The Truth About TIFF Celebrity Sightings
The Truth About TIFF Celebrity Sightings
Katie looked up from her desk. Justin Bieber was looking straight at her. Her cheeks flushed red against her neon-yellow employee polo. Her eyes widened. Her throat constricted.
“Hey,” Katie replied.
As the word left her mouth an airport greeter ushered Bieber and his entourage away. A high-pitched shriek reverberates off Pearson Airport’s high ceilings, snapping her back to reality.
She’s just spoken to international singing star Justin Bieber!
The prepubescent scream roused a mob. Twenty preteen girls were closing in on the star. Discovered incognito in sweatpants and sunglasses, Bieber made a mad dash for a waiting car. Without stopping to think, Katie abandoned her station to join the chase. She moved towards the exit as quickly as she could without actually running, and arrived outside just in time to watch the star speed away.
“He said ‘Hey’ to me,” Katie says, gushing slightly at the memory. “And so I said ‘Hey’ back. That ‘Hey’ changed my life.”
Katie, a twenty-two-year-old former sales representative for Pearson International Airport, considers herself a FanGirl. An extreme fan, she follows her favourite celebrities religiously. When she worked at the airport, Katie kept one eye open for potential star sightings while stationed outside the international arrivals gate.
On the day of the 2011 Much Music Video Awards she had given up hope of seeing any stars when Bieber said “Hey.” After the pop star left her speechless and sprinting after his Escalade, she began her crusade to become a celebrity greeter for the airport. Instead of searching for celebrities Katie spent her workdays bombarding greeters with questions. With the persistence of a woman who waited in line over six hours to catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt, Katie made her dream of professional celebrity-stalking a realization by becoming an airport greeter for the Toronto International Film Festival.
Her first day as a greeter, Katie felt like she was living out her ultimate fantasy. After changing out of her employee polo she touched up her makeup and, looking in the mirror, prepared herself for a star-studded evening. “I thought it was going to be super glam,” Katie says.
Dozens of A-List stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling arrive in Toronto through Pearson Airport during TIFF every year. As a greeter, Katie would be responsible for getting them through the airport and into their waiting vehicle.
Katie’s first assignment, delivered to her on a clipboard, was a name she didn’t recognize. Steeling herself for an A-List celebrity worthy of the undercover alias she waited at the arrival gate. Forty-five minutes later her arms, outstretched holding the sign, ached. Her feet throbbed. This was not the physical reaction she’d felt meeting Justin Bieber. This was dull.
Finally her first client arrived. He was a businessman and far less glamorous than Katie had anticipated. “I guess that’s why greeters are all still greeters five years later,” she says, “because they don’t all get whisked away in limos by celebrities.”
She walked him to his car, trying not to be too obvious when she glanced over his shoulder in search of someone famous. Katie greeted businessmen, publicists and producers but for the duration of TIFF not one celebrity’s name crossed her clipboard.
A few celebrities did, however, cross her path. Katie’s most significant celebrity sighting involved Shailene Woodley of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and The Descendants fame. Fans and paparazzi were waiting for Woodley when she arrived. The crowd, in some places four or five fans deep, crushed Woodley against Katie’s desk. Bulbs flashed and one fan, a hulking man of more than six feet, screamed hysterically for an autograph with tears streaming down his face and snot bubbling at his nose.
“He was the biggest FanGirl I’ve ever seen,” Katie says of the colossal, crying fan. “I realized that as much fun as it is to see a celebrity I don’t want to be that girl. It’s not worth it to me.”
For the remainder of the festival Katie continued to attend red carpets and couldn’t help but peek over her shoulder at work, but says she now feels creepy while cruising for celebrities and decided that she would never act as a greeter again.
“I guess I can cross paparazzi off my list of career choices,” Katie laughs. “Except I’d still totally FanGirl for Matthew Lewis,” she says, confessing her love for the actor who played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films. “I’d lose my job because I’d ask for a picture and all that stuff but it would totally be worth it. I’m still obsessed with him. And Ryan Gosling, obviously . . . And Tilda Swinton.”