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My Experience Attending the 2019 Emmys

I attended the 71st Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, September 22, 2019 and it was SO MUCH FUN! How did I score such a coveted ticket to a glamorous Hollywood awards show? I was a seat filler!

Rent the Runway at the Emmys
On the purple carpet at the 71st Emmy Awards!

What is a Seat Filler?

Do you ever wonder who all of those unfamiliar faces are in the audience when you’re watching an awards show?  Are they friends and family of the nominees?  Some might be, but most of those people are seat fillers.  Seat fillers are people who play a very important role during an awards show – they fill open seats so that there are no empty seats visible on television.  When Kerry Washington gets up to present, a seat filler sits in her seat.  When Michael Douglas has to run to the restroom (or bar), a seat filler swoops in to fill his chair.  Basically, being a seat filler is like playing a giant game of musical chairs with celebrities.

There are various companies that work with networks and awards shows like the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, etc.  Seat fillers come from all backgrounds, professions and age-ranges.  Some seat fillers are actors, some have ~connections~ to networks or companies like Netflix while others are just your average gal like myself.  A lot of the seat fillers I met at the Emmys live in California and didn’t travel far. However, there were a handful of people like myself who flew across the country for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When I was selected to be a seat filler for the 2019 Emmys, I had no idea what to expect.  The selection for the 2019 Emmys was a random lottery system. Those who were selected for the show had to pass a background check.  Seat fillers are unpaid volunteers and must cover all travel expenses themselves including airfare and hotel accommodations (likely why most of the other seat fillers I met were local).

The entire process from selection to the day of the Emmys was only a month.  I received my final confirmation along with my ticket and instructions/rules only eleven days before the Emmys.  This meant that I had to find/book a flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, a hotel for the weekend of the Emmys, and find a dress in less than two weeks!  It was slightly stressful because the last minute flight options were not great, but luckily I was able to find something that worked.

#DressQuest19 – Saved by Rent the Runway

Guys, let me tell ya, finding a dress for a Hollywood awards show in less than two weeks is STRESSFUL.  Especially when you are a full-time working lady with limited free time AND you are booking everything for a last-minute trip!  PLUS, I had to get my hair cut/colored and my nails did because… ya know, Hollywood

If you followed along with my Instagram stories, you know that #DressQuest19 was quite the ordeal. Keep in mind that we were set to fly out to LA the Friday before the Emmys (which was on Sunday) so I had to find a dress by Thursday. 

I am super picky when it comes to clothing, specifically [formal] dresses.  In addition to my specific taste, there was a dress code that all seat fillers had to abide by. If you did not meet the dress code criteria, you would be denied entrance to the Emmys.  The dress code stated that ladies must wear “a nice formal dress that is simple, not frilly or overdone, and not overly long.  Dark colors, no white or red dresses”. Men had to wear a tux. Basically, seat fillers just have to blend in.

You would not believe how difficult it was to find a simple black dress that was not frilly or overdone!  Granted, it was homecoming season so look out – 70% of the formal dress selection was catered to the young and the yikes…  And several nice long gowns that I found needed to be hemmed and I had zero free time to find a seamstress!  The dress code also recommended not to wear high heels due to the amount of standing that seat fillers do. That meant I was looking for something that I could wear with flats or a lower heel.

I must have tried on 30+ dresses in various stores (and states) and I searched for hours online… and I came up with nothing.  Friends kept urging me to try Rent the Runway, but I was hesitant due to my dislike for everything in stores. What were the odds I would like a dress that I picked out to rent online?

Well friends, Rent the Runway came through!  We were leaving for LA in just a few days and I still did not have a dress. As a last resort, I decided to hop on Rent the Runway’s web site and order a rental dress.  I placed my order late Monday night and my RTR dresses arrived at my doorstep Wednesday afternoon.

Rent the Runway has a huge selection of clothing ranging from everyday wear to formal dresses. You can opt to do a one-time rental or join one of their membership programs. For my first RTR experience, I selected a one-time rental. You can choose if you would like your one-time rental for four or eight days. I chose eight days since I was traveling.

When you select your item(s), you are given the option to select a backup size at no additional cost. Having this option definitely gave me more hope that I would get a dress that I liked/that fit.  Since I was a first time Rent the Runway customer, I also got to pick a second dress option (and backup size in that option, as well) at no additional cost! They didn’t have my backup size available in my second dress option so I just went without it. I got all three dresses (first selection + backup size and second option) to rent for eight days for $57. In my opinion, this is a better option than purchasing a dress for $100+ to [likely] only wear once!

Little Black Dress from Rent the Runway
Dress: Rent the Runway / Shoes: Target / Clutch: DSW

The dress I wore from Rent the Runway is the Izabella Dress by Adelyn Rae. For size reference, I wore a Small and the retail price of this dress is $103. I am SO happy that I decided to try RTR! Rent the Runway saved me money and provided peace of mind with the backup size, as well as the backup dress option. I will definitely be renting from RTR again! If you are interested in trying Rent the Runway, you can get $30 off of your first order using my link HERE!

Hair and Makeup with Glamsquad

I decided that since I was going to be mingling with Hollywood A-listers, I wanted to go full-glam.  I’m a firm believer that you gotta #treatyoself every now and then so I decided to book Glamsquad to do my hair and makeup for my big Hollywood debut. And let me tell you, it was the BEST. DECISION. EVER.

Glamsquad is a company that provides hair, makeup and nail services on the go! Yep, they come to YOU! Whether it be your house or a hotel, Glamsqaud comes to you to provide their services. You can book Glamsquad for anything from a wedding to a photoshoot to an awards show.  Although they are expanding quickly, Glamsquad is currently only servicing major cities/metro areas such as Southern California, Washington D.C. and New York.

Glamsquad also has an app that makes booking and keeping track of your appointments super easy.  For my hair, I booked an updo and I also booked full makeup + lashes.  The total cost for hair, makeup + lashes was $210 (tip included). I think this is completely reasonable for these services + the fact that they come to you!

Glamsquad
Emmys Hair and Makeup with Glamsquad

On the day of the Emmys, two ladies from Glamsquad showed up to my hotel room and got to work on my hair and makeup (at the same time!).  They were so fun and nice!  They asked me to describe what look I had in mind and they were in and out in an hour!  It would have taken me twice as long to do my makeup because I was so anxious that morning!  And I’m pretty sure I could never pull off doing an updo. 

I am SO happy that I used Glamsquad for the Emmys! Booking Glamsquad eliminated so much time and stress in getting ready for a major awards show + it was a fun treat to have my hair and makeup done… I felt like such a celeb! If you are interested in trying Glamsquad, you can get $25 off of your first appointment by booking through my link HERE!

Seat Filling at the 71st Emmy Awards

The Emmys didn’t start until 5pm P.T., but seat fillers had to arrive at our designated meeting location dressed and ready to go between 1-3pm the day of the show.  I arrived right at 1pm and the line of seat fillers in tuxes and gowns grew down the street and around the block as time passed.  We checked in with Fox network, received our credentials (wristbands and ribbons to wear on our chest) and we were briefed on how the evening would go.

Little Black Dress
After the show (the photo quality is poor because it was getting dark outside)

Inside the Microsoft Theater, there would be people coordinating and directing us to empty seats to fill.  If someone returns to the seat you are filling, you must get up and head towards the back of the theatre where you will be redirected to another seat.  We were told to move quickly and swiftly and that no one could be caught standing or in the aisles when the cameras started rolling after the commercial breaks.

We were allowed to bring our cell phones into the theater, but they had to be turned off.  Anyone caught taking photos inside during the show would be removed immediately.  I believe the main reasons for this rule were to 1. not be a distraction during the show/broadcast and 2. to be respectful to the celebrities at the show.

After standing and waiting in line outside for over two hours, the roughly 300 of us seat fillers headed over to the Microsoft Theater.  We had to walk a couple of blocks over to the theater. The look on people’s faces as we strutted over to the venue in a long line of tuxes and gowns was hilarious.  People on the street in downtown LA looked so confused as we paraded by and some even started snapping photos of us, seemingly unsure if we were somebodies.

Upon entering the Microsoft Theater, I was instantly overwhelmed (in the best way).  I was one of the first few seat fillers inside the venue. As soon as we walked through the doors, RuPaul walked right in front of me and said “Hello, hello!  How’s it going?!”  OMG…was this real life?!  We continued into the theater and saw people on the giant stage shining the floor in preparation for the show to begin.

The inside of the Microsoft Theater is MASSIVE. We were all lined up along the sides of the theater where we waited in the wings as the A-listers started to trickle in to find their seats.  About 15 minutes before the show started, it was go-time for us seat fillers.  We were led to the first couple of rows and then quickly directed to empty seats one by one.  There were famous people that I recognized everywhere! It was total sensory overload!

My first seat was in the second row with another seat filler whom I had made friends with that afternoon. As soon as we sat down, she hit my arm and said “Oh my God, you’re sitting next to Jason Bateman!”  I was so overwhelmed when I sat down that I didn’t even look around to see who all was near me until she said this to me. Sure enough, I turned to my right and Jason Bateman was staring right at me!

Seat Filler Experience
Sitting with the This Is Us cast!

I switched seats quite a bit during the show and it was so much fun!  Once I got past my initial feeling of being overwhelmed, I had a blast!  At one point, I was seated with the entire This Is Us cast and I actually filled Milo Ventimiglia’s seat!  I chatted with Milo’s mom and then when Milo came back, he thanked me for sitting in his seat!  He was so sweet!  Floating around the venue, I sat next to the Game of Thrones cast, behind Kenan Thompson, across from Joey King… I walked by Amy Poehler and James Cordin and then I was seated in Jimmy Kimmel’s wife’s seat!

When I sat down in her seat, Jimmy Kimmel started chatting with me saying that his wife was probably not going to make it back to her seat before the commercials ended because she “loves to gab” …LOL!  I awkwardly laughed and he continued… “just look at her down there…” as we both looked across the theater at his wife chatting with a group of people.  Well, Jimmy was right – his wife didn’t make it back before the commercials ended which meant that I got to hang out with him for the next 10 or so minutes! 

While sitting by Jimmy, the couple in front of us turned around and it was Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor!  Jimmy and Ben whispered back and forth and joked while the show was going on.  When Jimmy’s wife came back, I moved two rows behind them, right behind Ryan Murphey (producer of Glee, American Horror Story, Pose, etc.) which is when I was caught on camera a few times!

Seat Filler Experience
Caught on camera behind Ryan Murphey!

The three-hour show seemed to go by quickly because I was so excited the entire time! For the most part, all of the celebrities I encountered were nice and down-to-earth. Up close, the Hollywood A-listers seemed so average and normal. They really are just like you and me (just with cooler jobs and a lot more $).

At the end of the show, I turned my phone on and snapped a few quick photos inside the theater.  We filed out of the theater and walked back down the purple carpet past all of the media booths and lights. The venue had security everywhere + barricades funneling people out to specific locations so it was a bit confusing trying to exit. Rick was waiting for me outside after the show and he got to see a few celebs leaving the theater like Stephen Colbert and Marissa Tomei!

Despite the crazy last-minute planning, the stress of #DressQuest19 and the cost of everything (I’m not going to lie, it was quite an expensive weekend)… it was all worth it because I had the BEST time!

Seat Filler Experience

It was a whirlwind weekend in Hollywood and I would most definitely do it again, if given the opportunity. I absolutely love Los Angeles and will look for any excuse to visit the City of Angels! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post about How to Spend 4 Days in Los Angeles. I list a ton of fun things to see and do while in LA + I give some useful travel tips 🙂

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little black dress at the emmys in hollywood los angeles

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