a little bit like that my whole life, but certainly in my adult life with the freedom of being an adult, it's amplified times a million

    Ling Yah: Would you say that you inherit that from your father as opposed to your mom who's English but your father, you've said before he has never met a stranger in his life and he's very much a network or die. And the question I had in my head was, So how does your father turn every stranger to a friend?

    What kind of tips can we learn from him that you learned yourself?

    Lydia Fenet: I think a life in motion comes from both my parents. My mother never stops. She never sits down. I still to this day have friends who say to me when they meet her, I think she's in her early seventies, although I think she might kill me for saying that too.

    But anyway, she never stops. No, it's okay. It's fine. She would never. Sit down and she still never sits down. There's just this motivation in life to do things and try things and see things, and coupled with my father who's such an extrovert, it's led to a life of really adventure and seeking things out and meeting people.

    And my father really has never met a stranger and taught me, which at the early points in my life was a very embarrassing lesson. As I've gotten older, I've realized it's such a gift because networking is such an amazing way to live life. People think of it as this business thing that can only be done in certain places.

    You know, windowless conference room with a bad glass of wine and a plastic sleeve with your name on it. Networking can be done anywhere and everywhere. You know, one of the most interesting parts of my job now, I'm a professional speaker. I have a podcast, so really everything I do is about networking, finding the next speech opportunity, finding the next podcast guest.

    And a lot of that has to do with networking. I was in an airport recently and started com speaking with a gentleman who was in line with me, and ultimately he ended up contacting me over my website to ask if I would potentially be on the podcast for his law firm. And now we're discussing the potential of speaking at his company.

    And that all came because of a five minute conversation in line in Delta, just waiting for our bags. So I think networking needs to be reframed in life and I certainly saw that through my father and it's something that I've enjoyed doing as a result of that, especially in my adult life.

    Ling Yah: I couldn't agree more, especially with the podcast and I realized that networking sounds really scary cuz I'm also a lawyer and I realized that for us it was very much, oh, we have so much work we don't have time for networking.

    But actually that's a really crucial part of the career. And I love that you talked about this lawyer coz your dad's a trial lawyer. Yes. And apparently you used to work in this law firm and you wanted to be a lawyer. So what went wrong?

    Lydia Fenet: It's interesting how life works out, isn't it? I don't think I would be a particularly good lawyer because I'm not incredibly detail oriented.

    You know, the idea of reading contracts or going word by word, it's not really the way my brain works. I, as we've talked about and kind of a life in motion, I'd like to do things on fast forward, so, I think one thing that you need as a lawyer is to be very measured, and I'm really not. So I'm glad that I didn't end up as a lawyer because I think I would've been fighting my natural tendencies the whole time.

    I think it went awry when I read an article in college about this fantastical world called The Auction World, and specifically about a place called Christie's where they were doing a charity auction for Princess Diana's dresses. And I became completely obsessed with the idea of working at this company, and it really became something of a fixation.

    Applied and stocked the internship coordinator until I eventually had an internship. And then as a result of that, landed a job out of that internship. Actually I interned again the next summer cause I was still in college. And so I landed a job after that internship and really never wanted to leave.

    Not even because I was necessarily in the perfect job when I first started there, but that there. Auctioneering side that captivated me and really became something that I enjoyed so much that I didn't wanna leave, because as long as I was there, I got to do it, which was really exciting.

    So this article is the Vanity Fair article.

    Ling Yah: When I heard about that, I thought, Ooh, is it blasphamous for me to say, why didn't you consider Sotheby's ?

    Lydia Fenet: Because that's, well, he mentioned Christie's in the article and I, I didn't know anything about the auction world. Mm-hmm. . So in my opinion, as of reading that piece, there was only one place to work because there was only one place mentioned in the article.

    I wasn't aware that there was this incredible rivalry between the two. And you know, I have as many friends who work at Sotheby's as I do at Christie's now, and a lot of people go back and forth. And ultimately the auction world is an incredibly small part of the world, but everybody who works there has kind of grown up in there or speaks the language, which really unifies and bonds people.

    So I'll see people I haven't worked for 10 years, and yet because of the intensity of working there and the subject matter and the fast pace, you really get to know people so well. And some of my best friends are from my early days at Christie's to this day.

    Ling Yah: Amazing. You mentioned stalking. This was Mary Libby.

    In your book you described her as the matriarch of Christie's.

    Yes. What was it like? How did you manage to convince her to let you into completely full internship.

    Lydia Fenet: Well, it was really just looking at the question that I was asking in a different way and. I ultimately think a lot of times people say no because they're looking at something in one way and they haven't considered other opportunities.

    And in this case, the reason the internship program was full was because the museums only took 15 people at a time for tours, or that was the reason that she gave me and that made sense. You know, a docent can't ha handle more than 15 people at a time in a museum. And all of the events were taking place in the afternoons after the interns were leaving the morning sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    So they needed to be able to cap it at a number. . But the way that I was looking at, at the time, it was a free internship. You weren't getting paid. And as I said to her, I would assume that some of the people who were working there would obviously like to have an extra intern on the day that all the interns leave.

    You know, you always need someone to do the grunt work at the at the base. So that was kind of the way that I saw a constant, no. What if I reframed this and. I don't need to go to the museums. You know that that's not a core reason as to why I'm here. I'm here to learn about the auction business and if I don't go to the museums, that's fine.

    And if I do because someone else drops out, like that would be great too. And I think just even approaching it like that gave her the answer that she didn't even know that she was capable of having. And that was really the way that it all started.

    Ling Yah: And to put it in context where people don't know, you actually called her every single day.

    So it wasn't as though you came up with that question on the spot and just miraculously got that spot for yourself.

    Lydia Fenet: Yeah, I called her every day. And also there was no caller ID when I was young, so I was at a great advantage. Now it's a really different ballgame because, most of the time people don't even really pick up their phones, let's be honest.

    So you end up either speaking to someone's assistant or in my opinion, the better way to do it is to email or find the social media vehicle that someone uses the most and contact them over that. You know, I often find that if someone emails me, I'll get back to them at some point, but if someone slips into my dms in the middle of the day, I'm usually on Instagram to some degree in those down moments, and I'm much more likely to shoot off a quick reply and say yes or no, or you contacted me at this information or this number. And that's a really interesting way of thinking about life, right?

    We always assume it's the formal email, but actually sometimes, and I found this even my own podcast, and I suspect you probably have found this in your podcast.

    Sometimes just a DM over Instagram to someone who uses that as their main vehicle is an easier way to get in touch with them than a formal email.

    Ling Yah: That's absolutely right. And for people who want to get you on, they now know the secret.

    Lydia Fenet: Yeah. DM you. And it's not a secret. I did a speech last night and, and I remember someone saying, you know, how did you end up doing this speech with us?

    And I said, oh, one of the women in your company dMed me over Instagram, and I'm really, yeah, I'm on Instagram all the time. I love Instagram. I think it's really fun. I use it as a media tool. I think it's interesting to see what people are doing, how they're promoting things in their life. You know, the incredible thing is, I know Instagram can be really polarizing because it does give you feelings of jealousy, no matter how secure, how secure you are in your life.

    But, If you look at it really as a marketing tool, which was I, which is how I see it, it's an amazing way to promote your vision. It's a way to, amazing way to promote your products and give people the version of yourself that you think of, which I think is always a great way to live life.

    Ling Yah: And you were always promoting yourself even when you were young.

    You said when you were doing internship, you were just shredding paper the whole time. And I was wondering, because you said whenever you're shredding, you meet all kinds of people. Mm-hmm. , did you meet anyone during that period that later had a huge impact on your career?

    Lydia Fenet: Not really, you know, I think that they were just people that I was needing who became people in my network at Christie's.

    Yeah. You know, when you talk about that story, one of the most interesting parts about the fact that I was shredding paper was that I was shredding paper by the elevator. And at the time, again, if we go back to a time before iPhones, People didn't have iPhones to keep them occupied. So if you imagine people are waiting by the elevator for some amount of time and there's always an opportunity to strike up conversation.

    I didn't do it with everyone, but I certainly did it with a lot of people. And people recognize me because they're coming back to the same place. And as I said, they called me the shredder. Oh, that's Lydia. She's the shredder. Or sometimes like that's just the shredder cuz I didn't know my name, but I'm also almost six feet tall, so I do stand out in a crowd anyway.

    It's an interesting thing that I can think back on now and say, I never looked at it as, oh my God, I'm shredding paper all the time. I just remember thinking, first of all, I wanna get this done because as I said, I'd like to do, I like to get things done.

    I'm a goal-oriented person, and I like to get things done quickly.

    So I actually learned a lot of lessons from shredding. Like, don't put too many pieces of paper in Watch out for the staples. You know? Yes, there's some, there's some interesting life lessons, but also talk to anyone who gets in the elevator because you're bored, because ultimately they'll be part of your network as you get older.

    Ling Yah: So age 22, you went from internship to working full-time. Lauren Short had a huge influence on your career. Why was that?

    Lydia Fenet: She was really my first boss in events, and the one takeaway I'll really say from Lauren that I would always pass along was I was her intern first and she always treated me like a team member.

    She never treated me like an intern. It was sort of like all hands on deck and they had tons of events. They needed help and I really was willing to do anything and she really understood that about me and fostered that. And she was so kind. I mean, it was always, you know, I didn't really know anyone in New York.

    I had moved from a small town. I mean, well, I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, but I had moved to New York from the University of the South, and I remember there was one guy from my class who had come to New York as well.

    And I didn't really see him that much, but also I didn't really know that many people, so it was kind of a lonely existence coming to New York from college where I'd been surrounded by friends and all of a sudden in New York, you're surrounded by people, but if you don't know them, you don't meet them casually.

    You know? There weren't all of the sort of ways to meet people when I moved here that there used to be. And so that community of women who worked in the events department became my friends, and Lauren almost became my default older sister as my boss. So she would invite me. One of her friends, this woman Carla Riders, an amazing singer songwriter, and we used to go listen to Carla singing on the weekends.

    She would have me over for dinners at her house. Like she just was so kind to me always, and I really never forgot that. And I treated all of my interns the same way. I'm still very close to a lot of the people who interned for me over time. At Christie's, and I think that a lot of that came from the way that she treated me.

    So yeah, she did have a, a huge impact and we're still close.

    Ling Yah: And three, four years later, you became a benefit auctioneer. How does one become that?

    Lydia Fenet: Well, at the time I was, as you said, I was about 24 years old, 25, and they had tryouts for the company, which previously had only been for officers of the company, but a lot of people had had issues getting to auctions or missing auctions because of missed flights or schedule changes and they needed more auctioneers. They just didn't have a deep bench at that point.

    And a lot of the auctioneers were older, so they had families, they needed to go home or they were married and you know, their wives were sort of like, let's not be out all. Please, you know, don't, don't go out five nights in a row.

    Whereas I was so young at that point, I didn't, as I said, have that many friends and I didn't ever have plans, but I loved going out. And so it was actually a perfect thing for me because if you don't have plans and you wanna go out and there's a place where you get to kind of be on stage and be a little bit of a star for a night, that appealed to me on every level.

    I tried out to be an auctioneer and made it through a sort of series of cuts over four days, and I just started taking auction. Night, after night, after night. And I talk a lot about practice because, you know, you can look at Instagram, you can look at social media, and see people succeeding in their career, but it doesn't show what it took to get there.

    And I laughingly say, you know, I spent a solid 5, 6, 7 years on stage taking, you know, 70, 80, 90, a hundred auctions a year. And it was so painful. I wasn't particularly good and it was just night after night of people talking over me and really having to steal myself against that and go back out on that stage night after night.

    But ultimately that practice gave me the foundation, which gave me the confidence to be really good at what I do. And now people say a lot of times to me, do you, do you get nervous when you get on stage? And I really don't. I get really excited for new opportunities to be on stage in front of a new crowd or in a new place.

    The fear is gone. I don't fear an audience anymore. And I think that's really what it takes to be a talented auctioneer.

    Ling Yah: There was the thing that struck me the most. You said you'd gone through the very worst. There is nothing that could possibly phase you and 500 thereabouts of your first auctions were mediocre.

    And the thing that struck me was, didn't you ever think maybe this isn't for me and I'm not cut up for this and I should move to something else?

    Lydia Fenet: That would've been the smarter path, perhaps.

    No, because I always saw there was always, and still to this day, there's a really interesting that ha thing that happens with Charity Auctioneering.

    Every stage is new, every audience is new. Every night is new. So let's say I took five auctions in a week. One of them would be, okay, one of them, or let's say three were pretty bad. And then maybe I would have that one. Something went right and I felt good about it.

    I realized that there was an ability to train.

    What I was doing and figure out a better way to do it. I just didn't really know what I was doing or how I was gonna do it. But there was something I was getting towards something with all that practice. And you know, to this day I still think about the fact that I'm on stage all of the time. And you know, I know when I get off stage if it went well or not, I don't need someone to tell me that.

    I've been up there long enough to understand if I've lost an audience or if a joke went well. But I also, on the flip side, have these incredible nights where I get off stage and it's been so fun and we've just absolutely crushed the goal and the audience is there for the ride. Know what good looks like now, and I know what okay looks like.

    I don't think I bomb anymore. I'm past that point because I can always recover because I've bombed so many times that I know how to recover from it now.

    So all these lessons are important, and I like to tell people when they're pursuing their passion, it's okay that you're gonna fail along the way.

    You just have to throw pain against the wall and keep going because ultimately, if you have enough conviction and there is something there, like there is a nugget there, you'll reach some measure of success simply because of the act of doing over and over again and refining what you're doing.

    Ling Yah: You often talk about that breakthrough as well, which is at the boathouse, and I wonder how that came to be.

    What was that change in you?

    Lydia Fenet: Well, it really came, I was at the boathouse in Central Park and it was a very late night and it was a Saturday. I was sick and tired and did not feel like being there at all, and I had up until that point, really practiced as an auctioneer. The way that I had been trained was.

    It was sort of a skillset that you would have as an art auctioneer where you're walking into a room of people who were seated in a room staring at you ready to bid, and that's not what Benefit Auctioneering is.

    I mean, benefit Auctioneering is walking into a crowded room of people who've drinking and eating and talking, and you're basically getting on stage to sell themselves that they probably didn't even know you were selling.

    Or if you are, they're not even sure that they want. But in most cases, there is or there can be a number of bidders for which money is not really, or for whom money is not a huge object, and so as long as they're having fun. You can keep going. And what I realized was I was at that point always going to take those auctions as if I was taking an art auction where people were trying to buy things.

    You know, I was just saying numbers back to them. What I realized was that I needed to turn it into entertainment because that's what people want when you get on stage. And I've learned that even since that it's not just entertainment is an auctioneer. It's when I get up to give a speech or a presentation.

    I'm not getting up there to give a speech or a presentation. I'm getting up there to entertain the audience, and that's a different way of seeing it. And on that evening, there was a woman who was seated in front of me who had been seated next to me at lunch. Five or six years earlier where I had just come off of this horrible breakup the night before.

    Really I thought I was gonna marry this guy and he did not obviously feel the same way which was so crushing and I was so young and I just started sobbing and I was the head of events at that point. I was in charge of the event and she was one of our top clients and she could not have been nicer. She really could not have been nicer.

    She nursed me back to health with, napkins and the tablecloth cuz my tears were coming so quickly and wine and chocolate. And she was just so sweet to me. And she was seated in the front row in the first auction lot, was a tour of her home and her art collection. And so instead of giving everyone the basics about what the lot.

    Was I turned it into a story about how she had basically saved my night or saved my lunch and had been able to patch me up over an hour. So what I said to the audience was, listen, if you're currently seeing a therapist, save your money. Go to Jennifer's house and then give the money to the charity cuz she'll have you patch it up in an hour.

    You don't even a therapist. And it was so funny cuz it was the first time the audience. A either talk over me or B, just stare at me thinking please get off stage. They kind of started laughing and laughter when you're a performer is an addiction. I've learned that since. I mean, once you get an audience to laugh and to really listen to what you're saying and they think it's fun and they think you're funny, it's really hard to get off stage.

    And there adrenaline, right?

    Isn't it? Yes, absolutely. And there's something about joy seeing that in people's faces whereas earlier and for many years before that, I had always felt like pain that I was saying like, please get off stage, please get off stage. But now it felt like, oh, let's see what she has to say next. And you know, I've always had a really strong sense of humor.

    I love laughing, I love laughter. And so all of those things kind of combined and that really became my style and my style of auctioneering, for which I'm still known for. You know, I was going to take an auction recently and someone said to me, she came to pick me up to take me to the auction, she. I was just at a cocktail party and I told somebody that you were the auctioneer and they said, oh, she's so funny.

    And I'd been speaking with a woman a lot and she's like, I didn't really, I didn't really think about that. And I was like, oh yeah, on stage. Like that's my thing. It's the humor that keeps people bidding. And it's true. It really is.

    Ling Yah: And you still haven't named your stage presence, have.

    Lydia Fenet: No, I don't have my Sasha Fierce.

    I don't have a stage presence. I think I'm just Lydia. It's the amplified version of Lydia. It's the sort of level 10 of me. That's, whereas usually I think I'm more at like a level eight.

    Never at a level one for sure. No, not that different. not that different.

    Ling Yah: I love that you talked about entertainment because he makes me think, and I have been confession stalking you.

    Seeing, gosh, all different auctions that you've been doing. It just amazes and blows my mind when I follow and see your stories. And I think I feel exhausted looking at your stories in all the places you've been. And I'm just sitting on my bed looking at your stories. Oh God. So . So one of the most recent events that you did was the Elton John's AIDS Foundation Oscar party.

    So you talked about entertainment. These are the leaders of entertainment and I wonder what was that like and what were some of those stories that you shared that got people to bid?

    I'm sure you must be so much more polished than that time in boathouse now.

    Lydia Fenet: Well, it's funny because. when I said earlier, people ask me if I'm nervous.

    That was actually something I thought about this weekend. There were so many people, oh gosh, are you nervous? You know, you're getting up there on Oscar night in front of a thousand of the Hollywood Elite. And interestingly, I wasn't nervous at all. I was really excited to be there, and I was excited to do it because I'm confident in my ability to stand up on that stage and get the money that Elton John and David furnish his husband wanted for their foundation and I think that more than anything, the interesting thing about being in a position like that is when you look around, you realize at the end of the day, what I'm doing is the same for every single person, right? I'm the conduit to more money. So when I get on stage after this is the Elton John AIDS Foundation viewing party.

    So you sit and actually watch the entire Oscars at the tables, and then the minute the Oscars end, you start the auction.

    So people have already been there. We got there at three o'clock for cocktail hour because it's obviously filmed for the East coast, and we got there at three o'clock for cocktail hour.

    People were seated around four 30 and dinner started at five when the Oscar started. Eight in New York and everybody sits for three and a half hours and kind of watches it and mills around and everything like that. So you can imagine, and what I already knew before I got on stage was people were gonna be very tired and they were gonna be very not wanting me to be on stage

    And so the most important part for me is always addressing that up front. So I got on stage and I think I said something like, good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am so delighted to be here and I can tell just by looking at your faces that you don't feel the same way about me being on the stage right now.

    And everyone kind of laughed because of course, like they know that exactly. They don't wanna be sitting through an auction after sitting there for three and a half hours. So I said, but I promise you, I am the fastest auctioneer you've ever seen, and I'm going to whip through this so you can get to the after party and you can get to the Vanity Fair Party and you can go on with your evening.

    You know, I'm a blip on the radar like, but the most necessary kind of blip.

    And I think that there's an appreciation for someone who understands that my role is not to get up there and stay on stage for an hour and a half. My goal is to get on stage, raise as much money as I possibly can in the shortest amount of time possible, make sure that everyone there feels fun, they feel like they're having a good time and enjoying it, and that I'm off stage.

    And I definitely feel like I was able to live up to my side of the bargain on that one. You know, I sold 13 lots. We sold everything from, you know, Pierce Brosnan's, signed pinball machine. I think I sold it for 140,000 to, you know, these amazing prices for everything that was sold, which was so exciting.

    So I felt like I had done right by Elton John and David Furnish, who were seated literally at the bottom of the stairs watching the auction, which was only slightly intimidating to every time I look to the left, see Elton John staring at me. At the same time, I feel like the audience had a good time and you know, I got that feedback when I got off, which is an amazing feeling.

    Ling Yah: I love that you addressed right up that. I know you are tired, but surely you must have been tired as well, and that's the thing that stood up for me as well. You were nine months pregnant with all three kids. You still went on stage. Recently, I saw that you were doing this charity for Broadarrow Group and you did the six hour auction for 110 cars, then straight to a charity auction that night.

    How on earth do you do it? Where is this energy coming from?

    Lydia Fenet: I know this past couple of weeks has been a little crazy, even crazy for me. You know, I guess the best way to explain it is I've worked so hard for where I am right now in my career, and it's not to say that I'm not tired. I mean, I got off the stage at the Oscars at 10 o'clock at night in LA.

    Which was you know, 1:00 AM in New York and I hadn't been able to even have a glass of champagne because I'd been there waiting to go on stage, and I never drank before I get on stage because I wanna honor the nonprofit I'm there for. And I didn't wanna miss the party , I didn't wanna miss the fun. So I ended up staying until almost 1245 in the morning.

    And so now we're at 4:00 AM in New York and I had to get up at four o'clock in LA basically to get back on a flight, to come back yesterday cause I had a speech in New York and I just said to a friend who we were laughing about this afterwards, she's like, it's just nuts that you do this. And I said, it is, but at the same time, this is what I wanted.

    You know, this was my dream. And I know to a lot of people, what I've just said sounds like their absolute idea of the most miserable day of their life. And I'm not saying it felt great to sleep for three hours and you know, this is a podcast that you guys can't see me right now, but I don't look particularly great right now.

    But I did it. And that's exciting and that was fun, and I wouldn't give those opportunities back. And I also believe that hard work is how you become successful. You know, I don't think you can shortcut it. And I can say that because I've seen other women who are at the top of their game and they travel like I do, and they juggle it all like I do, and they're unapologetic about it.

    And there's something to be said about that kind of love of what you're doing and of the dream that you're creating for your own life. But again, That is not everyone's dream. Like it's fun to watch what I'm doing on Instagram. You may be cringing at the thought of the schedule that I keep, but that's not your life.

    That's my life and my dream and what I want and what I say in my second book and claim your confidence. And what I really try to highlight on my podcast is everybody achieves their dreams differently. You know? And in comparing ourselves, I love the quote, comparison is the thief of joy. Because it's such a true statement.

    It's so easy to look at someone and be like, oh, they just have it all. But why do they have it all? What are they doing to make their dreams happen? And what does that have to do with you? And the answer is nothing. It really doesn't be joyous in what you're doing because you're creating the life you want.

    And then you'll be happy with your own life and you won't look at other people and think, oh man, like that person's got it all and I've got nothing. That's not the way the word universe works. You have something too, but you also have to go after what you want.

    Hey everyone, just a gentle reminder that STIMY episodes like this one are now open to sponsorships, and this is one of the spots that you can get. To be honest, STIMY is not gonna accept everyone because we want to make sure that your mission aligns with the interest of the STIMY community.

    So yes, dear listeners, I'm putting you first, but if you're interested, please do drop an email at [email protected], and let's start chatting. All right, now let's get back to this episode

    Ling Yah: Do you think about how can I level up?

    Because you have done everything. You have sold Matt Damon. You have sold Bruce Springsteen's guitar with him. What else is next after that? How can you level up?

    Lydia Fenet: Oh man. You have no idea what's coming. I feel like I'm just getting started.

    That's so funny that you said that. I was walking home from dropping off my kids at school this morning, and I have this really big idea that I'm sort of working through right now in my brain, but I'm also kind of telling people in in certain areas about it. And it's a big project and I kind of have to figure out if I wanna do it or not.

    But yeah, if I do, I think it'll be amazing. So yeah, I'm probably gonna have to do it now, especially cuz I just mentioned it on your podcast.

    Ling Yah: You're more than welcome to come back and share more.

    Lydia Fenet: I will. I will. Amazing.

    Ling Yah: Before we go talking about all these things, you know, obviously it sounds like you have figured it out, but it wasn't always the case.

    I wanna go all the way back again to your career. Yeah. And just before you became, you know, you were still in Events, there was this one story I really wanted to pick up. Lehman Brothers had collapsed 2008 and you were asked to cut one member and I thought it was amazing how you managed to avoid that. And I wonder if you could just share that story cuz it's amazing.

    Lydia Fenet: Yeah. You know, I think it always goes back to kind of what I said about Mary Libby in the internship. Yeah. And getting that internship. There's always a different way to look at something, and in this case, the story that you're referencing. I was working in the events department. I'd been at Christie's at that point for about 10 years.

    And what I realized when Lehman collapsed and what I often saw happen at Christie's at the time was. People would get cut when we had a downturn on the market and then you wouldn't ever get headcount back. And at that point we were running 500 events with three people. I mean, it was just insane how much we were doing.

    And I knew that we weren't gonna be doing events with the same magnitude, certainly. But I also knew that the last. The last department that was gonna get someone with a market turn back up was a support department running events like the period, end of sentence. And so when they came to me and said, you have to cut someone, the way I saw it was, all right, what do I do to not cut someone but cut the money that it would take to have that person?

    So how do we turn something that was a complete and total deficit into a positive and eventually a profit center, which was not even the vision that I saw at the time. For me, it was just how do I keep from losing this team member? And to me, I'd really seen partnerships and sponsorships, which now are everywhere, but this was 10, 12, 13 years ago, sponsorships and partnerships, especially for a high-end luxury brand like Christie's, were not really something we were doing. We never really thought of ourselves as associating with anyone because we were supposed to be, best in class gold star, you know, the top of top Oh, the money . Exactly.

    You know, and, and the reality is the margins in an auction house are not that big and you don't have huge budgets, believe it or not. And so it really made sense for us to partner with people. And I think the appetite was finally there after the first downturn in the market because, you know, in 2000.

    There really was no money to do events, but people did still wanna go out, especially in 2009. I mean, people weren't really working that hard cuz everybody was in such a depressed mood. So I did feel like there was more appetite for entertaining. People had more time. And we basically started, I said to my team, listen, instead of us.

    Trying to lose someone. And I said to my boss, what if I could just not spend any money but keep doing the events that we have on the calendar? And I had known him for, at that point I'd been working for him for 10 years and he kind of knew who I was and he knew I'm just a scrappy person. Like I love making money.

    I love making money out of nothing. I love it. Creating money out of thin air. And that was really what that conversation started. I went to my team and I was like, listen, do you guys need to get sandwich boards and go stand out in front of Christie's to find sponsors to pay for things? Let's get it done.

    It was really happy hands at home. At the beginning it was like, all right, we need an invitation. There's gotta be a letter press company that's trying to get their invitations out there and they don't have marketing money for it, so what if they could do that and we could give them free press or I'm sure there's a liquor brand that's looking to get in front of our clients.

    We have the wealthiest clients in the world, like there's gotta be a champagne. So it was just literally looking at an event and almost putting it in a box and just cutting it up into all the different components that needed to be sponsored. And getting it done. And that was really the beginning of it.

    And I remember I used to sit down with the C M O and with my boss to go over our P&L and it was incredible because once they saw what I was doing and they, I think they also noticed that I was motivated by positive praise.

    And so they were like, this is amazing. , do you think you could literally get it to negative?

    I was like sure, let's see. You know, why not? Let's try. And so then we got it negative, and then by the end of the year, we'd actually made a small profit. And that was sort of that aha moment for me where I was like, what if we became a profit center? What if events weren't a drain on resources, but rather we could make money doing this.

    And that became the thesis for strategic partnerships, which I ran for almost a decade for Christie's. And the interesting thing is, is often happens strategic partnerships that I started at the beginning was nothing like it was when I finished that job. It was completely evolved and changed and frankly, as the digital world became so important. A lot of the assets that we had, especially post covid, were digital by that point.

    It was a really different industry and a really different thing 10 years later, which was also really fun to watch because, you know, you never really know where a business is gonna go, so you grow it to some degree and then you either leave it or it eventually exhausts.

    So it was a really interesting part of my career and I loved that piece of it because it really was like a puzzle, trying to figure it all.

    Ling Yah: So we talked about how you help not only to save money, but also to gain a little profit for Christie's. This was still a time where you saw them as family and then you talked about how strategic partnerships, but there's a really vital story between that bridges, which is basically when you realized that, oh, you were getting far below market rate.

    And I would love to hear that story cuz that resonates with me. I've been working almost 10 years and it never crossed my mind to ask for a raise. I just took whatever I was given. So when I heard it, I. Man, I wish I had heard this story a lot earlier, so I would love for you to share it too.

    Lydia Fenet: Yeah, absolutely.

    So I basically had been working at the company for almost a decade at that point. And, you know, I had talked to people about money and, and things like that. But I'd never really done anything about it. You know, one of the things about working for a company like a Christie's, or even at that time, sort of the magazine world was it was always about the glamor, right?

    You get to work at this company. And so anytime I sort of said anything about it, my boss at the time who I adored, it was different than Lauren was a wonderful man who I still adore, would just sort of say to me, we shouldn't really be talking about money right now. Like you know, you're lucky to work here.

    And you know, I agreed with him because I was like, oh, okay. Yeah, of course. Like I'm lucky to work here. Never really thinking about the fact that there were so many other people who were also working there who were lucky to work there, but were also getting paid. And they were pretty much all guys. So that made more sense.

    As I got older. It did not make sense at the time, but basically I just got into this place where I was having brunch with some friends one weekend, and a friend of ours mentioned that she was buying a one bedroom apartment in the city, and I was so floored because even 10 years into my career, I mean, I was really still living paycheck to paycheck for the most part.

    I mean, I was eating hors d'oeuvres at work and I wasn't making any money. I was like, pretty much my entire salary was going to rent at that point, and it was so interesting. I remember just being absolutely floored. and I kind of pulled her aside and I was like, how are you doing this? Like I thought, you know, we were all in the same boat here.

    And she was like, what are you talking about? And that for me was a real lightning moment, like this sort of lightning strike moment cuz I realized that I had taken no ownership stake in my own career. And that includes asking for raises, but also questioning the amount that I was making.

    The timing was really interesting too.

    Cause there was a new head of HR who I had just trained to be an auctioneer and I'd become good friends with him and he pulled me aside one day. And said to me, you know, Lydia, you were crazily underpaid. Do you realize that?

    I mean the level of emotions that pass through me at that moment, I mean, first of all, just embarrassment at the fact that I had just so willingly taken this paycheck and not pushed, but also I felt really betrayed by my company because I had worked there since I was 21, and I looked around and all I saw were friends and family.

    You know, I felt like president and the chairman were like my older brother and my uncle, and I felt like my boss was my work husband, but also my best friend. I mean, it just was like so many things. I was like, wait, what? You guys knew that I was getting paid this and you guys kept doing this?

    Like I thought you had my back. And that was a really great lesson about corporate. And not even about the personnel, but also just about working in an environment. And I said in the book like, make no mistake about it. You are a number on a P&L. And if you decide, or if they decide one day that you don't work there anymore, they don't care.

    About you or your family, and you don't want that to be true, but that is the truth, and I can tell you that without any hesitation. So you do need to ask for raises, and you do need to ask for things for yourself because people will pay you, whatever you will show up to do the work for.

    And the only person who's going to change that is you.

    And in my opinion, when I found all this stuff out, I started sort of researching and I had gone to Moet in Hennessy to interview for a comms job. And I remember joking with the gentleman who was then at that point, the CEO, I said something, he, I remember he said something about a, like the woman who was running Moet or VCO as an account, and I said something, Like Miss Boco and I made a joke and he's like, well, he's like, you can joke about it, but you know, she's making six figures many times over.

    and I really think my job became unhinged. I was like, wait, what are you talking about? And that kind of became the motivator. I needed to go research more and start asking my friends what they were making so that I actually had an idea of what I should be making. And I was making a third of what I should have been making.

    And so it basically became part of a conversation where I went into my boss's office and at the time I wasn't really expecting to tell him that I had another job offer because I did not in fact have another job offer. , but there was something that when I started down that road, I, it was like all that emotion was wrapped up in it and I couldn't stop talking.

    And so all of a sudden I was like, I have a job. I'm leaving in two weeks. And what I did know at that time was that there was no one else to run the events department. I had been there at that point for 10 years, and I had two women who'd been on my team for less than a year.

    And all of our top clients, all of the stuff you learn just in auction language.

    That was all with me at that point. And he knew that and I knew that. And the next sort of like 10 minutes were basically this dream sequence of everything you have ever wanted anyone to say. Like you're valued. What is it gonna take to make you stay? And I'm sitting there thinking like, I would stay for nothing.

    But honestly, the fact that you're saying this right now to me also makes me so angry because you didn't even say this to me. Like you never offered this to me. And so I just told him, you know, I was leaving and this is what I wanted. And because I had seen what was going on with the events department, because strategic partnerships was something I saw as a potential for the company.

    I pitched it at that moment and he was like, yeah, no, I can see how that this would work if this is what you wanna do. And he was totally on board. Took it up to HR immediately, like I left an hour later. He basically by that afternoon had everything, you know, signed, sealed, and delivered except the title, which of course is the funny part cause that's the only thing that you can just give.

    I mean, titles are free, let's be honest. He was like, well we can't give you an international title until you sign a a deal. And I figured at that point I just go for bar and I was like, listen, there's no step two. Cuz without step one, I don't stay.

    And he literally was like, Ooh.

    And then by that afternoon, I had everything I wanted to stay. And the other funny thing that I thought about many times since is just my happiness as an employee. Being compensated in the way that I should have been compensated. I increased my salary three times over in that conversation, and so my roommate was moving out of our, you know, split one bedroom apartment, and I took over the whole apartment by myself.

    You know, it was just like all of these things that I didn't even know were possible were suddenly possible because I'd asked that question and held firm. On my belief that I was worth it. And that's not to say it happens every time. There were certainly many times I've asked for things that I didn't get, but it taught me to ask.

    And not to be scared of the word no because you're the only person who can ask that question. And again, going back to what I always say about creating the life you want, it's expensive to create the life you want. So make sure you can fund the life you want.

    Ling Yah: And one of the things that you have been doing to build your life is to be an author, and now you have two books.

    And I wonder how has being a published author changed your life and affected your career?

    Lydia Fenet: Oh my gosh. The release of my first book was such a moment in my life. I don't think you could realize what it's like to pick up a book that you've written. I've wrote it in three months, right?

    Pink thousand words a day. Like Absolutely Bright pink. Bright red book. So much went into the writing of that book and to pick it up and see my name on the cover and then to be able to promote it was amazing. But it also just gave me such confidence in my message, in my word, and to hear people now who still read the book, you know, I still get daily dms or things over Instagram or people posts that they're reading the book or they reach out and are like, oh my God, I just read your book and like this chapter changed my life.

    I mean, there's nothing like it that I can equate that to. In life. And I feel like my second book that's coming out claim Your Confidence, which comes out March 21st, is even more of that, you know, because I've been through so much in the past 18 months and really in the past four years, I mean, COVID being one of them, my family almost died in a car accident.

    That's the last chapter of the book. So many things that I've been through that have really tested my confidence and it's held firm. So I feel like the thesis I had going into the book, which. Once you've claimed your confidence, it doesn't matter what happens around you, you're strong enough to know you can handle it.

    I'd written 11 chapters when, as I said, my entire family almost died in a car accident. And yeah, I really got to prove that thesis true. And I'm proud to look back on that book and realize the words that I finished at the end of 2021. Still hold firm today.

    Ling Yah: Do you feel like having had such an eventful career and life, that you have found your why?

    Lydia Fenet: Yeah, but I think my why evolves.

    Success is not definite. It's not infinite, you know. You have to continually recreate success. I realized that even after my first book I wrote, the most powerful woman in the room is you. It was this incredible moment. I had the book tour. Everything was going so well.

    Then Covid hit and everything flatlined for everyone. You know? It was a completely different time in life, and the book kind of fell to the wayside. I really kind of forgot about it in the sense that I wasn't promoting it because I was trying to get through the days. Like most of us, you know, I have three children.

    I was eating lunch. Cut off crust with peanut butter for basically an entire year. Cuz I didn't have time between my work zooms and my children's zooms to get anything done. And, and your masterclass and my masterclass and I was launching all these other things as well. But the interesting thing is now that I've written a second book, I see that groundswell again, and I'm reminded that I'm the only person who can create success.

    I have a chapter called Action. Creates action. Action leads to action and claim your confidence. Where I really talk about the fact that we have to be the spark of action in our own lives. People wait around for other people to sort of anoint them or to tell them that they're good at something.

    No, that's up to you.

    You know, if you have a business and you need clients, it's up to you to find them, not them to find you. So always be looking for ways to spark action in your own life.

    Ling Yah: And what kind of legacy do you wanna leave behind?

    Lydia Fenet: I hope that my legacy is that people find their why over the course of their life because they have read my books or listened to claim your confidence, my podcast, and heard other women at the top of their careers.

    Telling why they're, they're doing that and how they've gotten there and they feel inspired by that. I felt like I was one of the firsts as it pertained to being a charity auctioneer. You know, there were other women doing it, but not that many. And I think a lot of them did it as an afterthought.

    And I really took on the mantle of this is something that I'm good at and I really wanna show people that this can be done and done in a different way. And being the first for me is always such a fun thing. You know, I just joined to be a car auctioneer with Broad Arrow Group, and you mentioned that earlier.

    I'm the first female charity auctioneer, I mean the first female collectible car auctioneer. And I get up in rooms of a thousand people, 98% of whom are men. And even they say to me now, they're like, we weren't even really sure you would be able to do it. And I just kind of laugh and I'm like, oh, I never had a doubt

    Ling Yah: I noticed that during, in, oh, I saw that in all your, I was like, wait, she's in a meeting with all men and I had to go back and just chat and go, wait. It really is all men .

    Lydia Fenet: Yeah, it's all men, but they're so, and honestly, I could not have fallen into a greater team of people. I have such fun with the Broad Arrow team and it's all on them.

    They came to me, I had no idea they even existed and they were sort of like, we wanna do this differently. And we think that you could be the person to do it. And as I said, I love being the first, so I was like, this seems like a challenge I should jump right into. So here we are.

    Ling Yah: What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Lydia Fenet: I think that they need to be confident in themselves. I think they should be surrounded by people who are equally, if not more successful, so that they're not looking around doubting that what they're doing is too much. You know, I've surrounded myself and you know, you had Nicole Levinson on this podcast, but I surround myself with incredible women who were looking at me saying, yes.

    Actually, do more.

    You got off that flight, I think you could go back, you know, take your kids next time. But they're also there in those moments of self-doubt when I have a moment where I'm like, oh my gosh, you know, when a book comes out? I think any author would tell you, you're just as it's starting to go out there before you start getting reviews back.

    There's some days where you're like, Is anyone gonna care about this ? Oh no. . I can say that my best friend's an author and we, we have a running joke cuz her third book's about to come out. And I had that moment maybe two months ago where I'm like, do you think that this is gonna get completely panned?

    She was like, I think you'll be okay. And then she called me about a month later and said, oh, I think nobody's gonna even care about this book. I was like, no, it's gonna be a bestseller. Like that's who you need on your side.

    Ling Yah: And where can people go to find more about you and follow your journey.

    Lydia Fenet: So yeah, I have a website,

    I'm on Instagram every day, keeping my algorithm up, but also cuz I think it's such a fun way to really showcase the exciting, glamorous part of my job, but also the real part of my job, which is a lot of backend travel and a lot of late nights. But more than anything, I think. Pick up the books, claim your confidence and the most powerful woman in the room is you.

    Or if you're someone who loves to listen. I have a podcast with Rockefeller Center called Claim Your Confidence, which I've released about seven episodes, but I think I've already done 26. I love podcasting. So fun.

    Ling Yah: And I believe if you're in Rockefeller you can actually go and watch you in session cuz the


    Lydia Fenet: Yes, exactly. It's a glass front booth. So it's in one Rockefeller Plaza. Walk by and wave and say hi. My producer Joe and I are in there usually with the guest most days, Wednesdays and Friday.

    Ling Yah: So before we wrap up, you often talk about the strike method and how you, you know, you go in, you just command, make sure the room is fully aware that you're there, not talking to each other.

    I would love to see, since you are also always working on the fly, what does that look like and how would you sell a spot on this podcast since you have gone through the entire process?

    Lydia Fenet: Oh, I love this. I absolutely love everything about this. So when I talk about the strike method, it really comes down to what I do with my gavel because I always love to bang my gavel down before I start anything.

    And that is just the way that I get a crowd, you know, of a thousand people who've been drinking all night. So what I would do is I would walk in with my gavel and I would say something like,

    Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the So This Is My Why podcast, I'm Lydia Fenet, and I'm so excited to be able to sell this incredible spot to someone who is listening today.

    Now, I can't see any of your faces, which is fine, but I'm going to pretend that you're here and I will start the bidding for such an elite spot at a thousand dollars. Is there anyone in our virtual, oh, we have a thousand dollars that's just come in on my right and a thousand, 2000 is bid. 3000 is bid on my right. At $4,000 in the back of our virtual room and $5,000 to the man who is sitting at his desk and $6,000 to the gentleman who is holding a dog and $7,000 to the woman at her desk with the podcast who is sitting it directly in front of me.

    And we are at $7,000 for this amazing spot. Is there any advance? Over $7,000. A dramatic bidder perhaps who would like to jump in.

    Oh, there is our dramatic bid coming in at $8,000. You thought that this was over, but you were wrong. We are at $8,000. Any advance over $8,000?

    Selling it here for $8,000. Sold to you.

    Ling Yah: Amazing.

    Lydia, that was the fantastic way to end the podcast. Thank you so much for your time.

    Lydia Fenet: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me.

    Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 115.

    The show notes and transcript can be found at

    STIMY also has a weekly newsletter which you can sign up for also at the show notes.

    You hear more about the behind the scenes of running this podcast, upcoming events and guests, and also what it takes to build a successful career or even a second career on top of that.

    And do stick around for next Sunday because we'll be meeting an amazing social entrepreneur who gathers thousands of people together to build homes for the underprivileged in three days. Now. What drives him? How does he raise funds? And how does he attract like-minded people to his mission?

    And has that mission ever changed for him personally?

    To find out, just stick around. Subscribe to this podcast if we haven't done so already, and see next Sunday.

    Lydia Fenet Christie's Managing Director & Global Head of Strategic Partnerships; Christie's Ambassador

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