Does Lady Gaga do her own grocery shopping?
May 6, 2010 7:51 AM   Subscribe

What day-to-day things change when one becomes a celebrity?

I recognize that this may differ wildly between person to person, as well as in different 'genres' of celebrity (reality star, musician, president, etc).

I am wondering if there are any general habits that change once someone becomes famous. Things like:

- do they check their own mail?
- do they have to avoid going certain places because they'll be recognized?
- how do they keep their private cell phone number from getting leaked?
- what role does their agent play in their life - for example, getting briefed before interviews or statements to the public.
- what normal life habits are outsourced?

Once again, I realize that most of these can be answered with "well, it depends". I am curious about what sorts of things are expected at a high level of fame.
posted by amicamentis to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
For insights into how Oprah's personal phone line works, check out this interview with Mo'Nique.
posted by hermitosis at 8:03 AM on May 6, 2010

I remember seeing Halle Berry on Leno a while ago where she talked about going grocery shopping in an actual grocery store with her kid.
posted by phunniemee at 8:10 AM on May 6, 2010

In the late 1980's, I worked for LILCO, which at that time was the electric power company on Long Island, New York. To get electrical service in your house, you have to provide a contact phone number. For almost all of the celebrity accounts, that phone number went to a manager's office, rather than the actual celebrity. So it seems they don't handle their own utility bills.

The only exception I can recall was Billy Squier, who's phone number reached an answering machine with his voice on it.

Sidenote: Andy Warhol still had electrical service in his name three years after he died.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:13 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I worked with a famous scientist who unfortunately had been famous enough to be on a certain anti-academia terrorist's list. Since then he has to ignore unsolicited email (or have an assistant manage it) and keep every single piece of paper mail in case the FBI ever needs to investigate some crazy person. The unsolicited paper mail gets opened by assistants who screen everything for him.
posted by olinerd at 8:28 AM on May 6, 2010

In the late '80's my friend's mother worked for Mountain Bell, and she helped Val Kilmer set up his Santa Fe phone line. That was a big deal to those of us in middle school.
I wonder if it's a matter of where you want to spend your money. If you don't want to deal with people bugging you, then you pay someone to do all of this stuff. If you'd rather have a super-cool ski chalet in Aspen, you deal with aggravation.
posted by pickypicky at 8:28 AM on May 6, 2010

You might enjoy the MTV documentary "Britney: For the Record". It's not perfect, but it really shows the extent to which the paparazzi have helped to ruin her life.

Also, awful but: screenshots of Salma Hayek's hacked email account
posted by acidic at 8:29 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

When you become very famous, data privacy becomes a huge issue. The most important thing is to make sure your passwords are unguessable. This applies to the non-famous too, of course, but super-celebs attract unwanted snooping.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:32 AM on May 6, 2010

We minor celebrities notice changes, too.

Not to be too self-aggrandizing, but I have noticed some interesting things over the last two months. My celebrity is certainly limited to a small group, but I'm now at the point that someone recognizes me a few times a week. Last weekend, walking along the road in tiny Strasburg, Virginia, I had someone pull over and say hello. I am, well, visually distinctive (guess which one I am!), so that's a factor, but I don't feel like I can go anywhere anymore without being seen. And of course, I have no idea how many people recognize me and don't say anything. It's freaking me out a little, really.

One thing that's weird is that all these people know a lot about me, and I know nothing about them. Not just the folks who contact me for weddings, but their guests, too, see my picture, and my wife's, and read our story and hear about stuff that happened to us. They feel they know me, and want to be my best friend, and tell me how great I am, all that, and I'm just this guy doing some stuff, you know? That may be different for people who set out to be rich and famous, but it's pretty uncomfortable sometimes. I'm sure Matt and Josh and Jessamyn know how that feels.

(not that I'm whining about it--it's been a hell of a lot of fun, too!)
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:34 AM on May 6, 2010

I work with a lot of famous authors, some of whom are celebrities for things other than the books they write. Most of the big deal ones have several layers of people around them who I have to go through for almost anything. Some of them have me send things to addresses that are clearly not really their home addresses. Some give me home addresses and phone numbers like it's no big deal. Some do their own tweeting, some don't.

I think it really depends on the celebrity. Aside from a certain level of safety precaution and their busy-ness level, I think it really depends on the personality of the celebrity how much they want to do "normal" things like grocery shopping.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:41 AM on May 6, 2010

Neil Peart (of Rush) talked a little about this in his books; when he goes roadtripping, he has credit cards and IDs under an assumed name so he can go by unnoticed. And occasionally, when someone does recognize him, he does the "Gosh, I get that all the time! No, I'm not him. Sorry, dude." routine.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2010

Depending on what kind of celebrity you are, you may be sent to - given to various professionals to make sure you stay in shape, eat the right things and protect the agency's/studio's investment.
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

It leads to a even more interesting question: which celebs stay in charge of their lives, and which ones become the charges of others...
posted by quarterframer at 8:50 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would imagine there is an immense force coming from people trying to alleviate you of day-to-day things. Sort of ... "We need Rockstar in the studio on Tuesday, writing on Wednesday and in Baltimore by Friday. We can't have him shopping for groceries. You, you're hired as Rockstar's personal shopper." Rockstar's time doing rockstar things is more valuable to the enterprise than Rockstar's time doing most anything else ... so the enterprise gets people to do those things for Rockstar.

Multiply this over a bunch of everyday things and pretty soon a celeb stops living an everyday life except for when they have downtime. And then they shop as recreation; sort of a visit back to the life of normalcy most of us live. I could see how being relieved of everyday chores would be an enticing trap easily fallen into, at the cost, of course, of separating yourself from people and life in general.

At least this is how I imagine it is.
posted by lpsguy at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2010

From what I've seen, it really doesn't become problematic until you hit this narrow band of VERY famous people, at that point I suspect that your life is no longer really your own in many cases.

For the rest: the "who does the minor chores" is determined by time... if mr. x can make more money directing movies than checking his mail, someone checks the mail, does the grocery shopping, pays bills, etc. I respect those folks that don't "outsource" interacting with their kids, playing with their dog, and calling their parents on a holiday, everything else is pretty much fair game based on need.

The "how to you keep things from being leaked"... you're careful who you give info to... I never give out my kid's (and, he's not a huge celebrity, but folks are starting to see him as an entrance into the hollywood stuff) address, cell phone number, or e/mail address, I'll forward things to him if I think he would want whatever it is. If that's the case with him, then for the GaGa level celeb it's even more extreme, and, when it gets compromised you change numbers and tighten up who you release it to.
posted by HuronBob at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2010

If you keep up with any of the fashion/celebrity blogs you will see a constant stream of pictures of celebrities just out getting coffee, going through the airport, playing at the park with their kids, etc. This means never leaving the house or hotel room unless you are prepared to have your photograph taken. Most celebrities who want to continue looking good to their public must always have on full make-up, well coiffed hair and flattering clothes-- the minute you leave the house with greasy hair in a ponytail, no lipstick, unflattering bikini, or stained sweatpants you are sure to end up on the front page of every gossip blog and magazine.

The higher-profile celebs have a stylist who suggests appropriate hair, make-up, shoes, and outfits and even goes shopping for them. You do know that movie stars have a choice of designer dresses delivered to them? Especially if they are making red carpet appearances, designers send them their runway (i.e. one of a kind) fashions which are usually size 2 or 0 (which is why celebs must diet to gauntness) The clothes must be returned so alterations must be minimal.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I used to work at a company where I interacted with professional athletes.

The one thing that really stood out to me is that their people (and I assume the pros themselves) had an expectation that the things that they needed could be obtained nearly immediately without concern for protocol, rules, etc.

Any sort of request ("I actually need someone to sign this agreement before I give you that thing") was often (not always) viewed as an annoyance.

I also witnessed a lot of "throwing money at a problem" behavior. (Which is totally understandable. If I had money, I'd probably do it too.)

I also saw a lot of family members as part of entourages. These family members had a weird role because sometimes they had no skill set for their particular task, yet as a blood relative of the celebrity, they held a different position amongst the staff. Sometimes some family members would behave as if they themselves were the celebrity or use the celebrity's name to get things done.

There were many exceptions to these rules. There were plenty that were totally down to earth and there were plenty of assistants that were willing to work within the boundaries of what was expected.
posted by k8t at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2010

I work in a place with the occassional celebrity. It's a place where they cannot actually send someone else do to it for them. I'll echo what occurs above:
1: Some of them act like normal people, except their schedules are terrible, but they call and make their own appointments anyway. My favorite one is an actor who sort of hides behind a newspaper like a caricature of a spy.
2: Some of them additionally have assistants make their appointments, but otherwise don't need special treatment.
3: Finally, some of them are High Maintenance and require escorts from location to location within our facility as well as the previous restrictions. (Super-high maintenance gets fake names in the computer system, but I haven't had to deal with any of them.)
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2010

This might be sort of a shallow, flippant answer, but the first thing that came to mind when I read your question was: if female, they typically get a lot thinner. You can almost predict, when someone newly famous comes to your attention, 'OK , she has about 10 minutes left at that size and then she'll start getting smaller.' So I'd say their eating and exercise habits change a lot. And oftern there's plastic surgery too.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:55 AM on May 6, 2010

Ha, I didn't see your title when I first posted, but Lady Gaga is a prime example!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:56 AM on May 6, 2010

MexicanYenta's comment reminds me of when I used to work for a 3rd-party credit card processing facility which held a contract on behalf of AMEX. I worked in a department that dealt with applications missing information. My job was to telephone the applicants who had mailed in their applications but had neglected to include some vital piece of information (occupation, post code, sex). What made the whole thing extra ridiculous was that over 50% of the applications we followed up on were existing cardholders who'd received upgrade or supplementary card offers from AMEX. Also we weren't allowed to tell the people that we weren't actually AMEX nor that we had no access to their file.

Me: I'd like to clarify some information to process your application, sir
They: Can't you just look up my file? I've been a member since...
Me: I'd like to, sir. But they don't trust me with a computer...

Anyway... One evening, in my stack of applications to follow up on I come upon Kate Winslet, occupation: actor. I scan the application to find the missing information the QA person has highlighted, and a minute later am ringing up Kate Winslet to confirm how much money she made the previous year. The woman picking up the phone isn't Kate Winslet, but her personal assistant who is very polite and helps me with the missing information.

No, I don't remember how much she made.
posted by dismitree at 10:01 AM on May 6, 2010

If you're famous and also rich, you probably have an assistant. Once you have an assistant, the amount of time you personally spend dealing with the details of scheduling/travel/the phone company/etc goes way down. When I was an assistant, I would do all the ordinary stuff, but also things like organize their child's passport application ("Okay, now sign here.") or yell at their health insurance company for them - or, as in the above examples, open various accounts for them. Or if your iPhone dies, or you don't understand your computer, you probably don't deal with that. You just yell for your assistant, and they handle it. Or if you get lost on your way somewhere, your assistant will stay on the phone with you and talk you in.

I've never been on the boss side of that equation, but I imagine it's like having an extra brain you outsource dull things to.

And assistants pave the way for you. "He doesn't like anchovies." "He likes a table in the back." "He'll need extra pillows, please." "Please don't write his name on the lid of his coffee." - so I imagine that the world seems kind of pleasant and helpful without you actually having to ask for things.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember seeing Halle Berry on Leno a while ago where she talked about going grocery shopping in an actual grocery store with her kid.

And even then you never know. Maybe she was just trying to perpetuate an image that she was humble and down-to-earth. Maybe every once in a while she does go to the store, just so she can feel "normal". You can never tell what a famous person's life is really like based on what they say to the media, on a publicity junket for a movie (ie: Leno).
posted by hermitosis at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

As someone who is non-famous yet has appeared in cover of several magazines and still appear inside of them as a nameless male model....I have access to several famous and non-famous friends. The funny thing it really depends on the personality of the person...for example I've found that some people, for example I have a few friends that are in the NBA, one of them is a major star yet he doesnt mind doing the occasional line and is always doing his best not to be conspicuous, the other one is nowhere nearly as fact he is not even part of the league anymore but he is a millionaire and its always making a big stink about not making the lines at parties, getting the VIP, etcetera etcera.....
posted by The1andonly at 11:07 AM on May 6, 2010

I remember seeing Julia Roberts interviewed when Pretty Woman made her a huge star and she said that, before she became famous, she always said she'd never do things like go to celebrity parties and that she'd still go to the same old places.

But the first time she went to her favourite local restaurant with friends after she became a star the place came to a virtual standstill as people stopped what they were doing and stared at her while she ate. She said that, after that experience, she could totally understand why movie stars/celebs seek out the VIP room.
posted by essexjan at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2010

There is a great story in a Michelle Obama biography about when Barack Obama was a U.S. Senator, traveling home to Chicago, and Michelle tells him to stop at CVS for lightbulbs or some such, and he grumbled "I bet John McCain doesn't have to do this." I doubt he's buying lightbulbs anymore. Part of this was their style and part was a money issue - even though he was relatively famous/powerful, they didn't have the money to hire people to shop for them.
posted by Sukey Says at 12:52 PM on May 6, 2010

I grew up in Greenwich, CT, where numerous celebrities live, hang out, or visit. I've seen, among others:

-Dianne Wiest waiting in line at McDonald's to get a happy meal for her kid
-Regis Philbin/Stephanie Seymour/Matthew Modine/Phylicia Rashad/Garry Moore buying CDs from a music store I worked at
-Tommy Hilfiger renting videos
-Gary "Bababooey" Dell'Abate with his family at Ben and Jerry's
-Kathie Lee Gifford putting bags of groceries into the trunk of her Jaguar
-Ron Howard ice skating with his kids at the public rink (back in mid/late-80's)

And probably dozens of other famous and quasi-famous people as well. But these are people who don't typically have the paparazzi on their trail 24-7. I'm sure their participation in "normal" life is more dictated by their finances than their fame. They'll get nannies or housekeepers, gardeners, etc. to do errands, and occupy themselves with whatever else they normally occupy themselves. Plenty of incredibly wealthy but unrecognizable folks in Greenwich, too, and they live the same way. Some stuff, like buying a happy meal for your kid or buying CDs are things you don't really have others do for you. You just live your life.

Some of the more famous/wealthy people in Greenwich will live in gated communities and/or have security codes for entering their own property (Diana Ross, Tommy Mattola, e.g.). But for the truly hounded celebrities of the world-- the Paris Hiltons, the Britney Spears, the Brangelinas, who the hell knows?
posted by holterbarbour at 5:25 PM on May 6, 2010

A guy once called into a well-listened-to national sports radio talk show, and commented that Tiger Woods did his own grocery shopping in whatever Florida town it is that he lives in. Of course, this was before you-know-what happened. Things might have changed.

And I've heard that retired NBA players in particular like to stay within the sport in some capacity more so than other athletes, just because it's easier for them to blend in compared to life when they're not around the sport.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:56 PM on May 6, 2010

I did the website for a relatively famous person who worked in TV. One main thing I noticed was that she was VERY protective of her personal contact details, especially now that she has a young son. She often got prank calls and emails, and when I managed her fanmail it was shocking just how many people thought that because she is a public figure they can say the most appalling rubbish to her. I also had to moderate her work & interview requests - some people got really demanding and didn't understand that she had a pretty tight & busy schedule.

(It did weird me out the one time she pretended to be ME to respond to an interview'd think I'd be doing the pretending but noooooo...)
posted by divabat at 1:13 AM on May 7, 2010

One of my dear friends is a pretty well known musician here in Australia. He won the best performing male artist aria a few years ago. I met him when he was a librarian in a band, doing solo music on the side on the computer in his bedroom.

His life has become increasingly busy, but he's not that much different. He still does the everyday chores, helps to renovate the bathroom in his house, grumbles about the dishes etc.

I guess it helps that his music is under a moniker, and he has an image of being a bit of a reclusive hermit - which, in fact, isn't far from the truth.

He doesn't have an assistant, and he tries hard to answer every email - even though it takes up a ridiculously large amount of his time. His dad helps to keep the books for the music stuff. He has two managers, and when he does tours he now seems to have an entourage.
posted by jonathanstrange at 2:58 AM on May 7, 2010

What day-to-day things change when one becomes a celebrity?

There's a difference between being famous and being rich.

Some of the things celebrities stop doing are really just the things that change when you get money. Like you, perhaps, they never liked cleaning the house, and now they have enough money to pay someone else to do it, so they never touch a broom again. They love good food, they hate to wash dishes, and now they can afford to go to the best restaurants. Such things change for anyone who comes into money.

Other things celebrities stop doing are public things they physically cannot do anymore because they are crowded out of normal life by a thousand strangers all simultaneously trying to establish one-on-one contact with them. Lady Gaga probably can't walk into a McDonald's undisguised because the place would immediately fill to standing room only with teenagers. Where would she sit? How would she eat? How would she get back out? In any large crowd around a big celebrity, some will be enthusiastic touchers and grabbers and complimenters, some will be autograph demanders, some will be potential souvenir thieves, and some will be obnoxious anti-fans ready to yell insults. They may go to the best restaurants because good places weed out most of the celebrity chasers.
posted by pracowity at 5:50 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've followed Jenna Fischer's blog on MySpace (don't judge me) for a few years now. At first, she would blog about hanging out at Target with Angela and buying lots of fun, unnecessary stuff (like we all do at Target). Lately she has mentioned that she has an assistant doing grocery shopping and stuff for her. Not sure if it's time constraints or lack of anonymity, but it sounds like she misses going to Target.
posted by killy willy at 4:53 PM on May 7, 2010

I remember Keith Richard walking his dog in my old neighborhood. He had no hangers on. Al Pacino walking down the street, alone, looked like he was going to get the newspaper. Willy Nelson buying a cup of coffee, with no hangers on. Jerry Lewis once wrote to a magazine I worked for and enclosed a person cheque for a subscritiption. I have always lived in celebrity-laden areas, many seem normal and do normal things. I suppose there are many more that I don't see, since they have people who do things for them.

I find this question very interesting. The celebrities I have seen have been alone doing normal things. I suppose the divas are rarely seen doing this stuff. But the people I have seen are major "stars" doing normal stuff.
posted by fifilaru at 3:36 PM on May 16, 2010

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