As a journalist in the entertainment space over the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a few celebrities. Though most people don’t realize it there is etiquette to interacting with famous people. The thing that everyone forgets when he or she sees a celebrity is that this person is human just like you. In forgetting the individual’s humanity they start seeing and treating these celebrities like objects. The problem is they’re people just like you who live their lives like everyone else, but just happen to have a different job. Instead of working in a hospital as a doctor, they work in a field that everyone gets to see on television. I’ve compiled a list of examples below from my experiences that will help you better understand how to act if you encounter someone famous.
A few years back I was at the Verizon store in Boston trying to buy a charging chord for my iPhone. As I turned around I happened to notice that the famous comedian George Lopez was there. I could feel the commotion around me as everyone else was recognizing the same thing. Now, I am a big fan of George Lopez. From watching his standup routines to his television show, I’ve kept up with his work for years. For that reason I decided to go up to him. The exchange was simple. I told him I was a big fan, shook his hand, he thanked me for appreciating his work, and then I told him to have a nice day.
After that I walked away and went back to figuring out what I needed to buy. By this time it seemed like the entire store noticed he was there, and was mobbing him for pictures and autographs.
Just for a moment try to imagine yourself going to get your phone fixed, but getting mobbed by people the entire time. These people just didn’t get there was no need to bother him like that. Funny enough, as he was leaving he came back over to me. I wasn't facing him so he tapped me on the shoulder, told me it was great to meet me, and hoped I had a great day. My friend who was there with me was in awe because she said he didn’t do that with anyone else. She couldn’t understand why he did it. But my theory was that of everyone in that store I treated him most like a human, and it was something he appreciated so he expressed it.
Another example is the multi-platinum artist Kid Ink. I had the pleasure of interviewing him in the Fall of 2015 for my contributor column with the Huffington Post. Though the interview was only supposed to last for 45 minutes I ended up spending over eight hours with him and his team. In that time we talked about a bit of everything. We talked about what tour life was like, his favorite foods, and what we can expect from him musically going forward.
During that time I also asked him what were some of the worst experiences he’s had with fans. He said there have been many times where he would be out somewhere on the phone having a heated discussion with someone. During that moment someone would come over with their phone on selfie mode trying to take a picture with him. They weren't even asking. He said it's akin to being an animal at the zoo. There were other times he would be in the middle of a discussion with someone else. While he was still talking to that person a fan would walk in front of that person and start talking to him like nothing happened. He told me it even went as far as people slipping sheets of paper with a pen in under a bathroom stall asking for an autograph as he was in there.
I asked him if there was anything different about our interaction. He said it was because I treated him just like a normal person who wanted to have normal conversations about things. In the past he told me he's tried to have normal conversations with fans, but it never works. At some point they would just start screaming things like "Oh my God, I'm talking to Kid Ink". After that happens he knows he has to walk away. He even said he would be so much more open to spending time with fans if they would treat him like a human as I was doing.
Last but definitely not least, I was in LA a few months back. At the time I was staying with a friend who’s a big music video director by the name of Taj Stansberry. That day he had a meeting with the artist G-Eazy to discuss the budget and direction of a music video they were going to be doing together. That song was the smash hit, “Me, Myself, and I” featuring Bebe Rexha. Because he didn't want to leave me at the apartment alone he took me too. The meeting was a lunch at the Beverly Hills Polo Club in the Beverly Hills Hotel. While at lunch we noticed that the legendary Denzel Washington walked in, and was sitting two tables away from us. Despite the fact I was sitting at a table with celebrities or those who work with celebrities everyone was afraid to go speak to him. Everyone was too nervous.
As luck would have it Denzel was leaving the restaurant at the same time we were. He was waiting by valet for his Range Rover as we were walking out. In the same fashion I did with George Lopez, I casually went over to Denzel Washington. I told him I was a big fan, how I enjoy his work, that it was great to meet him, and to have a nice day. After that I started walking away to my friend Taj where we were waiting for our car. To my surprise, Denzel started walking towards me, and talking to me. He asked where I was from and when I told him Brooklyn he told me he was a Bronx guy himself. Over the course of the next 30 minutes Taj and I had a long discussion with Denzel Washington about a variety of topics. They included where he grew up, the school he went to, what New York was like back in the day, baseball, and what his kids do.
While it was well understood that we knew exactly who he was we didn’t spoil the moment by acting crazy. By the end Taj and I didn’t even end up asking for a picture with him because we knew it might mess up the moment we’d had. And I’m sure Denzel was extremely appreciative for it because for a moment of his day we treated him like we would anyone else.
I could go down a list of other celebrities I’ve met where I understood that it wasn’t the time or place to fan out. It’s a difficult thing to do because in your mind you realize this might be the last time you ever see this person so you want to make the most of it. But, what you need to be able to remember is that your needs shouldn’t trump theirs in having you treat them like a human being. Celebrities don't owe you anything. None of this is to say that being a fan is wrong, or that asking to take a picture with someone’s work you appreciate is bad. Celebrities understand and even appreciate what their fame means. Each fan who wants to speak to them is a person that makes this celeb’s livelihood possible. All it means is that you should take the time to appreciate the environment you are in, and how you go about speaking with that person. Because while you might forget it at times they would love to be treated like humans just like us.
PS – If you guys liked hearing the few stories here let me know. I would be glad to put together a short series on different interactions I’ve had with celebrities, and how I went about handling them.