Backstage at The American Music Awards

by Lis Lewis

It’s Sunday morning, November 21, 2010 at 10 AM and I’m hanging around in my pajamas. It’s my day off. The phone rings and it’s Thomas, Rihanna’s tour manager. Do I have time to work with Rihanna today, he asks? Well I guess so, what time? Can you be here at noon? he says. It’ll only be for an hour or so. Of course I say yes. I really can’t say no to Rihanna.

So I jump into some clothes and tear downtown to the Nokia Theater. Turns out it’s the American Music Awards. Wow! Thomas comes running out to guide me past security and then into the theater. (Why are we running?) As we go through security a big security guard steps in front of the line and stops everyone to allow Pink to go through by herself.

The dressing rooms are three flights down underground – little dark hallways and dressing rooms with no windows. I’m guided to a narrow hall with a couple of folding chairs. Good thing I brought my iPad – but wait there’s no WiFi! Really? In the Nokia? OK, whatever.

It’s very distracting down there. There are people running everywhere. But no one looks famous. Oh wait, is that Santana? Yes, he’s waiting with his entourage for the elevator that will take him up to the stage for rehearsal. He looks good! But now there’s absolutely nothing to do but wait till Rihanna is ready for me. I wander around a little and find a snack room with candy and chips and coffee – ugh. Then drift back to my folding chair. An hour passes. Two hours. Suddenly Thomas comes out and yells ”Lis!” I jump up and run into Rihanna’s dressing room.

And there is beautiful Rihanna who comes over and gives me a big hug.

Rihanna and Lis Lewis

There’s also a huge 10 foot-long rack of clothes and more shoes than in a shoe store.

Rack of Clothes

I haul out my keyboard and set it up on the coffee table. Then Ri and I go to work. We warm up her voice, and then practice parts of the eight minute medley she’s singing to open the show. Forty minutes later we’re almost done when she asks me if I can stay to warm her up right before the show two hours from now. Of course, I say. (I can’t say no to Rihanna) So I go back out to my little folding chair and sit. But wait, who is this with the tiny dog? Oh it’s Christina Aguilera and her entourage waiting to go up to the stage for rehearsal. Another hour goes by. I see the Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift. It’s exciting and boring at the same time. Rihanna goes up to walk the red carpet. Twenty minutes later she comes down. Another twenty minutes later I’m summoned back in to her dressing room for the warm up before the show. She looks incredible, she sounds amazing and she’s ready to open the AMA’s. I don’t know how she stays so calm in the midst all these people running around but she’s serene and focused. We’re done and she and her entourage go out to wait for the elevator to take them to the stage. And after five hours, I’m ready to go home.

Here’s a picture of the Gibson guitar that Dick Clark Productions sent around for the artists to sign. It will be sold for charity.



Signed Gibson Guitar