Brook Urick, 24, claims she is not an escort – but only dates wealthy, older men so she can maintain her lifestyle. Now she’s giving lessons in how to net a HNW man. Lucy Bannerman meets her and her British protégées
’re in a hot and sweaty basement bar in London, and a young woman from Las Vegas is dazzling a gaggle of protégées with tales from her life of luxury. They’re here because they all want to have what she’s having: namely, a sugar daddy with a very, very big bank account. Some are new to this game; others have had a taste, but suspect they’re selling themselves short. Happily, Brook Urick, 24, is here to share some tips on how they can bag the sugar daddy of their dreams, gilding her wisdom in the language of “you-go-girl empowerment”, and speaking in soundbites that she badly wants to become catchphrases. Sipping warm prosecco, they hang on her every word.
“You’re not paid; you’re gifted,” she explains.
“Don’t say on your first date, ‘I want this much.’ Nobody wants to hear that. You’re not looking for money. You’re looking to be spoilt in [she flicks air quotes with her fingers] ‘an elevated relationship’. You have to hint.” Most importantly, and she can’t stress this enough, “You’re not an escort. You’re a sugar baby.”
She doesn’t mess about. “It’s a lonely world out there. The world is full of salt. It’s your responsibility to go out and find the sugar.”
The largest woman in the room nods knowingly. “I’ve met a lot of salt,” she sighs.
The aspiring sugar babies – around 20 women of various ages, from 18 to late forties, and one young man (more of whom later) – have one thing in common: they are all signed-up members of Seeking Arrangement, the matchmaking website “where beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships”.
For anyone unfamiliar with the world’s most successful sugar-daddy dating site, it is effectively an online marketplace, where sugar daddies – and occasionally sugar mummies – with profile names such as “The Winner”, “BigHeartedLawyer” and “Married but Looking Don Juan from Marylebone” declare their annual salaries, net worth and the kind of lifestyle budgets they’re willing to provide, in exchange for lively company and good times with “babies”, who advertise themselves as a “20-year-old pocket rocket” and “Sexy PA seeking board member in Bedfordshire”.
Think of it as an alternative economy, a sexual equivalent to the Brixton pound, in which youth and beauty are traded in time-honoured fashion for money and success. So far, it appears to be phenomenally popular, with a claimed 5.5 million members in 139 countries.
The daddies pay premium rates to join – £50 per month for a diamond account with income verification. Sugar babies join for free, posting sexy pictures of themselves beside profiles that state their lifestyle expectation: for example, “substantial”; “negotiable”; in the case of one “flirty, fierce transgender baby from Didcot”, “minimal”. Those who join with college or university email addresses are offered free premium membership. Background checks are an optional extra – the badge of approval will cost daddies £50 and babies £25. Men and women browse each other’s profiles, flirting and haggling underneath ad banners that offer “Anonymous STD testing from your home”.
No one is officially selling sex. “If people want to be escorts, there are plenty of other sites for that,” Urick insists. “They’re on Seeking Arrangement for something different. It’s a very fine line. My role is to teach these girls the difference.”
Urick’s website claims to have 591,200 members in the UK: the majority, 507,000, are sugar babies, with 79,000 sugar daddies and 5,200 sugar mummies.
‘The world is full of salt. It’s your responsibility to go out and find the sugar’
That’s around six sugar babies per sugar daddy, which means that while this evening, hosted by Urick, Seeking Arrangement’s event planner and spokesperson, is meant to be an introductory lesson in the art of “sugaring”, it’s also a rare chance for the babies to check out the competition.
And what an odd evening it is. Urick seems unusually coy for an expert in the manipulation of rich old men. As her guests mingle, I ask her how much she is “gifted” by her own sugar daddy.
“I’m not going to tell you, because that would be totally inappropriate,” she replies. All she will say is that he is in his thirties.
I ask how someone with a “regular, middle-class” upbringing became involved in sugar coaching, and she explains how she got a part-time job in the warehouse of an adult novelty company while studying at the University of Nevada. It turns out doing the sex-toy stocktake gave her “an insight into how many different types of relationship there are out there. You realise they’re all weird.”
She’s always been turned on by men with money.
“Some women want to go Dutch. More power to you. But there are other girls who don’t. I always expect a guy to pay for me, because that’s how I want to be treated and that’s what I’ve come to expect. Then a friend told me about this dating site and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a lifestyle about that?’ I was sugaring and I didn’t even know it.”
Money, she says, is just the life-enhancing culmination of all the qualities she finds attractive in a partner, including “ambition, intelligence and being organised”.
Urick adds, “That’s not to say I have never been out with a law student or a teacher. But at a certain point you realise that you can’t have a conversation with them, because there are things they don’t understand.”
Would she like to marry a sugar daddy?
“Oh, I will,” she says, with determination. “Because that’s the type of relationship I seek out, and I’m not ashamed of that.”
She’s never been in love. Not interested. “That’s just something I’ve never done. Money and gifts are just a way of giving and receiving love. If someone tells me I’m beautiful …” – she feigns boredom, with a long eye roll and flick of her hair – “I’m like … ‘Yeah, thanks.’ ” Eyelash flutter. “ ‘Now, can we go on a trip?’ ”
Elsewhere, the babies are working the room, checking out the people behind the profiles.
Donna is what Seeking Arrangement would probably call a success story. She is blonde and striking, with the artificially plumped lips of the expensively groomed and vivid violet contact lenses. A few months ago she was working in a “crappy job” at a smoothie stall in Manchester.
Now, she and her best friend “sugar together”, and are each receiving an allowance of £3,000 per month from a jet-setting sugar daddy who puts them up, rent-free, in his Chelsea apartment, in exchange for threesomes, on tap, whenever he visits for one or two weeks every month. She is 18.
“It’s a sexual arrangement,” Donna explains, bluntly, in a strong Mancunian accent. “The rest of the time we have the apartment to ourselves.” And the freedom to see other sugar daddies. Apart from the close friend to whom she lost her virginity, Donna says every other man she has slept with since has been a sugar daddy she met through the site.
In two days, for example, she’s due to fly first class to a sex party in Sweden, hosted by a sheik claiming to belong to one of the Gulf royal families; she can’t remember which. “He says I can go home any time, if I don’t like it.”
Another regular sugar daddy in his fifties organises evenings for lots of girls from the site, at the same time. “He hires a room and invites his work colleagues along. It’s £1,000 per meet.”
“£1,000?” exclaims another aspiring sugar baby in disbelief. “Wow, you’re living the dream! Most I’ve ever got is £200. How do you do it?” she asks with envy. “I think it must just be down to luck, y’know.”
“Erm, yeah,” says Donna politely.
No one is officially selling sex. ‘If people want to be escorts, there are other sites for that’
At first, Donna splashed out on gifts for her brothers and sisters, but her mother has forbidden contact. “She told me to stop. She said she doesn’t want them to become like me, so I can’t really do that any more, which makes me sad.”
What has she learnt?
“Never accept cheques.”
Not exactly what I meant, but she continues. “When they say they’ll pay later, you say, no, you need to pay now. Never accept PayPal. Just be careful, because mad things do happen.”
“You have to be cold-hearted. Determined. You can’t cry,” she goes on, tutting about how her friend once made the mistake of falling in love with a sugar daddy. “I was like, ‘Rochelle, are you for real?’ ”
Listening to all this is David, a handsome Lithuanian lad of 20 who is drinking alone at the bar, swirling a vodka and Coke.
He arrived in the UK this summer and soon found himself owing £850 in rent, with just £240 to pay it. The crisis was averted thanks to a night with a sugar mummy at the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard. “The first time, I was so nervous. I got through it with a lot of Jägermeister and Red Bull. At first, I was like, ‘What am I doing? She’s older than my mum.’ Then I got used to it. She was very discreet at reception, but then it was like being led down a dark tunnel and as soon as we were inside the hotel room …” He shakes his head, laughing. “F***ing control freaks. They are all control freaks. Everybody on this site is weird. The more money they are offering, the more flawed they are.”
Since then, he reckons he has made about £32,000 being “spoilt”, around £6,000 last month alone. He currently has three cougars – Shougars? – on the go (aged 39, 42 and 44 respectively), all successful women who work in finance. None knows about the other, and they are each covering his rent and bills, so everything is being paid three times over. Recently, one of them treated him to free sky-diving lessons. Another likes to show him off, as arm candy, at swanky events. He has plenty of inquiries from sugar daddies, too, and is not averse to pretending to be gay, if it means a nice dinner.
He has worked out a lucrative strategy to seal the sweetest deals. “I try to be supernice with them at first, then become very cold so they have to fight for me, then when you show them attention again, that’s when you’re in. You feel like you have power over them, but they feel the same. That’s the control freak in them. It’s all about control.”
He has just begun a degree in business and entrepreneurship, but intends to keep on his part-time job as an optician’s assistant. If he’s really making so much money, why bother?
“I’m set up for life. I don’t need to work. But I needed to keep a job to remember who I was. If you get too spoilt, you can get lost. These people can lose you.” The optician’s position, he says, “is just to prove to myself I’m still me”.
Poor Tina is having less luck. A sweet Welsh girl in her early twenties, with a pronounced speech impediment, she lacks the hardened glamour of the rest, as well as David’s cynical detachment. Having recently dropped out of a law degree, she is now looking for a sugar daddy who also fulfils all romantic expectations.
Last week, she had a date with a banker. Or rather, a man claiming to be a banker.
“It was a Friday, but he kept talking about having to be up for work the next day. I think he lived with his mum,” she says.
After dinner, she agreed to go back to his. The taxi dropped them off in a run-down part of north London.
“He tried to take me down this dark street.” That’s when she ran. “He was really creepy. If I’d been drunk, I wouldn’t be speaking to you now.”
She intends to keep on searching for some sugar. “I don’t see why there’s such a stigma, if you’re getting what you want at the end of the day. You just have to keep looking. And always tell a friend where you’re going.”
Meanwhile, the cocktails are flowing and some of the other sugar babies are whooping like brides-to-be on a hen night.
“So, come on, how old was your oldest?” challenges Sharmaine, in her mid-twenties.
“Urgh, sometimes it’s best not to know,” says one of the women. “In his fifties,” says one. “Sixty,” says another. Sharmaine proudly trumps them all. “Sixty-four!” she beams. “And he was the first man to give me an orgasm! My sugar daddy was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
The sugar babies find this hilarious, but Sharmaine, a very tall, slim girl who wears braces on slightly buck teeth, wants to make a serious point. She came from a broken home and left when she was very young.
“I never had a father figure. I was always broke. I had to fend for myself. My sugar daddy was what was missing from my life. He taught me to sit up at the table. I used to dress like a hoodlum. Now I dress like a lady. He changed me into a butterfly.”
She insists it has been a positive experience. “All I ever wanted was braces. Once these are off, my smile’s good for ever.” Next, she plans a nose job. “Then I’m done with sugaring. I’ll get myself a nice 30-year-old man.”
The idea of a sugar daddy providing much more than just financial relief is something that, naturally, Seeking Arrangement is keen to promote.
“They teach. Your sugar daddy is a mentor, a protector,” suggests Brianna, an experienced sugar baby who claims to be 25, but could be in her late thirties.
“You’re not gold-digging,” she tells Sharmaine. “You’re goal-digging.”
‘With a sugar daddy, there’s no chance of a real relationship. It’s safer. There’s no fear of rejection’
This sparks a giggle from a woman from Estonia. “I am a gold-digger, actually,” she declares, to the alarm of the others. Their drinks pause at their lips, as if one of their number is about to say too much, but it’s a joke – she has a degree in mining engineering. “It’s about the minerals underground,” she winks. “But I like finding the gold.”
She is unapologetic about treating Seeking Arrangement as a career choice. She has two sugar daddies, aged “45 and fiftysomething. One regular one for shopping and travelling. One for £500 pay per meet.”
“Why not?” she asks. “Right now I’m young. I’d say I’m good-looking. Life is tough. Women lose their looks. I might as well do it now while I can.”
Perplexingly, at least two of the glamorous young women claim they have no requirement for financial support. “I come from a seriously wealthy family. I don’t need the money, that’s for sure.” “Oh no, me neither,” says another. “I just want to have fun.”
Kati, 21, another Estonian, has a more thoughtful approach. She believes there’s more to it, that both sugar daddies and sugar babies are motivated by deeper, personal needs.
She has nurtured arrangements with four sugar daddies in their fifties in the Cambridge area, with four regular meets each week.
The most common criticism hurled against Seeking Arrangement is that it allows men to buy their way out of emotional commitment, but Kati suggests that is precisely the appeal for sugar babies like her.
She joined the site after having her heart broken by her ex-boyfriend. Embarking on relationships without the usual objectives of marriage or romance or children means the stakes are much lower, she says.
“Sometimes sugar daddies fade away, too, and you do feel left behind, but it’s still not as bad as being rejected by someone you like. There’s no chance of a real relationship. It’s safer. I don’t want to have a real relationship, so for me this works, because it doesn’t go to a personal level. In a relationship [you worry], ‘What if he leaves me behind?’ Whereas with a sugar daddy, it’s different.”
No fear of rejection?
“Yes, I suppose so.”
She disagrees that it is tantamount to prostitution, “because that’s when you have a client, you have sex and go. These are different. They are not personal relationships exactly, but you spend time together, talk every day. I think of them more as family friends, who give me advice. I feel sorry for them. They tend to be really nice people, but they’re lonely. They want conversation.”
Her strategy is not to get greedy. “I never go for the richest one. I feel the more money, the more risk. So I tend to look around £63,000,” she says, explaining her oddly specific salary preference. “Maybe a normal office person, who can value me.”
What perks has she enjoyed so far? She has most of her rent paid, she says.
“Now I’m trying to see if one of my sugar daddies is nice enough to buy me a new iPhone, because I broke mine last week.” Her screen is still cracked. So far, the hints have fallen on deaf ears.
At the end of the night, some of the women go on to a nightclub, while the rest go home, leaving just Urick and me, and the dregs of their strawberry daiquiris. I suggest that sugaring might not be all that she’s cracking it up to be. Her argument is that Seeking Arrangement doesn’t do romance; it deals in reality.
“There are psychos everywhere. There are psychos in this bar right now. There are people who are trying to screw you over and manipulate you at every corner of your life. We don’t want escorts. Seeking Arrangement does a few things to keep the water clean, but it is not our job to police who’s an escort and who’s not.
“My goal is to cultivate a community that promotes sugaring. That’s what tonight was about. Most people are looking at what I’ve got and wanting it. If they’re not getting what I’ve got, then they’re not doing it right.”