Assistant is a bit of a catch-all term. Sure, they schedule meetings, take notes, and pick up coffee, but they can also act as a quasi-concierge, sending fruit baskets to top clients and buying gifts for partners. In an effort to uncover the very specific material needs of powerful people, we sat down with 24-year-old “Lisa,” who started assisting her high-end travel influencer boss full-time a little over one year. We spoke with her about the trick-or-treating buttons, the six-foot green screen she put on the train, and the out-of-season decorations she fetched from the wild goose.
Because Lisa’s boss is often photographed alone in hotel rooms, she relies on an assortment of accessories to create a sense of fulfillment. (Her brand is feminine and flowery, so bouquets of pink and white roses, candles and champagne can be found in many of her photos.) “Influencers make their lives so laid back, but there’s actually a ton of effort behind the scenes. The only reason it seems effortless is because they do their job well.
In influencer photos, every little detail is intentional. Lisa says her boss once sent her to buy a magazine with a cover in a “relevant color for the shoot.” At the newsstand, Lisa sent her boss a video of all the titles available; finally, that month vogue was chosen for its light blue cover. “A lot of things I buy,” she says, “quality doesn’t matter and cost doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.
Lisa says she often has to pick up balloons — usually in shades of pink, red and yellow — for party town shoots on 34th Street. Lisa says “people on 34th Street are different than people anywhere else, especially since COVID,” so every time her boss sends her there, she’s “absolutely terrified someone will come and starting to pop my balloons.” (Although she never really had a problem with anyone making fun of her — or balloons.) Another prop-supply expedition saw Lisa scavenge for holiday decorations in October after his boss had obtained a sponsored advertising campaign. She eventually came across some at a Dollar Tree in Harlem, “enough that we could decorate the room to look like Christmas.”
The first luxury trip Lisa took with her boss was to Paris for a shoot for the influencer’s fashion line. The two worked together to create “high-glam” images – including one in which Lisa’s boss can be seen enjoying a tea party of champagne and Ladurée macaroons in front of a window framing the Eiffel Tower.
But, in fact, all cookies have been of Laduree. “When we bought macaroons from Ladurée, it wasn’t that we wanted the macaroons per se, we wanted the boxes,” says Lisa. So she bought a six-pack at Ladurée, then went to another bakery closer to the couple’s hotel to buy cheaper no-name macaroons. She is also responsible for procuring rosé Champagne, chosen exclusively for its color. (No one on set took so much as a sip.)
Lisa’s job is to provide styling, content capture and post-production assistance, all with the goal of making her boss appear as polished as possible online. “If you use the tools you have well, no one should notice that you’ve used them,” says Lisa. For Lisa’s 23rd birthday, her boss bought her a brand new iPhone 12 Pro. Once the initial shock wore off, Lisa says she realized the gift, while generous, might not have been entirely selfless. “When we go out and shoot,” she says, “I have to get behind-the-scenes footage and other content. If I have a better phone, that means her videos will be higher quality.
For their final trip to Spain, France and England in the first three weeks of April, Lisa made sure their preparatory Amazon order included this Fujifilm camera. Photos taken with a disposable camera provide visual variety in carousels alongside iPhone videos and photos, Lisa says. Additionally, the Fujifilm can be used to capture moments that might not require full processing, such as Lisa’s boss’ husband napping while she gets her hair done. “The fact that it’s disposable makes the photos a little less stressful,” Lisa says. “You don’t really know what it’s going to be like, so there’s no point in starting over.”
During this same trip to Europe, Lisa’s boss had the idea of brandishing messages like “Influencing is a real career”, à la Dude With Sign. The cardboard (from Lisa’s neighbors) got increasingly battered as Lisa dragged it through three countries in her Away Large, but the words remained legible because of those super thick markers.
Lisa says she was once tasked with picking up a green screen so her boss could avoid having to digitally remove backgrounds from a series of shots for a project. It was not a glamorous job. “Imagine me on the train carrying a six-foot box,” she says. Lisa says her boss ended up “making her husband hold the green screen in the middle of Roosevelt Island.” Because Lisa’s employer is not based in New York, the green screen and a teleprompter kit ended up being stored in Lisa’s studio downtown. She says her boss told her, “If you ever want to start a YouTube channel, now you have” the equipment.
Once, Lisa says she had to go to the hardware store because her employer had borrowed a dress that was too big from a designer. The influencer asked Lisa to buy clips to take it from behind, the “smallest, thinnest” possible so they don’t show themselves in the photos. They too are now stored in Lisa’s apartment.
Much of Lisa’s work revolves around Adobe’s Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Illustrator programs: Premiere Pro for editing her boss’s occasional Instagram videos, podcasts, and reels, and Photoshop and Illustrator for editing individual posts for them. social flows from his employer. Lisa, who majored in graphic design, says that while her boss does photo editing and retouching himself, she has helped establish the visual identity for some of her boss’ businesses.
The monthly Adobe subscription comes out of Lisa’s pocket, but at least she’s no longer working from her personal computer: one day, she explained to her boss that her heavy and noisy laptop from 2016 would be late when she was trying to Edit. Her boss quickly said, “I can’t do this. We’re buying you a new computer,” and told him to go to the Apple Store to buy a new MacBook Pro.
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