HINT: SHE’S NOT YOUR TYPICAL CELEB
Celebrities are just like us, right? For the most part, they totally are! They breathe the same air as we do. Our feet walk across the same paved roads that ours do. The ultimate equalizer? They poop just like us, too.
One benefit of working in environments where being surrounded celebrities is the norm is that seeing them in the flesh becomes less exciting over time. At least that’s how it was for me. My first proper job in New York City threw me into the deep end of “celebrity” during my introductory days. About six months in, I had seen and interacted with A-List talent so it was difficult for any celebrity to make my jaw drop to the floor.
Let me set the record straight, though. I have never been hungry to be around celebrities simply because they’re famous. Am I a fan of celebrity culture? Absolutely. Have I been star struck? Without a doubt (more on that in just a bit). Have I gone out of my way to position myself closer to someone because of their status? Never. I’m just not that person. My first stab at dealing with celebs was because I was working at the reception desk as a way to break into the industry, not because I worship at the feet of those featured within the pages of Us Weekly.
Something tells me that last statement is not why you’re here. You want to know about the time I basically shit my pants when faced with one of the world’s rarest, most precious celebrities, right? Was it Oprah? Kanye West? Sarah Jessica Parker (no, but we have met and we did take a selfie)? Okay, cool. Here we go.
As I’ve already mentioned, I had recently started working the reception desk at Pier 59 Studios. On that first day, I still couldn’t believe this was now my reality. I had moved to New York to work in fashion and suddenly I was living it! I had been plucked from the sales floor at a Forever 21 and thrust into the fast lane. Drugs (for other people), sex (eventually) and celebrity.
Back when I started at Pier 59, there were various career opportunities bubbling under the surface. All you had to do was look for them in unexpected places and make it happen. That, in itself, can be a full-time job so it’s best that you stay alert and energized…with the help of espresso, of course. Thankfully, Pier 59 has a full cafe and bar that keeps clients and studio workers alike tweaking from caffeine. And how fashion folks love their caffeine.
During that first week, my manager wanted me to experience what each shift felt like. On this particular day, it was the mid-morning shift. By the time I arrived, all of the studios had been prepped and signed in for the day. It was quiet at the reception desk so I decided to order a latte and hang out at the bar. Little did I know, waiting for that latte would change my life forever.
I don’t remember what song was playing throughout the studio’s common areas but I do recall it being a bop. I was nodding my head and lip-synching in an attempt to get Claudio, the bartender on duty, to smile. I really had to work for it because Claudio was a very serious man. If one was able to bring a smile to his face, they could sleep well that night knowing they had a successful day. Procuring a smile meant you might as well clock out and go home because your work for the day was done.
However, he was not having any of my shenanigans. I was giving so much and getting nothing in return that I almost shut it down out of frustration. I looked over my right shoulder to make sure no one had come up to the reception desk and what I saw turned my blood cold. My throat got dry and my butt began to sweat. Was I hallucinating? Had I died and this was my version heaven? Who was walked towards me possibly couldn’t be walking towards me, right?
It was Beyonce and she was Casper-the-ghost floating towards me. Yes, Queen Bey. Blue Ivy’s manager. The Diana Ross and Patti LaBelle of modern-day girl groups. Creator of ‘bootylicious.’ Julius was dutifully behind her so I knew this was not a drill.
“But didn’t you just say you don’t care that much about celebrities,” asks everyone reading this article.
Yes, but remember when I said I have been star struck before? Don’t omit pertinent information just because it’s convenient for you! If the first time you see a celeb in the flesh and it’s Beyonce, you’re allowed to be star struck. She is not like us. She is not like them. Even though a lot of her visuals have been heavily “inspired” by other creatives, Beyonce is still singular. This is something we should all recognize so you better put some respeck on her name!
Never did it cross my mind to scream out her name. I’m cool and unbothered after all. I did experience a temporary paralysis, however. I had turned to stone by looking into the face of Medusa. I knew I shouldn’t have but I did and was rendered useless. I thought to myself that it would be best to look away. Somehow, I convinced myself that looking away would be perceived as a sign of disrespect. Then I thought I was probably coming off as a creep by staring. But I followed up with the fact that I had been raised right so I should at least say hello before redirecting my attention elsewhere. But she was literally Beyonce so should I wait for her to say something first or just take the plunge?
Note: this frantic, overly complicated internal conversation took place in less than 2 seconds.
As Beyonce walked by, she kept eye contact, nodded with the slightest smile and said hello. I managed to return the appropriate salutation without throwing up or crying. Before she had even disappeared around the corner to head towards the private bathrooms, I was already a brand new man.
When a coach watches his team turn things around to ultimately win the game, he sends a prayer to the gods for the miracle he just witnessed. I’m not religious but in that moment, I sent all sorts of gratitude to every god because Beyonce spoke to me and Julius didn’t flag me as a threat.
“That was Beyonce?” Claudio asked with a huge smile on his face. I smiled back and confirmed that it was, indeed, our mother.
Every time I saw Beyonce after that, she always smiled at me. There was the W Magazine shoot, the “1 + 1” music video shoot, some fragrance campaign shoot, and a couple more. I remember arguing with her stylist’s team after a shoot wrapped and feeling like I was a part of her circle. Sure, it was on the very outskirts of what might even constitute as a circle but it was still her circle, goddamn it.
On my last day at Pier 59, I wondered what was going through Beyonce’s mind that first time our paths crossed. We all know she isn’t a great actress so I can only believe that what I saw in her eyes was a genuine emotion. It was like the faintest breeze on a warm summer day. So subtle but incredibly powerful once you recognized it.
I like to believe that when our eyes connected, she looked into my soul. Ya’ll, it sounds corny but Beyonce saw exactly who I was in that moment. I was an ambitious young man chasing his dream all the way to New York City. A creative hoping to share his art. Someone determined to “make it.”
She saw all of that and was transported back in time before she was “Beyonce.” Her subtle smile said “I see you” which also basically means she sees herself in me which means I am Beyonce.
Even if that initial smile was only to make the situation less awkward, it had an impact on me. It was the moment that I fully realized celebrities are just humans and allowed me to see them as just that. As superficial as this all sounds, being able to humanize celebrities gave me an understated confidence. I was able to go into conversations with senior executives and shot callers and not feel completely uncomfortable.
If I could handle Beyonce, I can handle you.