For years, while working at a glitzy New York steakhouse, Cynthia Jorge was a cog in the Celebrity Industrial Complex — trading connections to stars (however tenuous) for restaurant publicity. But now Jorge ironically finds herself not the puppetmaster, but a subject of the same tabloids where she once placed items. This reversal of fortune comes after an unnamed "restaurant insider" leaked a story linking Jorge to a hugely famous, newly single movie star — who just so happens to have a new film out.
On Wednesday, InTouch broke the news that Jorge, 26, is Tom Cruise's latest love interest, reporting that “the pair first met Dec. 16 at the Lower East Side hot spot Beauty & Essex, where Cynthia works as a manager." According to the In Touch report of their meeting, Jorge gave Cruise her card as he was leaving a business dinner at Beauty & Essex. The next day, Cruise reportedly called Beauty & Essex twice and was put on hold “for a very long time” while trying desperately to reach her. When he finally got hold of Jorge, the pair arranged to go dancing at a New York club the following evening, where Cruise was spotted “sweeping her around the dance floor" — and at one point, “they began grinding together.”
The New York Post, which picked up the story, repeated the description of Jorge as a "restaurant manager."
But neither publication — both of which ran items about celebrities dining at Benjamin Steakhouse while Jorge was the Director of Marketing there, a position she left around six months ago, according to a manager — refers to Jorge's past as a celebrity-wrangling PR pro. People working in the murky field of celebrity name-dropping often send their notable clients for drop-bys at high-profile restaurants where their attendance will be mentioned as part of the campaign to confer some glitz upon the venue. The star's name stays in circulation, the restaurant gets a bit of glamour and a tabloid gets an item to fill its daily column. Everyone's happy.
A-List celebrities, though, are usually careful to allow only the most discreet individuals into their intimate lives. So it's unusual for a former publicist who has worked in the most attention-seeking corner of the industry to be linked with one of the most famous actors in the world. It's especially unusual when that star is Tom Cruise, who is notoriously litigious with publications that would seek to write about his intimate life.
Jorge seems to have made efforts to erase every trace of herself from the Internet—both her Twitter account and LinkedIn profile were both recently deleted, though web caches of pieces of both are still available online.
The Queens, New York native wrote on her LinkedIn profile, "As a New Yorker, I have learned that in order to succeed, one must work fast, strike hard and make every move count.“ She attended Boston University, and says she graduated in 2007 from the College of Communications.
So how did Cynthia Jorge go from promoting restaurants to grinding on the dance floor with Tom Cruise? And why do two publications who have every reason to know about her past — having run celeb tie-in stories about a restaurant she represented — not mention it in their pieces?
Relationships arranged for PR purposes often happen through word of mouth, says Jo Piazza, a former New York Daily News gossip reporter and author of Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money. “Somebody has a cousin — maybe in Queens — who they say would be great for this.”
Piazza contends, “The majority — at least 60 percent — of relationship and marriages in Hollywood are done for PR purposes.” She formulated her theory after a hundred plus interviews with agents, publicists and lawyers who have had a hand in manufacturing these relationships while researching her book.
Usually, Piazza says, relationships of convenience spring up around the release of a new movie or album, or the premiere of a TV show. And it’s not just relationships, either. “Babies in Hollywood are absolutely well-timed to bolster a celebrity’s brand,” Piazza says, listing off the examples: Tori Spelling, Kendra Wilkinson, Nicole Richie… and Tom Cruise.
“Suri Cruise was the only thing that was able to save Cruise’s career. After he jumped on the couch and lashed out at Matt Lauer, America was done with Tom Cruise,” Piazza says. “Suri saved him, and allowed him to continue to be a viable movie star after America turned on him.”
“Tom Cruise and his team have been some of the best in the business as using his personal life to further his brand. We saw it with his marriage to Katie Holmes,” Piazza says, citing decisions like giving the first photos of Suri to Vanity Fair. “They were very careful in how they managed that marriage — they managed it like a corporation.”
But we all know how that relationship ended. “He learned with both Nicole and Katie, you can control some factors but you can’t control all of them,“ Piazza speculates. “I think this time they chose a non-celebrity because its easier to mange some one who is not famous in their own right.”
While Jorge was employed at Benjamin Steakhouse, milking press out of celebrity tie-ins was a part of her job. The restaurant worked with a company called Talent Resources that specializes in “full-service marketing and creative strategy development,” — essentially, paparazzi product placement. The company took credit, for example, for making sure that Lindsay Lohan was constantly photographed holding the dissolvable tobacco product, Ariva.
Talent Resources Founder Mike Heller masterminded the Lohan deal, among many others. Last year, CNN.com wrote that Heller “began to notice the fan following that the tabloid starlets were garnering and the rabid interest in their lifestyle. What brand of handbag is Paris holding? What beverage is Britney drinking? Which club did Lindsay go to last night?”
"We connect the dots,” between celebrities and brands (and restaurants), Heller told CNN.com.
On its website, Talent Resources says Benjamin Steakhouse approached the company, “with the objective of increasing its client base by highlighting their food & beverage selection in the press, generating media buzz, and maintaining a regular celebrity clientele,” adding “Talent Resources sought to utilize its contacts at weekly lifestyle magazines” (including InTouch and Page Six) to accomplish this goal.
Talent Resources also takes credit on its website for securing a profile of Jorge earlier this year, shortly before she left Benjamin Steakhouse.
No one from Beauty and Essex would comment for this story, referring BuzzFeed to the restaurant’s PR firm, whose representative also declined to comment. A representative from Talent Resources confirms Benjamin Steakhouse is still a client, but denies that either Beauty & Essex or Tom Cruise work with the firm. That might not mean much though — according to the CNN profile, Heller "prefers that his company's involvement appear invisible."
And of course, it's possible that Cruise himself was just a pawn in a restaurant publicist's game. On Thursday, the New York Daily News suggested there may be less to the story than InTouch might like readers to believe. The paper quotes the head doorman of LeBaron, the nightclub where Cruise reported took Jorge, saying he was there the entire night, has no recollection of the events and doubts the date happened at all. And a relative of Jorge's also quoted in the story relative is similarly incredulous about the reported courtship.