What It’s Like To Be A Celebrity Personal Assistant

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Refinery29’s Assistant Living asks assistants to talk about themselves for once — offering truthful, no-frills insight into the time before fame and fortune. What’s it like working next to the dream job? They talk, we listen. For our third installment, we talk to V, 25, personal assistant to a movie star/director, about living in and outside the ‘celebrity bubble.’ From dog-walking to hobnobbing with the world’s cinema elite, this assistant is still figuring out where to draw the line. How long have you been a celebrity assistant?
"A year and a half." How did you get the job?
"I was unhappy at my first job out of college — I was doing marketing at an e-commerce site — and on a particularly dull day I was perusing Facebook at work, when I stumbled across a post written by this girl I went to school with who was looking for someone to takeover her job. I thought, I’d like to leave my job and be her replacement. So I messaged her (even though I’d never really spoken to her), and I’m glad I did because she got me an interview! And that’s how I met my boss — let’s call her Karen Crown. "I actually didn’t think I wanted to be a personal assistant, but then my boyfriend was like, 'Really? You should at least interview.' So I did." How was that interview?
"The interview was great. And then I left New York to go home for Thanksgiving. Two weeks later, I hadn’t heard from her. I was really stressed out, and I wanted the job at this point because I had met her and we’d hit it off. I was excited by the prospect of getting out of my office job. So I wrote her and I said something along the lines of: Dear Karen Crown, You’re new to New York, You need me. I think I’ll be a huge asset to you in navigating the city. Meanwhile, I’d just gotten to New York like six months earlier, and she wasn’t even really that new to the city. But it worked. She wrote back 30 minutes later and said: You’re right; you’re hired. Interview with my producer when you’re back. Come help. And the rest is history." What’s your salary?
"We agreed on $48,000, which was about $15k more than I was getting paid at my previous job, but when I looked at my W2 this tax season it was $50,000. Don’t know how it happened but it was a lovely surprise…" Would you call it livable?
"Yes and no. I’m still getting a small monthly allowance from my parents, so that definitely helps. They’re helping subsidize my rent because in order to do my job I have to live in lower Manhattan, which is where my boss lives, and rents are crazy high." Are you afraid of your boss?
"Yes. Definitely. I don’t think I should be, but, for example, I have a special ringtone for her, and when it rings, even if it’s a “thank you” text, my heart stops. She’s reprimanded me in the past, and it hasn’t been fun. Plus, as a personal assistant to a celebrity, you’re working for someone who’s accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. And if you get in the way of that, then you become the enemy. She can be an extremely kind and gracious woman, but not when her (high) expectations aren’t met. If I’m not quick enough, articulate enough, demanding enough, I’m not doing a good enough job. It’s just very up and down. I live in perpetual intimidation of her, for sure." Most outrageous request from her?
"Every request is outrageous in that it always has to get done immediately. So there’s always the initial panic that accompanies each task. Like, I’ll go out and frantically buy her 10 dresses (all custom made), but then a week later I’ll see she hasn’t tried any of them. Like, where’s the fire, you know? She recently asked me to go buy her a necklace at Barneys. I don’t have a company credit card and it was $16,000. I certainly can’t afford that, so I had to ask for her card. She ended up giving it to me, like she usually does, but it’s always uncomfortable to ask. "One time, she called me at 6 a.m. because she'd locked herself out after a night out. I saw the text, got out of bed, and biked over. When I let her in, we rode the elevator up, both of us drunk, and I bid her goodnight! "She'll also ask me to take her dog on four-hour walks, but it's just because she doesn't like it in the house. That’s a long time to walk outside in the middle of winter with a large, badly behaved dog." Do you work a typical 9-5?
"No. At first, I had no idea when I would get called or if I would get called at all. Sometimes I’d wait three days for a call. I kind of had to create my own schedule. Now I go over there at 11 a.m. to walk the dog, bring the dog back, and if my boss was there, we’ll talk, maybe she’ll ask me to run an errand. Sometimes I’ll end up going to the movies in the middle of the day to kill time. I never know when the day will end. My workload definitely depends on her mood. I’m on call, like a doctor. Not like a surgeon though, more like an emergency foot doctor." Do you ever feel like you’re intruding upon her personal space?
"Literally all the time. I’m in her apartment essentially from the moment she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. I know all of her likes and dislikes, I know so much about her that it’s maybe problematic. I am an intrusive part of her world." Is there is a line, if so what is it?
"The line is not clear. I’ve definitely crossed the line. I’ve come to realize that as a personal assistant to someone important, you’re basically there to reinforce their ideas, their opinions and beliefs. I’m there to give affirmation, and that’s it. It’s confusing! I’m a friend who also works for her — I’m always on her side. Which can be exhausting. As much she asks me for my opinion, the one I give her is not necessarily my own." What do you expect out of all of this?
"Well, I’ve made a ton of connections, and as much as I perform somewhat administrative tasks, I know that when it’s time for me to leave she’ll help me land on my feet. She’ll help me get whatever job that I want, or at least that’s the hope. It’s just a matter of me, as a young adult, figuring out what I want." How do your parents and boyfriend feel about you working for a celebrity?
"I'd say both parties were both really excited by the prospect of the job. But once it started to affect my anxiety levels, their enthusiasm waned. And now both encourage me to quit, actually." Most frustrating aspect of the job?
"Not having a schedule, never knowing when or in what capacity I’ll be needed." Perks?
"Not to contradict myself, but having a flexible schedule. I am able to work on my own things, and through her, I have connections to the world that I’m interested in diving into. I also have a lifetime supply of Diptyque candles, beauty products, and access to movies that haven’t been released yet." How much does your boss know about you?
"A lot. I’m very open with her, which I think she likes. She knows my boyfriend, she’s met my friends, and we weirdly have mutual friends — which is another thing I have going for me. She doesn’t want to fuck me over because we know the same people." Most rewarding work moment?
"Any time she asks for my opinion on something, I feel rewarded. But most recently, she gave me a creative project, which was thrilling. She emphasized how much she needed me to impress her, and that she couldn’t hold my hand through the process. And then I did it and she was blown away. So that was great! After that, I’m like, give me more! But she gets distracted and doesn’t follow through. She doesn’t always know how to manage me." Do you consider yourself an artist?
"Yes. I went to school for film, I still try and make short films on my own. I’m very visual — even in my daily life. I think she thinks of me as a visual person as well. She has one of my photos hanging up in her guest bathroom. And although she never goes into her guest bathroom... I’m pretty sure nobody goes into that guest bathroom... I was touched by the gesture." What’s your dream job?
"Cinematographer, creative director or art director. I’m gaining so many skills in terms of organizing and producing that I feel like I’d be well suited for production on a larger scale in the future. Dealing with people is also something I feel equipped doing. "I’ve also honed this skill that I don’t quite know how I’d apply outside of my current job — it’s that I can pull ideas from people. I really think I have a knack for helping people translate their ideas into something concrete. My boss was toying with the term ‘Creative Consultant’ as my new job title as I (hopefully) transition out of being an assistant, which was supposed to happen months ago. There are some projects that I'm working on with her that I find really exciting, and I'd like to finish them before making the change. If it ever happens, that is. Do you look forward to having your own assistant?
"I honestly don’t think I’d want a personal assistant for my daily things. I enjoy grocery shopping, I wouldn’t want someone in my space. I don’t even like my boyfriend making any kind of decisions for me. I think having a personal assistant would be useful for correspondence and organizing large groups of people and yes, maybe walking the dog, but besides that I don’t think I’d want someone micromanaging any part of my life." Would you say you like your job?
"Working as a personal assistant is like being in a really dysfunctional relationship. When she’s paying attention to me or asking for my opinion, the sun is shining and I would never leave her. But when I don’t talk to her for two weeks, I’m left in the dark and made to feel like I’m wasting my time. Having nothing to do drives me crazy." Do you want your boss’ job?
"She’s a celebrity, and I don’t want to be a celebrity. But because she’s a celebrity she has the advantage of easily translating her ideas/dreams onto whatever medium or platform she wants, and that’s a luxury that I’m envious of. Having lots of money and getting whatever you want is incredible. But no, I’d never want to be in the public eye like that. It seems exhausting and anxiety-inducing."

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