Private jets, red carpet premieres and A-list BFFs, the life of a celebrity personal assistant comes with a few coveted perks, and ones that make the obvious drawbacks (coffee-fetching, epic egos, 24/7 indentured servitude) seemingly bearable.
L.A. writer and former celebrity personal assistant Shanna Mahin was wooed by that very agony-ecstasy combination (sadly for the gossip-inclined, she can’t reveal for whom she toiled). The work experience was so memorable that she was inspired to write a highly entertaining novel about it, called Oh, You Pretty Things.
We recommend reading before setting out to make your PA dreams a reality; if you remain so inclined, we asked Mahin for her best advice on how to land a gig.
Be young (and have a valid passport).
You’ll have the best chance of getting hired if you’re under the age of 25. “This is not a job where you can age gracefully,” says Mahin. “You need to be on call 24/7, able to go from dead asleep to driving down the 405 in under three minutes, and ready to travel internationally at a moment’s notice.”
Celebrities have such full, busy and populous lives that it’s almost a prerequisite that their assistant has none at all. So, you need to be “totally unencumbered,” says Mahin. That means “no significant others, dogs, cats, goldfish, or even houseplants. They will wither and die while you’re off taking care of your celebrity’s dogs, cats, goldfish, houseplants and significant others.”
You really do need to be a Jill of All Trades with absolutely no gag reflex to succeed in the wild and woolly world of celeb PAs. “If bodily fluids, dog diarrhea, and/or confrontation make you squirmy, this is not the gig for you, because you will inevitably be tasked with handling all three—and more—often on the same day.”
It’s not easy to get the gig, says Mahin. In fact, it’s almost always an “inside job,”where you need to know someone who knows someone to get the job. “If you know anyone who has anything to do with Hollywood, that’s a fine place to start,” she says. “Talk yourself up.” If you’re completely on the fringes, however, you may have to seek employment at an agency that services celebs. Be forewarned that this is the almost certain route to your first nightmare experience.
“Agencies usually end up with the jobs that no one else wants—the diva-iest of divas, the sweet women who turn a blind eye to their husband’s grabby hands, the ones who are always “between” business managers and bounce your payroll checks.” If you can hack it, though, it’s worth it. “You just have to get your foot in the door,” says Mahin. “Once you’re in and kicking ass, everyone will want you.”