For some, it’s a professional athlete; for others a politician or movie star. It could be a rapper, talk show host, or model. Or someone who’s all three. No matter who you are, everyone has a celebrity you go crazy for. Everyone is a fan of someone.
There are different levels of fans, of course. Some people get tattoos of an artist’s song lyrics, buy every magazine the person has been in, or name their kids after their TV characters. But the more normal and most common experience between fans and their celebrity idols is the meet-and-greet.
The organization and style of a meet-and-greet usually depends on the celebrity and their management. For example, in order to meet Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, I had to purchase her new book, The Host, at a special event at Barnes & Noble. My friend and I waited outside the store from 3 a.m. until it opened its doors just to buy the book. By purchasing the book that day, we were guaranteed a ticket to the signing. Meyer spoke in a high school auditorium and then signed books onstage afterwards.
Some “meet-and-greets” aren’t meet-and-greets at all. I attended an event for Benjamin McKenzie, a star from The O.C., where an interviewer asked him questions from the audience. He talked about his new TV show, and they screened the first episode of the season before it premiered on TNT. Attendees could take pictures and video of Ben, but not any with him. No autographs were given.
As a fan, you may attend an event like this one without any personal interaction with the guest. Some say that an event without autographs or pictures is a waste of time. If you’re a real fan, it doesn’t matter. Despite the fact that we couldn’t take a picture with him, my friends and I still felt the event was personable. When the interviewer asked a question about The O.C, our obnoxiously loud cheers got us a shout-out from Ben. You don’t have to get an autograph or picture with the celeb to enjoy yourself.
Whatever the organization of the event, there are certain rules fans should follow when meeting a star.
First, there are two fundamental guidelines to remember for every encounter. One, celebrities are people too. Two, to ensure the best encounter, you have to make yourself memorable (and there are a number of ways to do so).
Wear something unique. If you’re at an autograph signing, you’re a number. They’ve signed hundreds of pictures before you, and they’ll sign hundreds after. Of course, they ALL care about their fans, but after hours of signing autographs, everyone seems the same. If you want to be more than a number, you have to stand out. When I attended a book signing for Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), I wore a shirt from Goodwill that said, “Oh my stars.” Snicket thought it was interesting, and asked me about it. If you wear something unusual, it provides an opportunity for them to comment on it and start a conversation other than, “I love your book. You’re a good writer.”
That brings me to the next pointer. Say something different. This is the rule I tend to forget when I’m caught in the moment of meeting somebody famous. It’s usually the same old same old, “OMG! I love your book. Vampires rule!” or “I love your TV show. You’re such a good actress!” Do you know how many times they’ve heard that? Give them specific reasons why their art is special to you. Try to treat them as normally as possible by making them laugh or asking them about the tour. Suggest something they should eat while in your city. If you give them more than “I like you! You’re cool,” they’ll respond with more than just “Thank you.”
The next thing to remember is it’s important to be confident. Fans who are fearless have the best experiences. In middle school, a friend of mine received tickets from a local radio station to attend a screening of the movie Chasing Liberty. Afterward, Mandy Moore and her costar Matthew Goode answered questions about the film. None of the attendees got pictures or autographs, but we got to listen to Mandy speak and take pictures of her.
When the interview ended, everyone rose from their seats and Mandy was escorted out of the theatre. My friend and I decided to run after her. We were the only ones who chased her down the escalator and toward the mall exit. “MANDDYYY! Can I have a picture?” I called after her. Her bodyguard pushed her toward the car waiting outside, but not before she turned around and smiled at me. I still have the picture.
Also, a couple of months ago I went to a concert for Tyler Hilton, a musician who’s acted in Walk the Line and on the TV show One Tree Hill. I missed when he signed autographs after the show, but I heard he was eating at the bar downstairs. We were really nervous, but my friend and I hung around and talked to his guitar player, which eventually led us to meet and take a picture with Tyler. Some fans make friends with security or scour a venue until they find the performer. If you’re fearless, you’ll find a way to meet them!
Another lesson I learned from the Mandy Moore encounter was that gifts are a good thing. A girl who sat in the row in front of me brought Mandy Moore a giftbag with a teddy bear. You better believe she was the only person there that got a hug from Mandy Moore. Authors, musicians, actors, etc. can all appreciate a present. A good book, handmade bracelet, or snack will set you apart from everyone else there. If you are a big fan, you can even do a little research on their interests. One girl brought Stephanie Meyer a mix-tape of bands she thought she might like for the Twilight soundtrack. Don’t hesitate to give a present if you feel that it’s appropriate.
These pointers will all improve the actual encounter with your favorite celeb, but what about the time beforehand? Here are some tips to improve the overall experience, not just the celeb encounter.
Bring something to pass the time. Even if your friend is there with you, bring something to do in case you get bored. Come armed with crossword puzzles or an iPod—anything you can do to make the waiting go by faster, because there will be waiting.
Charge your phone. Same for your camera, video, or voice recorder. On the off chance that you don’t have a camera with you, your phone can always double as one.
Mingle with other fans. They’re lifesavers when you forget your camera and they tag you on Facebook. But that’s not all they’re good for. In general it’s fun to meet other fans, but they can also provide one-of-a-kind information. When I went to the Tyler Hilton concert, two girls told me about a private show he tweeted he was doing the next morning. I got to see him in concert again the next morning in a more intimate setting. It made the two and a half hour drive even more worth it.
Know how to take a picture holding the camera in front of you.
Usually at book signings or events you have enough time to pose for the picture. But for the events where there are no pictures, or your favorite rocker just happens to pass you in the restrooms, you’ll be happy you know how to take one of these.
Final thoughts: For the best experience, you have to remember to be patient. These events—book signings, screenings, conferences, etc.—involve a lot of waiting. The times when you’re confident and willing to take a risk or do something different are the times you’ll have the most fun. Even if you don’t get an autograph or a photo, the experience is still what you make of it.