Oh Yeah, I met Anonymous! She was a real weirdo!
March 12, 2012 1:37 PM   Subscribe

How do introverted, slightly misanthropic celebrities deal with their adoring fans?

I'm quickly becoming a minor celebrity in my city. People approach me in public and say, "Hey, aren't you _______? Hey I loved _______! Can I get your autograph? Can I get a picture with you?" It is nice to be recognized for my hard work, but....I'm not a big fan of people, or more specifically, strangers. I tend to keep to myself and close friends. I am generally polite but I can get rather frazzled when I find myself in situations with people I don't know, especially if they are infringing upon my personal time (a commodity that is in short supply these days).

I want to be one of those celebs that is gracious and friendly, so that when fans talk about them, they say "Oh I met _______! She was so nice and friendly and funny!" Instead of "Oh I met ________! She gave me this weird 'deer-in-the-headlights' look, mumbled something incoherent and ran away."

I also get hit on a lot, by men (and a few women), and I don't know how to deal with that situation either.

How can I be warm and friendly and not a weirdo?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Wear a hat and sunglasses. Seriously, this is how the reclusive famous people I know deal with it. Nobody will recognize you in a hat and sunglasses.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:40 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, if you want to gently brush them off: "Oh no, I'm not _________, I get that all the time".

If you want to be warm(er) to your new-found fans: Maybe just knowing that the slight inconvenience to you means a lot to them, making their day just a tiny bit happier?

In any case, it sounds like it's a new situation for you, and I'll bet you'll get used to it after a while.
posted by shino-boy at 1:47 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a very slight demi-celebrity among a narrowly focused audience, I can offer a couple of tips:

1. Practice your "interested" face. Basically it's like being in a play where you're the person who's listening to Juliet talking about Romeo, and you are miming, "Oh, yes, yes, tell me more!" Wide eyes, nodding, a look on your face as if you just knowyou are about to hear something utterly delightful.

2. Have one or two anecdotes practiced. These should be in the form of a good stand-up routine: setup, Rule of Three, a solid punch line. The subject matter for these anecdotes should be related to your field of fame, but should be slightly self-deprecating ("And then, having plated up the entire meal for the judges, I suddenly realized I had used sugar instead of salt!")

3. Say "thank you" a lot, with variations: "oh, you are so kind!" and so forth.

4. When it's time to extricate yourself from the encounter, listen with a "half-interested" face (eyes alert but not sparkling, your basic affect communicating, "yes, that's right, as you have so ably informed me already") and then, when there's a gap in the conversation, shake hands and say, "Thank you so much! It was so good to see you!" Half a step backwards, and raise your hand was if to wave, then say, "Take care!"

The trick you will find here is that in general, most people meeting The Celebrated don't want to listen, but to talk. If you let them talk, helping along with "thank you" every now and then, then your little anecdote is going to seem extra sparkly by contrast with their long meandering monologue.
posted by La Cieca at 1:49 PM on March 12, 2012 [11 favorites]

Develop a few generic phrases that end with a sendoff, so you acknowledge people graciously and then send them on their way with a smile while you redirect your attention to your friend or your book or whatever:

"Nice to see ya, have a great day!"
"Thanks I appreciate that, enjoy your lunch!"
"Glad you liked it, take care now!"

Congratulations on your success :)
posted by headnsouth at 1:53 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hope you don't mind if I imagine you as Stephin Merritt.

Anyway: I think "Thank you so much," is more or less never the wrong thing to say. If someone is trying to take up your time, I think "I'm really sorry, but I'm already late" followed by hurrying away strikes the right tone of "flustered and busy but nice" as opposed to "awkward and rude." I guess it will be tougher if you're, e.g., in the grocery store where you are obviously not on your way somewhere. Maybe you can steel yourself to agree to the autograph/photo in that small fraction of situations and dodge the rest?
posted by escabeche at 2:04 PM on March 12, 2012

Business cards work. You hand them to the folks and say, "Oh, nice to meet you! Thank you! Here's my card! Drop me a line some time!" You've completed a simple transaction, they get something from you, you've pushed the real contact to a virtual space where it might be easier to handle.

Also, watch female servers at restaurants for ideas. They can be quite good at deflecting attention from themselves to the food, at keeping interactions short, and at making the customer feel unique. They also usually master the "cheery but not dementedly so" tone.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:13 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ask them if they wouldn't mind taking a picture with you, and then ask them for their email so you could send them a copy. That way you can put them on your email list, and they'll feel like meeting a fan meant as much to them as it mean to you. It's also a good way to end the conversation. "Hey, I have to run, but would you mind taking a picture with me?" You could even put it on your facebook wall or whatever..

The really just want to be seen and validated, they don't really want to talk to you about your work, most of the time.

(I used to have to deal with this when I was DJing a lot and it took me a while to learn how to handle it, but luckily for me it usually happened when I was at a club and fairly drunk anyway, so it didn't bother me much).
posted by empath at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think "Thank you so much," is more or less never the wrong thing to say.

This. A cheerful and sincere "thank you" will do it. Plus, reminding yourself that it's nice that people care and think so positively about you. (I don't mean that snarkily, or as a rebuke, but just that in these situations, if you want to respond warmly, it's helpful to be mindful that this is a champagne problem. These people appreciate you and think you are awesome, and it's lovely to be so appreciated -- keeping this in mind makes it easier to feel and be gracious rather than irritated that they're bothering you.) And La Cieca's tips are totally perfect.

But when you seriously don't want to be bothered: sunglasses. People aren't going to come up to you in sunglasses.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:45 PM on March 12, 2012

I like the idea of adding an 'ending', as mentioned above.

"Why, yes, yes, I am. Thank you. Have a great day."

"So kind of you to recognize me. Thank you. Enjoy your afternoon."

"(insert mini conversation here. Well, enjoy the show, I think everyone is starting to get seated now."

A polite ending already included into the conversation will inform them (hopefully), that it's time to move on, but nicely.
posted by Vaike at 2:46 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recall a Stephen Fry blog post on the nature of celebrity that's somewhat apropos:
Compliments The entire interaction works better if there’s a little understanding on each side. You might be the fortieth person that day to approach your sleb. They might have just heard that their favourite aunt has been diagnosed with cancer. On the other hand, the famous person should remember that it takes courage to approach a stranger, especially one you’ve only seen on TV or at the movies. They could so easily squash you. Many newly made slebs fall down especially in the area of compliments. It’s perhaps a very English thing to find it hard to accept kind words about oneself. If anyone praised me in my early days as a comedy performer I would say, “Oh, nonsense. Shut up. No really, I was dreadful.” I remember going through this red-faced shuffle in the presence of the mighty John Cleese who upbraided me the moment we were alone. ‘You genuinely think you’re being polite and modest, don’t you?’ ‘Well, you know …’ ‘Don’t you see that when someone hears their compliments contradicted they naturally assume that you must think them a fool? Suppose you went up to a pianist after a recital and told him how much you had enjoyed his performance and he replied, “rubbish, I was awful!” You would go away thinking you were a poor judge of musicianship and that he thought you an idiot.’
posted by zamboni at 4:28 PM on March 12, 2012 [18 favorites]

Having observed semi-famous local persons whom I'm on going-out-to-lunch with terms or the like, what I've noticed is that MOST people just want to say "hi." It's the 1 out of 10 that really seems to tie them up. Some of my friends are elected officials, and it's tougher for them because people tend to hit them up with actual problems they seem to expect them to solve on the spot. When a friend of mine was president of a city council, I told him that going to lunch with him was like being in a motorcade.

I'm assuming you're an actor, singer, or the like, from what you said. I'd say learning to get a vaguely friendly look on your face and to just say "Thank you!" for whatever praise comes gushing forth. I think it becomes awkward for the person who has spotted you and said something, because they're not an expert (usually) at accosting celebrities, so the next step is for you to get really good at hustling them past that awkward moment and straight to the egress. Something like "thank you for saying 'hi,' I hope you can make to the next _______; call our ticket office for details," and either offer to let them take a picture with you if they are so equipped or just go back to what you're doing.

And yeah, what Stephen Fry is quoted there as saying - I myself have had to learn that when someone compliments the symphony I've played in, that isn't the time to say silly self-deprecatory things. If you're inside the thing you know all the weird things that happen, but to that person saying it, they're engaging in serious dialogue, and it isn't about your organization, it's about the art. It's very hard to just seriously and respectfully take a compliment, especially if you can articulate a dozen things that went wrong before the first number ended, but it must be done.

When people start getting weird, clingy, or flirty, I think you have no more obligation to sit there and take that than anyone else. All you can do is escalate from polite to firmly shooing them away in a reasonable manner. I wouldn't worry too much about reputation; anyone who hears "Hey, famous person was rude to me" from their co-worker who is abrasive or weird will likely consider the source.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:48 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Jumping through 5" plastic hoops   |   How do I respond to professional praise? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.