'I was a professional seat-filler at this year's Grammys and now I'm the talk of Kildare'

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No, I wasn't the one who mistook Lewis Capaldi as a seat-filler...


On Sunday the 26th of January 2020, the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards took place in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I was there.

Originally from Kildare, I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past six months and despite having some already memorable experiences from being in the audience for the Late Late Show with James Corden to watching Jimmy Kimmel Live! from the Green Room, being a seat-filler for the Grammys is definitely my peak.

When I got an email saying I was chosen to be one of the 350 seat fillers for the Grammys, I had no idea what to expect. I signed up to be a seat-filler a few weeks back on a whim with no real expectations. The email included everything from check-in times, dress code, parking and the general rules. The rules were no phones, no asking celebrities for photographs or autographs and if someone asks you to move from your seat, you move. The dress code was formal but you weren’t allowed to wear all-red or all-white dresses. As a seat-filler, you have to be able to blend in and smile and clap when the camera pans to the audience and focuses on celebrities. This was great for me – my talent is clapping, smiling and looking pretty.

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I had a weeks' notice when I was chosen, which meant I had a week to sort myself out. With payday on Friday, I had two days to find a dress. I wish LA had a Penneys because as prestigious as the event was, it was not within my budget to splurge on a dress. I settled on an emerald satin dress from Zara, $54. A bit of a stretch for me but I thought, “YOLO, you’re going to the Grammys!” The lady checking me in said she liked my dress and I excitedly said, “Thanks! It’s Zara!” She looked at me weirdly. Turns out, accepting a compliment on your clothes by stating where you got them is a distinctly Irish trait.

After the check-in, we were given a grey ribbon. This allowed the seat coordinators to recognise who was a seat-filler and who was a ticket holder. The grey ribbon was to be pinned on our left side. If you look closely enough at the audience, you’ll be able to spot the seat fillers by their ribbons. The waiting was the least glamorous part of the night. We checked in by 3pm and the event didn’t start until 5pm. Can you imagine standing in Penneys heels for that long? Yeah, me neither, so I was smart and brought a pair of fluffy socks.

When we got inside the Staples Center, we waited until everyone who had a ticket was seated before we could be placed. I was not prepared for what was to ensue. I thought we would be sitting high up, but they ushered us right down by the stage. With only 40 seconds to go, it was manic. We were told to find any empty seats and to plant ourselves there. I had made a friend in the line so we both took our seats right across from Billy Porter. I saw Dua Lipa and Anwar Hadid holding hands walking to their seats. Lizzo opened the Grammys with an amazing performance and all I could think was “wow, I have sung this song too many times when he doesn’t text back and now I’m here singing along at the Grammys. This is my glow up.”

 

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My new friend and I both wanted to get closer to the front because if you don’t make it on the telly, did it even happen? We watched the Jonas Brothers, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Tyler the Creator (my favourite performance), Lil Nas and Billy Ray Cyrus with BTS and Mason Ramsey and Diplo in nearly front row seats.

When there was a commercial break, one of the coordinators needed two seat-fillers so we got bumped up. We were two rows from Lana Del Rey and her cop boyfriend! Ben Platt introduced Ariana Grande’s performance and when he got off the stage he sat behind us. We saw Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Billie Eilish, Aerosmith and Run DMC perform, and a Prince tribute by Usher, which felt like a fever dream.

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A few celebrities left after they received their awards or when they lost, which meant empty seats at the front. I was moved to the third row, three or four seats down from Chrissy Teigen – she was easy to spot with that orange dress. Billie Eilish finished performing and went back to her seat, right in front of me. The guy beside me was a fellow seat-filler and asked her for a selfie. She didn’t look too impressed. We vibed to the Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant tribute by John Legend, YG, Meek Mill, Roddy Rich, Kirk Franklin and DJ Khaled. I got the chills. The Staples Center was filled with a moving atmosphere.

During another commercial break, Khalid came over to Billie and gave her a hug. On my left, Ariana Grande came over to Chrissy Teigen. They hugged and talked about things talented people talk about. Can’t relate. As they were announcing the nominees for the Song of the Year, a cameraman came over beside Billie and I could see I was going to be in the shot. Billie, you might be 18 and have Grammys, but I have bragging rights to all the people of Kildare for being in your shot. When she won, I did my job and smiled and clapped. Her brother, Finneas, was thanking his family and girlfriend and the camera panned to them – there I was between them, just chilling looking like part of their clique.

John Legend and co decided to take their seats so we had to move. There were only 30 minutes to go and I had already made the telly twice. We watched the finale seated a few rows behind Lana del Rey. As the show ended, we waited in our seats while the artists were leaving – Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Shania Twain, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend walked by – it was so surreal. From the stage production to the performances, seeing the cameramen at work and going behind the scenes, it was a once in a lifetime experience for me, a little country gal from Kildare. I should’ve brought my tin whistle, maybe the Recording Academy would have considered nominating me next year.


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