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Reverse Psychology? Why Publicists Got So Much Attention During the Oscars Telecast

Sunday’s Oscar telecast delivered a rare moment in the sun for some of Hollywood’s most unsung heroes: Personal publicists. And while TV viewers might’ve wondered why they got so much love, those in the audience at the 2024 Oscars might argue the shine was due to a classic case of reverse psychology.

At precisely 4 p.m. inside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, David Alan Grier took to the stage with a microphone in hand to make pre-show announcements. “Good evening and welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 96th Academy Awards,” said the veteran star with a clock ticking over his shoulder on the big-screen with less than three minutes and 40 seconds before showtime. “Y’all are going to be hearing from me for the rest of the night, but for the next minute, enjoy seeing me. Feast your eyes upon my body. I’m a real zaddy.”

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After the jokes, the comedy star turned his attention toward offering winners some hard and fast suggestions for their acceptance speeches. “Tonight, we’re going to celebrate you and your work, but we’re for a good time, not a long time. So, let’s keep these speeches short, alright? Don’t be up in here thanking your agents, your publicists, your tax preparer, studio execs. Do all that after the show.”

Grier quickly followed that up by saying that in response, “I’m getting side eyes from your agents, your publicists, your tax collector.” He continued: “If you win, get up on this stage, seize the moment, speak from the heart. Everybody wants to say something that will be remembered tomorrow and beyond. People love hearing personal things, stuff like I got a hammer toe. … Now we are seconds away. I want everyone to enjoy the show and in closing, remember these words: Don’t fuck this up.”

The lights went down shortly thereafter and Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel delivered a well-received monologue. When it came time to hand out the first award of the night, a team of previous best supporting actress winners took to the stage to announce the name of the woman who would be welcomed into the illustrious club. Last year’s winner Jamie Lee Curtis was joined by Mary Steenburgen, Regina King, Lupita Nyong’o and Rita Moreno.

It was Curtis who had the honor of revealing that Da’Vine Joy Randolph won the 2024 best supporting actress Oscar for her work opposite Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa in Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. And Randolph was the first to ignore Grier’s advice as she zeroed in on her publicist.

“I have to give a special shoutout to my publicist. I know you said, ‘Don’t say anything about your publicist,’ but you don’t have a publicist like I have a publicist.” The mention generated lots of laughs in the auditorium though Randolph failed to mention her rep by name, something Kimmel picked up on when he came back from commercial break. “You know you forgot to mention your publicist’s name. I think your publicist needs a publicist.”

Randolph is repped by Shelter PR partner Marla Farrell, who reps dozens of big stars alongside her fellow partners Cara and Christine Tripicchio. She has been a constant presence at Randolph’s side at dozens of events over many months during what has been a hectic awards season.

Though she was the first, Randolph wasn’t the last to mention their publicist while standing at the microphone with an Oscar in hand. “Back to my publicist,” best supporting actor Robert Downey Jr. quipped on the main stage before thanking his WME agents and “my den mother” Joy Fehily, a publicist-turned-manager and consultant. “And I want to thank my stylist in case no one else does, thanks Erica [Cloud], and I’m just going to say this: My entertainment lawyer, Tom Hansen, of 40 years, the half of which he spent trying to get me insured and bailing me out of [trouble], thanks bro!”

Publicists, agents, lawyers and even a stylist got a shout out on the Oscars stage on Sunday night, leaving tax preparers out in the cold. Sorry, TurboTax, there’s always next year.

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