Monday 19 February 2018

Who wants to work for a supermodel?

Naomi Campbell. Photo: Getty Images
Naomi Campbell. Photo: Getty Images

Bryony Gordon

Being a celebrity's PA is not for the thin-skinned, says Bryony Gordon

Wanted: personal assistant for supermodel based in Manhattan. Job description: the role will require a high level of organisational skills, touch-typing, and an ability to dodge flying objects such as diamond-encrusted BlackBerrys.

Speaking of diamonds, candidates should be adept at dealing with embarrassing diplomatic situations involving African warlords and "dirty stones". Applicants should have experience in (anger) management, and be able to calm their potential employer at key flashpoints (for example, when an airline loses one's luggage, or when the housekeeper gets in the way).

Salary: decided on a whim by the supermodel, and non-negotiable. Benefits: none that we can think of.

This isn't the official job advert placed on a recruitment website by a supermodel -- widely rumoured to be Naomi Campbell before she issued a denial -- but it isn't far off from the one that appeared on "Supermodel based in New York City is seeking full-time personal assistant with very thick skin," said the ad.

"You will need to be on call 24/7 and be willing to work some unconventional hours. Must be detail-oriented." Daily tasks "include but are not limited to" picking up dry cleaning, packing and unpacking, and purchasing gifts.

Pity the poor celebrity assistant. They may get to hang out with the rich and famous, travel the world, and earn £60,000 a year, but it seems there the perks end.

More often than not, the CPA -- celebrity personal assistant -- is little more than a glorified dogsbody. Naomi Campbell famously -- or infamously, rather -- pleaded guilty in 2000 to assaulting her CPA Georgina Galanis with a mobile phone.

In 2006, Galanis's successor, Amanda Brack, claimed Campbell had beaten her with a BlackBerry. When it comes to humiliation, she is by no means an exception.

According to Vanity Fair magazine, film mogul Harvey Weinstein once made one of his CPAs stand in front of him and repeat, over and over again: "I am a dildo, Harvey. I am a dildo, Harvey."

Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan was arrested after becoming involved in a car chase with a CPA who had just quit, and another who left her service and went to work for the actress Jessica Biel was thanked with a volley of verbal abuse when Lohan ran into her at a GQ party.

Victoria Beckham is said to make sure that applicants are not too thin -- perhaps she doesn't fancy the competition. Frank Sinatra's assistant had to start each day covering up the singer's bald patch.

Some CPAs strike it lucky, though. Oprah Winfrey was so desperate to hang on to one treasured assistant that she offered her $1m to stay. And George Clooney once bought his CPA a house down the road from his pile in Beverly Hills. ("But, George," I would say were I his assistant, "couldn't I just stay with you?")

The world of the CPA is not, as yet, unionised, but there are places that put-upon lackeys can go for help. The Association of Celebrity Personal Assistants offers members in both the UK and the USA "a confidential environment in which to meet, exchange ideas, share information, give advice and post jobs".

These events tend to be held at Michelin-starred restaurants, and five-star hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental.

So it's not such a tough life, after all.

Irish Independent

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