Daytime Emmy Awards. 3:45 pm and it’s a sweltering 95 degrees. The last thing I want to do is pour myself into a skin tight sequin gown and parade around on a red carpet in 4 inch heels for a hundred sweating, screaming paparazzi. But this is show “business” and after 25 years of avoiding red carpets and super galas I have conceded to doing the nasty. “Nasty?” you exclaim. Oh yes. Nasty. I love creating the work. I love interacting with fans. But getting all dolled up so the media can pass judgment is nerve racking. We may make it look really glamorous and fun but let me tell you, every red carpet has a snag that is sure to find my stiletto heel. Every gown has a hem that will be stepped on by the celebrity behind me causing first a jolt and then a stumble. And every “invisible” undergarment will inevitably slide to the wrong side and make a public appearance. Believe me, this is nasty. But this is my job and I’ve got to do it. The real task is to find a way to do it with a genuine smile.
For those of you who read rag mags I’m sure you know that months before an awards event celebs go hunting for designers to outfit them from head to toe: gown, jewels, shoes, hand bag. In fact it is a real coup for a celebrity to get the most happening designer and vice versa. For me, I could give a rat’s….tail. In fact the maverick in me would much rather create the challenge of looking like a million bucks in pauper’s clothing. I am after all, I suburban tomboy from southern California as well as my mother’s daughter: I don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it. This means that 4 days before the Emmys, Nia still doesn’t have a gown and has to borrow something from the wardrobe pit at CBS. It also means that 3 hours before the ceremony she has to run to Ross Dress for Less for $30 shoes and a $9.99 handbag. This is my way of raging against the Hollywood machine. The one that tells me I have to walk the red carpet and wear all the big designers and be photographed at the hottest events in town because it’s what celebrities are expected to do. Although I am bothered at having to attend an event just to be photographed I am intensely invigorated at the thought of pulling the wool over the eyes of paparazzi, TMZ, and the Enquirer.
So here I am beaded from head to toe, driving up Highland Ave headed to Hollywood blvd and the Kodak theatre where the blessed event is already in full swing: Red carpet rolled out for a solid block, lights, cameras, and plenty of action. I of course have chosen not to hire a limo and driver but rather to employ my 19 year old soon to be rock star son to drive us for the evening. He needs the cash. I need the ride. Perfect. There’s just one problem. Because he is not a limo driver, he doesn’t know that there is a specific route we were supposed to take that would allow him to drop me right at the carpet’s edge. Instead, we end up in the worlds worst traffic jam 5 blocks and a whopping 45 minutes from the red carpet, which closes at 4:30. It’s now 3:45. Do the math….. We are in trouble.
Sweat now dripping from my poor sons forehead, we finally make it to Hollywood blvd only to discover it’s barricaded off. I can see the dazzling lights of the red carpet, the glitzy celebs and the non-descript men in black with their little earpieces guarding every corner of that red rug. . We are soooo close. I just need to make one tiny little turn and be dropped only 20 feet away. Please please please let me pull this one off. But Traffic cops in their gray caps and little white gloves are running this show. They stand in the intersection forcing cars to make turns they never intended to make just to keep traffic flowing. And we are about to be forced into a turn that could put us another 45 minutes away from that Hollywood idol maker: the coveted red carpet. Now that I have successfully put my outfit together in all of three days and for under $60, there is no way I am going to miss this opportunity.
“Let me out here!” I jump out of the car in my sequin gown and start running. Running through the crowds of gawking tourists, leaping over broken bottles, dodging ABC gum and some poor homeless guy’s shopping cart. Miraculously I make it through the traffic jam, through the barricade and into the hands of the awaiting publicist who ushers me toward the red carpet.
As I reach the shoreline of that sea of red, I pause, taking a deep breath before stepping my 30-dollar shoes onto holy ground. Can I really pull this off? As my right foot touches the red carpet, paparazzi begin yelling my name, “ Nia! Over here Nia. Look this way Nia.” I pose a bit awkwardly at first, wondering if anyone will see through my devious plan and stop taking pictures all together. Then I hear the call, “Nia, hold up the beautiful bag. Where’s the bag from?” a smile crosses my face. “And the shoes. Very cool. Who’s the designer?” Now I am laughing out loud. The evening is a total success. I could trip my way the entire length of that red carpet with one false eyelash on my cheek and toilet paper on my shoe. At this point I wouldn’t care. Because I found a way to be somewhere I didn’t want to be doing something I didn’t want to do, and actually have fun doing it. Somehow in the midst of being a dressed up, paraded about celebrity, I found a way to genuinely be me.
They say it’s not what you wear but how you wear it. For me that evening, the power was in the WHY: the pure joy of ripping off the red carpet.