Whether intentional or not, we develop a multitude of different stereotypes and visuals for the people around us. For instance, we are all familiar with the quintessential image our mind produces when someone is described as a “Stepford Wife.” She is a beautiful, blonde, sleek, tall woman – one who perpetually wears an apron accompanied with high heels, red lipstick and a pearl necklace. Her home is forever embedded with the intoxicating aroma of her daily baking creations, and is usually filled with her family of three: perfect children, a golden retriever, and her hardworking husband (who is complete with a pastel polo, khaki’s and sweater draped over his shoulders).
Our mind takes us somewhere else entirely when we are confronted with the millennial favorite: “Boss Babe.” To me, she resides in New York City, she has slender, long legs often leading to a sky-high Manolo or Louboutin pump, has a myriad of different communication devices, and is forever on the go. She is equipped with her latte´ in one hand, a Birkin draped over her alternate forearm, and her “take no prisoners” attitude is one to be admired, envied and emulated.
Well, as Editor-in-Chief of Mirabella magazine, my mind produces a striking resemblance when I hear the term “Hollywood Publicist.” She is the epitome of fabulosity as she juggles lunches with her celebrity clients, answers her emails with her perfectly-manicured nails, and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to human relations, branding, and dealing with the press. Interacting with publicists has become a daily practice for me. Whether it is to discuss a celebrity’s participation in a potential feature, following up on an inquiry, or receiving a press release, publicists are part of my normal, everyday life.
In my experience, dealing with Hollywood publicists is an overall pleasant experience. If their client is not interested in what you are presenting, many of them kindly decline, and offer their apologies. Some state that the timing isn’t correct and request that you check back in the future, and others are happy to oblige with facilitating the connection between you and their clients. After all, by definition, a publicist is one whose job is to generate and manage publicity for a company, brand or public figure – especially a celebrity for work such as a book, album, or film. They are the communication specialists of the entertainment industry, and are experts at cultivating relationships with journalists in order to place stories with them.
Essentially, this power group opens the proverbial “golden gates” of access to the celebrity. The media world’s version of cheerleaders, if you will. I have been lucky enough to deal with some of the kindest, most helpful publicists responsible for Hollywood’s elite, and have nurtured some great relationships based off some of those experiences.
However, like in any industry in the world, there will be a few bad eggs who possess the ability to tarnish the reputation of the entire industry with their overweening egos, their feelings of perpetual superiority, and the abuse of the abundance of control they are given. The alter-ego to the aforementioned “Boss Babe” vaguely resembles “The Plastics” from “Mean Girls,” complete with a Burn Book, some serious posse rules, and the inkling that they can decide who can and can’t sit with their celebrity clients. Thankfully, I have only been subjected to a handful of this rare breed, but if you’re not prepared and don’t have a plan of action in place, these can be deterring, and potentially career hindering interactions.
As someone who was raised with the morals of “treat everyone the same whether they can do everything or nothing for you” and “always stand up for your convictions,” I always find myself reverting back to my upbringing when dealing with these few and unwanted “plastic publicists.”
Not long ago, I had an encounter with a publicist who was representing someone I have long admired. This particular celebrity was inspiring, possessed an underdog story, and throughout her 40-year career, constantly preached messages of equality and female empowerment.
In my initial inquiry, I stated that the celebrity would be featured along with other “phenomenal women” from the Entertainment Industry. Her response was not what I expected. The publicist was snarky, degrading, and just all around rude. She completely blew me off, as though her client were “above” than being among these other women. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. I immediately went into defense mode thinking “Who does this girl think she is?! After a 10-minute “cool off” period it occurred to me: this woman is representing someone who, in my mind, would never have had this response.
Following a girl chat with my trusty sidekick L.J. (The Wonder Report’s very own Editor-in-Chief and also a staff editor for my magazine) to make sure I was not overreacting, I began to compose my response. In it, I stated (tactfully, of course) everything I felt was necessary to get my message across. Instead of reacting negatively, which would have imitated her grotesque response, I explained that, based on her prior email, I no longer believed neither she nor her client shared the same values as I did. In closing, I thanked her for her time, which may come as a shock to some of you (but not to those of you who really know me.)
Regardless of whether this person could help me or not, and despite her terrible response, I did feel the need to thank her, because technically she did take the time out of her day to respond to my inquiry. Again – reverting back to the theory of treating everyone the same, whether they can offer you nothing or everything. I am just glad that this particular breed of publicist does not rear its ugly head too often.
A lesson I have learned when interacting with publicists is that gratitude goes a long way. One of my absolute favorite things to do in both my personal and professional life, is to send handwritten thank you cards. I am a firm believer that sending a tangible “thank you” to someone, sets you apart from the rest and, trust me, the line of inquiries behind you for that publicist, is 10 miles long; so doing something to set yourself apart from the rest of the herd is crucial.
Most publicists work in private practices and handle multiple clients. And chances are your paths will cross for different inquiries. For instance, one particular publicist I worked with when collaborating with Adele’s makeup artist, Michael Ashton, also popped up again two years later when I was interested in working with the rapper Eve. I was really surprised! Two people who are in two completely different facets of the entertainment industry with the same representation. The publicist absolutely remembered me from our wonderful previous interactions (and I’d like to think my thank you note helped too!).
Keeping in mind that most publicists represent a myriad of different celebrities and professionals, meeting the right one at the right time can be career- (and ultimately life) changing. When your energy matches theirs and the relationship just flows naturally, the results are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. The mutually beneficial collaboration is straight up alchemy. Its magical. Everyone wins! I cannot tell you how many times working with a publicist for one specific client has led to them asking me to work with more of their clients.
While the potential of coming across the “plastic publicists” of the entertainment world can seem like a daunting “what-if,” trust me when I say they are few and far between, and their counterparts will be some of the greatest people you will ever have the pleasure of interacting with. Will every experience you ever have be the greatest? No. However, there is definitely something valuable to learn from every interaction. Whether it be learning what you will and will not allow as far as how someone is speaking to you, or realizing the importance of setting yourself apart from the rest, there is always, always, always a lesson to be learned.