For millions, watching George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz wow on the Academy Awards red carpet Sunday night is something only experienced from the living room couch. However, one Mahwah resident is familiar with the show biz glitz of award show red carpets.
Actress Martha Byrne, most well known for her portrayal of Lily Snyder on As the World Turns, says she starts getting ready for an award show weeks before the big day. “Photos of you from award shows last for eternity,” she said. “So, you need to be confident in yourself, and that will radiate to your outward appearance.”
From her trips to the Daytime Emmy’s, Grammy’s, MTV VMA’s, American Music Awards, and People’s Choice Awards, Byrne says she’s developed quite the pre-show ritual. “A few weeks” before the show, Byrne says she starts upping her work out routines and dieting. Prep between that time and the show includes spray tanning, waxing, hair dying, dermabrasion treatments, and of course, picking out a dress. “Can you get ready in a day? No,” she says.
Byrne says her workout plan varies depending on the show. “I know what I have to do to feel good,” she says. “I also have every shade, color, size and length of Spanx, just in case. You don’t always need them, but it’s best to be prepared.”
Byrne, who won two Daytime Emmy’s during her time on ATWT, says she is “fortunate enough” to have designer Nicole Miller dress her for most of her red carpet appearances. “She brings me beautiful dresses to try on, and I usually borrow my jewelry from the Diamond Exchange in Paramus. It’s an opportunity for my girly side to come out, and while the preparation is not as fun, having an excuse to dress up is a lot of fun.”
The Mahwah resident, who lives in the township with her husband and three children, says it’s hard to say which of the celebs she’s met at awards shows was the most surreal for her. Since she started attending awards shows in the mid 1980’s, she says some of the stars who made a real impression on her include Shirley MacLaine, Kathleen Turner, Buddy Epson, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Michael Jackson. “He was so sweet and gentle,” she said of the late King of Pop. “He didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, and was just so nice to me.”
Of all of the encounters she’s had, Byrne says she’s “never been star struck. When I’ve met actors I am a big fan of, I’ve wanted to express my appreciation of what they do, and what I learned from them. So, I’ve never been afraid to tell them that.”
Though she says she’s never had a bad experience with another actor she crossed paths with while on the red carpet, she has witnessed it happen to others. “I would say about 80 percent of those who are nominated and lose are genuinely happy for their winning opponents,” she estimates. “But you do see people who aren’t. There’s also a lot of drinking at award shows, which leads to all sorts of behind-the-scenes shenanigans.”
From the carpet, Byrne has gotten a view of interviews that most don’t get to see on their TV screens. “Directly behind every actor on the red carpet is his or her publicist. Most people don’t realize it, but the publicist guides you down the red carpet, and gets you anything you need – anything from a bottle of water to a needle and thread so they can fix a tear in your dress.” Her recommendation to at home viewers is to “look in the background, not necessarily at the person being interviewed. Sometimes that will show you what’s really going on.”
Since she’s moved on from daytime television, Byrne started experiencing the red carpet from the other side of the microphone. Last year, the actress hosted the Soap Central red carpet interviews at the Daytime Emmy’s, a show she is planning on attending again this year. “In some respects, interviewing is more stressful than being on the red carpet, because you want to keep the interviewee and the viewer interested, and you don’t want to miss the good interviews.”
Now a St. Jude Children’s Hospital ambassador, Byrne spends more of her time on celeb charity event red carpets. Her next stop will be a star-studded “Spotlight On St. Jude - Broadway's Tribute to the Kids” performance happening in NYC March 6.
The actress says though she’s been a nominee, presenter, guest and interviewer at various award shows, there are still red carpet experiences she hasn’t gotten yet. “I’d really like to meet Judge Judy,” she says. “She never goes to award shows, but I am a huge fan and I just love her. I may meet her yet, you never know.”