Some celebrities move from their mark just to greet and hug and high five their fans. Some treat fans nor quite the same, putting on the fake smile just for the pictures. Some stars make you feel like you’ve just been invited into their home. Others make it clear that this is the last place they want to be. And it’s so easy to tell the difference.
There is a very clear line that delineates stars who are just “doing their thing” to get fame & money vs those that are actually getting fame & money because they are doing exactly what they’re meant to do in this world!
Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of photographing probably 50+ celebrities ranging from talented musicians like Jon Bon Jovi & Arianna Grande to actors such as Carrie Fischer & Geena Davis to famous authors and speakers like Elizabeth Gilbert & Simon Sinek. I’ve had the chance to meet many, many amazing people, but there are some that just stand out in my mind as the most genuine, most kind people I’ve had opportunity to photograph. Before I tell you who they are, you need to know two things:
1) I photograph people. When I go into any photography assignment whether it’s capturing the harvest laborers in a vineyard at 3 am or a concert with 7,000 people, my job is the same….to capture the essence of the person through my lens. My job is to see the person inside of whatever façade that may be protecting them and to capture that. I don’t care whether you’re the sound tech or talent, but I can discern if you are genuine. I notice this when you truly care about people. I see the faces you make & the actions you fake in the “off-stage” times through my lens. I catch glimpses of the real person underneath it all. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Sometimes it’s so amazing it blows my mind.
2) Being a celebrity seems to me to be one of the toughest jobs out there. I see the ways celebrities act, but I also get to observe the way fans treat them. Often, the fans beg them to say certain phrases over and over (like a line from a movie) or pose certain ways with them or just try to get them to sign some memorabilia or do crazy things. The fans almost demand that your life is an open book. Sometimes it’s as if the talent is not allowed to hold anything back, anything sacred. I don’t envy the job of being a celebrity. It takes a lot of patience and you have to put up with a lot of weird people and constant repetition of the past!
With those things said, my wife and I were recently talking about the celebrities who stand out most in my mind. These are the people that you can see immediately were “born” to do this! They truly love people. They live for meeting people and greeting them, encouraging and sharing their gift with them. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite stars (in no particular order!) and why!
1) Andy Grammer: Writer of top hits such as “Keep Your Head Up” and “Honey I’m Good,” Andy stands out in my mind as one of the most humble, loving, genuine, talented people that I’ve met. I’ve had the privilege of photographing him twice along with his lovely wife Aijia, and they were both such lovely people! In chatting, we found out that we both went through the same music program at the same college (Go CSUN!) & even had the same professors, but obviously, he did much better than I! When I introduced Andy to my wife, she put out her hand to shake it, but he pulled her in for a big bear hug. When Andy is with his fans, it’s a complete “Love Fest” as he puts it! He willingly embraces and enjoys each of his fans with a big smile on his face. You can just tell that he was absolutely born to do this! If you ever have a chance to go to one of his concerts, don’t miss it. His band is super talented and you cannot help but walk away from his show feeling happy and hopeful about the world.
Of course I can’t forget to mention this! As if his band weren’t cool enough already, unfortunately, the person introducing them at this concert made his onstage entrance by accidentally tripping and falling right onto the stage. S0 the band…they are so cool…decided that they would all trip and fall onto the stage too so the announcer wouldn’t be alone! It was hilarious!! What a great group of guys!
2) Matt Nathanson: My first encounter with Matt after his show was walking into the green room to find a very happy & sweaty Matt welcoming me into the room with a nice big bro high five. He asked if he could get ME anything,. “Do you need anything? Something to eat or drink?” he said. What???? I mean, what celebrity does that, especially after HE had been the one working hard on stage? He was very kind & just a genuine guy! He was a willing participant in all the crazy going on around him, stepping forward to greet all his fans, loving on everyone & full of enthusiasm. He even offered to record a video saying hi to a friend and then of course, the very sweet Christina Perri popped in and wanted to be in it too! Being around those two makes you feel like you want to smile at the world more and hold doors open and stuff.
3) Edward James Olmos: OK, Mr. Olmos is a huge teddy bear and a captivating story teller. He not only stepped forward off his mark to welcome each fan into the room, but he insisted, and I mean INSISTED, that they hug him back. Most often when a celebrity puts their arms around the fan for the picture, the person freezes up and gets stiff because they’re so nervous & excited. Edward James Olmos would literally grab their arms and wrap them around himself for a big bear hug. He didn’t let anyone get away with not hugging him. He was a truly genuine gentleman.
4) Lynda Carter: What I loved most about Lynda Carter was her entrance. She just wafted into the green room like she had been there a thousand times, slipped off her shoes and plopped down into the chair, curled up with crossed legs and all and asked “How is everybody doing today?” in her sweet voice while she flipped thru her Instagram!. Though she had never been to that venue before, her level of comfort made you feel like you had just been invited into HER home . There is something about her that gives you that cozy feeling inside like you’re finally home after traveling for a long while. If you ever watched the show Wonder Woman, then you saw the person I was seeing in the green room, in the show, she wasn’t acting, she was just being herself and that is who she is, beauty, brains and all.
5) Lewis Howes: I know Lewis Howes always dreamed of being an athlete, but I cannot imagine the author of “School of Greatness” doing anything better than being the speaker and caregiver that he is currently. When he walked into the room, it was as if he immediately wanted to know about every person in the room. He wanted to know what they were going through, how he could help them, how they could help each other. He spent a lot of time talking through these points and asking tons of questions. That is the mark of an intelligent person, someone who is constantly seeking to understand the environment around them. He even asked me, the lowly photographer, “What do you think the people in this place need to hear today?” His care for each person was genuine and it showed. You could easily see that he was there to bring unity, hope and restoration to their lives instead of just expanding his. My wife is a huge fan of his podcast and while I was busy doing something, he asked to borrow my phone for a second. I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time, but he made a personal & encouraging video for her & even signed a book with a personal message for her too. I walked away from listening to Lewis Howes with such a respect and admiration for who he is and what he is doing in the world.
Again, this is just my personal experience with these awesome people. I am so lucky to have met many amazing and genuinely kind celebrities, but these are the ones that stand out the most because of their actions. If you can support all of these in any way, please do. Know that they are the real thing, the genuine article.