Have you ever wondered what it would be like to escort celebrities such as Angelina Jolie or Tom Hanks down the red carpet at some of Hollywood’s most prestigious and exclusive events? American University alumnus Chris Gaida, SPA/BA ’97, shares his firsthand experience in his new book Arm Candy: A Celebrity Escort’s Tales from the Red Carpet. The Office of Alumni Relations sat down and talked to Chris about his new book, his experience at American University, and how it prepared him for a career in Hollywood.
AU: What is one thing you learned during your time at AU that still resonates with you today?
Chris: One of the tools I learned while at American was to listen. Listening to the diverse backgrounds of students made me realize there are many different ways to approach a problem and because there are such diverse ways, I should keep an open mind because I may find a better way. Now, I try to listen to all the people in my life and even when I disagree, I pick and choose valuable lessons that work for me. We can all learn something from approaching a situation differently and having more valuable insight.
AU: What made you decide to write a book about your experiences? What was the process like for you?
Chris: I have been working behind-the-scenes of awards shows for many years, and people always ask me a great deal of questions on what it is like. I had an enormous amount of experience and fun facts that I enjoyed sharing, and so I thought it would be a great book. I didn't want the book to be about how great everything is, but more of a realistic look of what it is like for the average person in these incredible experiences. I had no problem making fun of myself and the mistakes I have made over the years because I have learned from those mistakes, and I hope that other people will learn from them as well.
Writing a book, especially about myself and public figures, was very challenging. I wanted to be accurate, fun, educational, but not mean spirited or brainless. I wanted my stories to have heart and to make the reader feel as if they were in my shoes experiencing everything live. Sitting down and writing was difficult at first because my brain would wander and I would run off to do things like my laundry or walk the dog. The lesson I learned for me was to write for one to two hours a day and then walk away and do something else.
AU: What have been two of your greatest achievements, either personal or career wise, since graduating from American University?
Chris: I have accomplished so many things since graduating from AU and hate to limit it to just two! A few of them include: beating cancer, running a marathon, writing a book, working at MTV, producing a reality show, accepting myself and coming out as a gay man, traveling to various countries, and maintaining great relationships with family.
AU: Why do you remain engaged with American University as an alumnus today?
Chris: My experience from AU was incredible and I believe I received an incredible education. I think of AU as a family and love to be connected with other graduates. I believe the people who attend American are kind people with great heart and spirit and feel lucky enough to be a member of that family.