The 2011 Grammy Awards

By Lis Lewis

Rihanna – Red Carpet

Superstars Are Very Shiny

I wish I were good at talking about the gorgeous clothing and the tallest shoes and the fabulous, extravagant excess that make up so much of the Grammy Awards. You’re probably better off going to a fashion website for that. But I must say, I sat backstage Sunday night and saw almost every artist who was about to perform walking up and down the halls and greeting each other. The list is endless – but I’m sure you know because you watched the awards. Nicole Kidman (you just can’t imagine how truly elegant and beautiful she is), Will Smith, who gave me a courteous little bow, with his son Jaden Smith who was wearing the biggest platform sneakers I’ve ever seen (I don’t know how he walked in those), Hayley of Paramore who was right in front of me in the security line, Cee Lo without his big costume looks like a normal guy in a t-shirt, the debonaire John Legend with a stunning woman who must have been six feet tall before the six inch heels, Barbra Streisand and James Brolin striding down the hall like the royalty they are, and I can’t even begin to describe the effect of seeing Nicki Minaj’s hair. I had a prime spot for viewing the stars, but not the show. I actually didn’t get to see the show until much later that night. I’ll have to write a whole other article on the performances – I think it was the best Grammy Awards in recent years.

The Work Begins

But there’s a lot of work behind all that glamor and that’s why I was there as Rihanna’s voice teacher, along with the many many other professionals who made the magic happen backstage. When I arrived at 3:30 Rihanna swooped by, stooped to give me a quick kiss, and ran off to the Red Carpet wearing that amazing wedding cake of a see-through dress. What a way to start my workday! After the red carpet, she  went to sit in her seat for the show’s opening number and then came back to her dressing room to get ready for her first performance of the night. She is the only artist who sang twice. Her dressing room was packed with people; three people were sewing her into her huge billowing tulle dress and one was getting her shoes ready. All this while I warmed up her voice. There’s no room for a keyboard so we did it a cappella, which is no problem for her since she has such a good ear. It’s no secret how sick she had been for the last week. She had to cancel a benefit performance a few days earlier due to laryngitis and bronchitis but she has the best Ear Nose and Throat Doctor on the planet, Dr. Shawn Nasseri, and she sounds great.

And Then The Show

Rihanna’s performance

Once she was in the dress, the hair and makeup people had to do their magic but the dress was so big she couldn’t sit down in a chair, and people, she is TALL. So she knelt down for about fifteen minutes while everyone finished their work. When the knock on the door came to tell her it was time, she sailed out to the stage with her assistants and bodyguards and sang the hell out of her duet with Eminem. You may have noticed that in the middle of her song she pulled her ear piece out; that’s because it completely stopped working. But she is a trooper and finished (and sounded amazing) without being able to hear herself. Then back to the dressing room for another costume/makeup change and her final hot performance with Drake. When she came back to the dressing room, the crew packed everything up and they all headed to the airport for a redeye flight to London where she performed at the British music awards show (and won again!). You have to be an athlete to be a superstar, and she is. I was exhausted. So much for my glamorous life. I went home and collapsed in front of the television to watch the show I had just worked on.

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Lis Lewis is an American voice teacher, author and performance coach. Her clients include Miguel, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Courtney Love, Britney Spears, Colbie Caillat, Linkin Park, Demi Lovato, Tyson Ritter of The All-American Rejects, The Pussycat Dolls, and Jack Black.

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Category: Notes From Lis