Just landed back on LA soil after spending a few days last week in cozy, comfy Nashville, TN. I was working the red carpet for two events kicking off the 2011 Country Music Awards.
2011 Country Music Awards
The first of the two events was the Style Icon Music & Style Gifting Lounge founded by entrepreneur, Andre Wilson www.styleiconllc.com . While the gifting suite began in May, 2010 at the Kentucky Derby and traveled to the 2011 Superbowl in Dallas, this was its inaugural event in Nashville for the CMAs. Andre began these gifting suites at the Kentucky Derby because up to that point, there had been no place for the celebs that flock to town during the Derby to collect their free “swag” like they do at every other major event (..like celebs need free stuff, right? but it’s great advertisement for the vendors that are showcased in the suite.) Following that, he began making plans to take his suite to large events in major cities around the country and make it a staple. Celebs walk into a beautiful, swanky lounge where they’re served Mimosas, led around to the various vendors and introduced to all kinds of products and services and sent home with the goods. They love it, the vendors love it…. I love interviewing them on the way out… it’s great! Everyone is really having a great time and many wind up sticking around once they’re done, and hanging out to sip their Mimosas and chat with other visitors to the suite.
I enjoyed singer Pam Tillis. Very sweet lady.
Andre Wilson greeting country duo Montgomer Gentry to the Music & Style lounge. (Sorry about the blur, I was on the move.)
The Kentucky Derby Prelude Party www.derbyprelude.com
founded by entrepreneurs and sisters, Tonya York Dees and Tammy York Day, debuted in Jan., 2010 in Los Angeles. This was its inaugural presence in Nashville for the CMAs as well. The purpose of the Derby Prelude Party, as we call it, is to take the Kentucky Derby straight to the celebs and overwhelm them with Southern charm, enticing them to come back to Louisville, KY in May for the Derby Eve Bash that the York sisters put on and the Kentucky Derby races at Churchill Downs. I can tell you that it is a hit with these celebs when they walk into what is basically a transplanted, out of season Derby Party and get a taste of what it’s like to be in Louisville, KY that first week in May each year. Mint Juleps are served, models meander around in gorgeous dresses and hats like what you would see on Derby Day, and there’s just that whole atmosphere of warmth and commeraderie that’s often referred to simply as Southern Hospitality. They eat it up. They love it. We love it. It’s awesome.
Hilary Williams, daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. visited the Derby Prelude Party.
Tammy York Day and Tonya York Dees with Richard Stevens of Cigna, one of the event's major sponsors.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work again with these individuals who are so passionate about what they do, as well about the benefitting charity for both events, Blessings In A Backpack (www.blessingsinabackpack.org) I have such a good time doing what I do, interviewing and getting to know guests on the tv shows, events, red carpets, etc that I’m involved with. I used to think that if you were having that much fun working you weren’t taking it seriously enough. I was so wrong! I just hadn’t found the right “thing” yet. I feel blessed that I get to do this, that people trust me to represent them and their interests, to do my part to keep their event or broadcast running smoothly and keep people engaged, to have things memorized, or to just ad lib and wing it if that’s what they want. I love it all. You just can’t beat it (or, well… I can’t anyway. *Grinning*)
Also deserving much praise is an amazing group of staff and volunteers, many of which lend their talents and assistance to both events (which means a lot of work and little sleep) that really are the backbone and pull everything together. You all know who you are and THANK YOU for all that you do!
*****So for a quick synopsis of the weekend with all the silly details…*****
Sunday – 7am flight (UGHH!) out of LA but at least it was a direct flight. I’m completely in my “prepping for the gig” mode and continuing to read everything possible about anyone who’s confirmed to show up or may just drop in at the events. I wanted to continue reading on the flight but I was knocked out 15 minutes in and slept the entire way. Love that I can do that!
Arrive in Nashville, and a friend and event volunteer picks me up. Neither of our gps-es (okay, how in the world do you spell the plural of gps??) Anyway, neither of them are making any sense, so it takes us much longer than it should to find our way to Hotel Indigo. Before checking in, we stop a couple blocks down at Blackstone Restaurant & Brewpub for a bite. If you ever visit this place, I’m telling you… order a do it yourself brick oven pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Uh-maazing!
So my plan was to get in my pj’s way early, relax, gear up for Monday and read my stuff…………….THEN everyone else arrived and they weren’t havin’ it. Haha.. I’m sometimes baffled that of the group of people that I’m with at the time, I’M the one that’s acting like a granny. Lol There was no arguing with them so I wound up at the Indigo Hotel bar with staff, volunteers, new acquaintances, old ones, etc and we had a great time. Eventually we wandered across the street to the Hutton Hotel bar/lounge which I really really liked. Very swank-ayyy. 😉
Finally , everyone did poop out so we turned in in order to be on like Donkey Kong in the morning.
Monday – Up and at em! Not much sleep and gotta get a camera ready game face on. Bring it! (and some coffee, Visene and eye de-puff stuff please) Lol. We arrive at aVenue where the Style Icon gifting suite is held. It’s pronounced Avenue..which I thought was very cute and clever… get it? “a venue”…. “avenue”… you get it. It looks great.. very cozy, warm and welcoming. Live music is performed, Mimosas are served and vendors are scurrying around getting their booths set up. I’m shown to my “territory” which is an exit interview lounge set up at the end of the path through the suite where I can interview celebs about their experience there.
Admittedly, I don’t have much country music on my iPod playlist (or any? Maybe a few crossover songs), however… that’s what I was reading up on prior to the event. Preparation is key. So the first celeb to sit down on my couch was Cowboy Troy. Nice guy! Over the course of the two day suite and the Derby Prelude Party, I also interviewed country artists Grace Potter, Pam Tillis (sweet lady), The McClymonts, an absolutely adorable Aussie sister trio (who actually wound up winning a CMA for best Global Country Artist), Chad Warrix (a KY native), Montgomery Gentry, current and former Tennessee Titans Eddie George, Robert Johnson and many others.
Heisman trophy winner and former Tennesee Titans running back Eddie George arrives at the Music and Style lounge. He was also an honorary co-host later that evening at the Derby Prelude Party.
Cowboy Troy arrives at the Music & Style LoungeSinger Grace Potter shows her support of Blessings In A Backpack
As it was approaching time for the suite to wrap up, in swoosh Tonya York Dees and Tammy York Day (they don’t walk, they SWOOSH everywhere they go, Lol) and like a time lapse video… the transition of aVenue from a gifting suite to a cocktail party/fundraiser veneue began. People were EVERYWHERE taking things down, putting things up, milling around, lighting this, rearranging that. It looked like the cartoons we used to watch as kids of the elves scurrying around at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. My job at this moment however, was to head back to the hotel and do a quick change/regroup, get my “Derby Prelude Party” brain on and get back to the spot for red carpet interviews. I was on auto pilot but I got it done! ;)
Models clad in party dresses, hats and fascinators added to the KY Derby ambiance. Lovely!
By the time I got back, the place had been transformed and dimmed into a swanky soiree scene and the party was about to be on! I run straight to my camera guy (because that’s what you do…. as a host, you and your camera guy are attached at the hip) and take my place on the red carpet. I was starting to mic myself (which means squatting a little and fishing the microphone cord up my dress from the bottom and pulling it out of the top with my back turned to the crowd, trying to look inconspicuous but graceful to any who may notice and wonder what the heck I’m doing) Anyway, so I’m mic-ing myself when the first guests started to make their way toward me. Here we goooo… it’s SO fun! Many of our guests at the gifting suite that afternoon, were back for more of us KY peeps. We also met new friends like singer Chad Warrix, Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas, and Hilary Williams, daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.
The McClymonts arrive at the KY Derby Prelude Party. The Aussie trio and siblings won the 2011 CMA Global Country Artist award.
Tennesse Titans kicker Rob Bironas, Tonya York Dees, and country/southern rock artist Chad Warrix.
A little horseplay on the red carpet. Get it... KY Derby? "Horse" play... You get it. Lol
And as the party dwindled down to just handful left…
Tennessee Titans cheerleaders
As the party carried on.... things got silly and even more fun. Here, Andre Wilson and I channel our inner Fly Girl and break dancer.
And as the party dwindled down to a final few (that’d be us) Andre kept it goin. Lol! Take a look… it’s quick, and dimly lit, but funny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd3rJGbvUe4
What a day and night! All of the guests seemed to really enjoy themselves and appreciate the hospitality at both events… and Tweeted about it when they left! Woo hoo!
Tuesday – Up and at em! We’re all on auto pilot after working the suite all day on Monday, quick changing and working the party on Monday night. (And by working I mean working… and playing… working hard, playing hard, laughing hard, dancing hard… you get the picture.) Day two of the suite was a great success as well and we couldn’t have been more pleased.
Now……. I had been alllll excited about Tuesday night being the night that no one had anything to do the next day but, check out of the hotel and head back home so I THOUGHT it was going to be a TON of fun, right? NOT so much. Admittedly, I was exhausted, like everyone else by 5pm but since we were heading out to experience Nashville nightlife later, I opted to skip dinner and take a nap. “You all wake me when you’re done with dinner and I’ll come meet you” I said. Well… my intended 2 hour nap turned into 4 hours and I woke up to ZERO missed calls! What the!?? Where is everyone?? Why didn’t they call and wake me? They’re livin’ it up without me. :( I texted everyone and knew there was some shaaade involved when NO one texted back for a few minutes. Mmm hmmm… they’re all deliberating on who’s going to text back and say what. Lol I’m thinking they’re out having fun without me and they’re wrapping up dinner, falling asleep in their food and now I’M bright eyed and bushy tailed … ready to go! Ahh MAN! :-/ Seriously? I couldn’t get one of them to rally. They were like “Sorry girrrl… we’re done.” If I’d known that I’d have just napped in my food at dinner like everyone else. At least we would’ve been toGETHER. Ha. So I sat in the lobby of the hotel all night reading magazines while everyone crashed…. because I was now wide awake with nowhere to go.
Booooooo! Next year guys… Next year you owe me! 😉
Hey there are still more videos and photos of these events floating around out there that I haven’t seen just yet, so check back as I’ll probably be adding to this post.
Holler atchall later… xox