I was “spotted” for the first time moments later, by two tourists who sidled up to me as I preened away. Absurdly politely, they asked me to pose for a photo. I asked their names and where they were from — information that, in true celebrity fashion, I immediately forgot — and smiled hard and wide. Click, click. Untrained in the art of disengagement, I ended the encounter by looking at my feet: “Well, I, uh, gotta, well, you know, over there,” and shooting them the dorky thumbs-up to end all dorky thumbs-ups.
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But I’d finally been acknowledged as the celebrity I wasn’t, which I took as a cue to shift into diva mode. I raised my hand and positioned it in front of my face, as if attempting to deflect a wayward dodgeball, and snarled, “This is some life you’ve made for yourselves.” Beyond a throwaway, “Hey, just doing my job,” the photographers reacted just as they did when I was acting nice. There’s a lesson in this somewhere.
I still made time for my fans, none of whom were shy about asking for photos (not a single person wanted an autograph) or professing that they “love [my] stuff.” (I have stuff? Cool!) Judging from the 30 or so individuals who approached me, it appears that my fan base is dominated by Latino women in their 40s and 50s. Perhaps they don’t remember me from the charismatic-knave role I didn’t play on Los Piratas del Amor, a telenovela that never existed. In any event, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
It took 30 minutes before I encountered a skeptic. Not surprisingly, it came in the form of a teenage girl: Joy, who pushed through the crowd and posed the question I’d been dreading. “So, what is it you actually do?”
Until that point, every question thrown my way was some variation of “Are you famous?” (“It depends on your definition of famous.”) or “Are you a celebrity?” (I’d point to the photographers and say, “Ask them.”). But Joy demanded specifics. When I replied to her initial question with, “I do a lot of things” (technically, not untrue), it didn’t sate her curiosity. “Like what? Are you on TV? What movies are you in?”
I had no answer, so I did what any spinmeister would do and changed the conversation. Stopping midstride, I threw a friendly if sweaty arm around Joy’s shoulder and said, “Come on, let’s get that picture.” Her friends snapped away, the fake paparazzi snapped away, the American Way photographers real-snapping the fake paparazzi and the fake celebrity snapped away, and the real teenager snapped away. It was a daisy chain of hyperdocumentation and erroneous assumptions.