How to Survive (and Thrive) on the Red Carpet

Enjoy Watching the 2018 Showbiz Awards Season Unfold After Learning These Insider Tips from a PR Veteran of the Crimson Path

Red Carpt celebrityLast week officially kicked off the 2018 showbiz awards season. (Congratulations to Rachel Brosnahan, Laura Dern and Sterling K. Brown on their Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards!)

If you watched any of NBC’s coverage or noticed any of the glamorous post red carpet shots, you might think it all looks very natural and spontaneous—and that’s the goal, of course, of the PR machine behind the scenes. But the truth is, weeks of preparation go into these black-tie affairs, especially the walk down the crimson path.

It’s actually a fascinating process that every publicist should master, even if they work in professions outside the showbiz bubble. After all, you never know when you might be called into action to escort a client’s CEO to their industry’s version of the Oscars, or to create a red carpet experience for your brand’s next big consumer event.

As a former publicist for the Primetime Emmys as well as the producer of many star-studded PR soirees, I’ve had the opportunity to escort celebrities and to facilitate the staging of countless red carpets. Given the unpredictable nature of the task, I’ve had my share of hits and misses over the years. That said, I’ve learned something new every time, which means I now have the process almost down to a science.

The following tips may be more appropriate for entertainment and consumer brands versus corporate companies, but it’s easier to dial down than to dial up! And they might also come in handy as you watch the 2018 showbiz awards season unfold.



Your first step is to contact the event publicist to gather as much info as you possibly can about the red carpet logistics:

Confirm Red Carpet Clearance

  • Don’t ever assume this is a guarantee. Sometimes there are two entrances to the party—one for the VIPs and one for the regular folk. You want credentials for the stars-only route.

Get the Details

  • Credential Pick-Up
    Ask to do this the day before to avoid any last-minute issues.
  • Dress Code
    Ask them to elaborate—even if they say it’s black-tie. Many events today have their own unofficial style rules. The 2018 showbiz awards season attire will be particularly interesting to watch, given the all-black theme almost everyone adhered to for the Golden Globes.
  • Red Carpet End and Start Times
    Most last between 45 to 90 minutes.
  • Indoor or Outdoor Carpet
    This is important because it affects the lighting for photography.
  • Carpet Color
    Although it’s called a “red carpet,” event organizers have been experimenting with different colors for a few years now. Nickelodeon, for example, often uses orange to match their logo and The Environmental Media Awards uses green for obvious reasons. Whatever the color, it’s good to know in advance to make sure that your talent’s wardrobe doesn’t clash with it.
  • List of Celebrities or VIPs Invited/Confirmed
    The event publicist may not be comfortable providing an actual list, but they should be able to give you a general idea.
  • Press List
    Ask them to email you regular updates. Note, during the 2018 showbiz awards season, you will find a lot of the same reporters covering each event.
  • Order of Media Line-Up
    For Hollywood events, like the Oscars, it’s usually in order of perceived importance and type of press. National broadcast and then national print first, for example. But every event is different so it’s best to confirm the order with the organizers.
  • Celebrity ID Signage
    Sometimes organizers will provide each publicist with a sign stating in bold the name and credits of the talent they are escorting. You will hold this up as you walk by the various photographers and reporters so they have instant recognition of your celebrity. A-listers don’t need signs, obviously—but you’d be amazed how often this little tool comes in handy when escorting an up-and-comer.
  • Drop-Off Location and Parking Details
    Be sure to ask for a parking pass.
  • Closet Bathrooms to Red Carpet
    If I had a quarter for every time I’ve been asked where the restrooms are on the red carpet…
  • Copies of Media Alert and Press Releases
    You need this for two reasons:
    –First, to see if your talent’s name is included in any of the materials, and if not, can it be added?
    –Second, to give the relevant info to your celebrity so they are prepared to answer questions about the event.

The most common questions asked are: “Why are you here?” “What’s the purpose of the event?” “What’s next for you?” and of course, “Who are you wearing?” FYI, we predict the wardrobe question to be nixed during the 2018 showbiz awards season as this year’s overall theme seems to be taking a more serious tone.

  • Event Publicist and Producer Cell Phone Numbers
    Keep these close at hand. You never know when you might need them!


Now that you’re armed with intel, it’s essential to huddle with your client ASAP to determine the following:

  • Wardrobe
    If budget permits, hire a stylist who can create two or three different “looks” to choose from. Depending on your talent’s stature, the stylist may be able to secure gowns, tuxes, jewelry and other accessories for free and/or on loan in return for brand mentions in the post coverage.If a stylist isn’t an option, then research the previous’ year’s coverage to get a sense of the standouts. Or just play it safe and have them wear a new version of something that’s worked for them in the past.The key question is, “Does it photograph well?”What’s that you say? What about your wardrobe? That’s easy: Go for comfort and obscurity; you don’t want to compete with the stars. A simple black dress and flats usually do the trick.
  • Glam Team 
    Hopefully your client has a make-up artist and hair dresser on stand-by. If not, use trusted referrals. But don’t scrimp! The make-up must be done professionally for optimal photo results and the hair needs to complement the wardrobe and jewelry.
  • Arrival Time
    Most A-listers will arrive toward the end of the allotted window during the 2018 showbiz awards season. They deliberately do this to make a grand entrance and avoid doing a ton of interviews. In fact, some pose for a few photos but skip the broadcast and print section of the media line altogether. However, if your talent is new and/or has something to promote, get there early, before the media gets pulled in too many different directions.Note, the above refers to your talent’s arrival time—not yours. You need to get there about 30 minutes beforehand to get the lay of the land and ask reporters in advance if they are interested in an interview with your client. There’s nothing more awkward then escorting your celebrity up to a journalist on the red carpet and having them decline an interview.
  • Transportation
    Do not cheap out here. Avoid the headaches of valet or self-parking with a classy town car (or a limo if it’s a big group) for your client and an Uber for you.
  • Rehearsal/Practice
    You wouldn’t think performers would need practice mugging for the camera or talking about themselves. But believe it or not, some can be shy or inexperienced. Or maybe their outfit is a challenge to maneuver because it’s got a long train or spike heels—or both! It doesn’t hurt to do a dry run:–Create and review message points. Think brief soundbites.–Prepare them for the line-up order.–Have them study this short description from Los Angeles Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin in a Vanity Fair article on how Lady Gaga does it:“She comes out, spreads her dress out, and is very dramatic with it. She keeps her head down and she’s fixing everything, and then there’s this pose where her chin comes up, and the posing starts. She literally looks right at each photographer and makes her way down the line.”–If appropriate, have them try walking at least a few feet in their outfit. Trust me.
  • Day-of Communication
    For convenience, most people prefer text. Also, confirm the exact meeting location for the two of you; check-in table? car drop-off? somewhere else? Be sure you have the cell number for your client’s driver.


If you’ve followed the steps outlined above and have also studied the 2018 showbiz awards season trends, you will be as prepared as humanly possible. Keep up the attention to detail on event day.

  • Purse Check
    Before leaving the house, make sure you have…
    –Credentials for you and your client
    –Your mobile, including a list of the event’s important cell numbers
    –Directions to the venue and parking passes if needed
    –Small sewing kit for last minute repairs
    –Small notebook if you don’t like to use your phone for note-taking
    –Sunglasses if it’s a daytime event
  • Behind the Scenes
    If you are attending the Glam Team’s activities (and we recommend you do), document the transformation process in photos and share the best ones over social channels. They may come in handy for post media opportunities as well.
  • Advance Walk
    Don’t forget to pitch your client for interviews before their actual walk. And remember to pick up your Celebrity ID Sign if they are available.
  • The Moment of Truth
    As you hit the red carpet, you may feel like you’re at the start of the world’s most crowded 50-yard dash. Best last-minute advice? Don’t rush it and just try to remember the below:
    –The Lady Gaga Pose: Whisper in your celebrity’s ear to channel their inner Mother Monster as they start their walk in front of the flashing lights.–The Fashion Shot: When photographers yell, “Can we get a fashion?,” it’s their polite way of saying they want the celebrity without their non-famous date by their side. It’s your job to quickly facilitate this request.–The Photo Bomb: Stay out of the way of the cameras as much as possible. You don’t want a lot of shots of your arm in there guiding the way, for example. It will be fun to look for these during the 2018 showbiz awards season!–The Double or Triple-Up: Depending on which notables are ahead of or behind you, you might want to suggest and facilitate a shot of your client with them. Be sure to ask their escort for permission first before setting up the shot.–Hurry Up and Wait: Your celebrity will have to wait their turn at each broadcast, print and blogger stop. Have them use this time to eavesdrop on what questions are being asked, so they can quickly think about their own answers. You can use this time to write short notes on which reporters have interviewed your celebrity so you can track the post coverage.

    –Last Minute Schedule Changes: It’s your job to decide (in a split second) if you should continue waiting for an interview, move on to the next one and come back for it, or just blow it off altogether. Obviously, have your priorities in order before you start the walk.

  • Bask in the PR GloryToday/tonight is going to zip by, so it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Yes, it’s a lot of planning, but a few weeks of headaches can result in a lot of glory for your client—and a lot of reflected glory for you!