I took the assignment covering MTV’s Movie and TV Awards red carpet assuming I would be looking at celebrities on Jezebel’s behalf, which did not seem like a task too big for me to handle, as I have looked at images of celebrities for three decades now. Reader, it was a task that nearly broke me.
When I got to the carpet at 3 p.m. on Saturday, a little sleepy from writing about celebrities all morning but certainly ready to look at some, a very young crew member met me as I stepped past the metal detectors wearing my press badge and feeling a little important. “Where are you from?” he asked, and for a minute, I thought he was making conversation.
“What’s that?” I explained that it is a supposedly feminist website. “I think I might remember putting you down.” We walked in silence through tents and security, cameras and cords until we reached a labyrinth of temporary walls.
“Just go through there,” he told me, pointing into the maze. I wandered in but was immediately stopped so that a bunch of men could back a piece of equipment holding a giant camera into the airplane hangar where the show would be held.
“Do you know where press goes?” I asked the woman waiting beside me.
“I’m a publicist,” she answered as if I’d accused her of something. We parted ways and I wound through walls until I was rewarded with an opening and glimpsed, at last, the tail end of a red carpet where people standing side by side staring at their phones without speaking let me know that I had found the press. It was 3:20. Ten minutes until the celebrities were due to arrive.
I stood on a piece of tape marked “Jezebel,” behind a fence where a placard also marked “Jezebel” was taped to the ground on the other side. The bloggers whose shoulders touched mine on the left and right each stood on their own tape, looking hopefully up the twisting carpet. Soon, we heard cheers falling upon newly arrived famous people, like Tiffany Haddish and Lizzo, and assumed we’d soon look at each with our own eyes.
“How long before they make it down here?” the blogger next to me asked.
Three-thirty turned to 4 and then 4:15. My neck started to feel sunburned and my phone battery got low. The possibility that I might not get to interview a single famous person occurred to me.
Then from our place at the end of the carpet, we saw publicists begin to crest the horizon, slowly reading each publication’s placard. Occasionally, they’d approach one of us and whisper something too quiet for the others to hear. I’ve never been more empathetic for the way my dog must have felt in the shelter. I eyed them hopefully, trying to look friendly and not at all like a feral representative of the publication that recently investigated The Rock’s dick towel. The publicists scurried past.
A few reality show folks began to trickle up the carpet to chat with the bloggers around me, and I managed to find myself standing within ten feet of the first person I recognized all day, Shahadi Wright Joseph, who was phenomenal in Us and looked fantastic in a magenta suit. Her people stood around her, walling off uninvited press from speaking to her, but I heard her say that Jordan Peele is scared of rabbits, which delighted me.
At 5:30, I saw Lizzo in the distance, resplendent in a chartreuse gown. She waved to the back of the line. We frantically waved back.
“I guess she’s not walking the carpet,” the blogger beside me said, and I agreed with her despite the fact that it was obvious she’d walked the top of the carpet where cameras that actually matter could capture her image for posterity. The forgotten out back of the hangar craned our necks hoping for a glimpse of even part of a celebrity. Sandra Bullock’s hand or Daniel Levy’s shoe. Any body part we could report out for our red carpet coverage. Our fingers itched over the record buttons of our cell phones.
And then, we began to just make out the crown of Alyssa Edwards’s golden wig cresting the curvature of the Earth, radiating a signal that famous people drew nigh. She, Katya, and Trixie, three of the greatest competitors in RuPaul’s Drag Race herstory, limped the last quarter mile or so towards the sweat-drenched bloggers in the cheap seats as if they’d heard our collective cry. Trixie often says she does her makeup for the back of the room, and from the absolute last stop at the end of the line, it looked fucking beautiful.
Jezebel got its first publicist whisper.
“Does Jezebel want to talk to Katya and Trixie Mattel from RuPaul’s Drag Race?” (Alyssa was understandably exhausted from the journey.)
You’re goddamn right Jezebel did. Here is my two-minute interview.
JEZEBEL: I’m so nervous to meet you I might actually die. But I do have a question about the New York Magazine drag queen rankings. Are you happy with your rank?
Trixie: I think it could be worse. I think I was number six.*
Katya: As the thirteenth most powerful American drag queen, I have to tell you that, my life has undergone a total tectonic shift.
Trixie: Her phone is ringing.
Katya: My phone is ringing. People are... it’s a huge adjustment, but I’m handling it with grace and aplomb.
Trixie: I would say as number six, I was shocked at the top five. Shocked.
I follow Raja on Instagram, and she didn’t love her picture. Were you happy with them?
Katya: Nobody was happy with them. It was very American. Everybody focuses on the bad pictures of the drag queens, but what about the good ones?
Trixie: There aren’t many. I mean, listen, many of us are men in wigs, so you win some, you lose some.
Which queens would you include on the next season of All-Stars?
Trixie: Tammie Brown.
Trixie: Again, again. She’s judging, she’s choreography, she’s production assistant, executive producer.
Katya: (Silently holds up cell phone case featuring a picture of Julia Roberts.)
Were you happy with the outcome of last season?
Katya: Sure. I’ve seen all these whores whistle in the wind. BFD. (Leans in, whispering) Has anyone here been really rude to you?
This is Jezebel. No one has noticed I’m here. Maybe The Rock will want to talk about his dick towel.
Katya: You better work.
In the end, turns out that while I do an okay job of looking at celebrities, I am shit at interviewing them because I was so starstruck, I forgot to ask for a picture.
*Trixie was ranked number four.