One of the first things they told the interns at ESSENCE magazine was not to freak out when you saw a celebrity. According to the internship coordinators, celebrities were frequent guests in the offices, and it was very important to keep your cool and act professional. Honestly, I was mentally telling them that if Trey Songz was within 20 feet of me, you would probably need a tranquilizer gun to calm me down, but I was willing to bury my excitement in this environment.
Later that day, I met with my entertainment editor, Cori, who launched into a description of the projects that I would be working on. She told me a couple of events that I would be going to in the next week or two, then glanced at her calendar and said, “Oh! We will also be going to a listening session for Ne-Yo’s new album on Thursday.” She explained that it would be a low-key event where press and media were invited to check out an artist’s new CD. If the album was hot, then reporters could write a little blurb for an upcoming issue.
It sounded pretty cool. I mean, I’m a pretty big fan of Ne-Yo. I listen to “Champagne Life” basically every day, and “Miss Independent” gives me that strong, “I am woman” mindset. Plus, I was curious to see what this session would be like. This was my first press event, and there would be reps from Ebony, BET and the like.
Fast-forward a few days. Cori and I rushed out of the building and through the streets of New York on our way to the listening session. As we power walked, she explained once again what we would be listening for and told me how these events generally work. “Oh!” she added, “And Ne-Yo will probably be there. Just stay cool.”
Me? Stay cool? Sure, it wasn’t Trey Songz, but, again, I listen to “Champagne Life” Every. Single. Day. I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights, but I gave her a nod that suggested that I hang out with celebs every day back home in the Midwest, and I promised her that I would keep my poker face.
We finally made it to the building and found two inconspicuous seats toward the back of the room. Just as I was considering going to grab a chocolate-covered strawberry, Ne-Yo walked to the front of the room. He gave a casual speech to tell us about his album, and then began to play his first song.
As the crowd nodded their heads to the beat, Cori grabbed me and told me to follow her. It wasn’t until we were about six feet away from Ne-Yo that I realized, “Ohmygosh, I’m six feet away from Ne-Yo.” And when Cori tapped him on the back and introduced herself, I realized that I was getting ready to meet him. As I began cursing myself for wearing my dowdiest pair of khakis (that, in all honesty, probably could’ve used some tailoring), Cori introduced me to Mr. Champagne Life himself. I told him how nice it was to meet him and stuck out my hand for him to shake, but he instead embraced me in a huge hug. He smiled, sheepishly bowed his head, told me thank you and that was that.
It wasn’t until I was walking away that I began to shake uncontrollably. Ummm… did that really just happen?? My mind was gibberish. My knees were jelly. I suddenly had to focus on breathing. Thank goodness we had gotten there early enough to snag seats because I needed someplace to regroup before we left.
Half an hour later, the listening session ended, and I was happy to find that my knees had regained their strength. As we were leaving the room, I walked by Ne-Yo again, who was swarmed with fans. Although it took some major restraint, I refused to gawk at him. After all, I was calm. I was professional. I was wearing my poker face… and a pair of ill-fitting khaki pants.
—Taylor Lewis, ESSENCE Magazine, University of Kansas