This year’s Oscars goodie bags cost $140,000 apiece and include a plot of land in Scotland
The famously expensive swag bags are always extravagant, but this year’s offering takes the biscuit with nominees being gifted a plot of land in Scotland.
Gifted to each of the 25 nominees in the Best Actor and Director categories – regardless of whether they actually get the Oscar or not – this year’s “Everyone Wins” Oscars goodie bags are, unsurprisingly, very lavish. Compiled and provided by marketing company Distinctive Assets, the 2022 edition apparently includes a pick of 53 different items, experiences and getaways.
Naturally, there are much more worrying things happening around the world to concern ourselves with – rising Covid cases and Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, amongst other things – but organisers are intent on the show going ahead as planned and have been busy ensuring everything is in order ahead of this Sunday’s ceremony.
“I feel like, despite all of the bad news in the world, it’s really an important form of self-preservation and self-care to also carve out a little time for the fun, fabulous and frivolous,” Distinctive Assets founder, Lash Fary, commented. “[The gift bag], certainly falls in this category.”
Vulture reports that the practice of giving gift bags to nominees first started back in 1989, though past offerings were much humbler than the thousand dollar versions we have today. However, brands soon realised the power that celebrity exposure could have for their businesses and the value of products included in each gift bag skyrocketed as a result.
While initially, the Academy was involved in the process – they played a key role in the gifting tradition up until 2006 – a crackdown from the IRS, who pointed out that the swag was a form of non-cash compensation and thus taxable, led to Academy board members voting to discontinue the practice.
That might seem like the end, but private companies had been curating their own gift bags for several years by that point and they were willing to continue the custom even if the Academy wasn’t. Lash Fary’s company, Distinctive Assets, landed the gig to provide the official gift bags for the ceremony in 2000, and his reputation only continued to grow from there. The New York Times dubbed him the “Sultan of Swag”, and he came to be known for “the ushering in of an era of celebrity product placement”.
According to Fary, the concept was born from an encounter with Bette Midler who reportedly reached out to him to thank him for “all the fab swag” she had received after the Grammys. Fary had been hired to make the gift bags for the event and while Midler didn’t win, she was overjoyed with the idea of a consolation prize… and thus, the idea for the “Everybody Wins” Oscars goodie bags was conceived.
Stemming from humble beginnings, these gift “bags” have only grown in value and notoriety since then. In fact, they’re not even bags but large pieces of luggage or steamer trunks which can be delivered directly to nominees’ houses, hotels or production companies. And despite celebrities now having to pay taxes for the extravagant gifts, Killing Eve star Sandra Oh remains the only famous person to have rejected one thus far.
Things escalated yet again back in 2016, when Forbes revealed that the Sultan of Swag’s annual offering was worth an estimated $230,000 apiece – the highest estimated value of a goodie bag to date – and included vapes, vibrators, “vampire breast lifts” and a trip to Israel. Tired at the insinuation that the Oscars governing body was still involved in the practice, the Academy took Fary to court. A month later, Distinctive Assets released a statement saying that they had reached an “amicable” settlement with the Academy after agreeing to no longer use any Academy trademarks and to start including disclaimers to remind the media that they weren’t affiliated with the Academy in any way, shape or form.
In recent years, gifts have been compiled with current events in mind. Last year, Fary said that he wanted the bags to feel like they were more than just freebies, telling Forbes that each one had been filled with products from female-owned businesses, Black-owned businesses, disabled entrepreneurs, and companies who give back. An NFT tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman was also included. Showing the actor’s head dipped in gold, Vulture states that it “signified an auction of the rights to the digital artwork, with half of the funds going to colon cancer foundations”. Many felt that this was just “commodifying” Boseman’s death and the artist subsequently announced plans to redesign the image.
As for this year’s gift bag? 2022 marks two decades of Distinctive Assets’ famed “Everybody Wins” gift bags, so naturally, excess was to be expected and according to Forbes, each individual gift bag costs a whopping $140,000 to make – considerably less than last year’s gift bag which came in at an estimated €205,000. Centred on the theme of wellness, eco-friendliness and diversity, this year’s standout is an entire plot of land in Scotland from Highland Titles – which comes with an accompanying Laird/Lord/Lady of Glencoe title to go with it (the money apparently goes towards land conservation efforts in Scotland so is a “gift with purpose”, as Fary puts it).
Other inclusions in the luxury gift bag range from a three-night stay in a 17th-century Scottish castle, to a $15,600, four-night spa getaway at California resort Golden Door, gold-infused extra virgin olive oil from Ariti, a Tangle Teezer hairbrush and access to a Celebrity Arms Sculpting plastic surgery procedure by Art Lipo amongst other things.
Monetary value isn’t the focus though, Fary claims. “While this gift bag does, as always, have an impressive value, that is neither our focus nor goal. A great gift has nothing to do with a price tag,” he said in a statement. “This year’s nominee package is particularly meaningful as we pay tribute to a milestone anniversary and also celebrate the resilience of all involved after the challenges of the past two years. Despite perpetual bad news globally, it’s also an important form of self-preservation and self-care to carve out a little room for the fun, festive, and fabulous.”
So, who is eligible for one of the grandiose gift bags this year? Several big names will come away with a swag bag (should they choose to accept) from Olivia Colman to Andrew Garfield, Will Smith, Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz. Maybe we’ll get a social media unboxing, if we’re lucky.