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November 03, 2017

Is This Real Life?

The Emmy Awards, an invitation a journalist can't say no to.

Ny MaGee
  • Alexander Skarsgaard and his mother

    Ny MaGee
  • Craig Robinson

    Ny MaGee
  • Elisabeth Moss

    Ny MaGee
  • Gabrielle Union

    Ny MaGee
  • John Lithgow

    Ny MaGee
  • John Turturro

    Ny MaGee
  • Laverne Cox

    Ny MaGee
  • Lena Waithe

    Ny MaGee
  • Leslie Jones

    Ny MaGee
  • Mandy Patinkin

    Ny MaGee
  • Michael K. Williams

    Ny MaGee
  • Milo Ventimiglia

    Ny MaGee
  • Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

    Ny MaGee
  • Regina King

    Ny MaGee
  • Riz Ahmed

    Ny MaGee
  • Uzo Aduba

    Ny MaGee
  • Yvette Nicole Brown

    Ny MaGee
  • Ny Magee

    Melissa Byers

Millions of people tuned in to watch the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards hosted by Stephen Colbert — many of whom enjoyed the show from their comfy couch, wishing they could walk the red carpet and party with the stars

I got to do just that.

And it truly is a dream come true how I got here. I can backtrack my path to the 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards.

I graduated college with dreams of racking up my own awards as a screenwriter and director. I moved to Los Angeles and spent several years working in various capacities for numerous movie studios and production companies learning the business of show from prominent players in the industry including Hollywood icon Roger Corman.

Somewhere along the way, I detoured into the world entertainment reporting and one day I looked around and realized I’m surrounded by some of the biggest celebrities who have inspired my own career goals.

As an entertainment reporter, I have attended several star-studded events, but once I was confirmed to cover the Primetime Emmy Awards, I had a slight panic attack.

For starters, what was I supposed to wear? Fashion choices don’t come easy and knowing I’d be surrounded be celebrities draped in a million dollars had me feeling like an elephant dropped off in the Arctic. I allowed myself to have a brief and unnecessary meltdown before I comforted my soul with woosah therapy.

I chose to have faith in my abilities, count my blessings, and I settled on a modest but vintage-inspired gown. According to my social media followers, I looked “Fantastic!"

On the drive over to the Los Angeles Microsoft Theater, I welcomed the thrill of soon being in close proximity to fame and the stars of shows that I enjoy like The Handmaid's Tale and Better Call Saul.  As my luck would have it, the first person I spot when I arrive at the venue is Emmy-nominated actor Jonathan Banks.

“Congratulations on your nomination,” I say to him in passing, and Mr. Banks replies with a humble “Thank You.” As we part ways, I think how wonderful it would be if I luck up and cross paths with his Emmy nominated co-star Bob Odenkirk.

This would be a good time to point out that I LIVE for Breaking Bad and its spinoff series Better Call Saul. So naturally, I was gutted when Banks and Odenkirk didn’t pick up trophies that evening. Still, I thought how the night would end perfectly if I got an opportunity to simply shake Mr. Odenkirk’s hand and congratulate him not only on his nomination but for being a truly mesmerizing performer.

Now, many journalists are better than me at genuinely not caring about being in the presence of A-listers, but the coolest thing about this job is having the opportunity to engage the people that have influenced my own creativity. Getting to work directly with celebrities and their managers and publicists is very surreal for this girl from the Midwest who had dreams of working in Hollywood since I was a little girl.

Being at the Emmy Awards is an intoxicating experience, as you are closer to the action than everyone watching from home. My Emmys credentials allowed me to work the arrivals area and the red carpet — a dizzying mass of reporters, publicists, and celebrities. Setting up shop there didn't feel worth the trouble because I could see how easily I'd be passed over.

Still — my goal was to ask any nominee that I encountered if they believe awards shows such as the Emmys are just as important as the work they put out. However, once a publicist spied me at work, he gently noted that my process was slowing down the flow of traffic in the arrivals area and I concluded that grabbing quick statements from talent would be challenging. 

So I decided to improvise and the best way to do that at such as grand event is by walking around, observing and listening.

“Time to be embarrassed,” I overhear one nominee say to his companion as he wrapped his photo session with the official Emmys photographer. I spy actor Joseph Fiennes standing near him and looking quite tense and I wonder if he too already feels crippled by defeat.

It was at this moment that I realized that for actors, whether they win an Emmy or not, once the trophies are handed out and the show comes to an end, everyone is back to competing with each other for the next one. But the competitive aura dissolves when celebrities see or meet their own influencers. It was fun to watch stars get star-struck themselves.

There are so many memorable moments from the Emmys red carpet: congratulating Regina King and Lena Waithe on their nominations, having a “beauty” moment with Uzo Aduba, nearly fainting after Michael K. Williams winks at me, catching up with Yvette Nicole Brown, meeting my fellow Chicago native Mandy Patinkin, seeing Milo Ventimiglia kindly brush off some guy who claimed they worked together on Heroes, hearing Sofia Vergara yell across the crowd at someone she accused of being late, quietly laughing to myself as Giancarlo Esposito pretends to answer a call on his cell phone in order to avoid having his photo taken, and there was something truly rewarding about Gabrielle Union acting like I didn’t exist as she ignored my requests to snap her pic for emmys.com.

At one point, I was even sandwiched among Debra Messing’s posse as we navigated our way down the red carpet and I imagined that it must have felt like Christmas for her as she lavished in the adoration from gawking fans, media and colleagues alike.

Meanwhile, back in the arrivals areas, celebrities like Laverne Cox (who worked my camera like I was Herb Ritz), Riz Ahmed, Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow, John Turturro, Chrissy Metz, Craig Robinson, Leslie Jones, Jeffrey Wright and Elisabeth Moss were all gracious and in great spirits. As Ms. Moss posed for my camera, I recall our interview during Summer TCA about the parallels between her own life and that of her character Offred.

“Do you want to take a picture of me and my mom?” Emmy winning actor Alexander Skarsgard asks, and the click of my camera was going off before I reply, “Yes!”

Once the stars are settled in the auditorium, the show begins and I watch the broadcast on a telly inside the press center. This is where I find a cozy corner from which I can observe the celebratory moments as winners come off stage. 

As an Emmy reporter, we cover from many vantage points that allow us to capture moments that not even viewers get to see. For example, I overheard a security guard telling a sad tale about an how she had to comfort an actress who was left crying on the curb when she arrived at the Emmys only to discover that her date had brought another woman. 

Our access also brings us backstage where we get to witness the full production at work, presenters waiting in the wings, and the surprising meltdown from a group of Emmy winners who threw a tantrum when they weren’t provided direct access to the Governors Ball.

“I want to see a manager,” one winner clutching his trophy demanded of a security guard who wouldn’t let us walk across the street towards the after party at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“We’re all Emmy winners!” another cried as we are redirected to a different route leading to the party. "We shouldn't be made to walk so far!"

Once I finally make it inside the visually arresting Governors Ball, I’m immediately consumed with tears of joy. 

“Is this MY life?”

I work the room — someone mistakes me for Oprah and I’m okay with this. I enjoy a few cocktails while taking in the sounds of legendary Earth, Wind and Fire vocalist Philip Bailey, and watch winners and non-winners greet and congratulate each other.

At one point, a gentleman joins me on a plush sofa to offer me a tissue to wipe my tears. He clearly thinks I’m having a Debbie Downer moment, but really I’m over the moon and overwhelmed by the magic of my first-time Emmys experience.

“This night can’t get any better,” I think to myself as I have a Cinderella moment. “Gotta be home by midnight!”

And just as I’m leaving the Governors Ball to head back to my Hollywood apartment, who do I spy near the exit, Bob Odenkirk.

“This is my moment to be great,” I tell myself as I approach him. “Don’t embarrass yourself.”

“Congratulations on your nomination Mr. Odenkirk.”

“Thank you,” he replies.

“I would like to shake your hand, as I’m a huge fan of your work. Looking forward to next season of Better Call Saul.”

When Mr. Odenkick grabs hold of my hand, I realize that for those nominated, as well as folks like myself who are invited to cover the show, the Emmys are really about being able to say, FINALLY, after years of chasing what some might call a crazy and uncertain dream, "Here I am.”

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