May 21, 2011

Utah Entertainment & Choice Awards RECAP!

This blog has had many hits since it was posted,
please see what has happened since:

*BEFORE YOU READ MY BLOG* Please know that this information was literally just brought to my attention. This is the producer who was my contact through all of this:
I had no idea that this was who I was dealing with.

And this link sent to me is regarding ANOTHER scandal, before THAT scandal: I don't trust what went on with the awards and I never would have associated myself with them. Seeing this video and reading these articles, I can't help but wonder where the proceeds are going from the awards? "A portion will go to charity". What's the portion? What's the charity and where does the rest go? Who TRULY benefited from this?

I never would have promoted them at all let alone attended. I am SO SORRY. Shame on me for not researching fully what I was getting involved in, and I am SO sorry I asked for your time and votes. So very sorry. "Winning" an "award" from this would have held no meaning for me now that I know.

This was found out after I wrote the blog, but I would like to leave it up as is to let you know how I was treated and what a let down the night was. Thanks!

Well here we are the morning after. I wanted so badly to open with this, "I've been to movie premieres and other red carpet events in LA, and this was just as grand if not more so!"

But I can't. It was very underwhelming.

Some of those I've talked to have used the words "strange", "uncomfortable", "painful", "lacking", "screwed up", "underhanded", "insulting", "embarrassing" and "odd" to describe the night.

Where do I begin? We walked into the Salt Palace where everyone was mingling in the lobby and the red carpet was set up with the step and repeat, people taking pictures and several interviewers. It looked well lit, it looked crowded, it looked fun. When I went over to get on the carpet, it was a free for all. Some people were under the impression you had to wait in a line, one group of guys had stood their for 30 minutes straight! Other people would duck under the ropes and cut in front, others enter from the other end, it was unorganized. I finally just had to take charge, as did others, and jump in. Nobody was there to keep order of any kind. Everyone was able to rush the carpet. We were under the impression it was special for the "stars", the nominees and press. Nope.

The interviewers were not what I expected. I don't mean to be rude, please please please don't think I am, but it wasn't what I expected. I expected known tv personalities and reporters from channels 2, 4, and 5 (5 being a sponsor, Carole Mikita did shoot a 2 minute or so report but didn't have a spot on interviewing those on the red carpet through all of the arrivals like the other interviewers). Some of the interviewers asked vague unanswerable questions pertaining more to Utah as a state rather than why each nominee was there but some did do their research, and Darren Fromal even knew my characters and asked me what they'd say if they were there! Got to bust out a little honey bee and have fun.

There was NO sign of CNN, I was told by Danny Thompson via phone they would be.

One question which I hadn't considered was, "who are you excited to meet?" I realized I wasn't really excited about seeing anyone other than my friends. I mean, I'm too young to have been a Debbie Gibson fan and too old to be a David Archuleta fan. Plus I don't watch American Idol. But of course I played along, like you do, and tell them how excited you are to have an American Idol in the midst, and perhaps sing for you. It's a good question! I might have asked it too. See, in situations like these it's all about making the event appear far grander. This question makes you feel big celebrities are in the midst! But really, there weren't any, or many, there.

No Jazz Bear, no Jimmer (except via satellite) and Donny Osmond (it was said he would be there via satellite as far as I knew) but patrons seemed to be confused on this.

*Neither David or Debbie performed, just presented! Why not?! I was hearing talk of them being too expensive, is that true??? They were the biggest names in the room, they were right there, why didn't they perform? This crowd would have loved it!

Seating. So it was time to go into the ballroom. Because we'd been given comp tickets, we were assigned a seat. My parents had purchased tickets (not VIP) and were seated elsewhere. That was a drag. I figured VIP would be up front, parents must be at the back. VIP didn't seem to matter here, nor the fact I was nominated and may or may not need to walk up to the front. We were all at the very back.

*I've also just been made award not all nominees WERE comped! Some even had to wait to find a seat!

At this point I was still giving it all a chance, enjoying myself, even able to meet very briefly Danny Thompson himself and tell him congrats on putting it all together.

Then the show started.

The show was rough around the edges. The performances didn't flow. Everything from a pre-teen dance group to a guy singing and playing the guitar (that went on too long) to a rapper with backup booty dancers. It was random. There wasn't a format and it was out of order in the program. Another guy sang in funny voices and did impressions of other singers. There were a lot of lulls and silence between transitions of one thing to the next. It seemed to me the performances were all good, just maybe not the right fit. Some of the presenters I didn't know. Some of the nominees I didn't know. That's fine, I'm not saying I expect to know everyone involved, but I couldn't help but wonder where so many local celebs were? I was very aware of those looked over as nominees, acts and hosts.

There was video for the final award for Alan Osmond that went on way. too. long.

Someone had a great suggestion that there should have been a quick blurb about each nominee, and perhaps a pic and or footage? That definitely would have helped.

The awards. When it came time to announce the award I was up for, "the future", Debbie Gibson and David Archuleta came up to present. I was so nervous. I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest. Mainly because whenever I'm announced for anything, I think to myself, "oh my god, what if nobody claps? What if it's crickets out there?!" I was the last name to be announced, by Debbie Gibson. When she said my name, I had my best poker face on and I kid you not, my jaw dropped. I had the most cheers. I don't say this to toot my own horn, I say it because I never think I'm as cool as other people might, I don't think I'm entitled, I just work hard and do what makes me happy. To have that instant of recognition was very special to me. I'll never forget that split second. If nothing else, that was worth it all.

When the name was announced and it wasn't me, it was okay. I mean, I'm a big girl, I knew that going in. I don't need a trophy to show me I am the "future". My life doesn't change. I'm the same me today as I was yesterday, trophy or no trophy. The winner was so happy and I'm very happy for him. Truly. I can always appreciate someone getting their moment. Someone who truly does want it and appreciate it. I can accept that as their journey and I accept what happened to me as mine.

But. Here's what is weird to me. I have felt all along, how do you fairly vote when fan bases are so varied? In my category I have a larger fan base. Again, please know I'm not tooting my own horn, I'm just stating the facts. I know for a fact I had a ton of votes. And it was easy to do with Youtube, two facebook pages and a twitter. Thousands per each site mentioned. Local business were shouting me out, word was being spread among family and friends. I was contacted by Danny Thompson a couple of weeks ago telling me flat out I was "killing it in the polls" and I had 46% of the vote alone. I was also told that I had nearly 200 people nominate me. Bigger fanbase = more votes. Bottom line. So when I did lose, along with X96, City Weekly, Fox 13, KSL, ABC4, and Robert felt...odd.

I'm torn on the whole voting thing. It will never give someone a truly fair chance, right? But at the same time the person with the largest fanbase should be recognized for building that up with hard work over time, right? But then those people who did have the largest fan bases did not win so...what went on? Really? What if it was a ceremony for people chosen for recognition in the industry for what they've done and truly voted on by a select legit panel of professionals, based on their true contribution or involvement in the arts? Or ONE vote per person? I don't know. I feel a bit had. And I felt strange all along for being an actress in a category with a producer, inventor and chef. I mean...huh?!

If you look at those who won and those who didn't & compare fan bases, who their audiences are and who would be within the age and demographic to be ON their computers casting votes...on a purely mathematical makes no sense.

*Now I'm wondering if any of what I learned at any time has any truth. If was told 200 people nominated me and I had 46% of the vote alone...who's to say that wasn't a lie to get me to get me excited and therefore create more buzz? What if they knew full well who the "winners" were going to be. Who's to say they won't tell each and every one of them that they had the largest percent of the vote? That they killed it in the polls? If they noticed (which they would have to tally votes daily) that people were being voted for more than once a day, or even more than once an hour...that's when they should have called off voting for a day and not counted those until the system was up and running correctly. Or started over. But you know what? I don't think they cared.

Maybe it's egg on my face for helping them promote the event the way I did. I'm not sure yet. Maybe they knew what the plan was all along? Maybe they wanted me to hype up my fan base to create bigger buzz for them, and of course, if I were to win, I could certainly spin it all to my advantage right? Right. ;)

A couple of other things that were odd. On a phone call with a producer (Danny Thompson) awhile ago, I was asked to email a full bio and my availability to interview, they'd send a cameraman over. I did, and never heard back. My bio was never used. I asked again about the shoot, told they still wanted to do it, and never heard back. There had also been talk about trying to get me on Fresh Living on channel 2 on May 18th but that wasn't followed up with either.

*I also know people who said they were told they'd be on the ballot...and weren't.

*There are also a lot of people saying that the speeches seemed rehearsed, like the winners knew in advance (I had been told that nobody would know until the ceremony) and that's why so many nominees weren't even there.

Now here is the oddest of them all. THE VOTING WEBSITE WAS FAULTY. I had several people tell me that they'd noticed there were ways to vote whenever you wanted, as much as you wanted. I didn't reply to encourage that behavior and on one occasion I flat out told someone, "voting is once a day! That's it!" Then another nominee told me voting was actually every 8 hours. What?!?! Maybe I could have confirmed this with the producers but I guess at that point I figured I wasn't going to be followed up with so I continued to promote as voting once, daily.

If I was going to win it was sure going to be within the rules. Never did I vote more than I could have, never would I have condoned that behavior of anyone else. Honest to god. Who could be happy with a win that way?

Now. In the end it was the first time this had ever been done. I know people that were happy with the night, others who I've already talked to who have called the night not only strange, but uncomfortable. I know others were also unhappy with seating arrangements. We were supposed to get a choice between two dishes and that never happened. We were simply served one dish. There were cash bars which was a let down for a VIP ticket. Did you know a VIP ticket was $90? Nominees were comped, but I have to say...I'm no money bags. If I had to pay nearly a hundred dollars for that event? It wouldn't have been worth it. Not the entertainment, not the food, not the lounge. Not for a seat at the back and not even with my parents.

When the dinner begins with a prayer (and keep in mind this was described and marketed as the "Golden Globes of Utah" NOT the "LDS Entertainment Awards") you are far more aware you're at just another Utah event...not the golden globes. And not even just a Utah event but a very particular kind of Utah event. I always stick up for Utah. I always say we're a real city. We are thriving, we have got it going on! But I felt in a very small kind of bubble at that moment. One where I didn't belong, one where I and others were excluded because we were not their for a religious event, but an entertainment business event.

*It's also interesting to note that the winners were almost all LDS or associated with LDS networks. It's also interesting to note that nearly every winner, performer and presenter was a WHITE MALE and that only ONE WOMAN gave an acceptance speech that night.

*Before the prayer was the national anthem. POLITICS AND RELIGION right off the bat at the ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS?! Awkward as all get out. And not appropriate. There's a time and a place.

Please, don't think I'm being a sore loser. I'm not. I am fine today. I'm in the acting biz, after all, and wouldn't have been for all this time if I wasn't prepared for and had experienced both the wins AND the rejections. I still have a million things on my to do list and I'm still glad I got to wear my amazing Krista Nielson dress last night (by the way the dress was a hit) and have my makeup done by Stephanie Bybee. I had fun going out to my favorite bar with some of my favorite people afterwards. I can't wait to have pictures! I love any excuse to get dolled up in something you'd otherwise never get the chance to wear! I don't say any of this to be cruel, but to help. Sheesh I wish I could have suggested people they should meet and perhaps nominate, or ask to present, or ask to perform. I wish no will ill on anyone involved, I wish them luck and I am really hoping for a fix of the website, legit voting, wins and professional communication next time. An even bigger and better red carpet, a hell of a show, more focus on entertainment, less on religion, and a true VIP party to cap it all off!

*The VIP lounge was simply the same hotel ballroom, partitioned off in the corner. :/

I will never loose faith in UT. I know we can truly host events like this and draw people here. One day I hope we'll be able to change people's narrow views of UT. But for now there's still a lot of pretend here. Pretend actors, pretend movie makers, pretend award ceremonies. :(

Last but not least, had I won I was prepared (somewhat) with an acceptance speech. I'm still going to give it to you, because like I said, so many of you supported me and fought for me and voted daily and shouted me out, I can't thank you enough. Here's what I wanted to say:

You have no idea how grateful I am and how much this means to me. I've devoted the last decade, or more, of my life to creating. Whether it's performing in a play, on set or on YouTube. In this business, no matter what you define as success, you're never done. You've never done all there is to do. And that's what I love about it. But because of that you don't always take the time to soak in what you have done. It means so much to me to be nominated let alone to win, and to know that there were fans and friends and family who took the time to vote. I'm sad my husband, who is my biggest fan isn't here with me tonight but I'm so glad my parents are, who put me through acting school in New York City! Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final! This is truly an honor. I'll never forget this. Thank you.


  1. Momma agrees!!!! To me it was fun to dress up and eat the chicken dish!! Ha! But overall it seems only the winners showed up. Like they already knew???? Hmmmmm. And some of the presenters that were going to be there were on film only??? I didn't pay for tickets with that in mind. Very interesting. But you shined in Krista's gorgeous gown Deena!! And I got to talk and hug my Brenda Upright!!!! Yes!!! But I agree with you. And the crowd was awesome when they said your name! That was almost worth it all!!!!!

  2. Deena! This is so well written. I can totally hear your respectful and knowledgeable "voice" in this. I too have been to many events (but not nominated!! woohoo!) and many times I have wanted to critique it but I worried about coming across as "ungrateful" because most of the people who read my blog or watch my ANNUAL video uploads to YouTube (lol) aren't anywhere near the entertainment industry and they are just so excited about the whole thing and I don't want them to think I don't appreciate all of it - I do. But many of the events are so poorly run/organized. It's nuts.

    But this event was more personal to you because 1) it's your hometown and 2) you were nominated - so it's on a different level. This sounds like a first year kind of event. And that's not the problem, because as you mentioned, you totally understand that, as do I and most sensible people. I think the real problem was in the way they treated the nominees (you!) When you're starting an event like this, your credibility is everything. Since they were obviously able to land big to medium "names" to their event which is great for the first year, by all means, treat them like royalty because they will be your best allies NEXT year. But it sounds like they dropped the ball on that one big time. Everything else can be improved next year, but there won't be a "next year" if you don't treat the stars of your show (the nominees) with the utmost respect. You as a nominee, as an invited guest and not a paying attendee, you should have never felt weird, not for one moment. You showed your support for Utah and for this event both before the event (online and word of mouth) and by taking a night off from your life, dressing to the 9s, and rockin' the red carpet - at the very LEAST they should make sure you are 100% comfortable and that you have a nice time.

    This comment box is too small and I have to get off my computer soon so I'm rushing this comment and trying to type fast!! lol I have so much to say about this but I'm going to leave it at this and let you know this ---> I support what you said 100%! You described the night clearly, honestly, and...respectfully. I hope someone from the event reads your blog because it's chalk-full of extremely useful feedback.

    You rock woman!!! This was just getting you ready for the Oscars. :-) Helping you "keepin' it REAL" girl!!!

    <3 u!
    Lisa :-)

  3. Oh Deena my love, many of us felt duped. Let me add that this event was HARDLY a representation of Utah's entertainment industry.

  4. You are awesome to stick to your beliefs about this whole award situation!!!!!! I'm right there with you daughter!!!!!!

  5. You are the winner in my book girl. So sorry for this let down experience, but I admire you for your incredible attitude about it and your drive to continue with your terrific talents. You are amazing!

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