Diary of a Celebrity Booker; From Jay-Z to Usher: Sarah Omolewu Gives Us an Exclusive Insight into the Life of a Celebrity
This week we got the exclusive chance to speak to celebrity booker Sarah Omolewu, the managing partner of Maven Marketing and Events. Originally from America, Sarah decided to shift base to Dubai almost five years ago, as she felt that the region had a lot of untapped potential. And now with more than twelve years of industry experience, she is able to successfully utilise a number of A-list celebrities to support various marketing communications and CSR campaigns of prestigious brands including Coca Cola, Nike, GEMS Education and many more.
How did you get into the business of booking celebrities?
I started off by working at a radio station in Atlanta, and at the time there were always a slew of celebrities constantly coming by – A-lister’s like JLo, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Usher, even Hollywood and sports stars would stop by on a daily basis to promote their projects and brands. I also worked on the music festivals, expos, and other celebrity focused events the station organised each year. And that’s how I got into this business.
How many celebs have you worked with?
Dozens....too many to count. I’ve been doing this for over a decade!
How do you choose the celebrities you bring to Dubai and what do you do with them?
Clients in Dubai are always looking for celebrities who are willing to engage with their audiences, so it’s important we source celebrities who we have a good relationships with their management, and moreover those who will represent our client’s brands well.
Most notable achievement
Winning the award for best special event in the Middle East at the MEES Awards 2014 for our Kobe Bryant health & fitness weekend celebrity basketball game which included music artists Marques Houston and Soulja Boy, American footballer Kelly Herndon, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Abdullah AlFaisal AlSaud, and the entire Real Madrid basketball legends team.
Who have been your favourite celebs to work with?
On the American side, my favourite would definitely be Usher Raymond and Jay-Z. On the international side, I would say Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher.
And your least favourite?
I’m fortunate to say I do not have any complete horror stories to share, although I’ve definitely had my share of diva’s and celebrities with bad attitudes, but I try to stay away from booking these type of celebrities as much as possible!
What’s the craziest request a celeb has ever made?
I recently booked a celebrity who required a private jet all the way from Los Angeles to Dubai!
Have you ever been unable to accommodate a celeb request, and if so how do you deal with that?
About eight years ago, a music artist I worked with on a private event in Atlanta wanted a straw for her diet coke before she performed. She didn’t want to drink straight from the can. And since we were working in a rural residential area, the nearest gas station or grocery store was several miles away. After almost an hour of frantic searching, we finally convinced her manager to watch us wash and sanitize the glass, and then she finally agreed. Needless to say, that was the precise point in my career I decided not to book divas ever again!
What’s the best bit about your job?
I love the whole process from beginning to end. Consulting with a client to choose the right celebrity for their brand, putting together an innovative concept, entertainment marketing campaign and series of events, then when the celebrity arrives, and seeing it all come to life in stellar form.
What’s the worst bit?
It’s funny you ask this because most of the people think that I have the easiest job. But behind the scenes, it is a lot of hard work. The worst is dealing with all the last minute requests from either the client or talent, and managing all the expectations is absolutely overwhelming.
Is it difficult to get celebs to come to Dubai
Since Dubai has become a celeb hot spot in recent years, most of them already know that Dubai’s one of the most luxurious cities in the world. And they’re extremely keen on working in the region. We have just worked with fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons to source a distribution deal for her to bring her new KLS clothing line to the market.
If you could book any celeb for any event – money no object – who would you book and what would you have them do?
Hands down, without even having to think about it, I’d say Oprah. Starting this September in the USA, she’s doing an eight city women’s empowerment tour called “the life you want weekend” I’d like to bring a version of that event to the region. There are a number of influential women here working in senior level positions, and it would be good to dispel some of the myths about women in the region by showcasing the number of successful women here.