A Red Carpet View at the Oscars
March 12, 2018
Christina Spearman, Ed.D., dean of students for Loyola University Maryland, just returned from her fifth time working the Oscars. She works as a member of the Oscar Red Carpet Fan Experience Bleacher Crew, working to ensure that the several hundred fans who win the honor of being on the red carpet for the Oscars have an amazing experience.
Loyola magazine asked Spearman a few questions about her behind-the-scenes view on the Academy Awards.
When did you first get involved in this way? How did it happen?
My best friend and I met in college, and we bonded over a love of pop culture, movies, and specifically the Oscars. Even though we haven’t lived near each other since college, we took turns visiting each other each year to watch the show together. We dreamed of winning seats on the bleachers to be present on the actual day and see everything firsthand. We entered the Academy’s online contest every year (and never won). In 2013, the Oscars did a promotion called “Oscar Road Trip,” which included two hosts taking an Oscar from New York to Los Angeles leading up to the show. They made a stop in Baltimore, and I went to the event—in an evening gown. I got to hold an Oscar, and I told them about how my best friend and I always travel to watch the show together. After hearing my story, they gave us tickets to the fan experience. It was a dream come true! Through some connections we made that year and our past work experience, we were able to actually join the crew the following year and have been part of the crew ever since.
What is it like to be at the Oscars?
It is truly hard to describe. You see so little of the whole red carpet on tv. Once the red carpet officially opens for arrivals, it quickly becomes a sea of people. It’s very much like a “Where’s Waldo?” of celebrities. There is a lot of yelling! There is a steady stream of people who are attending the event but not doing press, and they are continually filing down one side of the carpet. There are so many press outlets on the other side of the carpet, and many of them are given very little space (they stand almost shoulder-to-shoulder). I was most surprised by how different the clothes look in person. I saw many gowns and even tuxedos that looked great in person but did not look nearly as good on TV or in photos.
What do you think makes you good for this work?
I stay up-to-date on pop culture, and I love movies. I can spot celebrities from far away. I also enjoy interacting with the fans-answering their questions, taking photos for them, explaining what will happen throughout the day.
Do you get to watch the actual Oscars?
Yes. We help the fans unload from the bleachers and walk them across the street to the El Capitan theater for an Oscar-viewing party.
Do you get to interact with any of the stars?
This year I had a number of exchanges with people, including telling Aaron Sorkin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Christopher Nolan how much I appreciate their work. A few even yelled back, “Thank you.” Normally, we just yell the names of celebrities, so they will turn and wave at the fans in the bleachers. This year, we told Armie Hammer that we liked his tuxedo, and he was pointing at it gesturing to us. When we watched the show, we saw the footage they used of him in black and white was while he was interacting with us.
Do you ever come across a celebrity you don’t recognize?
Rarely. I also recognize quite a few producers, and this past year I got to speak to Megan Ellison. I also got to speak to Tommy Kail, the director of Hamilton (and many other things), and Alex Lacamoire, the music director, orchestrator, and conductor of Hamilton (and many other things).
Are there ever celebrities you are totally starstruck by?
Yes. The first time I saw Christopher Plummer, I became tearful. I immediately thought of him as Captain Von Trapp. I have always loved The Sound of Music, and seeing him in person brought on an unexpected response. (The person in front of me was also crying, so I was not alone!) I was also extremely excited to see so many of the stars of Black Panther this past year.
What do you wear?
We wear our official bleacher crew T-shirts. We also get radios and ear pieces. I always add a statement necklace to my outfit. It just seems right.
What would I be surprised to learn about what you do at the Oscars?
The fans contribute such an important, positive energy to the event. Many celebrities seem genuinely happy to see the fans. Some first-time attendees are overwhelmed that anyone knows them (this year Kelly Marie Tran seemed surprised that we recognized her), and many established stars record the fans on their phones, take selfies with fans in the background, or include the fans on their social media. By helping the fans have an amazing day, we are contributing to the overall feeling of the event and the positive energy of the red carpet experience.
What are the best sources for staying up on celebrity news so you’ll recognize everyone on the red carpet?
This won’t necessarily help you recognize people on the red carpet, but I follow @BensOscarMath run by Ben Zauzmer. He makes math-based predictions about the Oscars, and I love reading the statistics he posts about past and current Oscar races.
What keeps you going back year after year?
My best friend also works the event, so this is also our yearly opportunity to visit each other and share this experience. It’s great to share this with her each year, and we love helping the fans have an unforgettable day. The fans are so excited—many of them have dreamed of this for years. I love seeing their excitement. Of course, I love being so close to the ceremony and the chance to see the celebrities firsthand.