Friday, March 24, 2006
Monita goes to Hollywood
Hollywood. It's an odd town. Where else would you find the world's most celebrated stars smack in the middle of what feels like a soulless strip mall?

Ok, I may be a little harsh -- after all, no town or city is perfect everywhere. I guess I (like every other tourist) was expecting something more.

That was my first foray into the world of Hollywood. It began with a rude awakening but slowly my eyes were opened to another dimension, also known as Beverly Hills. It's a dimension filled with glamour, money, celebrity and excess.

What you notice though, is that everyone is looking. Looking to see if you may be someone they should know (that said, I did see Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei and Helena Christensen and Paris Hilton ...).

We've all read about paparazzi hiding out in bushes. But it's only once you actually see it that you can understand that this world of celebrity is really on a planet of its own.

Come Oscar Sunday though, it all seems to make sense. The drabness of Hollywood Boulevard is forgotten, the stars glide down the red carpet and the energy is electric.

We stood on a bridge just overhead as photographers snapped away knowing every picture could earn them a good chunk of change. And that is the power of celebrity.

If you think the Academy Awards are all about the actors, the directors, the producers and everyone else involved in making a movie, think again. There is a whole other industry that looks forward to this night as much as any of the nominees.

The Oscars have launched unknown designers into the big league and propelled well known labels into another stratosphere. As one stylist told me, these stars are walking billboards and you can't buy that kind of publicity.

For a designer, to have Reese Witherspoon or Halle Berry wearing their dress means publicity in magazines and on TV all over the world. There is such anticipation in the lead up to the Oscars that even the most successful designers and stylists feel the nerves. Then it's like winning the lottery when someone makes an impression in one your outfits.

As part of my "Oscar experience," my producer Andrea thought it would be great to go all out and do what the stars do when getting ready for the big event.

We asked a designer to send us a dress (Azzaro). We asked to borrow some expensive diamonds (Chopard --worth about $60,000. I was told I had a $300,000 limit. Anything more would have meant having my own bodyguard. But you know me, I'm not a flashy kind of girl).

I had my make-up done by Kristofer Buckle -- make-up artist to the stars -- and my hair swept up in a fancy coif by Jay Diola. So much work to look glamorous! But I'm not complaining.

While in LA, I also caught up with Donatella Versace who was in town for the Oscars. I didn't know what to expect before we met. We've all read the tabloids and the gossip columns, describing her battle with addiction and her company's financial difficulties.

But to see her in the flesh you notice someone quite shy, almost fragile. She says facing up to her problems has left her more introspective but stronger and even inspired artistically. The look she wants to create for Versace now is one of a strong, independent, yet still very sexy woman. But there is also a sense of serenity that surrounds her.

We also met up with Jimmy Choo's Tamara Mellon. Jimmy Choo successfully outfitted a dozen celebrities for the Oscars. Tamara was also in town to work on Jimmy Choo's next ad campaign. We met up with her at the home of the photographer who had worked on the campaign that featured Nicole Ritchie.

Brett Ratner told us he had only been a professional photographer for a year after I noticed a great black and white portrait of Al Pacino in his living room (which was the first photograph he had taken). Noticing our collective looks of astonishment he told us that his real job is that of a movie director.

For those of you in the dark (as we embarrassingly were), Brett directed the "Rush Hour" movies, "X-Men," the TV show "Prison Break," and numerous music videos.

Yes, it was a crawl-under-a-rock moment for me but one that people would say is "so LA." No wonder people in L.A. have a reason to keep looking. You really never know who you will meet!
Posted By Leetlegirl: Friday, March 24, 2006
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CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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