My Idols Through a Lens

by Sarah Gray about a year ago in celebrities

How going to red carpet premieres taught me a lesson about "being in the moment."

My Idols Through a Lens

The first celebrity I ever saw in person, with my own two eyes, was Kate Winslet. I stood on a grassy hill, outside the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto, craning my neck to see her get out of the limousine. I had been obsessed with Titanic from the time I was 14 years old. Since then Kate Winslet has always been my favourite actress. I had watched her films countless times and I remember this shock wave that went through me when I first saw her and had that moment of recognition. That moment where you realize you're actually in front of a person who, previously, you had only been able to see through a television screen.

I remember when seeing her, however, it felt more surreal than anything else. I had that instant shock moment, but that quickly turned into me grabbing my camera and trying to get that perfect shot. It was as if I was trying to prove that I had been there, that I had seen her. As if without photo evidence there would be no way to ever remember the event, or that no one would believe me that it was real. So as Kate walked down the red carpet, and I struggled against the horde of screaming fans all pushing each other to get a photo, I watched Kate through my camera lens.

It seemed so quick and then suddenly she was gone. Whisked away into her screening of Labor Day at the Toronto International Film Festival. My biggest memory from that time was how people were screaming at Kate. She was pregnant with her son Bear at the time and people were yelling at her as if they deserved her immediate attention and they had a right to have a photo of her. I came away slightly appalled at this but I realized as she disappeared behind the glass doors that I had taken part in the same thing. I stared at her through the lens of my camera, desperate for a photo. Once she had left, I had a pang of disappointment. I had got a pretty good photo of her, that wasn't the issue. The issue was that I had barely looked at her with my own two eyes. I had basically only looked at her the way I always had, through a screen.

Photo I snapped of Kate Winslet in September 2013

This also happened to be one of the most exciting days of my life for another reason. I was able to get tickets to the TIFF premiere of The F Word (Also known in the USA as What If). It starred Daniel Radcliffe who was another person I had adored on the screen from a young age. I was a dedicated and passionate Harry Potter fan. Despite my epiphany about Kate outside, I repeated the behaviour with Daniel Radcliffe when he came out on stage. I just started snapping my photos and taking videos, staring into my camera to make sure the shot would look just right, and retaking photos to get the best lighting. Once he exited the stage I had that same sinking disappointment. Did I just see Dan in real life?

Fast forward to 2 years later. Its September of 2015 and I now consider myself a TIFF red carpet regular even though I had only been at it for a couple of years. At this point I had seen Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Driver, Keira Knightley, Robert Pattinson, Julianne Moore, George Clooney, Liam Hemsworth, Ellen Page, and Sam Rockwell to just name a few. I loved how you could see so many famous people in a short amount of time at TIFF. Since I was obsessed with movies this felt like heaven on earth. It was the most amazing experience that felt like it was once in a lifetime. With each new famous person, though, I repeated my picture taking fixation. I was always trying to get that perfect shot. I realize now that I have to remind myself sometimes when I watch one of their movies, that yes indeed, at one time, I was in the same room with Keria Knightley. Something always feels foreign about it and like it never really took place.

This time around in 2015, though, I heard the most amazing news. My favourite actor, Johnny Depp, who I had been a massive fan of since I was 12, was coming to TIFF. There was no way I was missing that red carpet. This was going to be bigger than Kate, bigger than anyone I had seen before. I could hardly believe I had this opportunity. I got to the red carpet about 4 hours early and had a good spot along the fencing they had placed along the street. I sat patiently and eagerly waiting for him to arrive. It felt like forever, but he finally got out of his limousine.

Having been on red carpets before, I had been used to things going by very quickly. The time was often short between major stars arriving and when they had to be in their seat. But I was amazed at how Johnny Depp took the time to make his way to every part of the crowd that was losing their minds over his presence. He slowly walked down the fence line, making sure everyone had a chance to see him.

He was getting closer and closer to me. I felt people starting to aggressively push me, trying to get that perfect shot. I pulled out my camera phone and began snapping as he approached. My hands were shaking slightly as I couldn't believe that my favourite actor was coming down the fence line towards me. I had seen every one of his films and owned every one on DVD. That definitely played on my mind as he approached.

I have always suffered with anxiety. If you have read my other stories you know that movies were a sense of coping for me when I was feeling anxious in my youth. Johnny Depp had been one of the main sources of comfort and his sense of humor on screen could always make me laugh and smile. I had such fond memories of my childhood watching his films so I felt I owed him a lot, even if that may seem extreme to say.

Finally he stood in front of me and I snapped a few quick photos. He seemed to hover there for a moment and he did not keep moving down the line. I suddenly, despite my head spinning in that moment, remembered all the times that I felt disappointed after being in the presence of a favourite celebrity. About how I only felt I really looked at them through my phone. So I made a split second decision after only snapping a couple photos: I put down my phone, and I looked at his face which was right there only a couple feet in front of me. As I did so, he looked right at me and did what I call the Johnny Depp “nod.” Maybe only true fans know what I mean by that. I remember I felt this shock unlike the initial one I felt with Kate Winslet. I was quite literally like “whoa!” Even though looking back it was probably only a brief moment, to me it was an amazing one! It was the first moment that seeing a celebrity didn't feel surreal. I was truly in that moment!

Then he quickly moved on. He was whisked away into the theatre and I began to make my way home. I looked at my phone, admittedly in a little bit of a daze. The photo I snapped of him had someone's cellphone in the way. It was a bit blurry and he was looking down. But I didn't care. I truly had felt like I had just seen my favourite actor and he had looked straight at me. If I hadn't put down my phone, I can honestly say I don't think I would have had that experience.

I swore I would never be “one of those girls” but I called my parents and started to ball my eyes out screaming “I just saw Johnny Depp!.” I remember my Mom and Dad laughing so hard on the phone, and rightly so. It was quite funny but also one of my best memories.

Photo I took of Johnny Depp, just before I put my phone down.

Now when I see Johnny Depp on television it doesn't feel so surreal like all the others. I truly felt like I had an amazing "once in a life time" experience where I saw my favourite actor in person. Apart from that, however, it also taught me a lot about being in the moment and being present for the great opportunities that life gives you. I think that it would probably be easier on celebrities as well if we were just respectful and didn't all push for that perfect photograph of them. If we stand back and take a moment to realize that, yes, your favourite celebrity is in front of you, but they are also a human being. Not everything has to be documented in pictures or on social media to feel like it was truly great or that you will remember it. Sometimes the best photos and videos are the ones we keep in our own minds. Stay in the moment and appreciate those once in a lifetime experiences. Don't let your phone experience it for you.

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Sarah Gray

Aspiring writer, working on my first novel. Living in Toronto. 

See all posts by Sarah Gray