A Racial Incident at WeHo’s The Wing Raises More Questions About the Club’s Exclusivity

The Wing (Photo by Alexander Westerman)

The Wing, a women-only club that was moving away from its controversial policy of barring men as members or guests when it opened a branch in West Hollywood this spring, lately has been struggling with allegations of racism based on an incident at the WeHo club.

The Guardian, one of the world’s leading English-language news organizations, recently published a profile of the membership-only club, which bills itself as a “women’s-focused coworking and networking space.” That profile cites an incident in May in which a black woman who was a member of the West Hollywood branch of the club was accosted by a white woman who was a guest of a Wing member.

Asha Grant (Instagram)

That woman was Asha Grant, director of the Free Black Women’s Library in Los Angeles.The incident alleged began when Grant parked in a space that the white woman, who has not been identified, thought was hers. The woman followed Grant and a black woman who was her guest into the Wing, and gave them and Stephanie Kimou, another black Wing member, an obscene hand gesture.

“The harassment did not end,” Grant said in an interview with Zora, an online site for women of color. “It was clear that she was not going to stop saying things to us… I was like, ‘Okay, you need to be asked to leave.’”

“The woman was not asked to leave in accordance with the location’s guest policy. Instead, staff members allowed the woman to remain in the space, saying there was nothing they could do about the ‘sticky situation’,” Zora reports.

“It was another example of White women’s comfort prioritized over Black women’s pain,” Grant says. She terminated her Wing membership, as did Kimou.

Stephanie Kimou

Kimou announced that she was ending her membership in an Instagram post: “As some of you know, I decided to end my membership at @the.wing this year. After the initial allure of their perfectly designed co-working spaces, beauty rooms stocked full of Glossier and Goop, the lattes, and their ‘commitment to diversity,’ the facade started to crack and what was underneath all that pink felt oppressive and debilitating. Businesses like @the.wing, founded by well connected + well resourced white women, use their millions to create the ‘perfect female experience,’ essentially trying to craft a catch all version of feminism that (surprise!) at its core is white, capitalistic, elitist, with a dash of culture thanks to the amazing WOC who pour into it everyday.”

Other black women also ended their memberships with The Wing, which last month responded with an apology. “This was a humbling experience for our team and we are currently putting measures in place to make sure we handle incidents like this one much more thoughtfully in the future,” The Wing said in a statement about the incident.

The Wing is located on the top floor of the building at 8550 Santa Monica Blvd. that perhaps is best known as a location for Sprouts, which is on the ground floor. The club’s membership fees start at $2,350 a year.After facing criticism for its exclusionary policies, The Wing announced in September 2018 that “all applicants will be evaluated based on their commitment to The Wing’s mission, regardless of their perceived gender identity,” a reversal from a statement made earlier that year by the club’s founder, Audrey Gelman, that the club was open only to “women, self-identifying women, trans women, and individuals who don’t identify of the gender binary.”

The Guardian’s revelation of the Asha Grant incident poses another challenge for West Hollywood, a city whose leaders have promoted it as a model of progressive culture, largely because of its acceptance of gay men. The city’s leaders have been struggling with allegations of racism stemming from the allegedly slow response to the deaths of black gay men of drug overdoses in the apartment of Ed Buck, a gay white man known for his donations to the election campaigns of four West Hollywood City Council members as well as those of Democratic elected officials in Los Angeles County, Calfornia and Washington, D.C.

The Wing is one of the latest in a series of expensive and exclusive private clubs to open in West Hollywood, a city whose identity has changed dramatically since it was incorporated in 1984 in a campaign to ensure affordable housing and gay rights. A competitor is AllBright West Hollywood, a private membership club exclusively for working women, opened at 8474 Melrose Place in September that is just outside the city limits but markets itself as a West Hollywood destination. Others include the San Vicente Bungalows, which developed from a portion of the renovated San Vicente Inn at 845 N. San Vicente Blvd., and the SoHo House at 9200 Sunset Blvd., which opened 10 years ago. Then there is the Arts Club, a members-only club planned for 8920 Sunset Blvd. at Hilldale.

The members-only clubs are expensive. Annual fees at AllBright are $2,050 ($1,100 for women 29 and under), with a $300 initiation fee. Membership at the San Vicente Bungalows costs $4,200 a year, or $1,800 for those 35 and under. The initiation fee will be $1,800 (only $500 for those 40 and under). (One must be invited in order to apply for membership to the San Vicente Bungalows).

The SoHo House is said to charge $2,000 annually or $2,800 for access to all of its clubs around the world. It’s not clear what the Arts Club will charge, but in London a membership in the club for artists and writers and other creatives is the equivalent of $2,558 in U.S. dollars as is the initiation fee. SoHo House, the Arts Club and AllBright all are offshoots of clubs based in London.


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Berky Jones
Guest
Berky Jones

Fellow LGBTQ thinkers, how does a club that costs so much justify anything about being non-elitist, much less the currently circulating charges of racism and sexism? Oh yeah – I get it. People know that for some things to exist in West Hollywood automatically means that people of lesser income can’t participate. Is introducing a “socialist” agenda a viable idea? Not likely with the “elitist” City Council members, such as John Duran, etc… Money, money, money makes the City Council go round. Praise to the non-elitists such as Don Killhefner. However, rich elitists have taken over West Hollywood and so… Read more »

Carlos Sanchez-Lutz
Guest
Carlos Sanchez-Lutz

I’m not surprised at the Wing club is racist sorority. It is a club formed by white rich middle aged women who need something to do while their husbands work and their kids are high at school. The white women spend most of their time at The Wing socializing and drinking while looking for their next husband.

The City of West Hollywood needs to shut down the club and have these women go back home to take care of their husbands and kids.

Charlea Reid
Guest
Charlea Reid

Funny how so many men who are obviously racist themselves can’t understand that women want a place of their own to go and relax especially since there are tons of all male white clubs throughout the planet. That is so sexist. Now it is super racist that you can’t possibly understand how these black women are now discovering the racist attitudes of their white female counterparts at this club offensive.

Bee Elle Tee
Guest
Bee Elle Tee

What even is this article? Is it actually about an unfortunate racial incident that took place or about private clubs in a particular zip code? Lazy clickbait.

Gimmeabreak
Guest
Gimmeabreak

If there were an all-male gym at the location of The Wing I would gladly pay their membership fee. Some people see racism “in the rising of the sun!” There is far less of it than most people believe, but there’s money to be made and power to be had by nurturing it. Guilt-tripped whites are always ready to advance the notion of prevalent and persistent racism because it gives them a “cause” to make their lives meaningful when, in fact, this “cause” is its own form of racism. To suggest that black people need you to protect and defend… Read more »

Robert Zabb
Guest
Robert Zabb

I find it hard to believe someone complained about parking behavior because of race of the other driver.

Robert Zabb
Guest
Robert Zabb

I find it hard to believe someone got upset about parking because of another persons race. I strongly suspect the cry of racism is phony in this instance.

Ken Howard
Guest
Ken Howard

As a long-time West Hollywood resident, a city that was founded on equality and inclusion, especially providing an affirmative space free of discrimination, especially those who are LGBT, I find it appalling that we have the elitism of so many “private clubs” which are just monuments to (straight, I might add) privilege, wealth, ageism, and being White. In the case of The Wing, it is appalling that they discriminate against all men, including gay men. That there is a business within the limits of the City of West Hollywood that discriminates against gay men on the site of the old… Read more »

jimmy palmieri
Guest
jimmy palmieri

Agreed agreed agreed. Wing is a stain on the core values of the city.

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

Well said, and I join Jimmy in saying that this “club” is a stain on West Hollywood.

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

Nothing to see here other than a “sticky situation” which involved uncouth behavior in an equally uncouth environment of some sense of exclusivity, privilege and entitlement inuring to ones gender. The place is discriminatory in its fundamental design and has no place in West Hollywood.

Things That Make You Go, Hmm
Guest
Things That Make You Go, Hmm

Ok, so let me get this straight (figure of speech), you join an expensive private club that doesn’t allow individuals who identify as men (aka male) or at least makes it uncomfortable for them to enter, and you now complain about an incident that is implied to have been bias, racist or prejudicial??!! (But we’re not really sure by reading this article)

For the complaining women it looks like elitist, separatists and private parking spots are ok as long as it doesn’t affect them.

Drew
Guest
Drew

I’ve lived in West Hollywood since the late 80’s and have rarely seen or felt racism from its residents. I have to agree that I dont see how this is a race issue simply because it involved a woman of color and a white woman. These women just cannot admit to being a-holes so rather than taking the blame they say it must have to do with race. Now as the article states these clubs charge different fees based on age so they are obviously discriminatory against older people.

Paul Swayne
Guest
Paul Swayne

While unfortunate, I don’t think the African American women should’ve canceled their membership to the club. Instead I think they should have sought out management and worked to seek resolve. Progress is rarely made through conceding. Instead we must stand together and work to create a space where all feel welcome, regardless of how uncomfortable the process may be. Women have faced oppression through the history of the US and I would hope their examples of sisterhood could be beacons of light for this city and our country as a whole. Race is a sensitive subject and it is very… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I want to join this discussion but will remain named anonymous bc I work at the space. I am white and was injured on the job and have been discriminated against since it happened. The racism doesn’t end with the members, being white actually European,I can proudly say I am completely against racism bc my partner is of color. I go to work every day and ha e to put up with staff talking about how white people have it made. Just the other day I was in the middle of working and had to listen to a black woman,… Read more »