At this point, we all know the story about how Nigerian pop-singer, D’banj, met Kanye West in a hotel lobby in Dubai and how this meeting ended up, weeks later, in a record deal. D’banj is the first African act to be signed on to Good Music thanks to a chance meeting that D’banj didn’t screw up. Who knows what celebrity chance meeting is in store for you and what good might come out of it. Then again, for must of us, we have far more modest expectations for the outcome of an encounter with a person we idolize. We simply want the meeting to be sweet and memorable–a photo, a chat, an autograph, etc.
A Quick Caveat
There are as many forms of encounter as there are different types of celebrities. So my notes here are not strict rules. Kanye is not a celebrity in the same way that a big-name French philosopher is a celebrity to American philosophy grad students. Meeting a rockstar pastor at the Lagos airport is not quite the same thing as a soccer mom meeting a small press novelist of local fame whose novel she just read at a book club. The rules of encounter would be different, so too would be the expectations. What will not be different is the grave danger of being starstruck.
In Place of a definition
What does it mean to be starstruck? You meet a celebrity and you are struck by a force that freezes you, holds you captive. You can’t think, your eyes are glazed over, your heart is beating really fast, open or closed, your mouth is useless–its either not making any sound or spewing out pure nonsense. In a flash, it’s all over. The celebrity disappears. And you’re left with a sense of loss that turns into regret and, perhaps, embarrassment.
Here’s how not to get star-stricken:
# 1. Keep your cool
As much as you want to explode to bits with excitement and sheer disbelief, keep your cool. A simple, “Hi, I’m jane. It’s such a delight to meet you,” will get you far much more than screams, tears, or praises that are worth nothing would.
# 2. Less is more
Trite as it sounds, celebrities are like us—normal people, trying to get their hustle on and hoping that there are people out there in the world who truly care about them. So it won’t hurt your chances of getting a chat or a photo to be kind, considerate, and respectful. If they have their family or friends around, you might have to do things a bit more cautiously. Nothing wrong with flashing your boobs, just make sure the timing is right and that you flash them to someone who cares to see them.
# 3. The Parable of the Kissing Reporter
On a more serious note, don’t be touchy-feely. Don’t go hugging and hand-grabbing and shoulder-squeezing.Definitely stay away from kissing, as the kissing reporter found out a few days ago. Will Smith was at the Moscow premier of Men in Black III and this reporter gave him a hand shake. All seemed well. Then he moved on to pecking. Things went down hill from there. A push, followed quickly by a back-hand slap. And there’s a video too. Here. A memorable encounter you definitely don’t want. So, if you feel the desire to touch welling up within, that’s when you remind yourself that you are just a random fan, perhaps a nuisance, but most certainly a proper stranger. And that, like any normal person, a celebrity is justified to find an embracing, kissing, or hand-holding stranger off-putting.
# 4. Crazy is Tricky
It’s no news that celebrities live overly stimulated lives. If you try to do too much, you become a blur. You become one of the many stimulants that make their lives the cranked up humdrum it already is. Squash, crush, squelch with all the force you can muster the desire to sing the person’s song or repeat a line from their movie, or prattle on and on about how their work has changed your life, how you sing their song every night in the bathroom or can say every line of their movie. They’re not really listening and you risk coming off cooky.
# 5. Get them Yapping
What story would you rather tell and retell for the rest of your life? The cool conversation you had with a celebrity or the nothing that happened because you were frozen silent like a silly pebble. Granted, it’s not that simple. When you’re captivated by someone, you suddenly realize that small talk is not that small. It takes a whole lot of mental gymnastics that you simply may not be in a position to carry out. So keep things simple. Ask questions that are non-threatening but that would get anyone talking. “Is this your first time in Lagos?” “This is one of my favorite bars in town, hope you like it.” Avoid the surefire conversations stoppers.
# 6. Cheap compliments are deadend statements
“I love your music.” The celebrity says, “thank you.” Now what? Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with showing your appreciation for the person’s work. Actually scratch that– ’cause if there is one specie that know, perhaps a bit too much for their own good, that they are good at what they do, it is celebrities. So use the precious minutes you have wisely. Why tell them something they already know and that they can read from your adoring face? Instead get them to say something fun, interesting or different.
# 7. Make it Memorable for You
Many a celebrity meeting have been ruined by a fan wanting the encounter to be memorable for the celebrity. I know you read about celebrities saying how a phrase said by a fan changed their lives. Whether we believe these stories or not, the fact is that encounters like that don’t happen everyday and I bet a million dollars it was unplanned. The fan did not walk up to the celebrity with the history-making phrase already worked out. Nip any desire to rock the celebrity’s world forever. Focus on making the meeting memorable for you and for the friends and great great great grand children you’ll bore with the story thereafter. The best way to make it memorable is to keep your wits about you.