Miss Match Weds Law and Matchmaking

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Being a divorce lawyer by day and a matchmaker by night might strike people as a classic case of cognitive dissonance—something akin to being both a nutritional counselor and pastry chef. But for Samantha Daniels C’89, it has not only made perfect sense for her life but also serves as the real-life basis for the new television show Miss Match, which premiered in September on NBC.

“Seeing the reasons why people break apart and what sort of broad concepts and issues come up when they’re getting divorced,” she explains, “makes you think of how you would put two people together.” 

Daniels grew up believing that she would become a lawyer, though she was uncertain as to what legal path she would take.

“I thought that if I went into corporate law, it might be a little dry for me,” she notes. “I’m a people person, so I wanted to get into an area of the law that was very people-oriented.” Matrimonial law seemed a good fit.

After graduating from Temple Law School, Daniels landed a position as an associate with a matrimonial partner at the New York law firm Anderson Kill. She also threw herself into the New York social scene by throwing parties and get-togethers for friends and acquaintances in the city—many of whom she knew from Penn.

“I’d tell 10 or 15 people, ‘I’m having this party, tell your friends,’” says Daniels. “A couple hundred people showed up for the first party! The next time, I took guests’ business cards and had them fill out a card with their information.” 

She soon realized that she had a photographic memory for names and faces.

“When I was at the party, I’d see a guy on one side of the room and a girl on the other and think they’d get along, so I would introduce them,” she recalls. “Later, I’d find out that those people had gotten into a serious relationship, or were engaged, or had gotten married. It kept happening again and again.”

Her re-discovered talent for bringing people together was now bolstered by a database and mailing list of thousands of Manhattan singles. Three and a half years ago, she decided to go professional as a modern-day matchmaker. She called her business Samantha’s Table.

Her business model was different from that of most New York matchmakers, who were either substantially older than their clients or more corporate, and would only set up their clients with clients. Daniels would take on clients and then find people who met their specifications —regardless of whether or not they were her clients, too. “My idea was that the process would be more personalized, upscale, and exclusive,” she explains. “I’d spend time zeroing in on the kind of person someone wanted to meet, and then do a headhunter-like search.

“Most of my clients are people who are really busy at work,” she adds. “The last thing they want to do is to feel the pressure of having to go out and meet somebody. They hire me to do it for them.”

As her business took off, Daniels received more and more publicity from national magazines and newspapers. She no longer does mailings or has brochures—everything flows from her Web site (www.samanthastable.com). The results so far include 39 marriages, with another proposal over this past Labor Day weekend.

She recently wrote a self-help dating guide that is being shopped around by an agent. “The book is just to help [people] become better daters and to figure out how to get married,” she says—“but not to preclude them from hiring me!”

As a self-proclaimed “television junkie,” she was surprised to find that there was nothing on the air that dealt with her particular field of matchmaking. “So I was thinking, ‘I want to do a TV show, but how do you do that?’” she recalls.

In her case, that involved meeting someone at a dinner party who would make an introduction to an agent at William Morris, who would introduce her to television producer Darren Star. And so Miss Match, a dramedy “inspired” by her life (but not betraying the confidentiality of her clients), was born.

Daniels, a co-producer, shares anecdotes and information about the trials and tribulations of being a matrimonial attorney and a matchmaker with Star and staff writers to “add a dose of reality.” 

And given the amount of time she was spending in Los Angeles, it was almost inevitable that she would open a branch of her business there.

Miss Match has been paired with a very compatible time-slot: 8 p.m. on Fridays. That is “right before people might be going out to socialize,” says Daniels, “so they can watch it and then have that hope as they go out to meet people.”

—Jordana Horn Marinoff C’95 L’99

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