Revisiting L.A. awards season events forward of Oscars 2021

by -12 views

As soon as upon a time, celebrities needed to debate who they had been sporting, and it was my job to speak to them about it.

I might strategy Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Kerry Washington, Cher, Salma Hayek Pinault and different main stars inside intimate business occasions in Los Angeles. Over cocktails or dinner, sometimes brunch or lunch, we might chat about attire, their hair, the get together scene and their philanthropic work every time the occasion benefited a trigger.

This was lengthy earlier than the time period “social distancing” invaded our every day vernacular courtesy of the pandemic.

An animated conversation among Tessa Thompson, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Suzie Riemer.

Within the good, outdated days of events, Tessa Thompson, seated from left, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Suzie Riemer chat throughout 2019’s Chanel and Charles Finch pre-Oscar dinner.

(Billy Farrell /

This awards season, which is in contrast to every other, I’ve discovered myself reflecting on these transient exchanges with Hollywood’s greatest names, candid moments that dwell on in my reminiscence and on outdated recordings — some so historic they had been documented on an iPod basic.

The interactions helped make me who I’m and, in some ways, symbolize one other period of life for me and, maybe, the cultural zeitgeist. They signify an age of innocence when group, camaraderie and connection didn’t really feel like long-lost buddies, and events had been held IRL as an alternative of over video chats.

Like in 2008, after I met Rihanna. Again then, she was she was nonetheless only a “Good Lady Gone Unhealthy” who hadn’t but reached “Rated R” territory.

Rihanna, bejeweled flask in hand, strikes a pose for a party photographer.

Rihanna on the 59th Grammy Awards in 2017.

(Christopher Polk / Getty Pictures)

“I by no means get to get together,” Rihanna purred into my recorder throughout an InStyle pre-Grammy occasion at Hollywood membership Boulevard3. “Tonight is the night time.”

4 years later, I approached her at one other pre-awards occasion, the Roc Nation brunch, which had been sponsored by Gucci.

“Hey, honey, what’s up?” mentioned the singer-turned-entrepreneur, perched atop the winding essential stairway at Soho Home in West Hollywood. She addressed me as if we had been outdated buddies, however Rihanna meets extra folks than the Pope. I used to be below no phantasm that she remembered me. She’d merely develop into accustomed to strangers approaching her and knew tips on how to play the sport.

I pulled out my recorder as her blond curls bounced with the easy ease of a celebrity whose hairstylist had spent hours coiffing every particular person curl. “I wakened with my hair like this,” she mentioned. “I took a bathe final night time after rehearsals, and it was curly.” Her new hue “was impressed by ‘Scarface,’” she mentioned.

Minutes later, Rihanna discovered a buddy in Katy Perry, who was hanging out in a roped-off VIP space. On the time, Perry had simply divorced Russell Model. I wasn’t shocked when she declined to do an interview with me. Nonetheless, Perry proved glad to oblige after I requested who made her blue and pink costume, which completely coordinated together with her electrical blue hair.

Katy Perry poses for the press in a skin-baring dress.

Katy Perry arrives on the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.

(Chris Polk / Getty Pictures)

“I don’t know,” Perry mentioned. “However you possibly can unzip me.”

So I did.

“F-a-u-s-t-o/P-u-g-l-i-s-i,” I spelled out into my recorder. “Thanks.”

I used to be used to coy responses. And, hey, coy can typically be cute. Something humorous or unusual labored too. Michelle Williams (the Oscar-nominated actress, not the Future’s Youngster singer), as soon as insisted to me that she hadn’t dyed her hair, that it was darker as a result of it “by no means sees the solar as a result of it lives below wigs more often than not.”

Her greatest buddy, Busy Philipps, seated subsequent to her, chimed in. “I feel that while you had been in Michigan, it will need to have been so dreary that your hair simply went darkish,” she mentioned, including to the bit.

Was any of this breaking information? No.

However everyone knows you’ve clicked on these inane, photo-driven tales through the years otherwise you most likely wouldn’t be studying this one proper now. (“Rihanna Debuts New Blond ‘Do at Grammy Get together”; “Katy Perry Steps Out in a Physique-Hugging Costume”; “Michelle Williams Swears She Didn’t Dye Her Hair.”) I didn’t write the headlines, nevertheless it was my job to develop into quick buddies with stars for a quippy quote or two. Generally it was for a trend or magnificence information merchandise, different instances for a celebration story.

Michelle Williams clutches an Emmy beside bestie Busy Phillips.

Michelle Williams, left, and bestie Busy Phillips on the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards’ Governors Ball on the L.A. Dwell Occasion Deck.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Occasions)

As an leisure journalist in my early 20s, new to Los Angeles and simply seeking to pay my dues and my payments, there have been about as many splashy awards season events as there have been nominations annually.

Evening after night time, the venue and crowd could have differed, nevertheless it was at all times the identical music and dance, with choreography that any nominee or aspiring nominee knew effectively. The true stars nearly at all times performed alongside, which helped me craft a narrative that allowed readers to really feel as if they’d additionally been a well-heeled fly on the wall. Others, who shall stay anonymous, ate me alive at events, however their conduct reiterated a worthwhile life lesson that I’d already realized throughout my teen years, which was that it mentioned extra about them than it did about me.

“You’ve acquired to have balls of metal within the get together biz,” an editor as soon as advised me after an actor berated me for approaching him.

I don’t learn about balls, however I had an arsenal of little black attire. What I wore turned my armor. It helped me kick my wallflower instincts to the curb and masquerade because the social butterfly I want I’d been in highschool and faculty. Regardless of that I typically gave myself pep talks on the automotive rides over by which I repeated mantras like, “You’re simply as profitable as these folks. You’re simply as worthy,” like a poorly written model of Al Franken’s “Saturday Evening Dwell” character’s strains: “I’m ok, I’m good sufficient, and, doggone it, folks like me!”

Finally, I graduated from LBDs to designer attire I discovered by way of consignment procuring. I bought a black and fuchsia Zac Posen cocktail costume beforehand owned by my childhood idol Paula Abdul, a structured grey Oscar de la Renta wool costume that Naomi Watts as soon as complimented me on, a crimson and black silk Dolce & Gabbana costume and several other different designer attire that helped me embody the a part of somebody who belonged. These attire took me from one season to the subsequent and taught me the worth of shucking trend tendencies for timeless model and style.

Over time, politely interrupting Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson at a Display screen Actors Guild Awards afterparty turned as well-honed a talent because the artwork of asking a foolish query in such a means that I used to be in on the joke. (What wouldn’t it take to get Hudson on the dance ground? “What wouldn’t it take?” she repeated again to me in 2008. “A later night time! It received’t be taking place tonight! I’m a working lady and I’ve additionally acquired my son. I can’t be up too late!”)

A portrait of Alfre Woodard.

Alfre Woodard in October 2019.

(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Occasions)

Whereas snappy soundbites had been most typical, sometimes, you’d get extra insightful responses corresponding to at Alfre Woodard’s awards-season dinner, which regularly attracted Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.

“The one time we hear one another’s names is when our representatives are cursing the truth that one of many different of us have gotten a job,” Woodard advised me over mint juleps in 2012, explaining why she had her annual affair. “It’s a giant city, so I feel it’s essential for us to get collectively. … We’ll commerce secrets and techniques. Finally it can get right down to speaking about intercourse. It at all times does. We’re so thirsty to calm down into the arms of anyone that will get us.”

Added Davis: “There’s one thing about getting collectively and shared experiences to make you are feeling much less alone in your experiences.”

Writing about Hollywood hoopla largely misplaced its luster over time, however trying again, I can now say that the great instances had been good. I had a entrance row seat to the business’s most celebratory moments and tendencies that had been unfolding in actual time.

With a pandemic, this yr’s awards season is extraordinarily totally different. We had glimpses into the properties and lodge rooms of nominees and winners. Events are, at the least momentarily, a factor of the previous, however there’s a time and place for them. I do know firsthand as a result of this isn’t my first season spent on the sidelines.

I by no means get to get together. Tonight is the night time.


When my daughter was 4 months outdated, she was recognized with a uncommon mitochondrial dysfunction. The awards circuit coincided with the almost two months we spent within the hospital. Keen to take care of medical insurance and a profession he’d labored exhausting to attain, my husband, an leisure photojournalist, attended the Golden Globes to {photograph} the crimson carpet. My buddy Katie stored me firm on the hospital that night time.

“We’ll throw our personal Golden Globe get together,” she’d mentioned in an try to be upbeat.

As my daughter slept, Katie and I watched the present on mute. The sounds of the hospital took heart stage: the beeping machines, the nurses within the hallway laughing whereas on break, the sound of my daughter’s respiratory. On a tv subsequent to her mattress, we watched in silence as folks paraded round in robes whereas successful awards. I discovered myself considering, “Who cares about events, attire, movies or Hollywood when the world feels prefer it’s crumbling round us?”

Within the weeks that adopted, my actuality strayed additional and farther from the traditional I as soon as knew, however I began to appreciate that self-care meant getting again on the market. Getting dressed. Going to work. Socializing. Celebrating. Even when they had been different folks’s wins, optimism was contagious.

To many individuals, awards season could appear to be self-congratulatory silliness, significantly now, which is probably going why lots of the reveals have seen their scores slip this yr.

As somebody whose life and livelihood has develop into a relentless balancing act of fabric issues and an typically darker actuality spent out and in of the hospital with my daughter, I’ve discovered it’s essential to recollect: Life is precarious. Nobody is aware of what the subsequent day, month or yr brings. Film stars aren’t exempt. Happiness and unhappiness are equally fleeting, so when it’s your time to have fun — just do that.

Additional, past the smoke and mirrors, the reality is that the awards, the attire and the events are all meant to be a advertising and marketing device. Margot Robbie was fast to remind me of this final yr, simply weeks earlier than the pandemic unfolded.

Underneath strung lights throughout cocktail hour on the Chanel and Charles Finch dinner on the Beverly Hills Resort’s Polo Lounge, I requested what Robbie’s Oscar nomination for “Bombshell” meant to her.

Margot Robbie wraps an arm around Penélope Cruz.

Margot Robbie and Penélope Cruz attend the Chanel and Charles Finch pre-Oscars dinner on the Beverly Hills Resort on Feb. 8, 2020.

(Billy Farrell /

“It simply implies that hopefully extra folks will watch the film, which is what I really need,” Robbie mentioned earlier than catching up with Penélope Cruz. “Awards recognition can do this for a movie.”

With that possible in thoughts, Robbie appeared at this yr’s Golden Globes, clad in a floral printed costume from Chanel’s spring-summer 2021 ready-to-wear assortment. As a producer on this yr’s Globe and Oscar-nominated darkish comedy “Promising Younger Lady,” Robbie attended the present to introduce the movie’s trailer. Little question she would have attended afterparties to assist hype the movie, had there been any.

For Chanel and Finch’s half, in lieu of a soiree this yr, organizers are sending their perennial visitor record a package deal so the movie and trend elite can toast this season’s nominees at house the night time earlier than the Oscars. They determined towards having a digital occasion however needed to commemorate the second.

However there are indicators of what’s to come back. The organizers of the Met Gala, which generally occurs in Might annually, have postponed the annual large-scale affair, choosing a extra intimate profit on Sept. 13. A starrier gala is scheduled for Might 2022.

For business insiders, the present — and the circus surrounding it — should go on. Whereas instances have modified and it might seem as if the get together has momentarily come to an finish, it’s clear that sooner or later it can return. And when it comes time to have fun, we’ll once more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *