Think you’d like to play the supporting role in a celebrity household? Here’s what some insiders think you should know:
1. You can make a lot of money.
Celebrity assistants are always in demand. “We’re busy, even in this economy,” says Rachel Zaslansky Sheer, cofounder of the Grapevine Agency, an L.A.–based staffing company that matches assistants to high net-worth individuals and celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Arianna Huffington, Jennifer Aniston, and George Clooney. “People won’t give up their personal assistants in a recession. They have such big careers and lives, it’s too much,” she says.
And if you can tough it out on a 24/7 schedule, you’ll be handsomely rewarded. “You can make up to $200,000 a year if you’re an assistant who literally travels on tour with someone and never goes home,” says Zaslansky Sheer.
(Then again, some of the assistants we spoke to were making $15 an hour and working long days. Read about Lisa Rinna’s assistant.)
2. You may have to relocate to another continent on a moment’s notice.
It’s unrealistic to plan for any kind of life of your own when you work for a star, say the experts. Some celebrities don’t know where they’ll be in the next twelve hours, and the same goes for their personal assistants.
“You have to be prepared for literally everything and anything,” Zaslansky Sheer emphasizes. “One assistant I placed had to pop on a plane going to Europe at midnight that day, and stay in Europe for three months, with no advance notice,” she recalls. That assistant had been called to work on the set of a movie for her employer, a popular, young singer.
3. Not everyone is as nice as George Clooney.
George Clooney is famously beloved by fans, and the same is true of the staff that caters to his every whim. According to Zaslansky Sheer, “George Clooney is the one person every single celebrity person assistant wants to work for. His last assistant was so happy that she stayed was with him for eight years.
“There is this long time rumor that he once bought his assistant a house, but it’s not exactly true. Still, everyone and their mother wants that job,” she adds, “At least once a week I get someone asking, ‘Is the George Clooney job open?’”
Two other coveted positions are those with Sarah Jessica Parker and Angelina Jolie, according to Lilit Marcus, New York–based author of the blog Save the Assistants.com and a soon-to-be-released book by the same name.
“Sarah Jessica Parker is said to be one of the nicest and easiest people to get along with,” she reports. “She gave her assistant so much credit for keeping things organized during the first Sex and the City movie that her assistant actually got an associate producer credit.”
Jolie is also known for “taking good care of her assistants,” says Marcus, who says the superstar is especially close to one woman. “They were pregnant at the same time and in Cannes, they were photographed together.”
4. Some stars are more like Ricki Lake.
Going by her documentary, The Business of Being Born, about the factory-like operation of maternity wards in most hospitals, you might imagine Ricki Lake to be a gentle, liberal-minded person. But chances are high that her personal assistant would disagree.
As Marcus points out, Lake spoke publically about what happened after she gave birth naturally in a bathtub (an event captured in the documentary) and admitted to asking her assistant to help tidy up later.
“To this day, my assistant talks about how she had to clean up my bathtub afterward,” Lake said, according to New York magazine.
“I hope she paid her assistant a million dollars to do that,” says Marcus. “Having to clean up afterbirth is pretty far out there for a celebrity personal assistant.”
5. Best friends come first.
Getting a celebrity personal assistant job is hard enough. It usually requires connections in the business. Now outsiders have to compete with a new kind of competitor: the pal from way back.
“[Stars] tend to bring a friend from back home to be their assistant because they are otherwise surrounded by adult handlers and it gets boring,” says Marcus, who has noticed more and more celebrities hiring old pals as extra support. “Justin Timberlake did that with his friend Trace Ayala, and now they have the fashion line William Rast. When Britney Spears first came out, her mom’s best friend was her personal assistant.”
Jessica Simpson brought her best friend, CaCee Cobb from Texas, to join her on the trail to fame, as Simpson’s music, acting, and reality TV career took off. The work saw Cobb appearing on Jessica’s TV show, Newlyweds, and becoming a boldfaced name on the party circuit.
6. You probably won’t get famous ...
“You’ll never be the person in the spotlight,” and you have to be okay with that, says Zaslansky Sheer. Instead, she says, “You’re the gatekeeper. People can’t get to your boss without getting through you.”
The Grapevine agency usually won’t work with an applicant who wants access to a celebrity with the ultimate goal of pushing his or her own script or project ideas.
“There are some celebrities who say they want a writer, and that down the line they’d be happy to read their material,” says Zaslansky Sheer, but, “most creative types don’t want their assistant to have a lot going on outside the work. The client wants to be the personal assistant’s number one priority.”
7. ... But there’s always a chance.
Everybody has to start somewhere, so it’s always possible that spending your days charging cell phone batteries and ordering face creams will indeed put you in line for a TV or movie career.
Once upon a time, for example, Mark Cherry, the creator of the hit ABC show Desperate Housewives, was the personal assistant to Dixie Carter when the actress was starring in the TV show Designing Women.
According to Marcus, “[Carter] loved him so much as her assistant, and knew he was a writer, so she got him a writing job on The Golden Girls.
“He has her to thank for his career,” she adds.
Favors are not forgotten among friends. Mark Cherry has since written Carter into a part on Desperate Housewives.