TV Guide Network roving reporter Audrey Cleo covered The Hunger Games red carpet premiere in Los Angeles last week. Here, the Malaysian-Chinese American girl-about-town gives us her a peek into her glamorous day.
As glamorous as reporting from a red carpet movie premiere can be, like many things in Hollywood, not all is as it seems. Sure, you’re hanging out with celebrities, hobnobbing with A-listers and dropping the occasional humblebraggy “Oh, it’s just my job to interview really really really hot people” tweet. And don’t get me wrong – that actually is the job. But you’re also multi-tasking the demands of your producers, your show, the star whom you’re talking to, and their handlers. Oh, and making sure you’re tracking all of this in realtime on Twitter and Facebook. The pressure is on.
And with a highly-anticipated movie like The Hunger Games, with legions of fans — many of whom criss-crossed the globe and camped out for days in downtown Los Angeles to catch glimpses of the actors – it can be a bit like working in controlled chaos, albeit the fun, glamorous kind with fake eyelashes and hunky guys with accents in Dolce suits. Here is my EXCLUSIVE Audrey Magazine red carpet diary covering the premiere of what’s poised to be one of the biggest movies of 2012 and possibly the biggest movie franchise since that other one with the sparkly vampires.
8:30 AM Alarm goes off and I toy with dragging myself out of bed and going to the gym. My call time into hair and make-up (or, in Hunger Games-speak, the “Remake room”) isn’t until 11:45 AM; the premiere starts at 5:30. Getting in a workout would probably make me more relaxed for later but since I’ve been kept up all night by my new dog (a shih tzu named Winston), I decide to forgo Spandex and kettle bells for extra zzz’s. Morning gym people tend to be aggro anyways and I’m saving my mojo for the carpet.
9:30 AM Breakfast time. Contrary to popular belief, people in Hollywood DO eat, or at least I do. I know I’ll need fuel for all the hurry-up-and-wait-in-heels later, so I load up on Greek yogurt drizzled with honey, 2 cups of vanilla macadamia nut coffee and maple brown sugar instant oatmeal.
Then it’s time for my pre-makeover outfit: a blue flannel button-down, cuffed baggy jeans, hair clipped back, Ugg boots. I like to be as dressed-down and casual as possible when I head into hair and makeup both out of comfort and ego: The transformation is much more dramatic when you initially look like a
college student who pulled an all-nighter at Norm’s during finals week only to emerge fully glamazon’d. In other words, looking like a person. I fret about the giant zit that’s taken up residence on my chin. Awesome.
11:30 AM TV Guide Network studios at Hollywood & Highland. I stop by Starbucks downstairs to nab a half-caff skinny vanilla latte and a lunch box filled with tuna salad, multigrain crackers, veggies and cheese – food I can pick on while I get ready and can keep me going throughout the day. It’s going to be a
11:45 AM Makeover time! I meet up with Mishel, TV Guide Network’s head make-up artist/Remake room guru. She’s like my own Venia/Octavia/Flavius rolled into one, except she isn’t going to wax my body hair and doesn’t have face tattoos. I’ve collected some makeup looks torn (literally) from magazines for inspiration and guidance. Considering the outfit I plan to change into later, we decide to combine two of the looks into one with a navy/bronze smokey eye and coral lips; hair will be big, flowy and curled away from my face, a la J-Lo. I don’t always have a make-up person prepping me so I relish any time I do. It means one thing less to worry about so I can focus on prepping for the carpet.
In my experience, it’s been tricky finding people whom you can trust to fix your face. I’m fortunate that everyone at TV Guide is a pro and could work on faces of all ethnicities, but in the past, I haven’t been so lucky. There are some who won’t dare touch Asian eyes or don’t understand the importance of contouring my face so it doesn’t look like a giant ball with pupils under the harsh lights.
Because of this, I’ve assembled my own kit and brushes and taken lessons from artists whose work I like so I can get myself camera-ready. I would encourage ALL aspiring make-up and hair gurus to know how to work on a variety of faces and hair types, not just the ones you’re most familiar with. Almost every Asian woman has a story about being subject to ‘80s Connie Chung-style rectangular color blocks on her eyes (me: the great MAC counter incident of 2002). In 2012, that’s just shameful.
12:13 PM Meeting with producer in make-up. Andrew is the post-producer who will be going through my interviews and turning them into a story or “package” when I’m done, so he has specific points he wants me to cover with specific actors. I’ve been devouring the books so I’m already very familiar with the
characters, the story. We also go through the list of spots I have to shoot from the carpet that will intro and outro each interview segment, and discuss contingency plans just in case a principal actor does not do press. Sometimes stars will pose for pictures on the carpet but then bypass the press line. We both agree that the central plot The Hunger Games is pretty compelling – kind of like Battle Royale meets Running Man.
1:30 PM Make-up/hair are done, change into wardrobe. After trying on a couple of options at home the night before (I like styling myself), I decided to go with a tribal print mini-skirt, fitted blank tank, gray blazer, wedge booties and topping it off with black tights because the temperatures have been dipping lately at night. Goose bumps = not hot.
2:37 PM Arrive at Nokia Theater in downtown L.A. The traffic gods have been kind and I arrive ahead of my call time. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter: The line to pick up press credentials is like a block long. I meet up with my field producer Lori (she helps me shoot wraps, narrow down questions, and directs our crew on the carpet). We don’t get credentialed for another 45 minutes. A fellow reporter asks me who designed my outfit and I tell her H&M, Target and Zara. Shoes I bought at Marshalls. Aren’t we still, technically, in a recession?
3:30 PM We’ve found our spot on the carpet. Placement is key and pretty much determines whether you’ll have access to a big-name star or not; sometimes there just isn’t enough time for stars to talk to every outlet. We’re not too far from the front which is encouraging/relieving. Things can get aggressive among reporters when it comes to nabbing an interview with That One Star; I recall one time at Comic-Con a few years ago during the District 9 press line where the journo next to me elbowed me. Hard. Shudder.
4:30 PM The carpet is packed with journalists and hosts from domestic and international outlets, even though no stars are scheduled to walk for at least another hour; the stands across from me even more so with screaming fans holding handmade signs. Some have been camping out for days. My favorite sign is the one that says “I have Peeta-ria!” with a floating Peeta Mellark/Josh Hutcherson cut-out head hovering over a toilet. She might want some Gale- modium for that. I silently self-loathe for making that joke.
I take a small nibble of a ThinkThin bar I store as part of a “red carpet emergency pack” in my bag and immediately follow it up with a Listerine breath strip. Protein bar breath isn’t cute. In my emergency pack, I also keep Tide To Go pens, more protein bars, Colgate Wisps, gum, travel-size hairspray and mascara, and Japanese blotting papers which I’ve now tucked into the waistband of my skirt for
easy reach. Face shine on-cam isn’t cute, either.
5:30 PM Stars slowly start filing in, meeting with fans and doing interviews. Space is INCREDIBLY tight; I can barely stretch my elbows. Thank God I haven’t sipped anything within the past two hours because there is no way I’m getting out for a bathroom break and making it back! I chat with half-Filipina actress Tara Macken who plays a District 4 tribute and whom I recognize from her role a few seasons ago in Sons of Anarchy. I also chat with the adorable Amandla Stenberg (“Rue”) and ask Isabelle Fuhrman (who plays knife-wielding “Clove”) if she had to sharpen her fight skills for the role. I’m all about the puns, even when they’re terrible. Correction: ESPECIALLY when they’re terrible.
Despite the initial controversy of casting Jennifer Lawrence as the lead (Katniss is described as of dubious ethnicity with olive complexion, gray eyes and dark hair which have led many fans of the books to believe she is possibly multi-ethnic), the cast looks fairly diverse by Hollywood standards. It would’ve been a
major coup to cast an unknown ethnic actor in the role, but Hollywood isn’t really about changing what it presumes will already work, unfortunately, at least not until executives see minorities as THE demographic to market to. I’m hopeful that this will change soon and we’ll see more ethnic and multi-ethnic leads in blockbuster American franchises.
The crowd is completely amped now, with fans waving and screaming as every actor steps onto the carpet. Peter Facinelli of the Twilight series even shows up, daughter in tow and signs autographs and poses for pictures with fans.
6:30 PM A moment of downtime and it feels like the temperature’s dropped at least 10 degrees! I am fuh-reezing through my tights and blazer. This what the Arena must feel like at night, except with mutated animals and bloodthirsty teenagers. I take a look around at my peers on the press line and see a few
minority reporters sprinkled here and there. Growing up, I never really saw many Asian-American entertainment reporters or hosts; I still don’t. But despite not being the blonde, blue-eyed norm, I’ve come to embrace being different and at the very least, I hope it encourages other young Asian-American pop culture addicts to pursue this crazy crazy business of show.
6:42 PM Leven Rambin, who plays the tribute “Glimmer,” trips in her plunging Jessica Rabbit-esque gown while walking up to me for an interview, crashing into the barrier that separates us. I grab her arm so she doesn’t fall and once she’s regained her balance, she jokes that she hopes someone was filming that. I assure that I’m sure someone will Twitpic it soon. She has a good sense of humor about it; good girl, because I would probably be mortified.
I also nab interviews with director Gary Ross (director), Wes Bentley (“Seneca Crane”) and Josh Hutcherson (“Peeta”) and other Tributes. I’m glad I decided to go with heeled shoes tonight. Even though you usually can’t see my shoes on-camera, the actors are of such varying heights, adding a few inches is helpful in mitigating the awkwardness that results from having to interview someone two heads taller than you. It’s true that a lot of Hollywood types are shorter than you’d expect in real life but there are always those outliers! Also, at a whopping 5’ 4” I need all the help I can get short of using a stepstool, although I’ve used that before on a carpet.
7:45 PM I nab my money interview with Jennifer Lawrence, asking her why playing Katniss was so special and how she would fare in the Arena herself (“Ooh! NOT well!” she says emphatically). I only get a few questions in before her rep has to usher her away to greet fans and, then, into the screening room
to watch the show. She thoroughly looks like a girl on fire in a shimmering floor-length golden gown with cut-out back, designed by Nepalese fashionisto, Prabal Gurung. Stunning.
It’s pure fandemonium at this point: The fans haven’t stopped screaming since she’s been in their view and I’m pretty sure I will have a ringing in my ear on my ride home.
8:00 PM We shoot more wraps and I give my goodbye hugs to my crew but not before nabbing a picture in front of the giant Hunger Games background where the stars had posed earlier in the night. I have to bundle myself up with my spare overcoat; it is one chilly L.A. night.
8:18 PM In my car, on my way home, thinking about grabbing some Doritos Locos Tacos from a Taco Bell drive-thru to top the night. I’ve been on my feet without a break since 3:30 and I’m pretty tired, but oh-so-satisfied. There are few jobs that require you to read YA novels, watch movies, dress up, chat up
celebrities and be at the forefront of pop culture. I’m grateful that I get paid to do it. Starving for tacos but still grateful.
Watch Audrey’s red carpet interviews with The Hunger Games cast on TV Guide Network, Thursday March 22, 8 PM. Follow her on Twitter @audreycleo and on the web, www.audreycleo.com and http://geekistastyle.tumblr.com.