Celebrities Deserve Their Privacy
Special thanks to my friend Amy from the Baker Street Babes. You have always supported me. I wouldn’t have the courage to even consider writing a piece like this if you hadn’t cheered me on through Facebook.
This one is for you, my friend.
Part of my job as a freelance writer is networking. In this day and age, it’s an important factor with almost every field. It’s all about who you know in the business, right? Sometimes, that can lead you down the wrong path. It might lead you to pages you’re not supposed to see. What you do next could make or break your possible contacts.
Recently, the publicist of one of my favorite actors allowed me to follow his [the publicist’s] private Instagram. These photos weren’t circulating the internet, so I felt lucky to be one of only 130-ish people who were able to see them. I knew whenever I dealt with this account, I had to be professional. I couldn’t like or comment only on the photos of the actor. I saw this as an opportunity to be responsible and not be an overexcited fan in a candy store. It’s easy to go crazy with that, and scroll through every single photo. I told myself, “Don’t be a creep. Don’t be a stalker. Nobody likes a rabid fangirl.”
Especially since this isn’t just any actor. This is a man I highly admire. In the wake of losing the late, great Alan Rickman, this particular actor became my favorite living person. It’s not just a celebrity crush. This is a person whose work got me through a terrible transition in my life. He’s a personal hero of mine being one of the most amazing men I’ve ever read about. All I want is for him to be happy and successful in all factors of his life. This is a person I never want to cross any bad lines with. I constantly feel like any move could break what little bridge I have built with him. It’s a crazy kind of anxiety balancing wanting to chat with him and not going too far. I had a scare recently that I’m still not particularly over. I don’t want a repeat episode. With a chance like this, I didn’t want to screw it up.
There’s also a part of this that could always be me overthinking. Would it matter if I liked every single photo? Would the publicist care at all if I made any comments? What does my opinion even matter? Or would I come across as obsessive? No way in hell I would want to seem that way.
I let about four days pass before deciding to like one picture on the publicist’s Instagram account. If I spread them out, I figured I would stay relatively unnoticed. Again, no one wants to be a creep. Picking out one picture of the actor, I clicked the like button. There. That wasn’t too bad.
Then, I noticed someone else had commented on it. To protect this person’s name, I’m going to call her Julie. I recognized Julie’s name, but I couldn’t place where from. I knew it was an important name too. I wracked my brain, but nothing came to mind. In hindsight, I should have googled it, but I didn’t think of that at the time. Since this was a private account of a professional publicist, I figured it must be someone else in the business. Who else would have access to this kind of content? This would be a great opportunity to try and expand my network! Maybe I could coax a new follower to help build up What the Fangirl or my Star Wars podcast.
I clicked on Julie’s Instagram name on my tablet.I found tons of new pictures of my favorite actor. Something wasn’t right. Click To Tweet
As I scrolled through, I found tons of new pictures of my favorite actor. It was a jackpot of photos! Here was this lovable dork I was so fond of being silly or coolly posing. Something wasn’t right though. This Julie had some photos of the actor with a toddler. Many of them were him and this child together. Then, it hit me. Those were pictures of this actor’s son. I scrolled through the account again. Birthday photos. Christmas photos. Lazy nights at home. This wasn’t some person working in the industry. This was the account of the actor’s ex-wife!
Or wife. I don’t know if they’re still together or not. Frankly, it’s none of my damn business.
I quickly closed Instagram and nausea rose up in the back of my throat. I just crossed the line. There was no way in Hell I was ever supposed to see any of those pictures. I screwed shut my eyes trying to forget them. Those were private! Private! I had violated every rule I painfully learned being a freelancer. There is a clear way of doing things in the business, and I just destroyed it.
I learned about these boundaries the hard way a long time ago. The very first time I was the member of the press, I had requested an interview with a certain actor. We’ll call him Jim for his privacy. The convention told me over and over they were working on it. Being young, stupid, and inexperienced, I got tired of waiting. I took matters into my own hands. I went up to Jim in his downtime, and asked for an interview. He politely accepted. Ha, I thought. I got it done myself. I didn’t need to go through the right channels (which I didn’t even fully know about). Later that day, I met up with Jim. He was with his agent and handler, and they led me up to a small room. It was a fun interview. I was nervous, but I tried to ask thoughtful questions. He was funny, kind, and we had a great laugh. It was possibly the best ten minutes of my young life. Until it stopped. He had to attend a panel and left. As I gathered my things, his agent tore into me. She chewed my ass out about how I violated so many press rules. I clearly invaded Jim’s privacy when I asked him. I could get kicked out of the convention if Jim hadn’t been so nice to allow the interview. In those few moment, she made me feel like the biggest failure. I couldn’t even speak to defend myself, because I simply didn’t know there were rules I had broken.
I don’t know how long she screamed at me, but it felt like forever. She stormed out of the room, and I slumped down into my chair. I held myself tight as tears burned at my eyes. I wasn’t a reporter. I wasn’t a press member. I had become an overobsessed fan like the ones I hated, and I despised myself for it. Luckily, it was a rare convention that I was able to attend with my mom. She lives a state away, and it was about an hour from her house. She attended with me that weekend like we used to do when I was a teenager. I rushed back to her and cried. I held her for an hour as she soothed me into cohearence. Being the ever flowing fountain of wisdom, she told me to apologize and accept that I had messed up.
I couldn’t face Jim again. I knew I wouldn’t be able to look at him. While he was attending a main panel, I saw his agent in the back of a room. I approached her and asked if we could talk. I explained everything. How it was my first time. How I didn’t actually know what I was doing. I said I was sorry. It was a mistake that I didn’t mean to make.
You know what? She smiled at me. She forgave me. Then to my surprise, she explained the process of how to set up celebrity interviews. Every step from how to contact their agency or agents to what I should focus on when I ask questions. Jim’s agent taught me one of the hardest lessons in my professional career, but it was well worth learning. I still couldn’t face the thought of seeing Jim again. It was a very small convention of about 300 people, so I ran the chance of constantly running into him. I decided to leave early with my mom and stay the rest of the weekend at her house. Since I felt like shit, being with my nieces, who I rarely get to see, would make me better.
I’ve tried multiple times to write an apology letter to Jim. I ripped up every single one. A podcast friend of mine recently saw Jim at a convention. Jim remembered me, but I was never told if it was a positive or negative response. It eats at me, but I’m glad not to know. Being on edge makes me question every move I make around celebrities. Still to this day, I worry about how I present myself, and I haven’t brought myself to do any major interviews. Just a few small ones here or there. I’ve wanted to interview another personal hero, Ashley Eckstein, for years. That anxiety of screwing up again still weighs heavily on my mind.
This experience with Jim is why I was devastated to stumble upon Julie’s Instagram account. When I told my coworker the story, he jokingly replied that if it’s on the internet then it’s free game. After my experience with Jim, I knew this wasn’t true. Celebrities are people with thoughts, wants, and needs. They’re doing a job day in and day out. Yes, it’s an incredibly awesome job, but it’s still a job. When I hear stories about fans jumping fences to get to a celebrity’s house or sneaking into their cars, I’m sick. They’re not even considering the actor’s feelings or safety in that matter. How would you feel if a random stranger came up and wanted an interview while you were eating? Or showed up in your car? Or tried to get into your house? You would call the freaking police!
Yes, there is an understanding that celebrities purposely put themselves out there for people to see. It comes with the territory. It’s part of the job. But with your face constantly in the spotlight, there is a strong need for privacy. Notoriety doesn’t come easy. A brand new celebrity couple can’t even go to a beach without the internet losing their damn minds over it. This isn’t a zoo. They’re not animals to gawk at. Many celebrities condone candid pictures. Some are strongly against photos of their kids circulating online. Fans take photos of celebrities arriving in airports without permission. They rarely ask if it’s okay to upload the pictures. I’ve heard about fans taking the cell phones of celebrity siblings just to get to photos. None of this is okay. Celebrities are still people at the end of the day. They need downtime to spend with their family without worrying that a random person like me seeing pictures of their kids. Just like any of us, they need privacy in their lives.
Hope set out into the world to be a Pokemon Coordinator. When she realized that Pokemon were not real, she pursued her other passion: writing. Hope was raised in fandoms and saw how they can help save the world from her work with The Harry Potter Alliance. Now, she works to bring that love into writing one article at a time. She's also a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, so don't diss her team.