How not to puke in a celebrity's face
November 15, 2011 2:42 PM   Subscribe

How to handle the ridiculous anxiety of meeting a famous person?

I am part of a team at work who recently sent some cool free stuff to a group of celebrities. The celebrities responded very positively to these free things and have invited our team (there are 3 of us) to come backstage to meet them at their next live show. Although these people are not super-famous, they are people who I've been a huge fan of for almost as far back as I can remember. The thought of meeting them is both exciting and horribly nerve-wracking. I'd like advice from ordinary people such as myself (a completely nobody) who have met celebrities before about how to handle myself so that I don't have a panic attack or make a fool of myself while speaking to them.
posted by Lobster Garden to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
They are just regular people whose talents happen to be the type that make them famous. I've met a few famous people and I think they appreciate it most when you treat them just like anyone else. They have plenty of people goo-goo and ga-ga over them all day every day. Don't be one of those people. Ask them about ordinary things, or about a common interest that doesn't have anything to do with their celebrity. No need to be nervous, just be yourself and treat them how you'd like to be treated if the situation was reversed.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 2:55 PM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Remember that they're just people. They're just like you, doing their job, just like you - the only difference is their job puts them in the public eye. They're not special or magical. They may (or may not, you don't say who they are heh) have special talent, I bet you do too, even if that's just being good at your job (again, that's just like them)
posted by missmagenta at 2:57 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Celebrities meet more nervous people than anyone on earth. They are super, super used to people being nervous around them and it really doesn't bother them (at least, it's never bothered any of the ones I've known.) The worst case scenario is that the famous person is nervous around people generally, for whatever reason. They probably have handlers around if they have a tendency to be nervous or touchy - follow the lead of the handlers if that's the case.

It's likely that one or two of the celebrities in question will be noticeably more interested in chatting and such (the only time I haven't noticed this is with hobbits - all four of them were equally very friendly, collectively and when encountered individually at, e.g., a burger joint.) Stick to chatting with the chattier ones, and follow their lead regarding physical contact. Remember that celebrities shake exponentially more hands and hug exponentially more people, the more famous they get - be gentle.

There is a small but non-zero chance that one of the celebrities (maybe more) will be VERY VERY VERY friendly. I'm looking at you, Andy Serkis (I was there the day he was punking people for the Ringers video shoot: that's pretty much how he was every time I saw him over dozens of opportunities in a two-year period.) A shaky smile and taking a half step back is usually all that's necessary to get them to back off. Like I said, they're really used to meeting nervous people. I've only ever had to hide from a really enthusiastic celebrity once, and just stepping behind a friend was all it took.

Also, I've known some people who got famous after I knew them (and it is so unbelievably weird to know people with groupies who used to just be that random kid you know, and doubly weird to see someone on TV who you've hung out casually.) They're exactly like everyone else except they randomly got famous, and mostly that meant that now they have to meet tons and tons of strangers all the freaking time.
posted by SMPA at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Try talking about that cool free stuff you sent them. If it was stuff your company makes or your team designs, ask what they liked most and/or what could be improved.
posted by easily confused at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, I've known some people who got famous after I knew them (and it is so unbelievably weird to know people with groupies who used to just be that random kid you know

Ha, I am in this exact same situation as well (close high school friend grew up and joined a popular band). I had completely forgotten that he is now famous! That helps put things into perspective. Thank you!
posted by Lobster Garden at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2011

What if you imagine yourself as also famous, and pretend you're in some kind of scenario where famous people would be interacting. Like, if it were an actor, you'd just pretend you were both in a movie.

Disregard this if the celebrities you're talking about are porn stars.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:12 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had only one celebrity encounter, and I tried to minimize talking as much as possible while still being friendly, to avoid nervous babble. My mind goes totally blank when I'm nervous, so that was a definite possibility. It also helped to have something to hold (a picture, in my case) so my hands didn't shake. Said celebrity was very kind and gracious, though.

(It was Peyton Manning. I'm from Knoxville and a huge Colts fan, so this was THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER. Fortunately, he's known for being a little doofy and awkward himself. It helped.)
posted by timetoevolve at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2011

Remember that they poo just like you do.

(that's a good equalizer, right?)
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Be polite, not gushy. Tell them that you admire/love/worship their work and that meeting them is a big deal for you (don't try to be too cool--it's silly.)
posted by Ideefixe at 3:36 PM on November 15, 2011

I'm the sort that actively avoids celebrities even when it would be in my best interest to interact with them.

Over the years I've had this experience many times and it's always the same. I avoid them, I avoid eye contact, I stand away... and almost always I'll wind up standing right next to them without realizing it until they say something like "you're kind of quiet" or "pass me a shrimp will ya, love?", at which point I turn and realize that I'm standing next to them and smile. We typically exchange a few more words and that's that.

Once I had The Woz come right up to me and take a hat right out of my hands and ask "hey, this is an awesome hat. Can I have it?" I wonder if he wears it?

You could always be the quiet one.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:15 PM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Imagine that they ate a terrible shrimp salad for lunch, and are now straining not to break wind while talking to you.
posted by benzenedream at 5:33 PM on November 15, 2011

I have always felt that it is demeaning to one's self to gush in front of celebrities.

A few times, I have thanked musicians for stopping off at my little burg, and other than that, I have just pretended not to notice, even to the extent of walking along SE Hawthorne in Portland more or less in sync with Colin Meloy and not saying anything to him or even staring too much. But I am sorta proud that I handled that encounter in that way.

In your shoes, I would just shake their hand, thank them for the invite (or coming to your town, if it is a tour) and let it go, unless they extend the conversation.
posted by Danf at 5:37 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not focus on the free cool stuff that the celebrities already responded to very positively? Is it something you can get/make more of, or has an interesting history you could learn more about and share? Seems you already have one thing in common to talk about.
posted by Land Ho at 6:58 PM on November 15, 2011

Honestly just try to act normal. You like whatever it is they do, they like whatever it is you sent them. Say something normal because if you just say 'oh I love you in whatever' then they can't really respond except to say thanks. Be chill and say hi and let them take the lead or make some off the cuff remarks about the location or the stuff you sent or what they are doing next. I live in nyc and only ever nod at celebrities at best- I figure they probably just want to go about their business as normally as possible.

On preview I agree with Danf and missmagenta too.
posted by bquarters at 6:58 PM on November 15, 2011

Say you're a fan, sure, but don't bother gushing about that work from their past. They already get that, a lot.

Instead, ask them about what they're working on now/next. Actors, musicians, authors, producers, entrepreneurs, etc are always either trying to figure out their next gig or spread enthusiasm for the project they started up and will usually appreciate the chance to pitch it to anyone who will listen. It'll probably be something really cool and they'll love talking about it. Tell them it sounds really interesting and you're excited to see how it turns out.

Then immediately excuse yourself, go have that celebritygasm you've been holding in, and celebrate not losing your composure in front of them.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:05 PM on November 15, 2011

Best answer: If you know a whole bunch about them, you might keep that to yourself. It's weird when someone you don't know knows so much about you, even if you're famous.
posted by Murray M at 9:12 PM on November 15, 2011

I have very famous people in my family, and in college I had a career path that let me meet very famous people. I even got to drive some famous people around in my super crappy car.

These are totally normal people and want to be treated as such (for the most part). They aren't any more awesome than you are; they just have a cool job. They will probably want to know more about you than you asking about them.

When people find out that I am related to [famous people], it's hard for me to not tell them, "Ya, they are annoying, mean uncles and cousins, and I can't stand their bratty kids." But I resist. :)
posted by TinWhistle at 8:00 AM on November 16, 2011

My boyfriend works in the movie industry which has led me, a rather normal nobody, to meet some very famous people. I learned to make it short and sweet. If they dig you or tend to be chatty, then chat along. There's no reason to push interaction, but if they specifically invited you and your team backstage, they probably intend on getting to know you.
posted by hillabeans at 8:15 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, generally I would keep all my superfan knowledge to myself...unless! For example, you know Celebrity #1 posts pics of old theaters from all the different towns they visit, and so you say, "Oh hey! I really enjoy your old theater pictures; have you seen the Grand Rialto in Mytown yet?"

I've found that some superfan knowledge can be a good conversation point, as long as you're not doing it just to show them how much knowledge you have.

I had a pretty interesting conversation with one of my favorite illustrators when I mentioned my discovery of how she has illustrated the first book in a trilogy but not the next two, and how I had learned she was friends with the woman who did illustrate the next two. From there, she told me how her friend had taken over the job, and what that meant for her illustrative career. Industry-specific stuff, but not mean-spirited or gossipy, just interesting.

All that said, discussing your product is probably the easiest coversation to have.
posted by redsparkler at 9:45 AM on November 16, 2011

Oh, and yeah! Just people! I still get shy with famous folks, but since I meet a good amount of them through work, I get a chance to see their downtime, and that's very humanizing. They're not always doing famousy mc-famous stuff. I think the whole reason Twitter is so popular with celebrities is because they have so much downtime; waiting to get shuttled to their next event, waiting for the event to start, waiting for planes and cars and busses. There's something about seeing them in those awkward nothing-to-do moments that makes them real people to me.
posted by redsparkler at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2011

You know, anxiety does not discriminate between "commoners" and "celebrities". For all you know, some of them may actually suffer from anxiety and might be waaay more anxious to meet you than you are to meet them. Way more than you can imagine.

Rather than focus on what's going on inside me, I would start by focusing on what's happening outside. How are other people reacting and interacting these celebrities? Are they ecstatic? Nervous? Indifferent? How are the celebrities acting? Do they have plastic smiles on their faces or are they sincere? Stuff like that.

And if nothing works there is always klonopin. Or alcohol.
posted by xm at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2011

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