If you asked someone to describe a bodyguard, they will almost certainly think of a tall, heavily built bodyguard protecting a celebrity. In fact, “biggest celebrity bodyguards” is a common Internet search term. But these big bodyguards are really in the minority of close protection operatives (CPOs) providing celebrity close protection services.
Celebrity bodyguard companies and individuals providing celebrity bodyguard services have to deal with a unique set of circumstances. A Principal’s celebrity status and the environment that goes with it thrusts the close protection operative into the limelight. Many close protection operatives aspire to be celebrity bodyguards; flying the globe, living the high life, some seeing it as the pinnacle of the trade. However, being a celebrity bodyguard can be anything but the top end of the security profession. Issues with throwing celebrity bodyguards into the limelight are valid discussion points, but for now, we will give you an insight as to what it is like to work with celebrities.
“Never meet your heroes,because they’re sure to disappoint you!”
This statement is especially true when meeting some celebrities. Often the star is shorter than you imagined or not as good looking as they look on the TV or in magazines. And behind closed doors, some can be shockingly rude or difficult employers. An ill-mannered celebrity can be a bitter pill to swallow because they often will have come from nothing and quickly forget their roots and where they originated.
As a close protection operative, we are ultimately tasked with the protection of a celebrity to ensure that they have a safe environment around them. Common hindrances to this goal include budget restraints, principal staff, or friends (hangers-on), and the principal’s attitude towards security and risk. Like many principals, a celebrity will understand the need for protection because of their status and wealth, or one of their sponsors or maybe their agent may have insisted on security, but that does not mean they are happy to have a bodyguard around. Having someone with you 24 hours a day takes some getting used to.
While a celebrity bodyguard strives to keep their principal safe, celebs will often throw caution to the wind because they need publicity to remain in the public eye. The result is a CPO advising against one thing due to a security concern only to be ignored and overruled by the celebrity (or PA) who is happy to place themselves in danger for the all-important headlines that they so crave. This conflict often creates tension between the ‘talent’ and the CPO. The CPO must learn and adapt to this environment in the same way as any of the other settings that a CPO finds themselves operating in.
Sometimes a compromise must be made between the CPO and the celebrity to achieve the goal of creating a safe environment. Such agreements are made more difficult by the fact that the world’s press may witness your settlement! Then the operative’s reputation can be dragged through the dirt by all the armchair experts online. Celebrity protection means broadcasting any mistakes made by a CPO for the whole world to see. Type “celebrity bodyguard failures” into any internet search engine and the list is endless:
Fratinising – getting too close to your Principal, becoming intimate and dating the Principal is a whole other subject and trap that should be avoided at all costs! This is career and reputational suicide.
With time comes trust, and once a celebrity principal trusts their bodyguard’s judgement, the assignment becomes a little easier. However, time is not always on a CPOs side. A task may only be for a couple of hours or days whilst the celebrity is visiting the country or for a single personal appearance. This restriction makes the CPO’s role more difficult as there is insufficient time to bed in and establish a working relationship.
Of course, the CPO will hopefully have a brief discussion with the celebrity in the hope to ascertain precisely how the ‘star’ expects them to work. It is equally essential for the CPO to explain how they would like to operate to establish a safe environment and provide close protection. The lack of time on an assignment is often the problem with trying to establish what both parties expect and is usually the reason for tension and often mistakes. For this reason, a CPO should be as flexible as possible within the assumed level of threat and the principal requirements considered.
Many celebrity bodyguards will not have the luxury of working with a team and will be working alone in an IBG role (Individual Bodyguard). Sole operators often have to cover as the driver, depending on the associated threat level. The hours can be long and arduous, with a succession of TV appearances, photoshoots, and evening event appearances. Celebrity’s schedules and their lives are pretty full-on! When working alone, fatigue will have a considerable impact on the CPO. Bodyguards need to keep their wits about them. Operatives still require 100% focus at 3 am when escorting a worse for wear principal out of a nightclub avoiding the baying press looking for an embarrassing photo.
Many CPOs will have heroic stories of how they have saved a high-profile celebrity from embarrassing photos or press opportunities. That is if you can get a celebrity bodyguard to discuss those stories! An effective CPO can often save the star from themselves or bad publicity towards themselves. The press and paparazzi are necessary evils for the celebrity bodyguard so CPOs must learn to work with them. It is crucial to establish a rapport with them. No matter how unscrupulous their behaviour, “paps” are there to earn a living too. If a CPO is abrupt and rude, you can be sure the press will be the same in return and make the CPO’s job much more difficult.
One of the main attributes of a CPO is confidentiality; the confidentiality of the principal is paramount. Across all environments of close protection, CPOs should not discuss or disclose what happens, what they witness or know regarding their principal, celebrity, or otherwise. Usually, confidentially agreements are set and signed before employment on any task with any principal. These agreements ensure that a bodyguard does not disclose details of the principal’s lifestyle, habits, personal life, and associates.
The unfortunate fact is that many close protection operatives, especially celebrity bodyguards, are still unable to ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’. This is easily evidenced by an Internet search for “celebrity bodyguard tell-all” All too often a CPO will breach confidentiality for a quick payout or boost to their ego or profile in the hope of becoming famous themselves and/or attracting more clients. Such behaviour is the exact opposite of how professional bodyguards should behave and how not to attract more business and clients.
Irrespective of confidentiality agreements, a bodyguard of any description, be it a celebrity bodyguard or a former royalty protection officer; selling their story will be hugely frowned upon. Similarly, a CPO that frequently posts and boasts on social media about where they are at any given time with their principal, or posting photographs from the principal’s home, yacht, or private aircraft is acting to the detriment of the objective; securing their principal. Such behaviour is highly unprofessional – CPOs simply should not do it! A bodyguard should advise the principal not to post their whereabouts until after an event has happened or they have departed from a location.
A celebrity bodyguard will be in the press and recognisable by members of the media and public. Such publicity is why some CPOs never work with celebrities, on the ‘celebrity circuit’, plus their face might not fit! Being publicly recognisable can be detrimental to close protection assignments. For example, suppose a CPO is assigned to an executive principal, a CEO for instance who is not a public figure, they are then identified as being a person of interest by bad actors and undesirables due to their ‘famous’ bodyguard.
Close protection operatives are supposed to be the ‘the grey man or woman’, unassuming, under the radar, discreet, and ready to step-up when the principal’s safety or reputation is in jeopardy. The role of a close protection operative means sharing a similar lifestyle to the celebrity or principal:
After a while, many close protection operatives working with celebrities begin to struggle with reality. After spending so much time with celebrity principals, these bodyguards start to act like they are the principal or star, or believe that the principal is their friend (buddyguard). This situation will always end badly in one way or another.
CPOs are employed to provide a service, an especially important one at that. However, there is a fragile line between delivering a professional service and becoming over-friendly, or worse still, complacent towards the security of the principal.
Close protection operatives are not and should not fall into the trap of believing that they are the celebrity/principal, their personal friend, or partner. The moment that happens, they have failed and the provision of protection has gone along with their reputation.
Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK, and worldwide.