A few months ago I got a call to attend NY Fashion Week in The Big Apple. I assume the word of a fashionable photographer and influencer from a distant, but friendly, village in Croatia got around. This was equal to landing on the moon for my family. The furthest anyone went from my house was the last bus stop in the neighborhood. They encouraged me before the trip:
Brother : ”I had a dream about your plane crashing.”
Father: ”I also had a dream about some blurry water.”
Mother: ”That is not a good sign. Have you written a last will yet?”
Grandma: She didn’t really know what to say so she kept playing songs containing subliminal messages: ”Don’t go anywhere. Earth is flat. You will fall down!”

I told about that to my friend Rea and she said: “Don’t you worry at all. Just buy travel insurance. I’ve heard about this guy who lost 2 fingers in the States and his insurance was weak so doctors asked him to choose one finger for them to sew back on.”
Dear Lord, why am I surrounded by psychopaths?

I did not want to buy a plane ticket until USA embassy approved my visa application. I have a job, I own an apartment, but I was worried about one thing. My nickname is Dear Leader and my Instagram name is Dear Leader Joe. They wouldn’t decline me because of that, would they? Well, after they asked me where I was going, why and how long I was staying, they asked me one more question: “How many Instagram followers do you have?” They are smart people. They wouldn’t let some poor schmuck who only has his parents and 2 neighbors as followers into the country. When they made sure I had some influence, they did not mind my name:) They gave me a journalist visa on 5 years.

I went to Palma Travel agency and bought a return ticket to New York (Zagreb – Warsaw – NY). They told me they also offered travel insurance and they suggested I took 15000€ worth insurance. I replied instantly: “Yeah and then lose a finger. No way! If something happens to me, it will be serious. Double that to 30000€ so I can transplant my liver if I want to.” I know I come off as wasteful but the difference was merely 3$.

Palma Travel – Dragi Vođa
Bože, zar si pozvao mene da letim u New York?
Bog – Jbg, Kolinda se nije javljala na mobitel.
Foto: Irena,

I packed the essentials and took off on the paths of Kolumbo.

I was waiting for my transfer in Warsaw when suddenly I heard my name being called on the speaker phone. I got up proudly thinking I have won something: traveler of the month, traveler of the year… I was as wrong as captain of Titanic when he yelled out: “Full speed forward! Fuck the ice.” Turns out they chose me for a random baggage check up. I suppose I was suspicious carrying 10 kg of Lino Lada Gold (Croatian Nutella). I calmly explained to them I was not myself when my blood sugar is too low.

I flew Air Italy from Warsaw to New York and even though a lot of people criticize them, the flight was excellent. It was a new airplane and food was surprisingly good. There was a slight incident though. There was a mutiny among the rest of the passengers because I had 2 packs of Lino Lada as desert and they didn’t. I have explained to them that I payed extra for my ticket. Business Class

Lino Lada Foto: Dragi Vođa,

Actually, there was yet another incident. Even though they had a vast selection of movies, there wasn’t even one movie by Steven Seagal. What was I suppose to do for 8 hours on this flight?

I have arrived to NY around 9 pm and as soon as I stepped foot on American ground, I got ripped off. First I had to buy a 45$ phone card which turned out to be 50$ because Americans don’t include taxes on their pricing and 62$ for TAXI from JFK airport to Hilton NY Fashion District hotel in Manhattan. Taxi driver kept asking for 20% tip so the drive ended up costing me 75$. Why does misfortune always fall on the most honest ones among us? Later on I’ve been told I didn’t need to tip him, let alone 20% even though one is expected to tip like that at restaurants and cafe bars but you can also tip a bit less if you are as cheap as I am.

I took my stuff to my room and realized I was beat. I always knew I had a short-leg situation, turns out I also had jetlag. I took a short look at the city before returning to my hotel to crash for the night.

NEW YORK Foto: Dragi Vođa,

I got up early tomorrow morning and went to New Yorker Hotel which was nearby. For those of you who do not know, Nikola Tesla use to live there in rooms 3327 and 3328. I wanted to enter one of the rooms but they were already booked. I bowed to the great inventor and said to him: “Congrats on the electricity, but there is no better invention than Croatian hazelnut spread – Lino Lada Gold”. On that note, I left him a jar.

Dragi Vođa i Nikola Tesla
Foto: Prolaznik iz Crne Gore,

I also stopped by Hard Rock cafe, but nothing they had showcased could compare to the thrill of watching Eurovision contest. Now that is an experience to remember, not late Hendrix.

Hard Rock Cafe
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

I got hungry from all the cultural uprising so I went to the corner of 8th Avenue and 42nd street to a South Philly sandwich with fries and pancakes for desert. They asked me if I wanted extra spice and I answered: “Maybe just a drizzle of this GMO stuff you have on the shelf, thanks.” Now this was a sandwich, not that crap cashier Helga keeps making me buy at my local store.

South Philly sandwich
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

All this food, bottled water included, cost me 18$ which is not that pricey considering the size of everything and the fact I was full for the rest of the day. The only thing I could never forgive them was that blasted syrup they pour over their pancakes. That is proper sacrilege. Pancakes without Lino Lada Gold are like Pope without a double decker Mercedes.

Lino Lada Gold vs Sirup
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

I had a meeting at the hotel at 5 pm with bloggers from all around the world who came to NY Fashion Week. They all found it interesting how I came from Croatia. I got questioned about how long I have been in fashion industry to which I proudly emphasized the influence of my long family line of village fashion icons and explained how I have been fashionable since I was born. I’ve also shown a couple of photos so they could witness my unique fashion style for themselves. Versace who, Armani who…? Shithole Village Couture Summer/Winter 2019!

Čučerje konfekcija 2019.

As soon as they found out I was a photographer, I got collaboration offers. My first victim was Tiffany Williams. A model and a blogger from USA.

New York – Tiffany Williams
Foto: Dragi Vođa,


New York – Tiffany Williams
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

Not only she loved the photos, she also got hooked on Lino Lada Gold like Donald Trump on bad wigs.

The word got around pretty quickly about something sweet being nibbled on, but no one dared come closer. I could hear whispers: “Is it gluten free?” Namely, Americans are as afraid of gluten as Croatians are of draft. When they found out that Lino Lada Gold doesn’t contain gluten, they dived in like there was no tomorrow. Even America’s next top model finalist Liberty Neutschil could not resist.

New York – Liberty Netuschil – Lino Lada Gold
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

Lino Lada also swooped away a renown chef Anthony Reddick “TJ” who recently won a popular Food Network show – Cooks vs Cons.

TJ. Anthony Reddick – Lino Lada Gold
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

One jar got snatched away by a rapper, beatboxer and a producer from Chicago – Marcel Simmons.

New York – Marcel Simmons
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

I am a great patriot and I support local businesses so I’ve been looking for something I personally like that also fits in my suitcase and is easy to take over the border. The easiest was to promote our wonderful country is to let people taste it. Everyone likes something sweet and I believe Lino Lada Gold was the best delicacy I could’ve picked. Except for my father maybe who doesn’t accept any sweets except a homemade plum jam.

Everyone had their own schedule and I went to the Alice + Olivia fashion show held in Angel Orensanz Foundation with a blogger from Switzerland Stephanie.

New York Fashion Week – Dear Leader Joe aka Vin Diesel for poor people
Foto: Stephanie,
NY Fashion Week – Stephanie Olivier
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,
New York Fashion Week
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,

On day three we went to OKNO boutique in Soho. We were suppose to do a campaign for one of the clothing items from the shop and pick something for ourselves in the end. First I took some photos of Tiffany and then I showed everyone how it’s done, Vin Diesel for poor people style.

Tiffany Williams
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,
Dear Leader Joe aka Vin Diesel for poor people
Foto: Sergio Cuen

I was the IT guy in my colorful shoes. Everybody asked me where I got them and who designed them. I said proudly: “These are custom handmade Strugar shoes from Croatia.” No way I was going to wear Armani like some poor schmuck.

A word came to the White house about my suitcase full of Lino Lada Gold. Melania hasn’t slept for days. Donald Trump called me personally to arrange reception at the Oval office, but only if I didn’t come empty handed.

Evil people will say this isn’t in fact POTUS and it is only his wax figure from Madame Tussauds museum, but that is a lie. As if I would pay 40$ for a ticket to a museum. HA!

By the way, my friends teased me how I will finally see what it’s like to be in a big city where no one knows me and I have to pay for all my food and drinks because my influence can only reach so far. I said to them “Au contraire!” and I was right. We had a rooftop party at the hotel where I started talking to a staff member who told me she was actually from Serbia and has been living in New York for five years now. I immediately started having a chat with her in fluent Serbian. Since Americans ate all of my nut spread, I was only left with one small sample Lino Lada which I gave to her. She was so happy that she told her colleague at the bar: “This young man doesn’t pay anything tonight! Open the tap, it’s on me” Prices weren’t even that high for their standard. A beer was 8$ and cocktails 15$. Thanks Suzana once more and here’s a message to all the evil mouths out there: “Mark my word, Dear Leader Joe is influencer of the world.”

New York – bloggers
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,

On the last day we went to see a fashion show at the legendary Piere 59 studios. We were greeted by breakfast for models. No bacon, no onions…just croissants and fruit salad.

Piere 59 Studios – fruit salad
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

Since we arrived early, we had time for a nice photosession. This time my model was gorgeous Vanessa Oblinsky from San Diego. She liked my photos so much that she invited me to move there with her and become her personal photographer. That would have been a big win for the photographer community of San Diego, but a big loss for that small Shithole village of Croatia.


Dear Leader Joe and Vanesa Oblinsky
New York Fashion Week – Tanya – Thestyledrivethru
Photo: Dear Leader Joe,

When the word got around Dear Leader has entered the building, suddenly there was muttering heard all around in fluent English: “Mine, mine, mine…! I saw him first….Cow…Goat….Jessicaaaa…no, not my extensions”

Pier59 Studios – Kiara Imani Williams
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,
Pier59 Studios – Jazmyn Lyric
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,


Does a man get hungry from all those fashion shows or what. I have decided to treat myself at the hotel restaurant with a juicy burger marinated in good old whiskey. I have ordered myself a beer as well. The price wasn’t too crazy, everything including fries was 25$. Restaurant manager came up to me at one point and said: “I’m sorry you waited too long for your burger, your food is on the house.” Now that is what I call hospitality. If I hear one more time about New York being expensive…this is heaven on earth.

Hilton NY Fashion District – burger
Foto: Dear Leader Joe,

I got up at 7 am on the last day. I made plans with Stephanie and her Colombian ”president” Yessica to go to the Brooklyn bridge and have a photosession. My brother told me before I was leaving for New York: “If you ever decide to throw yourself off of a bridge, this one is the most popular in New York” However, I did not have suicidal thoughts until I saw fridge magnets being sold at the bridge for only 1$ when I already bought an identical one for my cashier lady Helga for 4 bloody dollars. Last time I was this sad was when I got my gas bill. And again I say, why does misfortune always fall on the most honest among us?

Brookyln Bridge – Dragi Vođa
Foto: Stephanie Olivier,
Brookyln Bridge – Stephanie Olivier
Foto: Dragi Vođa,

New York – Brookyln Bridge – Yessica Escobar
photo: Dear Leader Joe,

I wanted to check out Central Park, Wall Street…so many things, but I just did not have enough time. I would in fact have enough time if I haven’t come to NY on business and been a manufacturer who fell for those old tricks: “Please just bring me one purse; bring me just a T-shirt…” I lost an entire bloody day shopping. May it not happen again. By the way, it’s a smart thing to buy NY Pass that allows you free entry to most of the places in the city.

After a day spent shopping and photographing, I sat on a bench and wrote a little poem that goes something like this: I spent all my money, I can’t even afford bread, but at least I still have my favorite Lino Lada nut spread:)

New York – Dear Leader Joe
Photo: Tiffany,

If you’re only interested in sightseeing or for business, New York is perfect for you. People are nice, open and everyone is ready to do business, new projects and different work offers are flowing in from all sides. The city isn’t as pricey as you are poor. Anyway, I don’t think I would live there, but I can not wait to come back again.


PS: For everyone who wants to know more about NY Fashion Week 2019 and newest fashion recommendations, here is Liberty Neutschil’S blog.

PSS: Special thanks to my friends: Tetec Franc Ožbolt, Doktor and Rea Farout

Author: Dear Leader Joe aka Vin Diesel for poor people, self-effacing lover of golden bars and Lino Lada Gold, a corresponding member of the “It’s better to be rich than poor” magazine, a friend to the wealthy, a tycoon and a snob, but above all a human.