Have you ever seen how cool they look? Every hair is in place and their outfits are usually just perfect. They look so cool, like they don’t even have to try. It’s the celebrities that I’m talking about! Those perfect people who end up on our TV screens while we sit back and eat popcorn and drink beer, they’re sipping on Champaign and looking like they don’t have a care in the world!
Okay. . stop it RIGHT there. That’s absolute NONSENSE! I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several celebrities and I can tell you from experience, they are JUST like you and me! They fret, they sweat and they worry about the tiny wrinkle on their forehead. They also have the luxury of having other people dress them, do their hair and makeup, their manicures and their pedicures, pick out their accessories and adorn them with so much praise that no WONDER they look like they’re on top of the world!
The reality behind the scene is a bit different. As a coach who has been there to hand-hold several celebrities through acceptance speeches, award dinners and shows and personal appearances, I can tell you a thing or two about these people.
First of all. They’re REAL. They have real concerns in their lives such as family problems, work issues and relationship woes. Most of them worked extremely hard and long to get to where they are in their career. The celebrities I know are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met in my life. They’ll work all day long, jump the red eye back home and work the whole next day.
Second of all, they get nerves just as bad as we do. Many celebrities just won’t give speeches because they can’t face the world without having a script memorized. Remember Barbara Striesand? The woman with one of the most beautiful voices in the world was terrified that she’d forget the words? Her nerves got the best of her and it cut her public singing career short. What’s so sad about that, is that her singing is God’s gift to the world. . not just to her. She sings for pleasure of course, but we listen in awe. Her voice is for US. . the people. It’s a lesson that many celebrities know. They’re grateful for their lot in life.
I remember speaking with one female celebrity whose name of course I’d never mention. She asked me to come and watch her speak and she was terrified for being ripped apart by so many of the people she had to appeal to in her job. As I watched her, I saw a woman who had put it all on the line. She had children and would take care of the kids in the afternoon and would be up until midnight doing work. She was beautiful yet she wondered what they were thinking of her age as it crept up.
When she was done… I applauded. I said, “I’ll tell you what the people are thinking about you when they see you". They are watching in amazement, to a woman who has done so many things with her life and still manages to have a personal life. She has the guts and the gall to get up in front of audience after audience to put it all out there… and they sit there wishing they could do the same. Then I gave her some encouraging words, “ you don’t need me. You are perfect exactly how you are. . don’ t change a thing". Of course I was serious and she did move on. Fortunately for her, she went on to greater and greater success. She just needed a little boost to her ego and I was the right person at the right time.
I’ve had many celebrities call me for a simple reason. They have nerves that creep up and practically paralyze them. With these folks, I get to know them in person so they feel comfortable with me. I am able to show them at their greatest potential and we talk about how to manage their weaknesses. If they are too perfect, I get them to be more vulnerable by sharing a personal story. If they’re relying on reading a speech, I stand before them and ask them questions about the reason they are happy about the award or the event. I force them to think on their feet in an uncomfortable position, and they go home to practice that over and over and over.
I ask them to visualize their speech or the event. I ask them to go there in advance if possible so they’ll have an exact idea of what its going to look like in their mind. I create a visual for them standing in front of 50,000 people in an arena and face them all eyeball to eyeball. It freaks people out at first but it slowly warms them up to the idea that its not PEOPLE that make you scared, it’s facing your own self that is scary.
I get them to laugh… at themselves and at the world. We discuss the fact that their moment on stage has to be fun too. . not so serious. I give them physical exercises to calm their nerves before hand. With so much variety, we enjoy our time as we prepare for the big event. Practice makes perfect of course so I continue to follow up with them until the second before and after their gig.
I remember seeing the comedian Carrottop on stage one time when he impressed me more than the other dozens of times I had seen him. He was doing a college show and in the middle of his act, he froze on stage. Then he said to his audience, “OH MY GOSH, I just had a panic attack. . I had a panic attack on stage JUST NOW… can you believe it?" Then he laughed it off and went on with his routine.
I retell that story every time I’m working with a person who has to hide their nerves and act as if they’re the cool and collected professional the whole time. He was completely comfortable with being uncomfortable and that is the best place that any performer can be.
So next time you’re sitting on the couch and watching an awards show or at an event where you see a celebrity, don’t go feel sorry for yourself thinking that they have all the luck and you’re not destined for stardom. Your time WILL come. You’ll be the one on stage and people will be watching you.
So put your best foot forward, practice, visualize and of course. . have fun with it. If you create a fun space for your audience, they’ll have no choice but to enjoy their time with you!
Mary Gardner is an Executive Communications Coach and consultant who has coached numerous celebrities for public appearances and speeches. Information: http://www.marygardner.com