Monday, February 27, 2012

Rubbing Elbows

I recently returned from the NAACP Image Awards out in Los Angeles, where my second novel, CAMO GIRL was nominated for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens. It's pretty exciting to be nominated for anything, but especially when I get to go to an award show peppered with celebrities where I can see them up close and personal.

I'm not too big a follower of celebrity gossip. I usually hear the major stories, and I do okay in pop culture conversations, but I'm by no means an expert. I rarely read movie star magazines, I don't always know who is dating whom, and who is starring in her own new reality show, or whose marriage is on the rocks. I'm a casual observer at best.

But, put me in a room packed with television, film and recording stars, and suddenly I'm asking myself how close is too close to pass by Samuel L. Jackson in the crowd without looking like I'm doing it on purpose to try and catch some skin? (Don't worry, I didn't get nearly close enough. Nor would I actually randomly touch a celebrity. Really. Not unless the crowd was jostling just so....)

Ahem. The point of this is that, while I was momentarily starstruck by being in the same room with folks like Viola Davis, L.L. Cool J, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Sandra Oh, it's also a surprisingly humanizing thing to see people in person and realize they're not truly larger than life, they simply look like it on t.v.

I've never aspired to the kind of fame that movie stars draw. My definition of success is almost entirely internal--when I feel successful it has more to do with what I've accomplished than how many people are looking when I accomplish it. So I wouldn't expect to fit in in a room of screen actors, but I did fit there, because I realized that I have more in common with them on a human level than it would appear at first glance. We are all just making art, and hoping people like it. We all occasionally wobble in our high heels, or read a wrong word off the teleprompter. We all have to squint at our ticket stub in the dim lighting to find our way to our seat. We all bring a friend or partner along with us, because it's awkward to go it alone in such a weird social setting.

It's less intimidating to be among the stars once they start to seem like people. It's easier to walk up to them and say "I enjoy your work" when I think about how nice it is when other people say that to me. The little glow of their stardom doesn't fade with this realization, but it makes the world seem wider open, as if all the seemingly unattainable things might be closer at hand than we realize.

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