but I have witnessed a lot of horribly uncomfortable (for the celebrity OR the fan)

A Guide to Interacting with Your Favorite Celebrity at a Con

(by someone who frequently assists those celebrities)

Now this is by no means a full-proof guide. Just like you and I, celebrities are real people with unique and diverse personalities, wants, dislikes, and discomforts. But having interacted with a number of celebrities, and witnessed their behind-the-scenes reactions to fan interactions, I thought I’d pass along a few tips:

  • Never give them food. Sealed, commercial food is sometimes fine, especially if they’ve expressed a fondness for it or a direct request. But I have never once seen a celebrity eat something a fan brought to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given cookies, doughnuts, cake, and the like, because they passed it along. This is by no means them being rude or a sleight. Think about it: There are a lot of crazy fans out there. We’ve all met and interacted with them. Would you be willing to accept something from one of these people? When you only have a minute or less to interact with lots of fans, how can you pick these people out? Also, they’re often given specific instructions not to consume anything by their agents/managers. (But the volunteers that inevitably inherit the food don’t complain!)
  • Don’t make the inane comment or joke they have definitely heard a million times. They have literally spent the entire day/weekend listening to people say the exact same things. It isn’t funny or interesting anymore. You will blend in with the thousands of other people who have said it.
  • DO share a personal story or thought-provoking question. I have seen so many celebrities touched at the personal stories of personal growth or overcoming a difficulty inspired by their work; it reminds them why they do what they do in the face of those thousands of fans sharing inane stories. They do care. They do like to hear that they matter to someone, especially when it’s not just a blanket statement of “I love you!”
  • That being said, be careful not to overshare. While most celebrities do attend conventions in order to interact with their fans, at the end of the day, they are there to make money. Those people who stand there talking their ears off, sharing way too many details and drifting into uncomfortable territory while holding up the line of otherwise paying people behind them are not cool. If you find yourself telling them things you would be uncomfortable telling your roommate, or talking past the point your best friend probably would have told you to shut up, you’ve gone too far.
  • If you’re going to bring them a gift, bring them something you made. Don’t get me wrong, many celebrities I’ve worked with are grateful for any gift a fan sees fit to bring them. But the ones that really have an impact are hand-drawn fanart or crafts. (Don’t bring them your fanfiction or adult-rated fanart. That’s uncomfortable for everyone involved.) If it’s something you picked up in the vendor room that made you think of them, or you bought it from the studio that produced the show, chances are they already have it, or someone else brought it to them before you. Celebrities have limited baggage space to take their things back with them; only add to that space if it’s something that counts.
  • Don’t ask if they remember you from X. They literally meet thousands of people at these events, and many of them are spread out across the years. It’s not that you’re not important, it’s just that expecting them to remember everyone they ever met would make their heads explode. Do you remember everyone you attended classes with in school? Because I don’t.
  • Have something prepared to talk about. That is if you want to talk to them. I understand the shy people, or those who are getting autographs for a friend or family member. But if you’re intent on talking to them, have something ready before hand. Chances are that what you came up with when you weren’t stressed about being face to face with them is going to be far more interesting than what your asshole brain throws out in the last minute.
  • Celebrities get tired of talking about themselves. They do it at every con they go to, every press interview they give, every time they run into an excited fan on the street. If you want to make their day better, ask them about their heroes, or what their favorite city is, or what their favorite thing to do is. They’ll be more excited by questions like that, and you’ll learn something you couldn’t get from going through their past interviews.
  • Remember that they’re human. To be perfectly honest, the majority of the problems listed above or the cringe-worthy interactions I have witnessed would be ended if people kept this in mind. Their interactions are bound by the convention they’ve signed a contract with and the manager or agent representing them. They’ve got a whole list of anxieties, discomforts, and worries just like you. They get bored, they get frustrated, they get uncomfortable. They like people who make them laugh, they care about people, and they are just doing their job. They don’t owe you anything. They chose to be there. Don’t make them regret that choice.
My Grandfather’s Tuxedo

The tuxedo I wore to my high school prom was too big, and I looked like a kid wearing his dad’s clothes. But looks can be deceiving, because the tuxedo was actually my grandfather’s. He had died a couple of months earlier, and my grandmother thought that wearing his giant tuxedo would be a good way to honor him. I really had no choice — I would have become the family outcast had I screamed what I wanted to, which was something along the lines of “No! I do not want to wear grandfather’s massive tuxedo! I am afraid it will cause my nice date to shout ‘What is the meaning of this!’”

Before I go any further, I feel like I should mention one thing: if you are thinking that my grandfather was a large man, you are extremely wrong. He was actually about the same size as me, if not an inch or two shorter. He just wore a huge tuxedo because he loved the way it felt. He would always wear the big tuxedo to family gatherings, and would regularly pull me and my siblings aside to say “You should buy an enormous tuxedo. You will love the way the enormous tuxedo feels.” It was almost as if he was a pitchman for the enormous tuxedo industry, but to my knowledge, he was not. He just wanted us to be happy, and to him, being happy meant feeling good. And feeling good involved wearing a tuxedo tailored for a man two feet larger and two hundred pounds heavier than he was. So that was nice of him, I guess, even though when I tried it on for the first time I immediately hated the feel of the big tux. But I was stuck with it.

When I told my date that I would be wearing my grandfather’s tuxedo in his honor, she thought it was very sweet. Not wanting to spoil the nice moment, I decided that I would whisper the size revelation. This is because whispering is the sweetest tone of voice. Unfortunately she did not hear me, and was very surprised when I showed up to her house wearing what she called “the worst case scenario outfit.” To my terror, she also shouted “What is the meaning of this!”

I think she overreacted, because it could have looked a lot worse. It could have been a tiny suit, for one. But my date did not realize this, and worst of all, her parents were even more upset than she was. They were so upset that they refused to let me plant the corsage on her.

“You can take our daughter to prom, and you can be her date, and you can dance the fast dance with her and you can dance the slow dance with her, but, as God is our witness, you will not plant the corsage on her dress as long as you are wearing the big horrible suit,” they said. Eventually they calmed down and fed us a large dinner, but the corsage ban still stood. I had always dreamed of planting the traditional corsage on my date, and to not have her parents permission felt terrible. But I respect parents, even if they are not my own, so I did not attempt a sneak plant. We left and luckily things started to look up, when on the way over to prom my date became used to the mighty tuxedo by convincing herself that she was having a nightmare. Taken at face value this sounds bad, but when you’re grasping for straws, any straw is good, even if it’s a bad straw.

By the time we arrived at prom, I was feeling great. Even though I was horribly uncomfortable in my enormous tuxedo, I still thought we could have a good time. That is until I stepped out of the car, and heard the chaperone at the front door shout “Oh no!” — the phrase every prom-goer dreads having shouted at them. The unwanted attention didn’t stop there. When my date and I went inside, you’d have thought Boy Celebrity and Girl Celebrity had entered, the way everyone was looking at us. I felt like the President, especially when a fellow classmate shouted “Hey look, he’s wearing Grover Cleveland’s suit!”

“Why didn’t you say William Howard Taft?” asked the second classmate to the first.

“I wanted to stand out,” said the first classmate, after a long pause.

Dancing in the monster suit was a nightmare. My feet were where the suit wanted knees to be, so I was constantly getting caught up and falling down. Luckily I could break my fall by using the excess fabric of the arms. This made me thankful for the big suit, until I remembered that the big suit was causing me to fall in the first place. I could tell my date was getting frustrated with my constant falls, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and legs to make me more aerodynamic, or something. I even got a couple of my friends to help me out. But by the time we had taped everything up, she was gone.

Then she came back from the buffet, and was excited that I had taped everything up. Unfortunately, as soon as I started to dance all the tape flew apart, and everyone had to evacuate because it sounded like a bomb had gone off. When I told the door chaperone that it was just my tape violently coming off of my gigantic tuxedo, she was furious, and said I could not come back inside, calling me “The Prom’s Menace.”

I told my date that she go could back inside if she wanted, and she did. I couldn’t blame her. It’s very likely that not waking up from the loud suit explosion made her realize she wasn’t having a nightmare. So I sat on the front prom step, praying that no family members would walk by as I cursed my grandfather and his gargantuan tuxedo. Sometimes it would begin to rain, which felt like a weak attempt by my grandfather in Heaven or Hell to make me stop. I would shout “You’ll have to do better than that, grandfather!” and continued cursing him and his mammoth suit.

I stopped, though, when what appeared to be his spirit materialized in front of me. At first I was not sure it was him, because he was wearing a normal sized suit. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, as it seemed likely that big suits didn’t exist in Heaven or even Hell. But after a while I realized it wasn’t him, and became aware that I had been in such a blind rage I was confusing my friend Jerald with my grandfather. Even if it was just Jerald, what he said still made an impact on me.

“Go back inside,” he had said. “Make a big speech where you tell everyone that it is not about what someone wears on the outside, but about what someone wears inside, in their heart and brain.” I knew what I had to do, and it was to repeat word for word what Jerald had said, and maybe add a word or two of my own to make it original.

So I told the door chaperone to buzz off and tried to walk back in. She screamed at me to stay outside, and I listened. Jerald had to come back out and give his whole spiel again. Then I went inside once more, this time not listening to the door chaperone’s screams as I stormed the center of the dance floor. No one was dancing at the moment, as a giant fan had been brought in to help everyone cool down, and prepare for more good dancing. I thought that this was the perfect time for me to speak. I violently cleared my throat, and began my nice speech. Unfortunately no one could hear me over the enormous fan. “Big Tuxedo Boy Stopped By Big Fan,” a newspaper headline might say, if they were feeling funny. Even worse, the wind had caused the excess fabric of the suit to create a surface area ideal for allowing the fast fan wind to lift me up in the air, towards a ceiling fan that, although not moving particularly fast, could have done some serious damage if it had been.

No one noticed my ascent, as everyone was too busy enjoying the wind. Fortunately for me, the door chaperone had followed me inside, probably to apologize. I saw her point at me and shout “Oh no!” the same way she had earlier, when she was openly disliking my arrival. Everyone turned around and looked in horror, initially because of how the wind was making my suit seem even larger. Then they realized how close I was to the ceiling fan, and, misinterpreting just how dangerous the fan was, thought they needed to save me. No matter what someone is wearing, prom just isn’t the same if someone dies at it.

They stopped the floor fan and I fell into a makeshift trampoline similar to the ones firemen use sometimes, when they are saving heroes. It was the jacket of someone else who was also wearing an enormous suit but not making a big deal out of it. I thanked everyone for saving my life, and then continued giving the speech from before. It seemed unnecessary at this point, but I did not want to make Jerald feel bad. By then everyone had lost interest, and I finished my speech to my classmates who were not listening, but who very nicely still clapped at the end. Then I left.

“You did a good thing today, son,” said my dad when I arrived home. “If you didn’t wear the suit, you would have become the family outcast, replacing me, the man who accidentally destroyed the ice sculpture of your aunt at her birthday party. They still won’t talk to me, you know. None of them will. I put up a billboard by where your aunt lives that says “I Did Not Mean To Destroy The Ice Birthday Aunt” and they still don’t care. Good night.” I politely nodded and went upstairs.

As I laid in bed, I began to realize something. Although I hated wearing the torturous suit with all my heart, it did give me a lot of attention, which, positive or not, made me feel good. Maybe this is not what my grandfather had in mind — maybe his idea of feeling good had more to do with what he incorrectly believed to be the suit’s comfort. But oh well. Jerald was right. It is not about what you wear on the outside, it’s about what you wear on the inside. And what I wear on the inside is a love of being given attention for what I wear on the outside. So from that day forward I promised myself that I would never wear the disaster tuxedo again, and would instead wear horribly gaudy clothes that actually fit me. The clothes I wear now make people say “Whoa!” and I like that. Wherever my grandfather is, Heaven or Hell, I think he would be happy with this.