When I travelled to Los Angeles for the first half of this year I knew I was in for a once in a lifetime experience. As I sat in my friend’s L.A. apartment scrolling through internship opportunities (believe me, there are TONS) one stood out to me, the opportunity to intern at a celebrity gifting company in West Hollywood. The unique part about this particular gifting company is that it is completely private and by appointment only ensuring celebrities can come to the space when it fits their schedule and can be comfortable knowing that there won’t be press and sponsors pestering them the whole visit. I sent in my resume in the morning and by the afternoon I was setting up an interview for the next day.
After my successful interview I was invited to stay for the appointments that day to get a feel for the business and what my job as a VIP Host intern would entail. That afternoon I got a chance to meet Ryan Cabrera and Evan Ross. The atmosphere during their visit was really relaxed and the guys made it a really fun experience for everyone. Each month the suite has a different event (Oscars, Kids’ Choice, Grammys, etc) or theme (Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day) to support, coupled with a different charity. The charity chosen for the month gets to set up a display in the front of the suite and provides related items for celebrity visitors to autograph that are auctioned off at a later date. For example, the Fender Music Foundation had celebrities sign toy guitars and some cymbals.
Aside from the daily appointments in our offices, the gifting company also gets to on set to gift cast members. My onset visit to “Dancing With The Stars” this past spring was easily the highlight of my internship. We set up a suite in a across from the soundstage and had the cast (including the Dancers and Stars) cycle through on the eve of the season premiere. In particular, I hosted Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White and eventual winner, Donald Driver as they walked through and picked out their gifts from sponsors. All three were lovely gentlemen and even tried (in vain) to teach me a couple of ballroom moves along the way.
Since our company has been visiting the set for the last couple of seasons, many of the dancers are quite familiar with our staff and happily welcomed us back. On show day we got to welcome past Star competitors into the suite for giftings before or after the live taping. This is when things got crazy with people going every direction, trying to get people into their seats or home without missing out on snapping a couple photos for social media and grabbing some key quotes, the lifeblood and marketing boost our clients were looking for when they sign up with us. This is also where I got the story of how I shook the hand of a man who has walked on the moon (Mr. Buzz Aldrin) and also where I ran straight into a member of my favourite boyband (Mr. Joey Fatone); once in a lifetime opportunities.
After each appointment I took all the photos and any product quotes and upload them to our site for our product clients. Simple tasks but they really make a big difference to marketers. It may seem crazy for some companies to spend so much to get their products into celebrity gift suites like the one I worked at but the reasons behind it are simple economics: spending the money to get your products into these suites will get them into the hands of celebrities, some of the biggest individual influencers out there. If celebrities like your product they will spread the word to their famous friends and also get photographed wearing it, using it or going to the store which will have their fans running to follow. So while it may seem silly that once a celebrity can afford all these products they end up getting them for free, it makes sound business sense for a company willing to make the initial investment to reap the ongoing revenue reward.
Overall my experience in Los Angeles was memorable and such an amazing learning opportunity. I have made so many lasting friendships and contacts as well as being able to meet talented people, some whom I have looked up to for years. I will cherish the memories I made on my first foray into L.A. living and am looking forward to the opportunity to go back (hopefully on a permanent basis).
Tarra – (@tlcm_16)