- (Photo: Glittarazzi)
The Glittarazzi girls have a busy day ahead of them. There’s a “really important business meeting lunch” at the Ritz, interviews with LMFAO and Russell Brand, and a meeting with the Republican National Committee. The girls are due on Capitol Hill at 10, and they’re still trying to work out the details with Russell’s people. Plus their makeup isn’t done.
Ali Lewis, who handles the business side of the celebrity and politics gossip website, sits at the kitchen table in Glittarazzi headquarters. A stylist runs a flat iron over her white blonde hair. Lewis inspects her handiwork.
“It looks so, like, older,” she says. There’s a pause as everyone in the room tries to decide if that means she likes it or not. “It’ll be good for the RNC people.”
“Maybe you’ll get a date out of it,” says Glittarazzi staffer Shruti Shah.
Lewis adopts a mocking tone. “What do you like to do for fun? Can you keep up with me? That would be a big no.” She apologizes to the stylist, who is now dabbing concealer on her face, for the bags under her eyes. “We’ve literally been sleeping for three hours,” she explains.
Kelly Ann Collins, founder of Glittarazzi and the one in charge of the website’s content, comes downstairs in attire conservative enough for a meeting with the Republican National Committee. She echoes Lewis.
“I’m so tired,” she says. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”
Lewis takes a final look at her hair and makeup and finds her lip color wanting. “Whoa,” she declares. “No.” She blots, and the pair sweeps out of the office to catch a cab to the Hill.
The women thumb at their phones in the back of the cab on the ride to RNC headquarters. “What did you think of this girl?” Lewis asks Collins. “The makeup girl.”
“I thought she was good,” says Collins.
“I look like the walking dead."
The pair met almost two years ago when they were both still working in events. Collins was a former journalist—she moved to the area in 1998 to work the newsdesk at USA Today’s website—and fixture on the D.C. socialite scene. Lewis was a Florida girl who’d tried her hand at international relations and found it to be a poor fit. Collins started Glittarazzi in 2009 as a sort of personal blog, and Lewis came on board when it started to morph into its current state.
Under the mantra “where pop meets power,” Glittarazzi covers the silly side of politics and the serious side of celebrity. Collins considers one of her editorial triumphs to be a video in which Tim Pawlenty discusses Lady Gaga. Lewis is proud that the site engages young people and helps them learn about politics.
It’s now quarter past 10, and the cab driver can't find 210 1st St. SE, the address Lewis keeps repeating. By the time they figure out that the RNC is actually located at 310, Glittarazzi is 20 minutes late and frazzled by a sudden rain shower.
A security guard inside offers the women visitor stickers to put on their clothes. “Do you have any idea what this does to a jacket?” Lewis asks him.
Half an hour later, the meeting is over and the pair is headed back to the office. Lewis realizes she’s lost her phone.
“Ali gets a new phone every month,” Collins explains. “Is it in your pockets?”
“I don’t have pockets," Lewis says. "Sir, could you just turn around? We’ll pay you extra.”
“Maybe you thought the guy was hot and you lost your head."
“Uh, no way. By the way, he gave me the wrong fucking address.”
Ten minutes later, the phone has been retrieved from a coffee table at the RNC and team Glittarazzi is once more headed home. They declare the meeting a success.
“We learned some things,” says Collins. “We laughed a lot.” She doesn’t elaborate on the nature of meeting beyond calling it a “meet and greet.”
Upon arriving back at the office, Lewis tips $13 on a $17 fare and declares herself hungry enough to eat her own fist. She sends Shah out for sandwiches.
Shah started at Glittarazzi a few months ago, making her the latest in a frequently changing cast of characters at the site. At least four people have been fired since the site first began employing people in April.
“I probably have a reputation for firing people,” says Collins. She and Lewis agree that finding the right staff is their biggest challenge right now. They say staffers were taking advantage of media events, acting inappropriately, and posting videos of themselves drunk.
One former Glittarazzi writer, speaking under the condition of anonymity, says there "was not really a clear policy" on event behavior. "[We] were encouraged to have a good time, be in photos, engage with the drinking of alcohol," she says. "So I wasn't really sure where a line was crossed if that was the case." She says that the firings came as a shock to her and two coworkers, particularly since they were informed by email less than 12 hours before work on Monday.
Collins feels a sense of urgency around staffing. “People are copying us,” she says. “Gawker’s copying us. They started a thing called ‘Gawkerazzi.’ We’re in a race against time. So if you’re not doing your job…”
(Gawker editor Remy Stern says Gawkerazzi is derived from the name of Gawker and the fact that it features paparazzi photos, not from Glittarazzi. “I’ve never even heard of that site, to be perfectly honest.”)
Collins and Lewis have half an hour until they’re due at the Ritz in Foggy Bottom for lunch, so they divide up duties. “Rick Perry’s here on Monday,” says Lewis. “I’m going to call Herman Cain. I’m going to call Mitt Romney.”
“I’ll do Kid Rock and Ben Affleck,” says Collins.
They head upstairs to their offices, two adjacent rooms decorated with photos of the girls posing at a wax museum. The stack of books in Lewis’ office includes titles by Tim Pawlenty and Kelly Cutrone from Bravo’s Kell on Earth.
Collins tells Lewis that the Patty Loveless video they filmed earlier is up. They watch the video together and giggle.
“We liked Patty Loveless,” says Collins. She adds, “We liked Tim Pawlenty. We like them all. McCain, Lieberman.”
“They drop down their guard for us,” says Lewis. Not that Glittarazzi takes advantage. “We’re not out to do ‘I gotchas.’ We’re not out to embarrass you. That’s not us. That’s not our angle.”
“I don’t really care for Michele Bachmann,” explains Collins, “but I’ll still airbrush her photos a little.”
The women work and eat their sandwiches until 12:25, when Collins notices the time. They thunder out of the office and hail another cab to take them to West End Bistro.
Lewis chats up the driver, who saw Ben Affleck’s crew filming scenes at Dulles the night before.
“Are they still filming tonight?” she asks.
“I’m going back to the airport,” says the driver. “I’ll find out.” Lewis gives him a card and asks if he’s ever driven any exciting people around town.
“Many government people,” he replies.
“That’s not exciting."
She hands him $15 for the $6 fare, and she and Collins scoot into the restaurant, where they’re meeting a former Washington Post reporter for some industry advice.
Two hours and another cab ride later, they’re back in the office, where they learn that Russell Brand’s people want to reschedule and LMFAO is up in the air. Sigh.
Collins says the meeting was interesting. Lewis thinks otherwise.
“A couple of points he did make were good,” she concedes. Later, “On the other hand, I’m, like, we already fucking know this but we can’t do it because we don’t have the bandwidth.”
A more diplomatic Collins says, “It’s good to get impressions and advice.”
“It was more your level, too,” adds Lewis, rubbing her temples. “He was wanting to talk about content and all this stuff, and I was like, ugh, talk to her.”
“Do you want to take a five-minute nap?”
Lewis didn’t end up getting out of bed for the rest of the day, plagued with stomach pain. But two nights later, she’s back to work in a black dress, stockings, and heels, making the rounds with Collins at a series of clubs near McPherson Square.
This is the other half of being Glittarazzi: drinks and cocktail dresses with a rotating cast of DJs, bloggers, socialites, and party people. On Saturday night, the girls are out at Lima, to support a DJ visiting from Ohio. Collins and Lewis sip drinks with the DJ’s manager and a blogger named Shabooty who introduces himself as the next Howard Stern.
“We usually don’t go out this early,” Collins says over the thumping of dance music. It’s 11:15. She leads the way to a table behind a velvet rope, where a smiling blonde in a tiny dress grants entrance. More tiny dresses parade by.
Glittarazzi’s budget allows several thousand dollars a month to keep up with the never-ending demand for clothes to go out in. “I usually don’t wear the same outfit twice,” she says. “I know it sounds weird, but we’re in so many pictures on the website, and if we wear the same thing twice, it looks like they were taken on the same night.”
She explains that Lewis’ previous stomach pain was probably due to eating “real food”—the sandwich she had had that afternoon.
“I’m basically on a 500-calorie diet,” Lewis says. “My trainer hates that I’m on it. He doesn’t approve at all.”
Lewis is far from fat, but the public nature of her job means looks matter, and she’s decided this stringent diet is the best way to shed weight. She’s lost almost 40 pounds and wants to drop 20 more.
“People are always constantly talking about us,” she says. “People would always comment on my weight. If I get myself healthy and fit, that’s one less thing people can be vicious about.” Lewis says her confidence level has increased with the weight loss, and now comments wouldn’t bother her as much.
Collins has also learned to deal with ugly comments and messages she gets online. “Someone wrote me, ‘You’re a flat-chested nobody from West Virginia,'” she says. “But nothing fazes me.”
The girls roll out of Lima around 11:30 and roll up to Tattoo Bar next door. The next Howard Stern follows. Security immediately opens the velvet rope for them after a round of cheek kisses.
“My friend owns this place,” Collins has to shout over Snoop Dog. “They never let me pay. Maroon 5 comes here when they’re in town.”
After a round of drinks and more cheek kissing, Collins and Lewis head out for Josephine down the block. Lewis doesn’t glance at the line but prances up to the bouncer and is granted entry.
Josephine is surreal, a labyrinth of rooms blasting house music and served by waitresses wearing nothing on their bottoms but small underwear. Even the next Howard Stern seems overwhelmed. “I would put this on the record,” he says. “I would never come here unless I knew people who knew people, if you know what I mean.”
Lewis and Collins know plenty of people, and after many greetings, they sidle up to the bar. A muscular man chats up a disinterested Lewis (“He was like, how do I find you? And I’m like, hahahaha gotta go!”) while Collins sips a Fiji water.
Though she doesn’t look it, Collins is at least a decade older than most of the people bopping around Josephine at midnight. She’s gone out the last three nights and worked the last three days. Asked if it feels like work or fun, she says it depends on the night.
She pauses. “Actually,” she says over the thumping music, “it’s work.”